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Aveiro Guide: 5+ Things to See & Do in the “Venice of Portugal”

Known as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is a charming city in the Central Region of Portugal, nestled on the edge of a lagoon and crisscrossed by a network of canals. This coastal city offers a unique blend of scenic waterways, colourful houses, historic buildings, and sandy beaches, making it a captivating destination for visitors. Its cityscape is dotted with art nouveau architecture and traditionally painted boats called “moliceiros,” reminiscent of the gondolas of Venice, which add to the city’s picturesque appeal.

You can see most of Aveiro’s attractions in a day, although it’ll be rushed. For a proper experience, and particularly if you want to visit the nearby beach, you should allow for an overnight stay.

Aveiro’s rich history dates back to the Roman era, but it was during the 15th to 16th century that the city flourished with maritime trade and the production of salt, the so-called “white gold”. It was once a major seaport until the closing of the harbour in the 16th century which led to economic downfall and the city’s abandonment. Aveiro reemerged in the 19th century, when it was connected to the sea again, and today, the city’s past is still visible in its historic buildings, the bustling fish market, and the salt pans on the city outskirts.

The city is not just about historic charm. It’s also a vibrant, modern city with a highly regarded university that adds a youthful energy to its streets and, because of that, it’s becoming an increasingly popular place to live. Aveiro’s unique combination of tradition, history, and modernity creates an intriguing blend that draws travellers from all over the world. 

Useful Resources for Your Trip to Aveiro

Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to Aveiro. 
  • Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in Aveiro. 
  • Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental in Aveiro and the nearby airports, like Porto and Lisbon. 
  • Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at both Lisbon and Porto Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups
  • Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Aveiro and the surrounding Central Portugal region. 
  • Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Aveiro. 
  • Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal. 
  • Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The nearest airport to Aveiro is Porto Airport, but it’s also worth looking at flights to Lisbon as well.  

Where to Stay

  • Hotel das Salinas – Contemporary-themed hotel accommodation with great breakfasts.
  • Hotel Moliceiro – A charming 4-star hotel with views over the Aveiro River.
  • Hotel Aveiro Palace – Modern and stylish designed rooms set in a historic building in Aveiro.
  • Hotel Imperial – Dated and basic, but clean, central, and affordable. 

What to See & Do

Take a boat trip in a Moliceiro

Moliceiro boat tour

One of the quintessential (yet, admittedly, touristy) experiences in Aveiro is taking a boat trip aboard a “moliceiro,” the traditional boats that were once used for collecting “moliço” (seaweed) from the lagoon. Today, these brightly painted, gondola-like boats are used to ferry tourists around Aveiro’s network of picturesque canals, offering a unique perspective of the city. Each moliceiro is decorated with intricate paintings often featuring amusing and sometimes cheeky themes, making them a delightful sight both on and off the water. A moliceiro boat trip offers a serene journey through the city’s waterways, navigating under decorative footbridges and past historic buildings, vibrant Art Nouveau houses, and lively waterside cafes. As you glide through the water, your guide will share stories of Aveiro’s history and culture. These leisurely cruises last approximately 45 minutes to an hour, providing ample opportunity to capture beautiful photos and soak in the unique atmosphere of Aveiro. A 45-minute boat ride normally costs around €10. Compare that to Venice where a 30-minute ride in a gondola will set you back €80-120 on average. 

Aveiro Museum 

Aveiro Museum, also known as the Museum of Santa Joana due to its location in the Convent of Jesus, is a site of rich historical and cultural significance. Named after Princess Saint Joana, King Afonso V’s sister who lived in the convent until her death, the museum holds an impressive collection of religious artifacts and relics that narrate the history of the convent and the life of the princess-turned-saint. The convent itself is a splendid example of religious architecture from the 15th to the 18th centuries, featuring a mix of Gothic, Mannerist and Baroque styles. It’s also where Ovos Moles were apparently invented.

Within the Aveiro Museum, visitors can explore beautiful cloisters, an ornate church, and a variety of exhibition spaces showcasing collections of painting, sculpture, jewelry, and textiles. A highlight is the ornate tomb of Saint Joana, a work of art in itself, crafted from exquisite marble. The museum also hosts rotating exhibits that offer a deeper look into specific aspects of Aveiro’s history and culture.

While visiting the museum, make sure to stroll through the adjacent gardens, which were formerly the convent’s kitchen gardens. The tranquil and beautifully maintained green space offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. The Aveiro Museum’s combination of history, art, and serene spaces make it an unmissable part of any visit to the city.

Visit the salt marshes

The salt marshes, or “salinas,” of Aveiro are an integral part of the city’s cultural heritage and a testament to a centuries-old tradition. Aveiro, often referred to as the “Venice of Portugal,” is located in a coastal lagoon landscape that is enriched by canals and salt pans. These marshes are not only visually striking landscapes but are also the source of the city’s famed Flor de Sal – a high-quality sea salt harvested by traditional methods. They are unique and beautiful, and it doesn’t cost anything to visit them either.

You can walk down to the salt marshes, but it’s mostly along a road and not the most scenic of walks. If you can find a moliceiro boat tour that allows you to stop off at the salt marshes for a little bit, this would definitely be a more enjoyable way of getting there.

Holding a block of salt at the salt marshes in Aveiro

There are two salt marsh areas, both of which have a café and a “swimming pool” where you can take a dip in the salty water for €4. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about Aveiro’s salt industry, the café at Marinha da Noeirinha offers tours. 

Try Ovos Moles

Ovos Moles, which translates to “soft eggs,” is a signature sweet treat from Aveiro, steeped in tradition and cultural history. These delicacies are made from a simple yet exquisite recipe combining egg yolks and sugar. Despite their humble ingredients, the process of making Ovos Moles is an art form, passed down through generations, with many families maintaining their secret techniques to achieve the perfect consistency and flavour.

This dessert is especially notable for its unique presentation. Ovos Moles are traditionally encased in a thin, light pastry shaped like seashells or aquatic creatures, a nod to Aveiro’s maritime heritage. These confections are then packed into wooden barrels, reflecting the city’s seafaring past. Each bite of Ovos Moles is a burst of creamy sweetness, offering a delightful contrast to the delicate, slightly crispy wafer. 

Ovos Moles have such importance in the region’s gastronomy that they were the first Portuguese sweets to receive Protected Geographical Indication status by the European Union, ensuring that true Ovos Moles can only come from Aveiro. 

You’ll find ovos moles in every café in Aveiro, as well as in the small shops and supermarkets. It’s really worth going to a shop that specialises in ovos moles, though, and you’ll find several dotted around the city centre.

casa Maria da Apresentação da Cruz Herdeiros

The first shop to start selling ovos moles, A Casa Maria da Apresentação da Cruz, Herdeiros, was founded in 1882 and still exists to this day. It’s pretty much in the centre of Aveiro (map) and so somewhere that you’ll easily be able to visit. 

Take a day trip (or half-day trip) to Costa Nova

The colourful houses of Costa Nova

Just a short drive from the heart of Aveiro, Costa Nova is a delightful coastal village that’s an ideal spot for a day trip. Known for its vibrant, candy-striped fishermen’s houses, Costa Nova offers a whimsical visual delight, painting a picture-postcard scene that’s a photographer’s dream. These traditional houses, known as “palheiros,” were originally used by fishermen to store their fishing materials but have since been transformed into charming homes and restaurants, adding a unique touch to the town’s seascape.

Costa Nova isn’t just about charming aesthetics, though. It’s also renowned for its expansive sandy beach, lapped by the Atlantic waves, making it a popular spot for both sunbathers and water sports enthusiasts. The local restaurants serve incredibly fresh seafood, a highlight being the “caldeirada de enguias,” a traditional eel stew. A stroll along the Costa Nova promenade provides enchanting views of the ocean and the opportunity to indulge in the area’s tranquil beauty.

You can easily get there by bus. The easiest stop for most people will be opposite the Royal School of Languages (map) on Rua do Clube dos Galitos. You can also buy your ticket on the bus.

Getting Here

  • Flying: The closest airport to Aveiro is Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto, which is about 80 km to the north, and it offers a number of international and domestic flights. Lisbon Airport, which is approximately 250 km to the south, is another option.
  • Train: Aveiro is well connected by train services. It’s on the main line between Lisbon and Porto, so it’s easy to reach from either city. For train tickets and timetables, visit cp.pt. 
  • Bus: There are regular buses to Aveiro from most major cities in Portugal, including Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra. For tickets and timetables, see Rede Expressos or Flixbus.pt. 
  • Driving: You won’t need a car in Aveiro or to get to Costa Nova, but having a car in this part of Portugal will allow you to see a lot more. The drive from Porto Airport takes around an hour and the drive from Lisbon Airport takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes. 

 

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