This fado is closely linked to the academic traditions of the University of Coimbra and is exclusively sung by men; both the singers and musicians wear the academic outfit (traje académico): dark robe, cape and leggings. Dating to the troubadour tradition of medieval times, it is sung at night, almost in the dark, in city squares or streets. The most typical venues are the stairsteps of the Santa Cruz Monastery and the Old Cathedral of Coimbra. It is also customary to organize serenades where songs are performed before the window of a woman to be courted.

As in Lisbon, Coimbra fado is accompanied by the guitarra portuguesa and viola (a type of guitar). The Coimbra guitar has evolved into an instrument different from that of Lisbon, with its own tuning, sound colouring, and construction. Artur Paredes, a progressive and innovative singer, revolutionised the tuning of the guitar and its accompaniment style to Coimbra fado. Artur Paredes was the father of Carlos Paredes, who followed in his father’s footsteps and expanded on his work, making the Portuguese guitar an instrument known around the world.

In the 1950s, a new movement led the singers of Coimbra to adopt the ballad and folklore. They began interpreting lines of the great poets, both classical and contemporary, as a form of resistance to the Salazar dictatorship. In this movement names such as Adriano Correia de Oliveira and José Afonso (Zeca Afonso) had a leading role in popular music during the Portuguese revolution 1974.

Some of the most famous fados of Coimbra include: Fado Hilário, Saudades de Coimbra (“Do Choupal até à Lapa”), Balada da Despedida (“Coimbra tem mais encanto, na hora da despedida” – the first phrases are often more recognizable than the song titles), O meu menino é d’oiro, and Samaritana. The “judge-singer” Fernando Machado Soares is an important figure, being the author of some of those famous fados.

Curiously, it is not a Coimbra fado but a popular song which is the most known title referring to this city: Coimbra é uma lição, which had success with titles such as April in Portugal.