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Aveiro Top Five Things to Do

by Ana Magalhães

Aveiro is a sun-kissed, bustling city along the Atlantic shore that is rich in color and culture. Hailed as the “Venice of Portugal”, yet elegantly quiet in its own way, Aveiro is interlaced with canals that flow across the city and into the Aveiro lagoon. Colorful moliceiros, which are traditional boats with intricately hand-painted designs, bring the canals into vibrant life as they transport people – tourists and locals alike – across the city. Aveiro is also famous for its Art Nouveau architecture, with the delicate floral curves and designs featured in its perfectly preserved centuries-old buildings.

Keeping this in focus here is the list of top Five things to do in Aveiro to make the best of your time:

1. Museu de Arte Nova

Museu de Arte Nova houses a collection of art exhibits from new generation artists and architects, yet the building itself is the embodiment of the 19th century Art Nouveau movement. The façade features a mixture of stone sculpted with detail into nature designs and wrought iron complements shaped into floral and vine patterns. A magnificent stone eagle perches on top of the building, looking out onto the street. The interior walls of the Museu de Arte Nova showcase nature-inspired artworks on azulejos, which are hand-painted Portuguese ceramic panels.

After taking a dive into the historical arts and culture of Aveiro, enjoy an afternoon cup of tea at the Casa de Chá, located at the first level of the Museu de Arte. This chic café gives the museum a flair of the modern era, with comfortable bean bags strewn across the courtyard where you can spend the afternoon unwinding and basking in the beauty of Art Nouveau. The Casa de Chá offers a wide variety of pastries and cakes, as well as an aromatic selection of coffees and teas.

2. Self-guided Tour

What is a better way to get to know and fall in love with a city than to explore it by foot? A self-guided tour into the festive streets of Aveiro is great way to explore its hidden beauty and learn the locals’ way of life. Visit the fish market early in the morning to get a first-hand experience on traditional fish delicacies. The secret to Aveiro’s sumptuous local cuisine is that the fishes are caught fresh and cooked right off the bat. With fresh fruits and vegetables also just around the corner, you are definitely going to have a hearty breakfast at Aveiro’s iconic fish market.

A visit to Aveiro isn’t complete without seeing the majestic Sé de Aveiro (Aveiro Cathedral), also known as the Igreja de São Domingos or the Church of St. Dominic. Built in 1423 as a Dominican convent, the Aveiro Cathedral highlights almost 600 years of historical and artistic influences of the Baroque and Gothic eras. Its interior features a high vaulted ceiling and pure white walls decorated with divine ornaments, giving it a classic elegant look that has stood the test of time – a testament symbolic to the faith of the people of Aveiro.

Just across the Aveiro Cathedral is the Convent of Jesus of the Dominican Order, an ancient structure built in the 15th century which now houses the Aveiro Museum. It features a collection of religious paintings and artifacts dating back to the Baroque period. The Aveiro Museum is notable for its role in the rich history of the Portuguese monarchy, as it houses the tomb of St. Joana, daughter of King Afonso V.

3. Boat ride

Just as a trip to Venice isn’t complete without a gondola ride, a trip to Aveiro isn’t complete without a tour of the city aboard its very own moliceiros. These traditional fishing boats were used by locals for transporting Molico seaweed across Aveiro’s web of canals in the past, but these colorful and decorative boats are now a major attraction in the city. A 45-minute boat tour begins a few meters from the fish market, where boat rides can be booked on the spot.

4. Costa Nova Beach

If you’re looking for a place where you can soak up the sun and frolic in the sea, Aveiro is the gateway to some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Costa Nova Beach is famed for the eye-candy striped houses that line up along its streets. The beach also offers a wide variety of water sports for visitors who want to kick off their vacation with some adrenaline – water skiing, wind surfing, rowing, a whole lot more. A 15-minute walk north of Costa Nova Beach will bring you to Praia da Barra, a dazzling sandy beach with a bustling commercial district and an active night life. The Aveiro Lighthouse, built over a century ago, towers over the Praia da Barra. It offers visitors a breathtaking view of the ocean, as it is the tallest lighthouse in Portugal. Further of south of Costa Nova Beach is Praia da Vagueira, a surfer’s haven. The Atlantic wind rolls over its pristine waters, creating white crests of waves that are perfect for amateur and experienced surfers. These beach getaways are accessible via a 40-minute bus ride from Aveiro’s bus station.

5. São Jacinto Dunes

The São Jacinto Dunes is a natural reserve that is home to a diverse species of flora and fauna. It features a seven-kilometer trail through rich pine woods and white fine sand shaped into perfectly curved dunes. It’s best to bring a pair of binoculars for bird-watching while hiking through the trail, while keeping in mind to “leave nothing but footprints; take nothing but pictures”. The São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve is accessible by taking a bus from Aveiro to Forte da Barra, then riding a ferry to São Jacinto.

Extra Tip:

With Aveiro’s key location along the coast, premium fish and seafood are at the heart of its traditional dishes. Seafood rice is a delectable must-have, as well as caldeirada de enguias – Aveiro’s specialty eel stew seasoned with fragrant saffron, and feijoada de búzios or savory bean stew with sea snails. Top all these off with Aveiro’s very own ovos moles, a lusciously creamy dessert made with sugar and eggs.