Aveiro is a city and a municipality in Portugal, and the second-most populous city in the Centro Region of Portugal, after Coimbra.
It is located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and has an important seaport. It is known as “the Portuguese Venice”, due to its system of canals and boats “similar” to the Italian city of Venice.
This similarity is arguable, so don’t expect a small version of Venice because that does not exist. However; if you are on a road trip to Portugal, this could be an interesting stop.
How to get there?
Aveiro is 40 minutes away by car from Porto, driving south. So it’s a convenient location if you are on a road trip driving south. We did exactly that, starting in the Spanish city of La Coruña, in Galicia.
The roads around the city are picturesque as well, as they are located on the edge of an extensive coastal lagoon system.
If you drive another 45 minutes (south-east) you can also visit Coimbra, another very popular city in Portugal, which has evolved into a major cultural centre and has the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world, the University of Coimbra. Its historical buildings were classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2013: “Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages.”
You can also take a train, number 730 direction Lisboa – Santa Apolonia, which takes 40 minutes. Tickets can be purchased in advanced on the Portuguese transport entity’s website.
If you take a train from Porto you will be able to see the magnificent Sao Bento Train Station.
Top things to do in Aveiro
There are things to do in Aveiro, which will depend on the time you have. Some attractions are in town, or others such as the beaches are 10 or 20 km away.
Aveiro Canals and Moliceiro Tour
Where the Italian city of Venice has gondolas, Aveiro has moliceiros. These colourful boats were traditionally used for seaweed harvesting in the lagoon, but are now used for canal cruises and tours.
They are also painted on the bow and stern depicting traditional scenes around Aveiro, and some of its stories are narrated on the tours, which costs €7.
Aveiro used to be surrounded by many monasteries, and one of them is the currently the museum, just across the cathedral.
It was built in the 15th century and was the Convent of Jesus of the Dominican Order. Its collection includes Princess Joanna’s marble tomb, and several religious pieces such as paintings, sculptures, jewellery and ancient furniture.
Praia da Barra
If you have time to visit the beach, Praia da Barra should be your choice. It’s only 10 km from Aveiro and worth visitng.
It’s a long, open and sandy beach, and the area includes a long elevated wooden walkway, a lighthouse, a tiny village, restaurants and a school almost inside the beach.
Slightly further you can find another popular seaside town with a beautiful beach, Costa Nova.
What it used to be a fisherman village is now touristic spot, and those men’s cottages are now the distinctive building of the town. These are now colourful rainbow-striped buildings, some of them used as apartments or hotels.
Other attractions available, which I would give less priority, are the following:
- Mosteiro de Jesus
- Rossio Area
- Church of São João Evangelista
- Forum Aveiro
- Old Train Station
- Art Nouveau museum (Museu de Arte Nova) and on-site Tea House (Casa de Chá)
- Fish markets (Mercado do Peixe). There is one in Aveiro and one in Costal Nova (just around the corner from the Costa Nova Hotel)
Ovos Moles de Aveiro (“soft eggs from Aveiro”, literally) is the most traditional and local delicacy in the city, made of egg yolks and sugar. The mixture is often put inside of small rice paper casings in nautical shapes, such as shells, communion wafers or, in our case, moliceiros.
In 2008, it was designated a product with Protected Geographical Indication by the European Union.
Some recommended tours to visit Aveiro, including one from Porto, are the following:
- Porto: Aveiro Tour Including Moliceiro Cruise
- Aveiro: Half-Day Tour from Porto or Gaia with Cruise
- Aveiro and Coimbra small-group full-day tour from Porto with Cruise in Aveiro
Travel tips and recommendations
- If you are planning to visit Lisbon, check our post “Tram 28, the most famous tour in Lisbon. Tips, route and best stops” to know everything about this popular tour in the capital.
- A piece of very important advice if you are driving: read carefully how to use electronic toll roads, as you will probably get fined otherwise.
- In Lisbon, we stayed at Hotel Ibis Saldanha and it worked very well for us. It is a modest hotel with a great breakfast and good value for money. 5 minutes from Saldanha metro station.
- Last but not least, if you are in Lisbon and have some extra time, I would strongly recommend visiting Porto. It is only 3 hours away by train or car, and it is an incredible city. Once in Porto, do not miss the beautiful Douro Valley, land of wine, sun and great landscapes.
- There is another city in France and very close to Geneva called Annecy, which is considered the Venice of the Alps.