The best independent guide to north Portugal
The best independent guide to north Portugal
Aveiro is a popular tourist destination, famed for its canals, Nouveau architecture and colourfully painted Moliceiros boats. The city lies on the edge of the Ria de Aveiro, a saltwater lagoon that was historically farmed for its seaweed, salt and bountiful fish.
Today, Aveiro is a prosperous university city, with an authentic fishermen’s district, ornate Art Nouveau buildings, and many grand religious buildings. The low-rise buildings and authentic Portuguese atmosphere of Aveiro, gives no indication that the city is in the heart of Portugal’s major manufacturing region.
The region may be hard-working, but it also contains many beautiful natural areas. There are the glorious beaches of Costa Nova, the pristine pine forests of the Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto and the Passadiços Ria de Aveiro, the scenic footpath along the southern side of the lagoon.
Aveiro is one of the best day trips from Porto, and there is a regular train service connecting both cities. This article will show you why you must visit Aveiro, and how to get the most from the city.
Related articles: Day trips from Porto – Coimbra guide
Aveiro Canals – The three canals of Aveiro connect the city to the Ria de Aveiro lagoon and are best explored by riding one of the traditional Moliceiros boats.
Costa Nova – A delightful beach resort 5km from Aveiro, which is famed for its striped beach houses and gorgeous beach.
The fishermen’s quarter – The characterful district of Aveiro, with cobbled streets, fishermen’s houses and a lively fish market
The Ria de Aveiro – The lagoon which allowed Aveiro to prosper and almost destroyed the city. Today it is a haven for wildlife, offering tranquil walks and peaceful boat rides.
Aveiro is frequently described as the Venice of Portugal, and it is easy to understand why. It was historically an influential trading city, there are canals, and gondola-like boats (the Moliceiros) ply the waterways.
By referring to Aveiro as the Venice of Portugal, does a disservice to the city; it sets visitors expectations too high, while missing the real allure of the city. More accurately, Aveiro should be described as a characterful and traditional Portuguese city.
The Assembleia Municipal de Aveiro
Aveiro is a major city, but the historic centre is relatively compact and can be seen within three hours of sightseeing. A typical day trip (map and details in the next section) is often combined with a boat tour of the canals and the Ria de Aveiro lagoon.
For a longer day trip, you could include Costa Nova, with its colourful beach houses, pretty harbour and vast beach. For most visitors, one day is enough time to explore Aveiro, but you may wish to spend one night if you are travelling between Porto and Coimbra – Aveiro is conveniently situated on the main north-south railway.
For beach focused holiday, you would want to stay in Costa Nova, as Aveiro is not situated on the Atlantic coastline but is 7km inland. Costa Nova is one of the hidden gems of Northern Portugal and an amazing location for a relaxing holiday.
Aveiro is ideally set up for a day trip from Porto or Coimbra. The city has sufficient interesting sights and activities to fill a day of sightseeing, and is conveniently connected by regular train services.
Personal opinion: For day trips from Porto, we suggest this order: Guimaraes, Braga, Aveiro, Douro Valley (train or boat tour), Lamego, Vila do Conde
The interactive map below displays a suggested tour of Aveiro, which begins from the train station. The bus stop for the bus to Costa Nova is marked by point (7), and the map also includes the major sights of the Aveiro region (zoom out to see these).
Sights of Aveiro 1) Estação de Aveiro 2) Assembleia Municipal de Aveiro 3) Museu de Arte Nova 4) Praça do Peixe 5) Fisherman’s Quarter 6) Salinas de Aveiro (saltpan open-air museum) 7) bus to Costa Nova 8) Igreja da Misericórdia 9) Forum Aveiro (shopping centre) 10) Sé Catedral de Aveiro 11) Mosteiro de Jesus 12) Centro de Congressos de Aveiro
Sights around Aveiro 13) Costa Nova 14) Praia da Barra 15) Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto 16) Passadiços Ria de Aveiro
Aveiro is a major transport hub, and it is very easy to travel to from popular tourist destinations. There are over 20 daily train services from Porto to Aveiro.
The train departs from the São Bento train station, takes 1h15min, and the fare is €3.55/€7.10 (single/return). From Coimbra, there are 15 daily departures to Aveiro; the journey takes 1h02min, and a single ticket cost €5.35. Both train services are operated by CP, the national train company of Portugal, and the latest timetable can be seen on their website: https://www.cp.pt/
Note: There are express trains between Porto and Coimbra that stop at Aveiro, but they are significantly more expensive, and seats have to be pre-booked in advance.
Related articles: Porto to Aveiro
An organised tour is a great way to discover Aveiro, especially if you are limited for time or don’t want the hassle of public transport.
We have worked with GetYourGuide.com for the previous six years, and a selection of their best tours of Aveiro includes:
Note: Group tours often combine Aveiro with Coimbra. This is a good use of time for an organised tour, but if you are visiting them independently, you should plan one day per city. It is definitely too much to see both Coimbra and Aveiro in a single day when using public transport.
Related articles: Coimbra guide
Aveiro is situated on the Ria de Aveiro lagoon and is not directly located on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. This means that the nearest beaches are 7 km to the west, at Praia da Barra or Costa Nova. Due to the distance, Aveiro should not be considered as a beach resort but as a charming Portuguese city.
The Praia da Barra and Costa Nova coastline is beautiful, with a pristine sandy shoreline stretching for over 5km. This western coastline of Portugal (known as the Costa da Prata) is dominated by the Atlantic Ocean, with its huge surfing waves, rugged scenery and bracing sea breezes.
To the north of the Ria de Aveiro estuary are the deserted beaches of the Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto. This sandbar peninsular had forests planted during the 18th century to stabilise the coastline and today is a protected nature park with unspoilt sandy beaches.
Aveiro’s fortunes have always had a close connection to the ocean and that of the waterways which surround it. As a result, the city has experienced periods of great wealth, and devasting low points, to such an extent that the city was almost wiped out.
The Romans were the first to identify Aveiro as a harbour and considered the location as the best-sheltered harbour on the western side of the Iberian Peninsula. Up until the mid-16th century, Aveiro was a prosperous city, with a major fishing fleet and significant sea trade.
This all changed in 1575 after an incredibly powerful winter storm dredged up the seabed, forming a sandbank along the mouth of the harbour. This blocked the port and created the Ria de Aveiro lagoon. Along with losing all of the prosperous trade routes, the stagnant lagoon bred diseases, which ravaged the population. In less than twenty years the population of Aveiro went from 30,000 to less than 5,000.
The resilient city did eventually recover, and by the early 19th century it was an industrial centre for kelp farming and salt production. The kelp formed the basis of early fertilisers and was harvested from the lagoon and transported by the Moliceiros boats. The high-quality salt from the Ria de Aveiro was traditionally used to make Bacalhao, the salted and dried codfish, which is loved by the Portuguese.
At the start of the 20th century, Portuguese emigrants who had left Portugal to find riches in Brazil, returned and recreated its extravagant Art Nouveau architecture in the houses they built along the canals. Today Aveiro is a major university city, and the region is the manufacturing centre of Portugal.
No trip to Aveiro is complete without trying the local delicacy, Ovos Moles de Aveiro. This confectionery is made from sweetened egg yokes, which are encased in a thin candy waiver, and often styled as a barrel or fish.
The direct translation of Ovos Moles de Aveiro is “soft eggs of Aveiro”, which sums up the little cakes perfectly.
As with many of Portugal’s traditional cakes, they originated from the convents and monasteries, and the Ovos Moles first were first produced in the Mosteiro de Jesus de Aveiro.
The nuns used the egg whites to starch their habits, so there was an abundance of egg yolks, and these were used to make sweet pastries and cakes. With the expulsion of all religious orders in the 19th century, the culinary expertise was transferred to the local bakeries.
Later, Aveiro became a major stop along the Lisbon-Porto railway, women in traditional dress would sell the cakes onboard the train, and the taste for Ovos Moles spread across the whole of Portugal.