Aveiro, one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal, is set about 75 km south of Porto. Being the only town in Portugal built on narrow canals with colorful gondola-style boats, Aveiro was also called the “Venice of Portugal”. Porto is a great city, but if you want to find out more of this beautiful country and escape into a quieter, picturesque and less touristy destination, a day trip to Aveiro might be a wonderful idea. There are enough things to do and tourist attractions in Aveiro to keep one busy for a day or even longer.
Tip: I loved Aveiro, but if what you’re looking for is a bigger city, just a little farther is Coimbra. The medieval city is world famous for its university and stunning architecture. Tourists often overlook it also, so you won’t feel suffocated. This is another great idea for a day or weekend trip from Porto.
READ ALSO: COIMBRA – THE BEST THINGS TO DO AND SEE WITH MAP (PORTUGAL)
Is Aveiro worth visiting?
Yes – if you’re looking for a less touristy and crowded city, but still adorable close to Porto. However, you should know what to expect, so you won’t be disappointed. It is much more traditional and less entertaining than Porto and Lisbon. Also, don’t get confused by the nickname “Venice of Portugal”, it has canals and colorful boats, but the similarities end there. At the same time, the small fishing town is known for Art Nouveau buildings, ovos moles, traditional tiles, salt flats, fresh seafood and soft sand beaches nearby.
If this didn’t convince you yet, maybe you’d like to visit Aveiro in January, during the celebration of São Gonçalinho, and being thrown at with sugary hard cakes. They are said to brink good luck if you catch them.
How many days do you need to visit Aveiro?
For me, the perfect amount of time to enjoy the charm of the city would be one day. However, this will probably not give you enough time to check all the museums, churches and things to do in Aveiro. Depending on your interests and time, you might want to extend your visit to a weekend visit.
In case you decide to stay overnight and need an accommodation, here are some nice options:
- Barcos Casa Aveiro – the guests can stay in a nice boat house close to the main attractions in Aveiro. This accommodation features a private beach area and water sports facilities, as well as a garden, a spa and wellness center.
- Alojamento Tricana de Aveiro – this hotel is located in Ovos Moles building just opposite the train station. It’s a historical building in Art Nouveau style fully renovated to accommodate the needs of the guests.
- Aveiro Rossio Bed & Breakfast – this reasonably priced B&B is located right in the center of Aveiro and offers pretty rooms with large windows. With plenty of natural night, it’s a perfect place to begin your day with a good mood.
How to get from Porto to Aveiro on day trip?
A day trip from Porto to Aveiro doesn’t need much planning. Public transport is widely available.
By train: Urban trains depart hourly from Porto São Bento/Campanhã station. The journey takes just over an hour and costs 7.5€ return. Aveiro’s train station is only 10 minutes away on foot from the town center. Besides, the train station itself is one of the best tourist attractions of Aveiro.
By bus: Flixbus and Rede Expressos coaches are other great options. It takes more or less the same time as the train and prices start from 0.99€. Book your ticket here!
By car: If you plan to rent a car from Porto, this will give you more flexibility and you’ll be able to see more of the area around Aveiro. The drive from Porto to Aveiro should take one hour. Check availability and prices here!
Guided tour: With so many public transportation options at hand, I don’t think it’s necessary to join a guided day trip from Porto to Aveiro just to see the city. You can do this on your own and it’ll give you more freedom to personalize your experience. However, if you don’t have much time and want to see more places in a day, this would be a great option. For example, this small group tour from Porto combines an energizing morning at Arouca Bridge and Paiva Pathways with a relaxing afternoon in Aveiro. We also joined this tour and I can assure you the guide is the most knowledgeable and friendliest person we have met during our one month stay in Portugal.
READ ALSO: 25 STUNNING PLACES TO VISIT IN PORTUGAL (+MAP)
How to move around Aveiro?
The best way to visit the city is by walking. Aveiro is pretty compact and totally walkable. But if you want to cycle, renting a bicycle in Aveiro is free. All you need is a passport or identity card and you can use one of the bicycles at the BUGA stands for two hours. But you are not allowed to cross the town limits. In order to get to the beaches, you should take a bus. Check prices and timetables here.
Best things to do in Aveiro on a day trip from Porto
Whether you’re visiting Aveiro on a day trip from Porto or staying longer, here are the best things to do in town.
1. Take a moliceiro ride to explore the canals of Aveiro
Embarking on a moliceiro and going on a cruise around the canals of Aveiro is easily the no. 1 tourist attraction in Aveiro. These gondola-style boats were traditionally used to collect seaweed used as fertilizer. Now, they are used to carry tourists around on scenic rides. Check out the drawings on the front and the back of the picturesque boats. Some of them are rather saucy, while others have religious images. All boats have a guide that will give information about the city and the best things to do in Aveiro in various languages.
Book your moliceiro ride in advance here!
2. Wander through the winding streets in Aveiro’s historical center
Exploring the pretty streets of Aveiro is one of the best things to do in the city. Each building is different and many of them are decorated with traditional tiles or are highlighted by their bright colors. Seeing Aveiro from the comfort of a boat is great, but the canals are not everywhere. The best way to discover the city is still on your own feet.
READ ALSO: DAY TRIP FROM PORTO TO AROUCA BRIDGE AND PAIVA WALKWAYS
3. Try some ovos moles
Aveiro has its own typical dessert, ovos moles, that translates to soft eggs. They are made out of sweetened egg yolk in a wafer manually shaped in the form of a fish or shell, a reminder of Aveiro’s fishing history. Many describe it as too eggy and probably that’s why there’re not so widespread as pasteis de nata. But while you’re Aveiro, you should taste at least one and decide if you like it or not for yourself. The locals are so proud of their dessert that they’ve even dedicated a monument to it.
4. Cross the most beautiful bridges in Aveiro
Probably the most known bridge in Aveiro is the one in Ponte Praça. The four large-scale statues on the bridge depict inhabitants in traditional costumes holding different symbols of the region such as working tools used at the salt pans.
Another bridge you should stop by is Ponte dos Namorados. In many cities lovers are used to cling a padlock on a bridge as a symbol of unbreakable love. Not in Aveiro! Here a ribbon or tie is used instead and it can also symbolize friendship. It’s an unique thing to do in Aveiro and, compared to padlocks, it doesn’t hurt the bridge.
Our guide gave each of us a ribbon and asked us to write a friendship related thought on it before we tied it. Checking the other colorful braids, I saw phrases in countless languages.
A little farther away, there are two more beautiful bridges, Ponte dos Botirões (Circular Pedestrian Bridge) and Ponte dos Carcavelos (Carcavelos Bridge). The first one is a steel bridge built over two intersecting waterways with an infinity symbol suspended over it. The second one is decorated with an eagle, Aveiro’s coat of arms.
5. Spot the murals on the train station
Aveiro has plenty of colorful murals and you’ll spot many of them on a walk around the colorful streets in town. But the most remarkable murals are on the walls of the train station. Even if you are just passing through Aveiro on your journey from Lisbon to Porto, you can still see one of the best tourist attractions in Aveiro. The blue and white tile panels depict scenes from the ancient daily life and history of Aveiro.
Tip: the interior of the old train station hosts a gift shop and an exhibition area. You might also see some cheerfully bizarre fiberglass cows created for a Cow Parade.
6. Admire the beautiful pavements with maritime motifs
While walking around, even if you’ll be tempted to look up at all times, take a moment to look down from now to then. The narrow streets of Aveiro’s old town are paved with beautiful black and white limestone arranged in geometric forms and maritime motifs such as rope knots, waves or fish. Pretty calçadas portuguesas can be seen in many Portuguese towns, but these were some of the best.
7. Gaze at the wonderful Art Nouveau buildings along the walking trail
At the start of the 20th century emigrants who had made their fortunes in Brazil returned to Portugal and built themselves stylish Art Nouveau houses. Aveiro is home to 28 Art Nouveau buildings. Maybe this doesn’t sound as a lot, but in such a small town, you can easily spot them. Many of them can be seen even from the comfort of a moliceiro, as they are long the canals. But you’ll get to see even more by walking around the historical center. As the ornate style defines the small town, there’s also an Art Nouveau museum in one of the buildings.
8. Pray in one of the churches
Portugal has a strong religious culture and the best way to acknowledge it is to checkout some of its gorgeous churches. All churches are free to enter. If you don’t have much time, see at least the cathedral or Church of St. Dominic with a humble exterior and a beautifully decorated interior, including wood carvings and tile murals. Other beautiful churches you can check out are Igreja da Paróquia da Vera-Cruz or Igreja da Misericordia.
9. Laze away in one of the peaceful parks and gardens
After so much walking around, relax or have a picnic in one of the peaceful parks and gardens in Aveiro. The most popular is Jardim do Rossio, located at the end of the main street (Doutor Lourenço Peixinho). Other serene parks nature lovers might want to checkout are Parque de Santa Joana and Parque Infante D. Pedro.
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10. Enjoy lots of fresh seafood and wine
As a coastal city, common dishes in Aveiro are mainly based on fish and seafood. Some of the most common dishes are feijoada de buzios (sea snail and bean stew) and arroz de mariscos (seafood rice). A good place to find fresh and cheap food is Mercado do Peixe, a thriving fish market just off the main street. As a curiosity, the attractive iron and glass structure was designed by Gustav Eiffel. Just next to the fish market there countless fish and seafood restaurants along the water. As everywhere in Portugal, wash your meal down with a glass of wine.
11. Shop for souvenirs
The historical center is full of pretty souvenir shops. Even if you don’t really plan to buy something, venture inside and browse through traditional azulejos, handmade wooden kitchenware, ovos moles, port-wine infused sea salts and other handicrafts. In addition to the traditional shops and markets, on the main street of Aveiro, there’s a modern shopping center. Contrary to the big shopping malls we’re used to, this is built with red stone and typical calçadas Portuguesas.
12. Check out Aveiro museum
Next to the cathedral is Aveiro Museum, hosted in a 15th century convent building. The collection includes renaissance paintings, sacred art, jewelry, stonework and tiles. But the highlight of the museum is the marble tomb of the Portuguese Princess Saint Joana. She spent most of her life resisting her parents’ attempts to marry her to Richard III of England and devoted herself to religious pursuits. She’s now the patron saint of Aveiro. Every year in the month of May a feast is held in her honor. There’s also a combined ticket that gives one access to Aveiro Museum, Art Nouveau Museum and Ecomuseum Marinha da Troncalhada.
13. Understand Aveiro’s culture through its ceramics
Ceramic is an integral part of Aveiro’s history. The red-brick building with a smokestack in the middle of Aveiro used to be a ceramic factory. But it has been converted to a cultural congress center. To lean more about the pottery industry in Portugal, visit Vista Alegre. The museum is within a village built for workers. The community of potters also organize interactive workshops. Make your own unique piece with their help.
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14. Learn about traditional salt production in Aveiro
A short walk from the town center is the open-air Ecomuseum Marinha da Troncalhada. The active salt pans you’ll see kept Aveiro prosperous in the 12th century, when it provided salt for the entire country. Nowadays, artisanal salt is still sourced and sold locally. Take a guided tour to learn more about the salt picking process.
15. Treat your skin to a salt spa
At Marinha da Noeirinha, one can go beyond learning about salt-production and enjoy a salt spa session. Just as at the Dead Sea in Jordan, the high concentration of salt in the water has therapeutic properties that aid with skin conditions, allergies and respiratory problems. After a dip and a mineral-packed mud treatment, the skin will feel wonderfully soft. One can also stay over night in one of the luxurious huts on the banks of the spa.
READ ALSO: TOP 5 EXPERIENCES TO LIVE IN JORDAN
What is there to do close enough to Aveiro even for a day trip from Porto?
Get a free a bike and explore Ria de Aveiro
The saltwater canals permeating through the city are an extension of Ria de Aveiro, a coastal lagoon. Winding through the marshy land just north of Aveiro, there’s a 48 km cycle path called Ecológica Ciclável. Get a free Loja BUGA bike and cycle along riverside boardwalks, spotting birds and soaking up the views.
Snap photos of the colorful beach houses in Costa nova
Just 12 kilometers outside the city lies a picturesque fishing village named Costa Nova. Most guided tours from Porto include a stop there, but if you rely on public transportation, there are also frequent buses from Aveiro to Costa Nova. The village is mostly known for its brightly painted striped cottages on the promenade. Close by is a sandy beach and the tallest lighthouse in Portugal.
Legends say that the houses were painted this way in order for the fishermen not to mistake their houses after long times spent on the sea. Nowadays, because of tourism, many locals have left them in favor of the warehouses on secondary streets and lend them as summer houses. Our guide called this powerful contrast Instagram vs. real life. In order to understand it, you have to get there and go for a walk along the streets farther away from the promenade.
Are you ready for a day trip from Porto to Aveiro?
These are the best possible things you can do on a day trip from Porto do Aveiro. We found Aveiro an incredible charming little town, far different from the major tourist hubs. If you want to give it a chance, pack your things and prepare for a fun and exciting trip.
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