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Many of Coimbra's most interesting shops lie near the Sé Velha, on the narrow streets radiating from Rua do Quebra Costas. Because of its steep inclines, its name (The Street That Will Break Your Back) seems appropriate. Look for lots of outlets selling products manufactured in the surrounding region. The best bookstore, with a number of English editions, is Livraria Bertrand, Largo da Portagem 9 (tel. 23/982-30-14), a block from the tourist office.

Even the city's tourist authorities usually recommend short excursions into the suburbs and outlying villages for anyone seriously interested in shopping. Possibilities include the villages of Lousã, 21km (13 miles) southeast, and Penacova, 21km (13 miles) east, where unpretentious kiosks and stands beside the roads sell hand-woven baskets and ceramics. Contact the tourist office for directions.

A worthier destination is Condeixa, 17km (11 miles) south; its shops are better stocked, and the staff members are prepared for foreigners who don't speak Portuguese. To reach the village, take EN1 and follow signs toward Lisboa. Condeixa is home to nine independent ceramics factories, which are the source of most residents' income. The most appealing are Ceramica Berardos, Barreira, EN1, Condeixa (no phone); and Filceramica, Avenal, Condeixa (no phone). The merchants will usually agree (for a fee) to insure and ship your purchases. Because of the expense, it's usually a lot easier just to buy an extra suitcase, wrap your porcelain carefully, and haul it back with you on the plane.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.