IS AVEIRO WORTH VISITING?
Aveiro is one of my favourite towns in central Portugal. But, if you read some peoples comments on TripAdvisor, you might be confused by the conflict of opinions – anyone would think it was the birthplace of Marmite or pineapple on pizza.
But the problem lies with the fact that when people visit Aveiro in Portugal they’re expecting the ‘Venice of Portugal’ as described by most guidebooks. It is not.
With one river snaking through the town to the nearby Atlantic, and maybe cutting itself a couple of tributaries to some neighbouring salt-flats, I’d say Aveiro could more accurately be described as the Ipswich of Portugal. But that’s not to say that losing its affinity with Italy’s Floating City makes it a town to ignore. Aveiro is worth visiting, has loads going for it and definitely deserves a place on your bucket list of unique places to visit in Portugal. In fact, it makes an easy day trip from Porto on the train and is also the perfect stop-off spot if you’re doing a road trip between Porto and Lisbon. (Check out our Aveiro hotel choices below)
There are plenty of things to do in Aveiro – we think you’re going to love it!
A BIT OF BACKGROUND BEFORE YOU VISIT AVEIRO
Halfway between Porto and Coimbra, on the Silver Coast, Aveiro is an old seaport town (albeit 10 minutes inland by car). Salt and seagrass have sustained a wealthy community as far back as Roman times and it’s been an attractive place to live ever since.
Brazilian immigrants have left their mark in the art-nouveau designs of half of the town. And the other half of the buildings are decorated in the colourful decorative Azulejos tiles that Portugal is so famous for. Add to all of that the fact it’s a university town and has strong connections to Portuguese royalty, there are plenty of interesting things to see in Aveiro and it’s a great town to wander around.
We’ve put together an Aveiro Guide for day-trippers to make sure you don’t miss the best bits and make the most of your visit.
Visiting Aveiro – A Day-Trippers Guide
THINGS TO DO IN AVEIRO
If you only have one day in Aveiro it is possible to cover quite a lot of ground because it’s only a small city. Check out our top suggestions for the perfect Aveiro day trip…
- TAKE A BOAT TRIP ON A MOLICEIRO
Perhaps another reason why Aveiro sometimes gets labelled as the Venice of Portugal is that the traditional wooden boats, once used for harvesting seagrass, are more than a little resemblant to a Venetian gondola. These days though, the moliceiros are only used to take tourists on a little tour of the Aveiro canals and lagoons.
It’s a great way to discover more about Aveiro’s history and probably one of the best ways to see the salt flats without taking a long walk away from the town. Some of the guides are a bit hit and miss but it’s not expensive, you’ll get your bearings and when is a boat trip ever a bad idea? Catch a moliceiro from the section of the river nearest Tourist Information on R. João Mendonça.
The tour takes approximately 45 minutes.
- CHECK OUT THE ARCHITECTURE OF AVEIRO
Aveiro is a mishmash of art nouveau, Art Deco and the traditional Portuguese Azulejos tile design – it’s a really pretty town in Portugal to just wander. In fact, it even makes it onto the very small list of the Réseau Art Nouveau Network – cities listed for their rich art nouveau heritage (there are only 20 in Europe).
And because of the worries of the fish-wives, Aveiro has its fair share of churches to absorb the prayers for return. Some date back as far as the 16th century and incorporate the baroque and rococo style with a healthy handful of azulejos tiles too.
Depending on how you travel to Aveiro, the train station is also a thing of beauty and worth visiting.
- TRY SOME OVOS MOLES
An Aveiro delicacy, these sweet little treats resemble a custard flying saucer. A rice paper shell-shaped casing filled with a sweet yolk and sugar mix. They’re never going to make it on to GBBO but they’re worth a try. Some shells look like they’ve been sat there long enough to fossilise into their bowls, other places serve them much fresher on pretty plates with a coffee. Try Padaria Ria Pão on R. João Mendonça.
(Bar A Barrica do claim to be the inventors of Aveiro’s sweet treat but judging from the display in the window, it looks to me like they still have some of their original stock!)
- VISIT AVEIRO’S FISH MARKET
I love a good seafood market, don’t you? Open from 8-2 daily, the bustling fish market is at the heart of Aveiro life. Seafood has been sold on this site for 3 Decades. And, if you time it right, you can choose to eat the freshest lunch from one of the seafood restaurants in the vicinity.
Or, if you fancy something a little more exquisite, the restaurant above the market (Restaurante Mercado do Peixe) has a modern-industrial vibe going on, with glass panels so you can watch the writhing eels and shiny fish below! They do a lower-priced lunch special Monday to Friday, usually featuring the morning’s catch. It’s one of the best places to eat in Aveiro.
- GET GELATO AT PRACA DE JULHO
Aveiro has a couple of good gelaterias but our favourite is Gelataria Milano in the square named Praca de Julho. Not only is the ice cream proper Italian gelato but you get to eat it in dappled shade from the parasols and trees with a side helping of Fado. Anyone who’s visited Portugal before will, I’m sure, have had their ears tickled by the sad tones of Portugal’s traditional fado songs. Sorry, did I say tickled? Maybe I meant syringed? Although, there do exist some who find it pleasant and dulcet.
Still, whether your ears bleed or basque, it’s just lovely to sit in a pretty Portuguese square with an ice cream in hand and that extra authentic soundtrack.
- CHECK OUT THE MUSEUMS IN AVEIRO
Because of Aveiro’s rich history and influential place in Portugal’s narrative, the town has an assortment of really interesting museums to visit.
The Art Nouveau Museum on Casa Major Pessoa resides in a fine specimen of art nouveau itself but the virtue goes beyond the exterior and inside to a really cool museum if you’re into art nouveau. It even doubles up as a cocktail bar in the evenings and is a great spot for caipirinhas. You can also pick up an Aveiro Map inside the museum which identifies the 28 Art Nouveau buildings in the town and shows you the route to take.
The Aveiro Museum, opposite the towns main cathedral, is mostly a treasury of religious art and examples of Azulejos tiles. There is also a beautiful cloister area and the tomb of Saint (princess) Joana, plus a very decadent gilded ceiling in the old chapel of Jesus.
The Salinas (salt basins) de Aveiro could also be described as an open-air museum of sorts. It’s an interesting walk with several information boards in English explaining the process.
Whilst the Museu de Arte Nova is a little disappointing, the tea house at the back (Casa de Cha) is quite quaint and a little bit of an Aveiro hidden gem – the perfect place to escape the weekend crowds.
NOTE: Most of the museums in Aveiro are closed on Mondays.
- GO SHOPPING IN AVEIRO
As well as the usual souvenir shops you come to expect in Portugal’s popular places, Aveiro has a couple of extra highlights for the consumer…
You can buy some of the local salt harvested traditionally from the nearby flats. It’s top-quality and prettily packaged and there are several shops in Aveiro serving this purpose.
In a similar vein, Sardine shops are ten a penny in Aveiro too, and we just love looking in all of the windows at the colourful displays of tins. One of the biggest canneries in Portugal is here in Aveiro, called Comur, and there seems no end to the artistic designs for this little paupers fish. You can see the finest display of this Portuguese delicacy at their store on Rua de Coimbra.
Rua de Coimbra is a really lovely pedestrianised street to browse in Aveiro.
Finally, The Forum is the place for serious shoppers and has won awards for its architectural design too. Expect all the usual high street stores in pleasant surroundings with a handful of nice places to eat and drink too.
- VISIT THE COLOURFUL BEACH TOWN OF COSTA NOVA
Whilst you might not have time to visit Aveiro and Costa Nova in one day, making a trip to the beach town ten minutes away will definitely be worth your effort if you are in Aveiro for longer. You have probably already seen photographs of Costa Nova, maybe on advertisements for Portugal itself? Its striped colourful houses are very famous!
Costa Nova is an old fishing village set back from some pretty expansive sand dunes and it’s just soo pretty! It’s no wonder this town keeps popping up on Instagram – the colourful vertical stripes of the traditional Palheiros cottages are really eye-catching. A Palheiros is basically a storage shed for fishermen but most of them today have been converted into beautiful holiday homes.
Costa Nova is still a sleepy fishing village, so despite the odd camera-wielding tourist, the place has quite a calmness about it. It’s a great place to find a local cafe and while away an hour or so watching the fishing world go by.
In our humble opinion, Aveiro is one of the nicest places to visit in Portugal’s Central Region. There are plenty of things to do in Aveiro, it would make a lovely weekend getaway, and is also just a stone’s throw from the nearby beach town Costa Nova.
If you are considering staying for a few days in the area we love the look of these two hotels…
Hotel do Mercado is a great budget option – excellent reviews with clean and bright rooms and the option of a balcony too.
Cais do Pescador is an unmanned hotel right on the canal. It’s sleek and modern, in a great spot and even comes with a little kitchen if you felt inclined to raid the fish market for some seafood delights.
pin for later…