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Literary tourism in the university town of Coimbra (Portugal)

A project to create a digital map of places associated with literature aims to promote sustainable cultural tourism, relieving tourism pressures in the historic areas and encouraging visitors to explore other parts of the city. The platform is developed by a partnership of Portuguese academic institutions. 

About Coimbra

Coimbra is a city located in central Portugal. It has a population of 150,000 inhabitants. Located on the banks of the river Mondego, Coimbra is famous for its university, one of the oldest in Europe. The University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013 under criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi).

© M & G Therin-Weise
 © M & G Therin-Weise

Situated on a hill overlooking the city, the University of Coimbra with its colleges grew and evolved over more than seven centuries within the old town. Notable university buildings include the 12th century Cathedral of Santa Cruz and a number of 16th century colleges, the Royal Palace of Alcáçova, which has housed the University since 1537, the Joanine Library with its rich baroque decor, the 18th century Botanical Garden and the University Press, as well as the large “University City” created during the 1940s. The University’s edifices became a reference in the development of other institutions of higher education in the Portuguese-speaking world where it also exerted a major influence on learning and literature. Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages.

Literary tourism in the university town of Coimbra 

Lettered – literature, territory, tourism and education” is an ongoing initiative to create a digital map of the places associated with literature in the city and university of Coimbra. The project, expected to take place between 2020 and 2025, is born out of a partnership between the Municipality of Coimbra, local association RUAS, the University of the Algarve, the Polytechnic of Coimbra, the University of Coimbra and Nova University of Lisbon.

The project will collect data regarding Portuguese literature between the 15th and mid-20th centuries and identify the places associated with key authors and works. Places included are former houses of authors, monuments and statues, schools, coffee shops frequented, places of work, and so on. The data will be stored in a digital data bank and later publicly accessible through a virtual map.

The platform has mainly been developed by researchers working at the partner universities and, to this date, limited funding has been secured. The programme encourages residents to contribute to the platform uploading their own material. Institutional stakeholders, such as local and regional entities, educational agents and tourism-related professionals, are included in the initiative through a consultation process consisting of meetings at the earlier and final stages.

The project “Lettered – literature, territory, tourism and education” aims to build on the rich literary history of Coimbra to promote cultural tourism, diversify the offer and relieve tourism pressures in the historic areas, encouraging visitors to discover different parts of the city and demonstrating the potential for literary tourism to contribute to sustainable economic development. By doing so, the project aims to enhance the protection of the city’s cultural heritage by valorising it through its connection to literature and increasing the connection between local communities and cultural heritage.

Source: Ms Vivina Carreira, Department of Social and Human Sciences, Polytechnic of Coimbra, 2021.

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The project aims to contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by preserving the different tangible and intangible layers that conform the identity of the historic city and promoting culture-centred sustainable development that creates jobs and supports local livelihoods. 

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Civic engagement tools Knowledge and Planning tools

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

  • Target 4.7: the initiative aims to provide lifelong learning opportunities to promote sustainable development for local and visitors alike, including through an appreciation of culture and arts and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  • Target 8.9: the initiative aims to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  • Target 11.4: the initiative aims to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage valorising it through its connection to literature.

Goal  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

  • Target 17.17: the initiative aims to build multi-stakeholder partnerships between academic institutions, government bodies and local businesses. 

Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.

To learn more

Read the academic articles

  • Quinteiro, S.; Carreira, V.; Gonçalves, A. (2020). Coimbra as a literary tourism destination: landscapes of literature. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, 14, No 3, 361-372. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCTHR-10-2019-0176
  • Quinteiro, S.; Gonçalves, A.; Carreira, V. (2020). Caracterização e Análise do Potencial de Desenvolvimento do Turismo Cultural Literário em Coimbra. Revista Portuguesa de Estudos Regionais. 56. 85-99.
  • Quinteiro, S.; Gonçalves, A.; Carreira, V. (2021). Recursos e potencial de Coimbra como destino de turismo literário / Resources and Potential of Coimbra as a Literary Tourism Destination. Revista de Turismo e Desenvolvimento / Journal of Tourism and Development. (upcoming)


© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez, Federico Rudari.
Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.