7 Things to do in Aveiro, Portugal
From beautiful beaches to cute alleyways with stunning pastel-colored houses, the small city of Aveiro in Portugal has much to offer. It’s an incredible place to wind down after spending time in Lisbon or Porto, but there’s still enough to see. This also makes it a great day trip destination if you’re traveling Portugal by campervan – the ideal way to explore.
Built on the country’s largest coastal lagoon, the city’s full of little canals that are navigated by traditional gondola boats. Ever since the middle ages, Aveiro’s been linked to sea trade, bringing merchants and navigators to the shores of the lagoon. Dive into Portuguese Venice for the day with all these things to do in Aveiro.
1. Ponte dos Namorados
Ponte dos Namorados, also known as the Friendship bridge or Ties bridge, is where lovers and friends meet in the beautiful Aveiro, Portugal. This small pathway arches over one of the canals of the city and are easily recognized by the many colorful strings tied to the side.
The initiative to hang ties on the guardrails of the bridge started because of two students from the University of Aveiro. It was a symbol of their love or friendship, challenging others to do the same when passing the bridge. Now, there are over a hundred differently-colored ribbons hanging on both sides, which makes for a great view when touring through the Aveiro estuary.
2. Mosteiro de Jesus
Full of stunning religious art, the Mosteiro de Jesus is one of the best things to do in Aveiro, Portugal. This grand convent-turned-museum is one of the city’s prized monuments and dates back to the 15th century. During this age, it even got a royal connection as it was also the residency of Joanna, the daughter of the King of Portugal, Afonso V.
You’ll find her tomb with marble and ceramics in the lower chancel of the church. Additionally, there’s a beautiful tiled floor, incredible wood-carved walls, and a stunning apse.
3. Aveiro’s Canals
While you make your way through Aveiro, you can’t escape the charming little canals that cross through the entire town. The quays are lined with beautifully paved streets and many Art Nouveau houses, making it wonderful to spend an hour or two here, discovering the Portuguese charm.
The canals are connected to Aveiro’s lagoon and give the city its interesting character and nickname ‘Venice of Portugal’. Stroll past the narrow canals while you watch the gondolas float by. Make sure to stop at one of the many cafés in the pastel-colored houses and discover the beautiful canal-front park Jardim do Rossio.
One of the best things to do in Aveiro, Portugal, is to hop in a traditional gondola boat, known as a ‘Moliceiro’. Discover the canals from an entirely different perspective as you glide through the gentle waters. Along the way, the guides that row the boats will tell you all about the interesting history of this small maritime city.
These colorful gondolas were traditionally used to collect seaweed, which functioned as a fertilizer for the soil. Now, the boats remain in the waters to introduce tourists to the rich history of the coastal city. Travel past the different districts and the neighboring salt flats as the skipper tells you interesting stories of the city’s past. The cruise takes about 45 minutes to an hour, and you can book tickets online or along Canal Central.
Tip: If you’re traveling to Aveiro in the summer, make sure to bring a hat and some reef-safe sunscreen. The days can get incredibly hot, and there’s no shade in the boat.
5. Lots of Shopping
Besides soaking up the beautiful sights and rich history of Aveiro, you can also get your fair share of retail therapy done in the city. Right in the center, as you cross the Ponte dos Namorados, you’ll find the city’s shopping mall Forum Aveiro. This is a great thing to do in Aveiro if you’re looking to buy something. It also has a great rooftop garden where you’ll have lovely views over the city and its neighboring lagoon.
6. Costa Nova (Colored Houses)
One of the best things to do in Aveiro is to travel down to the charming village of Costa Nova, situated on a long peninsula flanked by the lagoon and Atlantic ocean. This is where picture-perfect cottages with brightly-colored stripes meet warm golden sand. The buildings started out as palheiros (fishermen’s haystack huts) and are the highlight of the village.
Take some time to walk past this colorful piece of the Portuguese coast, snapping a few pictures along the way. The beautiful golden coast also makes for a great place to go for a swim and soak up the sun. You’ll find a few places to go for a nice lunch along the water, where you can try all sorts of delicious fresh seafood, from crabs to shrimp, straight out of the lagoon.
7. Praia da Barra
As Aveiro lies on the stunning coastline of Portugal, it’s the perfect place to get some beach time in. About 10 kilometers from the city lies Praia da Barra, a long open beach traced by wild sand dunes. Stroll across the long wooden walkway along the sandy beach, go for a refreshing dip in the ocean, or stop at one of the many restaurants.
If you’re visiting the beach on a Wednesday, you can scale the 300 steps of the tallest lighthouse in Portugal. This 62-meter-tall structure towers out over the region, responsible for guiding many sailors to safety through heavy storms since 1893. Climb to the top and take in the wide views of Aveiro, the lagoon, Praia da Barra, and Costa Nova.
Best Cafes and Restaurants in Aveiro
From tasty seafood that’s freshly caught from the water to typical local delicacies, there are plenty of good food options to try in Aveiro, Portugal. In the morning, try the Ovos moles (literally: soft eggs) – a sugary shellfish-shaped snack and an Aveiro classic. These were originally made by the nuns in Aveiro, who passed down the recipes to townsfolk when the religious institutions were shut. For lunch, head to one of the many seafront restaurants that serve either great local or international meals. Some of our favorites were:
- Restaurante O Bairro (local, great risotto)
- Restaurante Musgo (Vegan)
- Subenshi Sushi
- Dolce Pizzeria Ristorante (Italian)
Where to Stay
Though the size of the city makes Aveiro a great destination to visit on a day trip, you can also decide to stay the night. There are plenty of amazing accommodation options to choose from, such as a B&b in the old quarter with canal views, for example.
How to Visit Aveiro, Portugal
The best way to reach Aveiro is to travel by car. We parked our car here. Especially if you’re making a road trip through Portugal, the coastal city is a lovely spot to go to for a day. From Porto, it’s only about an hour’s drive south, next to the lovely coastline of the country.
Alternatively, you can also take the train to get to Aveiro. Jump on the direct train in Porto, which departs every hour between 5 AM and 8 PM. A train ticket costs about 15 EUR (16 USD), and the journey takes no more than 45 minutes. Once you get to Aveiro, you’ll be met by its stunning old train station, which is decorated with beautiful blue azulejos, the tin-glazed ceramic tiles traditionally used in Portugal.
You can also join an organized tour from Porto, which includes return transportation, activities, and a knowledgeable tour guide who can teach you about the history of Aveiro.
You can explore Aveiro on foot as it’s a relatively small and walkable city. The flat landscapes and paved canal paths also make it great, however, to get around by bike. All over the city, you’ll find the bike-sharing system BUGA, where you can get a bike to explore. This is a great option if you want to experience the lagoon and the city’s salt farms, spotting flamingos as you go.
If you’re traveling to Praia da Barra or Costa Nova, it’s easiest to do this by car. But you can also hop on the local bus. Bus line 5191 connects Aveiro and Costa Nova throughout the entire day, and the journey takes about 30 minutes.
The Best Time to Visit Aveiro
Portugal is stunning in every season. However, spring and fall are the best times to visit Aveiro, Portugal. This is the shoulder season, when there are fewer tourists and prices tend to be cheaper.
Additionally, there’s lots of sunshine still, but it won’t be as hot as in the summer months. Experience the beautiful coastline with fewer tourists and still enjoy warm sunny days. Be aware that the water in Portugal is pretty cold all year round, though!