Things to do in Aveiro, Portugal
When visiting Portugal, usually you hear about Lisbon and Porto, but what about Aveiro? It is called the little Venice of Portugal and provides a great stop from Lisbon on your way to the Douro Valley and port wines! Just one hour south by train from Porto, the city has become a popular tourist site for its beauty and colorfully tiled houses (the azulejos). Check out these things to do in Aveiro for two days.
Walk around the old town
I spent hours getting lost through the old town, admiring the beautiful architecture and all the azulejos – the blue tiles that make the city so well known and loved! There are small churches, statues, and cobblestone streets that eventually lead you back to the canals. I discovered the hexagon church that celebrates São Gonçalinho festivities each January. People scale the tower to throw a special bread called cavacas from the roof in hope a prayer will be answered. Others are down below with turned up umbrellas or nets hoping to catch the baked goods!
Tie a ribbon on a bridge
I’m sure you’ve seen the locks on bridges as a symbol of a couple’s love. In Aveiro, they have a slightly different tradition --- ribbons! You can buy a ribbon from the nearby shops (usually for €0.50) to tie to a bridge posts. The ribbon can be for your romantic love, friendships or just family. Write a message on your own to celebrate love! The colorful ribbons are beautiful in the wind.
Visit the Aveiro museum (Museu de Aveiro)
The Aveiro museum has a unique history. Established in 1461 as a convent for the feminine Dominican Order, it has a long history and contains Portuguese art from the 15th to 20th century. The chapel and convent church have been beautifully preserved. I dropped in to duck out of the rain and was rewarded with a nice history of Princess D. Joana. She was the daughter of King D. Afonso V but denied her nobility to take her vows and entered the convent for 18 years before her death. During that time, she refused three marriage offers! Due to her servant acts, she was eventually beautified for sainthood in 1693.
Admission is €5, with discounts for children, students and seniors. They are open 10-6 pm, except for lunch (12-1:30 pm) and closed on Mondays.
Wander the canals
You can opt to explore the canals via a boat tour on the colorfully painted Moliceiros boats or just stroll along the wide sidewalk. There are many different companies that leave from the canal by the fish market. Look for the big umbrellas. There are several tour options on Get Your Guide, usually costing €13-€20 per person and last 30-60 minutes. During the tour, the guide will provide some history and local culture about Aveiro.
Explore Costa Nova and Praia da Barra
These two oceanfront villages are connected by a long peninsula. Once a fishing village, Costa Nova is now filled with weatherboard cottages, painted in primary color stripes. Praia da Barra has a long pier and one of the oldest lighthouses in the country. The long breakwaters keep the beach relatively flat, but it’s a great place for surfers… a wetsuit is definitely needed!
The beaches are about 6 miles away from city center and can be reached by local bus or Uber. However, it is difficult to get an Uber at the beach for return, so I suggest learning the bus route on your way out. During the winter (I was there in January) the bus routes were extremely limited, so I actually had a few friends drive me out to explore. Many locals actually live at the waterfront or have a family summer house. I met someone in Lisbon whose father owned one in Costa Nova!
Try local Ovos Moles
If you’ve heard of a Portuguese pastry, it’s likely the pastel de nadas. However, Aveiro has their own local pastry that’s made of egg yolk and sugar called the Ovos Moles. While I must say I prefer a warm pastel de nada, the Ovos Moles are definitely a must try in Aveiro! You can find them in all the cafes, pastelarias, etc. and usually cost €0.50-€0.90 for each.
Shop at Forum Mall
If there is one thing I learned about the Portuguese in Aveiro is that they love their malls! The locals flock to the Forum to stroll through the shops and eat at the food court. But remember, the locals eat lunch around 12:30-2 pm and dinner between 8-10 pm. If you go to the food court outside of those hours, some of the restaurants will be unattended or closed. I tried several during my visit, but I recommend the A Gula do Prego for a semi-local cuisine or Walk to Wok when you need to change it up.
M Bakery Aveiro
This is a little luxury is the heart of Aveiro. The all-pink bakery has exquisite pastries, cakes and croissants with a full menu for breakfast and lunch. The staff is friendly and speak multiple languages. Stop by this bakery just off the museum square for a little culinary treat!
You can reach Aveiro by bus or train very easily from Lisbon or Porto. I took a bus from Lisbon’s Oriente station, which took about 4 hours. The bus had Wifi and made 2 quick stops. I then took a train from Aveiro on to Porto. Public transportation is very easy, and Omio.com provides schedules and pricing for all options to find what’s best for you.
When I was in Aveiro, I stayed at the Aveiro Hostels & Suites, which was across the courtyard from the Aveiro Museum and around the corner from the Forum mall. They offer smaller, affordable rooms with a friendly staff. The city is extremely walkable, but you can also grab an Uber whenever needed.