Colorful boats. Charming canals. Grand, art nouveau buildings. You’ll see all this and more on a trip to the Portugal of Venice. But is Aveiro worth visiting? Even if your time in Portugal is limited?
I was pondering these same questions before my Aveiro day trip during Porto solo travel. With so many amazing places to visit, I wanted to make sure that Aveiro was worth the trip. The answer, for me, was a yes, mostly because of the moliceiro boat tours and the colorful striped houses in nearby Costa Nova.
But will this trip be right for you? Below, I’ve outlined all the best reasons to visit Aveiro as well as why this town may not be the Porto day trip for you. Keep reading if you’re trying to decide whether or not Aveiro is really worth the visit!
Aveiro: The Venice of Portugal
Aveiro, often referred to as the “Venice of Portugal,” is a charming city known for its serene waterways and vividly colored Moliceiro boats, reminiscent of the gondolas in Venice.
Unlike Venice, Aveiro’s network of canals is not a result of an archipelago but of a lagoon. Its unique geography has given rise to a rich salt production history, a legacy that can still be appreciated today.
The city is home to roughly 78,000 inhabitants and is also heralded for its proximity to the stunning sandy beaches of Costa Nova. This duality of lagoon and oceanic influence sets Aveiro apart, making it a must-visit destination in Portugal.
What is Aveiro Known for?
Aveiro, far from being a mere reflection of the famed City of Canals in Italy, is a location steeped in its own cultural customs and historical narratives spanning centuries.
Aveiro is famous for its rich maritime history, deeply rooted in salt production and fishing. The city’s architecture showcases a stunning display of Art Nouveau buildings, making it a visual delight for art and history enthusiasts.
Adding to its distinct charm is the local specialty pastry, ovos moles, a sweet treat wrapped in a wafer shaped like maritime symbols, making Aveiro a destination that caters to both gastronomes and culture seekers.
If you’re wondering, Is Aveiro worth visiting, you should ask yourself how much you enjoy canals, art nouveau, local gastronomy, and birdwatching. Keep reading to learn more!
Aveiro and Costa Nova
If you’re wondering whether Aveiro is worth visiting, ultimately, I’d say that depends on whether or not you’re also heading to Costa Nova!
Costa Nova is a picturesque seaside destination famed for its candy-striped houses. You’ve probably seen photos of them, by far one of the most Instagrammable places in Portugal!
Originally a quaint 19th-century fishing village located between Aveiro and Ílhavo, I loved visiting Costa Nova’s distinctive striped houses, even though I had to wait in line to take photos of them. (Worth it!)
These iconic two-tone huts, called palheiros originally served as storage for fishermen’s nets and equipment. Their vibrant colors, chosen for easy recognition from boats on foggy days, now offer a charming backdrop for photographs.
Once without any interior walls, today, these houses have been adapted to accommodate local families. Some of these historic huts are even available for vacation rental. If you’re heading for the photos (and I wouldn’t blame you if you did!) the best section is along Avenida José Estevão.
How to Get to Aveiro
I recommend visiting Aveiro on a day trip. While it’s much easier to get here from Porto, a day trip to Aveiro from Lisbon is also possible.
Porto to Aveiro
The total distance between Porto and Aveiro is approximately 47 miles (75 kilometers). You can travel by car, train, bus, or on a day tour.
- Porto Airport to Aveiro: The Porto airport is the closest to Aveiro. From Porto airport, you can take a taxi or ride-sharing service to Aveiro. The journey will take around 50 minutes.
- Train: For a more scenic route, consider a day trip from Porto to Aveiro by train. It takes just over an hour, and you’ll get to see the beautiful Portuguese countryside. Trains from Porto to Aveiro run regularly throughout the day. You can find more information and buy tickets in advance on the Comboios de Portugal website.
- Road Trip Stops: There are plenty of attractions to see between Porto and Aveiro, including the stunning Costa Nova Beach and the historical city of Coimbra.
Lisbon to Aveiro
While not as close as Porto, it’s still possible to get from Lisbon to Aveiro and back in a day, if you time things just right.
- Can Aveiro be a Day Trip from Lisbon? Yes, a day trip from Lisbon to Aveiro is indeed possible, although the logistics are a bit more complex due to the greater distance.
- Distance: The total distance from Lisbon to Aveiro is approximately 158 miles (254 kilometers). The longer journey will require plenty of planning for a day trip.
- Train: An efficient way to travel from Lisbon to Aveiro is by train. The journey typically takes around two and a half hours, and there are regular services throughout the day. Be sure to check the Comboios de Portugal website for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.
How to Get Around Aveiro
Visiting Aveiro can be a breeze if you’re equipped with the right information. Here’s everything you need to know about navigating this small, coastal city:
- Walk: Aveiro is a relatively small city, making it quite walkable. Most of the main tourist attractions are conveniently located within a short distance of each other. This makes it possible to explore a large part of the city on foot.
- Do you need a car in Aveiro? While having a car can provide more flexibility, it is not necessary to have one in Aveiro. The local public transportation system is quite reliable, and renting a bicycle can be a fun option to navigate the city.
- Are there Ubers in Aveiro? Uber is indeed available in Aveiro, providing a convenient and familiar option for getting around. Other local taxi services are also readily available.
- Aveiro to Costa Nova: To get from Aveiro to the beach, you can take a short bus ride. Buses to the beach run regularly throughout the day, offering a quick and convenient method of travel.
Reasons to Visit Aveiro: Best Things to Do
From its unique cuisine to its historical landmarks, Aveiro is a charming and versatile Portuguese day trip destination that caters to a wide range of interests.
Here are a few reasons why Aveiro is worth visiting:
Aveiro’s gastronomic heritage is incomplete without mentioning this iconic delicacy! Literally translating to soft eggs, ovos moles are sweet pastries filled with a mixture of egg yolks and sugar, enveloped in a wafer-thin, shell-shaped casing.
The origin of this treat date back to the 19th century, when nuns in Aveiro’s monasteries found a clever way to use surplus egg yolks (leftover after using the whites for starching clothes) by creating these sweet delights.
The unique taste of ovos moles has been a beloved symbol of Aveiro’s culinary culture for centuries, acquiring a Protected Geographical Indication status by the European Union. I didn’t think I would like this unique pastry, but I have to say, ovos moles really grew on me!
If you’re wondering where to try ovos moles, head straight to local confectioneries like Confeitaria Peixinho and Maria da Apresentação where you can try their traditional recipes.
Moliceiro Boat Tours
Did I visit Aveiro just to ride one of these colorful boats up and down its waterways? I mean… I didn’t not visit Aveiro for that very reason.
Moliceiro boats are an integral part of Aveiro’s history and culture. These vessels are long, slender, and decorated with colorful, hand-painted designs that often depict local scenes and folklore. The boats’ front and rear sections curve upward, giving them a unique appearance.
These boats were once used for harvesting seaweed, which was then used as a fertilizer, playing a key role in Aveiro’s economy. Nowadays, they’ve been repurposed for tourism, ferrying visitors around Aveiro’s canal network.
Get a unique perspective of the city’s architecture and history on a peaceful boat ride around the charming Portuguese town. The boat ride typically lasts about 45-60 minutes and costs around €12-15.
Explore Aveiro’s Canals
When in Aveiro, the Portuguese Venice, taking time to traverse the intricate tangle of canals that weave through the city is an absolute must – it’s truly an experience that sets Aveiro apart. One of the best ways is by cycling or walking along the picturesque canal paths.
I took a relaxing walk around the around and it was such a fun way to explore the town. I began at the central canal, Canal Central, where beautifully manicured gardens and a wide walkway provide a serene starting point. Traveling further, I spotted a canal-side park, Jardim do Rossio, that would make the perfect stop for a leisurely picnic or somewhere to rest and soak in the splendid views.
Then, I continued my journey toward the Canal de São Roque, known for its captivating vibrancy. Here, the historic square of Praça do Peixe was brimming with inviting cafes and restaurants. I couldn’t resist taking the chance to sample local delicacies!
Art Nouveau Architecture
Aveiro, renowned as a European Art Nouveau hub, boasts 28 iconic structures that epitomize this architectural style. The Art Nouveau style, or “Arte Nova” in Portuguese, dominated Aveiro’s architectural scene from 1904 to 1920.
The trend gained particular favor among immigrant families returning from Brazil, and is characterized by organic and geometrical forms, often inspired by nature,
In Aveiro, the Art Nouveau legacy is most pronounced along the main canal, where you can find the Art Nouveau Museum. Other prominent buildings include the train station with its impressive azulejos and the former Cooperativa Agrícola de Aveiro, now serving as a shopping center. It stands as a testament to the city’s economic growth during the advent of industrialization. The building, with its decorative facades featuring botanical motifs, demonstrates the essence of the Art Nouveau style.
If you’re interested in architecture and art nouveau, you already know the answer to the question: Is Aveiro worth visiting? For more Art Nouveau architecture, you can also head to the nearby town of Ílhavo.
Praia de Barra & Lighthouse
For a serene seaside retreat, make sure to visit Praia de Barra. This beach is the perfect destination for sun worshippers and surf seekers. Its iconic red and white striped lighthouse, the tallest in Portugal, offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic coastline, a sight you won’t want to miss.
If you’re hoping to go inside, be sure to visit on Wednesdays, the only day the Farol de Aveiro is open to the public. (It’s also free!) For the best viewpoint in Aveiro, climb the nearly 300 steps to the top… or just take the elevator. The choice is yours!
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Aveiro Salt Pans
Next on your agenda should be the Salinas de Aveiro. These historic salt flats are a testament to Aveiro’s rich maritime history. Here, you can witness the traditional salt-harvesting methods that have been practiced for centuries. Visit the open-air museum of Ecomuseu da Marinha da Troncalhada to learn more about the history and methods of traditional salt mining in Portugal.
Birdwatching & Flamingo Spotting
Aveiro is a paradise for both ornithologists and amateur birdwatchers. The city provides an amazing opportunity to spot a variety of bird species, including the vibrant flamingos and the rarely-sighted Eurasian spoonbill. The best time for birdwatching is at the start of spring, when migrating species arrive. Head to the Lagoa de Ílhavo Lagoon for a unique experience!
Aveiro is a city rich in history and culture, and the museums here represent this brilliantly. Art enthusiasts will be captivated by the Museum of Art Nouveau, a true gem located within the Casa Major Pessoa. This landmark building, designed by renowned architect Ernesto Korrodi, houses a wealth of treasures that offer a deep insight into Aveiro’s significant contribution to the Art Nouveau movement. You’ll find an impressive collection of architectural relics from the era that demonstrate the development and impact of the movement in Aveiro.
Not far from here, the Museum of Aveiro, also known as the Mosteiro de Jesus Aveiro, unveils a different side of the city’s history. This former Dominican convent is an iconic site that showcases an extensive range of religious art. The main attraction is the meticulously conserved tomb of the 15th-century Princess St. Joana, who once resided in the convent. These museums not only offer a journey through art and religion but also open a window to the rich past of Aveiro.
Aveiro Estuary: Swimming & Water Sports
Adventure enthusiasts must check out the Aveiro Estuary, a vast expanse of water that offers numerous opportunities for water sports. Be it kayaking or windsurfing, there’s something exciting for everyone to indulge in. There are several rental services in the area for those looking to rent equipment.
A staple in Aveiro’s lively food culture is the Fish Market. This is where you can find an extensive variety of fresh local seafood, providing an excellent chance to taste the local dishes or buy some fresh fish to prepare your own authentic Portuguese meal.
The best time to visit Aveiro’s Fish Market is early in the morning when the day’s freshest catches are just brought in. Keep in mind that the market is closed on Mondays. I promise it doesn’t smell too bad… if you plug your nose, anyway!
Aveiro’s history is deeply rooted in fishing; the town has thrived on its coastal location for centuries and developed a vibrant fishing industry. Indeed, the sustenance and livelihood of many Aveiro families have been tied to the sea, a relationship that continues to this day. Whether it is the wealth of fish species in the local waters or the techniques for harvesting them, Aveiro’s fishing history is woven into the fabric of its community and culture.
WHEN TO VISIT TO PORTUGAL
Looking for the best month to visit Portugal? It all depends on what you want to do! The annual guide will help you figure out the ideal time to check out Madeira’s Santana houses, Fanal Forest, Madeira, the stunning Porto viewpoints, or plan your ideal Portugal solo travel trip!
Nature Trails & Biking Routes
Aveiro’s lush landscape boasts plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Take your pick from an array of nature trails and biking routes – you can explore the Aveiro Natural Park, or take a leisurely ride along the São Jacinto Coastal Path.
Shopping & Markets
Aveiro is also home to several traditional markets and specialty shops. Visit the City Market for fresh produce, local handicrafts, and souvenirs. If you’re looking for something unique, head to the lively Mercado da Beira for antiques, vintage clothing, and other unique items. Make sure you head to A Casa da Rosa for some unique finds and fun souvenirs!
Street Art in Aveiro
There’s more to Aveiro’s art scene than just art nouveau! The town is also full of street art, adding an extra layer of cultural richness and urban charm to its cityscape.
The globally recognized artist, Vhils has a well-known work just across from the train station. Vhils carves out large-scale portraits directly into the surface of beautiful buildings, creating striking and impactful art. He’s known for innovative uses of unconventional methods and tools like explosives, pneumatic drills, and chisels. His work delivers a social commentary, often depicting ordinary people to highlight unnoticed or forgotten identities.
In stark contrast to Vhils, but equally captivating, are the murals by António Conceição. His work celebrates the vibrant colors and organic forms of nature, bringing to life the city’s walls with his vivid imagination. His distinctive style is easily recognizable and adds plenty of charm to Aveiro’s urban landscape.
São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve
For nature enthusiasts, the São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve, located on the narrow peninsula separating the Aveiro Lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean, presents an unmissable opportunity for exploration. Stretching over 666 hectares, the reserve is a unique ecological sanctuary, featuring a diverse array of flora and fauna.
The reserve is known for its expansive sand dunes. These constantly shifting sand masses are a testament to the dune system’s dynamic nature, shaped by the wind, sea, and other climatic factors. Not only are they a marvel to behold, but they also play an essential role in protecting the sensitive lagoon ecosystem from the Atlantic’s potentially destructive forces.
Visitors to the reserve can partake in several activities. For birdwatchers, the reserve serves as a sanctuary for a wide variety of bird species, making bird-watching a popular activity. Walking trails provide ample opportunity for hiking, and interpretative signs along the paths offer insights into the reserve’s unique biodiversity.
To get to the reserve from Aveiro, you have several options. If you have a car, you can drive to São Jacinto via the A25, a journey that typically takes about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Forte da Barra to São Jacinto, offering a scenic trip across the lagoon. Upon arrival, it’s a short walk to the reserve’s entrance. Do keep in mind that there are specific visiting hours for the reserve, and it’s always a good idea to check these in advance.
Lover’s Bridge Ribbons
For one of the most romantic things to do in Aveiro, head to the Lover’s Bridge. Here you can follow in the footsteps of countless lovers who have tied ribbons to the bridge as a symbol of their enduring affection. So why not join in this romantic tradition? Tie your own ribbon, make a wish with your loved one, and let the gentle breeze carry your promise of love into the future.
Plus, this colorful spot has the same appeal as any of the most Instagrammable places in Lisbon like the famous Pink Street. Of course, I had to stop for a photo or two!
Reasons to Not Visit Aveiro
While Aveiro is a captivating city with a wealth of attractions, it might not appeal to everyone. Here are a few reasons why visiting Aveiro may not be worth the visit:
- Your time in Portugal is limited: While Aveiro’s attractions have a unique charm, they are largely centered around its canals and maritime history. If you’re seeking a wider variety of cultural experiences, you might find Aveiro’s offerings a bit limited. If it’s your first time to Portugal and you’re trying to squeeze in multiple destination in less than 2 weeks, Aveiro may be better off skipped.
- You’re expecting it to be just like Venice: Let’s be honest, there’s really only one Venice. While Aveiro has its own charm and the moliceiro boats are super cute, you’re not exactly winding through the same narrow canals enclosed by stunning Italian villas. There are plenty of art nouveau beauties to admire, but it’s a different vibe, to be sure.
- You don’t plan to visit Costa Nova: One of Aveiro’s best selling points is the stunning beach town known as Costa Nova. With its traditional striped houses and beaches, it was honestly the top reason I chose this day trip. You’ll have to be sure you can plan your public transport route and time things correctly if you don’t rent a car. If that sounds like too much of a hassle, you’re better off skipping Aveiro unless you’re a big fan of art nouveau or bird watching.
Bonus: Things to Do in Ihavo
Ílhavo is another charming town not far from Aveiro. If you’ve got extra time, it’s an easy addition to your itinerary, especially to see its parishes: São Salvador, Gafanha da Nazaré, Gafanha da Encarnação and Gafanha do Carmo.
Here are a few fun things to do in Ilhavo:
- Maritime Museum of Ílhavo: This museum, situated in an award-winning early 2000s building, educates on Ílhavo’s naval history and its connection with Aveiro Lagoon. It features sections on local marine customs, the once-thriving cod fishing industry, and the town’s enduring bond with the sea, including a cod aquarium established in 2013.
- Museu Vista Alegre: This museum is dedicated to a high-quality porcelain brand, Vista Alegre, which has roots in Ílhavo dating back two centuries. The company chose this location due to the abundance of raw materials needed for ceramics. The museum offers a journey through its illustrious history, conferred with a royal warrant in 1824, and showcases Portugal’s ceramic traditions.
- Honra de Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes Celebration: A spectacular annual maritime procession in September, staged from the old cod-fishing port to the Barra fortress. This tradition, now taking place along the waterways, witnesses participation from an array of boats.
- Picnic at Infante Dom Pedro Park: If you want a little more nature in your trip, head to this tranquil 19th-century city park with an art nouveau bandstand, duck ponds & plenty of picnic tables.
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Planning an Aveiro Day Trip Itinerary
The Portuguese Venice is easily explored on a day trip, but is Aveiro worth visiting for any longer? Personally, I wouldn’t recommend spending more than a day here unless you’re spending a couple months in Portugal. There’s so much to see, and Aveiro can be toured quickly.
Take a look at everything you need to know to plan the perfect 1 day in Aveiro:
- How much time do you need in Aveiro?
Aveiro is a great day trip destination, and depending on your interests, you can enjoy a full day or two days in the city. If you are planning to explore most of Aveiro’s landmarks and attractions, one full day should suffice. However, if you want to explore the city at leisure and take some extra time for relaxation, two days would be recommended.
- Is Aveiro expensive?
Aveiro is a relatively affordable destination, with prices comparable to most other cities in Portugal. Accommodation and food tend to be cheaper than the bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto.
- Is English spoken in Aveiro?
English is not widely spoken in Aveiro, though many of the locals do understand some basic English phrases. If you’re planning a day trip to Aveiro, it would be helpful to learn a few basic Portuguese phrases.
What to Pack for a Visit to Aveiro
When packing for a day trip to Aveiro, there are a few essentials that you’ll want to make sure you don’t forget:
- Waterproof Jacket: As mentioned earlier, Aveiro’s climate can be quite damp and cool, even in the summer months. Make sure you pack a waterproof jacket to keep you warm and dry.
- Comfortable Shoes: While exploring Aveiro, it’s likely that you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes that can handle all the city has to offer.
- Portable Charger: Aveiro’s cobblestone streets can make it difficult to get around quickly. Make sure to pack a portable charger so that you can navigate the city with ease.
What to Eat in Aveiro: Best Food
Did you know Aveiro actually has multiple signature desserts? Oh yeah. This town is a pretty great place to visit for anyone with a serious sweet tooth.
From ovos moles to chocolate tripas and mouth-watering seafood dishes, Aveiro has plenty of traditional dishes worth a try:
- Raivas de Aveiro: This decadent pastry looks like a cake and is made with layers of puff pastry filled with egg yolk cream, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest.
- Tripas de chocolate: A true local delicacy, this dessert consists of three layers of sponge cake flavored with almonds, traditional spices and brandy. The top two layers are then covered in dark chocolate truffle and rolled in grated coconut.
- Ovos moles: This treat looks like a small egg but is really a sweet made with egg yolk, sugar and other traditional spices. It’s often served as part of the dessert course in restaurants and cafes around Aveiro.
- Tripa de Aveiro: A local treat, tripa blends elements of crepes and waffles. Initially filled with traditional ‘ovos moles’, modern variations include options like chocolate, jam, and even savory ham and cheese.
- Almendrados de Aveiro: Small, almond-flavored cakes often served with a glass of local Moscatel wine.
- Bacalhau com natas: A classic Portuguese dish made with salt cod, potatoes, onions and cream.
- Eel with escabeche sauce: Grilled eel served with a traditional escabeche sauce made with garlic, olive oil and vinegar.
- Caldeirada de Enguias: A traditional Portuguese eel stew from Aveiro, seasoned with saffron, onions, potatoes, and bell peppers, best paired with Bairrada region’s crisp white wines.
- Mussels and Oysters – Seafood lovers, rejoice. Fresh mussels and oysters which are caught in Ria de Aveiro can be found in all the seafood restaurants in Aveiro.
Best Restaurants in Aveiro
From cozy, family-run eateries serving hearty fare, to upscale establishments with gourmet menus, it’s easy to find an Aveiro restaurant that will suit your tastes and budget.
- Maré Cheia: One of the most highly recommended restaurants in Aveiro, this lovely restaurant overlooks the river and has the freshest seafood around! This is where I stopped to eat. I tried the seafood platter, but from the looks of all the other dishes around me, you really can’t go wrong here!
- Saltito: Located in the heart of Aveiro’s old town, this cozy spot is perfect for a romantic dinner or a meal with friends. The menu features traditional dishes as well as creative takes on modern cuisine.
- Snack bar Picota: For a truly authentic experience, try Snack Bar Picota. This no-frills spot is a great budget-friendly option with plenty of quality Portuguese favorites, including Caldo Verde soup and grilled sardines.
- Espeto do Sul: Another great seafood option is Espeto do Sul. Here, you can dine al fresco and enjoy the stunning views of Aveiro’s old port as you sample some freshly-caught fish and shellfish.
- MUSGO – Restaurante Vegan: If you’re vegan or vegetarian, look no further than MUSGO. The menu here features creative dishes that are 100% plant-based, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting.
Where to Stay in Aveiro
Aveiro’s recent popularity has led to an increase in hostels and guesthouses, mostly situated in the Rossio district and along Lourenço Peixinho Avenue.
However, the cost of lodgings in Aveiro, including both hotels and homestays, tends to be higher compared to other major Portuguese cities such as Lisbon or Porto.
If you want to stay the night in Aveiro, take a look at some of the most highly recommended hotels and hostels in the area:
- Hotel Aveiro Palace: For anyone seeking luxury at a reasonable price, this is your spot! This stately building has upscale amenities like large balconies with a great view of the canals, offering a comfortable and refreshing stay.
- Melia Ria Aveiro: This cool hotel is situated directly on the river, and all rooms here have a spectacular waterfront view. There’s also a great pool, spa, restaurant and bar!
- Aveiro White House: This budget-friendly hotel has some pretty cute, updated rooms. While they’re all private rooms, there’s a shared kitchen and common area which keeps things affordable and makes it easy to meet other travelers.
Map of Aveiro, Portugal
Save this Aveiro map to make your day trip even easier!
Verdict: Is Aveiro Worth Visiting?
So, is Aveiro worth visiting? Well, I’ve told you everything I know so now it’s up to you to make up your mind!
Are the canals full of Moliceiro boast and the colorful houses at nearby Costa Nova enough to draw you to this coastal town? Would you rather allocate your day trip time to a more historical spot like Coimbra or enjoying all the fascinating things to do in Obidos? Maybe you’d prefer to taste port at the riverside wineries in Porto instead. And if you’re a wine lover, a day trip to the best Douro Valley wineries could also be a good idea. Only you can decide!
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