Living in Coimbra: A Guide for Foreigners

Coimbra is one of the most treasured cities in Portugal. Home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, with a rich history and charming streets, this riverfront city manages to expertly contrast the old with the new, tradition with modernity. This is perhaps a key reason as to why living in Coimbra has become increasingly popular with expats who, alongside the gorgeous city also have beautiful countryside in the surrounding area to enjoy.

In this living in Coimbra article, we’ll provide you with information on the following: 

    • Where is Coimbra?
    • Top reasons for living in Coimbra
    • Best neighborhoods in Coimbra Portugal
    • Buying or renting a house in Coimbra as a foreigner
    • How to live in Coimbra as a foreign citizen: residence permits and visas
    • Cost of living in Coimbra Portugal
    • Schools
    • Getting around
    • Shopping
    • Healthcare
    • Language
    • Weather in Porto
    • Festivals and attractions
    • Living in Porto: pros and cons
    • Is Porto safe?
    • The bottom line of living in Porto
    • Plus much more!

 

Where is Coimbra?

Coimbra is situated just two hours north of Portugal’s cosmopolitan capital, Lisbon, and less than an hour and a half south of the historic city of Porto. You can therefore enjoy the perks of both cities very easily. Also, with the Atlantic ocean not far to the west, you are best placed to enjoy a weekend away by the coast, and the scenic Aveiro is also close by if you would like to explore the so-called “Venice of Portugal”.

 

Top reasons for living in Coimbra

While Lisbon and the Algarve are most sought-after by expats, Coimbra has been a little forgotten by the steady footfall of foreigners heading to the shores of Portugal. However, those that do move to the city will find that living in Coimbra provides an excellent location, with an affordable cost of living and much going on throughout the year. In this part of our living in Coimbra article, we’ll delve into some of the best reasons for choosing Coimbra. 

Business location 

Coimbra is the 5th best city in Portugal to do business, according to the Portugal City Brand Ranking 2022, given its excellent infrastructure and facilities.

Safe and tolerant

Portugal is the fourth safest country in the world, according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, trailing only Iceland, New Zealand, and Denmark. Portugal has low crime rates, is a pretty liberal country, and is very welcoming to foreigners. Whether you are retiring to Portugal, moving to the country with family, or looking to work as a digital nomad, you will find that the country is very welcoming.

Beautiful beaches

Coimbra is a little inland, but you are still only 45 minutes or so drive from the coast. If you are looking to buy a property with an ocean view, then consider Figueira da Foz. Here you’ll be able to find a selection of waterfront properties that have breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Figueira da Foz is one of the most popular resorts on the Silver Coast, and with good reason. The beaches are spectacular and you will be able to find all the services and amenities that you need. For those that are looking for a lazy beach day, you’ll be well covered and, for the more active types, there are many different watersport activities to try out, including surfing and kitesurfing.

Tax benefits

One of the key advantages of moving to Portugal, are the many tax benefits for foreigners through the favorable non-habitual residence (NHS) scheme. If structured correctly, the scheme provides significant tax benefits for up to ten years. This has been a major draw for expats moving to Portugal over the years. 

 

Best neighborhoods in Coimbra

In this section of our living in Coimbra article, we’ll provide you with some information on the neighborhoods in this splendid city.

Vale das Flores and Solum

If you are a family looking to move to Coimbra then the neighborhood of Vale das Flores, in the parish of Santo Antonio dos Olivais, is a very good option for you and may be the best area to stay in Coimbra. Solum, next door, is also worth considering, recognized as the noble area in Coimbra. 

Even though these neighborhoods lie in the very center of the city, in the east, north of the Mondego River, those who live here can enjoy a peaceful lifestyle. You will also have easy access to supermarkets, the best parks, and nice little city walks. 

São Martinho do Bispo

One of the larger neighborhoods in Coimbra, São Martinho do Bispo is also one of the best to consider if you are thinking about living in the city. It covers the western part of Coimbra from the north to south of the Mondego River. The inhabitants of this neighborhood can enjoy living in a moden and spacious area, and there is good transport to get out and about, even though you are not living in the center of the city. 

 São Martinho do Bispo is also a good place for families to consider, as there are modern buildings and houses and you will have all the amenities that you could want. 

Santa Clara

Santa Clara is situated south of the Mondego River, and is a little bit out of the city center. However, although Santa Clara is not in the center, it is also a very nice neighborhood to live in. The area has many green areas, and Quinta das Lágrimas, a retreat of peace and tranquility, is found here. Again, you will find all the amenties that you need and you are just across the bridge from the university area.

Alta

Alta, the highest part of Coimbra, is a very old neighborhood, so the streets and buildings are invariably charming. You are close to the universtiy, to there is usually something going on. One thing to note is that you may find it difficult to park your car here, and it can be hilly when walking around this part of town. 

Celas

Celas is a trendy place in town and is also home to some of Coimbra’s best historic monuments. Indeed, this neighborhood fuses the old and the new seemingly effortlessly. This is also a very good place to live in you are going to study at the university, which is close by.

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Buying or renting a house in Coimbra as a foreigner

Buying a property in Portugal is very easy for foreigners, as they have flexible policies in place. Here, we’ll provide you with a couple of pointers about buying or renting a house in Coimbra. 

Buying a home in Coimbra

Coimbra provides a high quality of life in a very affordable city. As a student city, there are many trendy restaurants and bars in town. What’s more, if you have your heart set on Coimbra, you will be able to choose from a variety of property types, from villas to townhouses. Also, the steps to purchase property are relatively straightforward. 

You can see our article on how to buy property in Portugal here

 Renting a house in Coimbra

Renting a house in Coimbra will be much more affordable than renting a property in, say Lisbon, which has its own price range. You will be able to find nice modern apartments, as this is a university city and the real estate market has improved greatly in recent years to cater to both its student population and expats that are beginning to move to the city. 

 

How to live in Coimbra as a foreign citizen: residence permits and visas

If you are looking to move to Coimbra, you will need to know how to legally reside in the county. In this part of our living in Coimbra article, we’ll arm you with crucial information that you will need to know about the different visa types and residence permits that you will need to live in Coimbra as a foreign citizen. 

Living in Coimbra as an EU Citizen

If you are an EU citizen are would like to stay in Portugal for more than three months, you will need to apply for a registration certificate. You can apply for this certificate after entering Portugal and the registration certificate is valid for a period of up to five years. 

Living in Coimbra as a non-EU Citizen

If you are a non-EU national and would like to live in Portugal, you will need to apply for a Portuguese residency before you arrive in the country. Once your visa expires, you will need to apply for a residence permit. 

Living in Coimbra with the Portugal Golden Visa

The Portugal Golden Visa is for individuals that are looking to invest in the country, whether through a property purchase, fund investment, capital transfer, company formation, or through a donation to the arts, scientific research, or natural heritage. 

You can see our step-by-step guide to the Portugal Golden Visa here

Living in Coimbra with D7 Visa

If you have a steady passive income, then the D7 Visa is the perfect option for you. A favorite for retirees, who want to avoid the high living costs of their home country and enjoy the sunshine and quality of life in Portugal. 

You can see our Portugal D7 Guide and free eligibility test here.

 

Cost of living in Coimbra

When looking at the living expense in Coimbra, you will find that it is a very affordable European city to live in. While Portugal itself is a very affordable country compared to other European cities, the capital, Lisbon has become much more expensive in recent years. That’s why living in Coimbra could provide you with a less expensive experience, where you are well situated to explore Lisbon, Porto, the coast, and many other gems in the country.

Accommodation

According to Numbeo, the cost of rent in Coimbra is around 53% lower than in Lisbon. Below are some estimations of renting costs in Coimbra 

  • A one-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost you €450 per month.
  • A one-bedroom apartment outside the city will cost you €357 per month.
  • A three-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost you €657 per month.
  • A three-bedroom apartment outside the city center will cost you €550 per month.

Food

One of the best things about living anywhere in Portugal is that you will be able to find fresh produce. For example, the fruits and vegetables benefit from the warm climate, if you are by the coast you can find the freshest seafood and fish, and the quality of the meat is also very good. 

Food is generally affordable, particularly if you buy locally and do not go for imported things so much. You should also be pleasantly surprised by the quality and price of the wine. Portuguese wine is amongst the very best in the world, and you can find very good bottles at very cheap prices. 

Eating out

Coimbra has a buzzing food and drinks scene, with both innovative restaurants providing modern takes on Portuguese dishes and the traditional tasca (typical Portuguese restaurant) where you can find family-run businesses serving affordable and delicious meals.

If you have a sweet tooth, try Pastéis de Tentúgal, which a from a small village that is close to Coimbra. They are light and flaky and have a filling that, as with the majority of Portuguese sweets, is made from eggs and sugar. 

Coimbra is also in leitão country. Leitão is suckling pig and is a specialty in the region, which you find in many places in this part of Portugal.

Transportation

Coimbra is served by a public transportation network of buses and trains. Going by bus is probably the best way to get around town, as there are many different lines that access both the upper and lower parts of the city. 

 

Schools

Although there are not as many options as in Lisbon or Porto, Coimbra, which has one of the oldest universities in the world, was built around its excellent education. 

The São José school in Coimbra is a Catholic school that provides good quality education for students from kindergarten to secondary school. 

St. Paul’s School is a primary school that offers a bilingual syllabus in Portuguese and English and is a very good option as the school is constantly improving its syllabus.

And you are probably aware by now of the University of Coimbra, which attracts students from across the world. Founded in 1290, the university has been welcoming students for centuries, establishing itself as one of the best in Europe, as well as one of the oldest. 

 

Getting around

Public transport in Coimbra makes it pretty easy to get around the city. However, while the bus system is very efficient and, for the most part, punctual, it is pretty easy to get around on foot, as the city streets are very picturesque. If you are looking to get outside the city, it is probably best to have a car. 

 

Shopping

Whatever kind of shopper you are, you will probably have a good time in Coimbra. There are high-street names, independent shops selling locally made hands and craft works, charming jewelry stores, and much more besides. 

There are also many markets in the city that are worth visiting. One of the busiest streets is Rua Ferreira Borges, where you will find countless shops selling artisan products such as ceramics, jewelry, and the like. The Praça do Comercio is another good location to stop off to find traditional crafts.

 

Healthcare

For residents of Portugal, you can have access to public healthcare through Portugal’s National Health Service, which is called the SNS (Serviço Nacional de Saúde). In Coimbra, you have good quality healthcare options and several hospitals. There are also some private clinics that you can go to if you have health insurance or would like to pay while you are there. 

Over the past ten years or so, the available healthcare for foreigners in Portugal has improved leaps and bounds, probably fueled by more expats moving to the country, and English is now widely spoken in healthcare facilities in Portugal.  

The Euro Health Consumer Index ranked Portuguese healthcare as the 13th best in Europe in 2018, ranking in a higher position than the UK, Spain, Italy, and Ireland. Portuguese healthcare scored the highest in terms of patient rights and information, waiting times, and accessibility, as well as overall health outcomes. Portugal has an average life expectancy of 81 years. 

 

Language

Coimbra is a university city that attracts many international students. As such English is widely spoken, particularly among the younger generation. However, if you learn some Portuguese, it will impress your neighbors and help you integrate into the Portuguese lifestyle. 

 

Weather in Coimbra​​

Portugal is well known for its mild and sunny climate, which is one of the key reasons why it is a favorite with expats and tourists. In Coimbra, the summers are warm and dry, but the winters can be cold, wet, and partly cloudy. Over the year, the temperature typically ranges from 40°F (4°C) to 83°F (28°C). 

 

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Living in Coimbra, you will find much to keep you busy, with many festivals and attractions taking place throughout the year. This includes art exhibitions, street parties, and cultural gems. Here are some of the popular things that take place in Coimbra. 

  • The  Enóphilo Wine Fest is for wine lovers, where you can taste some of the best Portuguese wines in the country. 
  • You will find many Fado houses, which you can visit and get carried away by the emotive music and haunting Portuguese songs. 
  • International Jazz Festival events occur all over the city, where you can soak up the fun-loving vibe of the city. 
  • Queima das Fitas, or Buring of the Ribbons, is an eight-day party organized by the student body. It goes on for eight days, one day for each faculty of the University of Coimbra.

 

Living in Coimbra: pros and cons

In this section of our living in Coimbra article, we’ll provide you with some of the pros and cons of living in Coimbra.

Living in Coimbra pros and cons:

Advantages

In this section of our living in Coimbra article, we’ll provide you with some of the pros and cons of living in Coimbra.

Living in Coimbra Portugal pros and cons:

  • Affordable cost of living in a cultural European city
  • Good climate
  • There are many an expat living in Coimbra Portugal
  • Buzzing nightlife and social scene, with excellent restaurants and bars
  • High quality of life

Drawbacks

  • The bureaucracy process can be slow
  • Some properties may not have central heating
  • Not as big a city as Lisbon and Porto, so not as much choice in regards to schools for example

 

Is Coimbra safe?

Coimbra is a very safe city to live in, with low crime rates and a relaxed vibe. Portugal is the fourth safest country in the world, according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, showing the country a very good country to relocate to. However, as with any city it is best to be careful in busy areas, particularly in tourist areas. 

 

The bottom line on living in Coimbra Portugal

Living in Coimbra is an excellent choice. The university town has an ancient charm that has still managed to embrace modernity. These two aspects working in perfect harmony have created one of the best places in Portugal to live. Retirees, families, or digital nomads who are looking for a fresh beginning will find much to love about Coimbra, as the city offers a rich history, happening cultural scene, and excellent foods. Plus, you are able to quickly and easily get to other parts of the country. 

If you are still considering other areas in Portugal or would like some more information on certain topics, here are some other articles that may be useful to you:

Frequently asked questions about living in Coimbra: 

Is Coimbra a nice place to live?

Yes, Coimbra is an exceptionally beautiful place to live. Home to one of the oldest universities in the world, the city has a rich history and high quality of life.

Is Coimbra safe?

Yes, Coimbra is a very safe city to live in, with low crime rates and a relaxed vibe. Portugal is the fourth safest country in the world, according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, showing the country a very good country to relocate to. However, as with any city it is best to be careful in busy areas, particularly in tourist areas. 

How expensive is it to live in Coimbra?

Coimbra is a very affordable city to live in, compared to other cities in western Europe.

Is Coimbra cheaper than Porto?

Living in Coimbra vs Porto, Coimbra is more affordable, although both the living cost in Porto and the living cost in Coimbra are low when compared to other western European cities.

What is Coimbra Portugal known for?

Coimbra is well known for its ancient monuments and as being home to the oldest university in Portugal, and one of the oldest in the world.