Coimbra has always been one of the most culturally relevant cities in Portugal. Its historical cafes were the stage of many enlightening discussions between prominent Portuguese writers, where they shared their visions for the future of the country. The University of Coimbra has formed several generations of distinguished intellectuals within the Portuguese-speaking world.
The most important historical cafes of Coimbra were: Café Central, A Brasileira and Café Santa Cruz. From all these iconic cafes, only Café Santa Cruz has remained, beautifully located at the heart of Coimbra downtown.
A symbolic location of the city as well as a meeting point for writers and intellectuals of Coimbra, Café Central was among the last historical cafes of Coimbra. This was the place that prestigious writer Miguel Torga alias Adolfo Correia da Rocha attended very often. Miguel Torga was a deep connoisseur of the Portuguese soul and he wrote some of Portugal's relevant novels. The City Hall of Coimbra has created the Museum-House Casa Miguel Torga, collecting the books of the author's personal library, as well as relevant personal belongings, such as his writing machine, photos, a pen and a stethoscope, since he was a doctor.
Café Brasileira, located in Rua Ferreira Borges, was one of the busiest and most distinguished historical cafes of Coimbra. Opened in 1921, this was a meeting point for freedom-loving writers, such as: Alberto Vilaça, António Arnaut. Augusto Nunes Pereira, Gonçalo Reis Torgal, Joaquim Namorado, Manuel Alegre, Mário Silva, Lousã Henriques, Miguel Torga, Paulo Quintela, Rui Pato, Vasco Berardo, Vitorino Nemésio and Zeca Afonso, besides Miguel Torga. This was a place of literary and political discussion, but also of conspiracy against the dictatorship of Salazar, where writers and intellectuals dreamt of a free democratic Portugal.
The remaining historical Café Santa Cruz, located in the central square Praça 8 de Maio, was officially opened with all pomp on May 8th 1923. Housed in a former church, this Manueline-style building built in 1530 has suffered many changes along the centuries. This enchanting historical cafe continues to be a culturally relevant spot of Coimbra, paying homage to its rich past of literary enlightenment. Café Santa Cruz organises several cultural events, such as book releases, live music shows or interesting chats with storytellers.