Aveiro is a beautiful small city in the west coast of Portugal, set along a lagoon called Ria de Aveiro. It stands out from other towns in the country because of its channels and the colourful boats (barcos moliceiros) used to navigate them. Aveiro has some features that are similar to other European channeled cities (it is often referred to as Portugal’s Venice), but it has a diverse architecture, interesting heritage, and a charming setting that is all its own.
We made a stop there during the drive from Coimbra to Porto, but for those traveling without a car, Aveiro can also be reached via regular train service from Porto, Coimbra, Lisbon, and other cities (click here to visit the Portuguese Rail website).
Aveiro greets visitors with a colourful display of bold Art Noveau and other ornate buildings, and the channels that run across the city provide a privileged viewpoint from where to enjoy the surroundings, while learning about their history and traditions on board one of the moliceiro boats. The boat tours depart from the Moliceiros Pier (Cais dos Moliceiros) at Jardim do Rossio Park, near the central Rotunda das Pontes (central roundabout). There are several tour operators selling tickets and competing for tourists in the area around the pier.
The region around the Ria is very scenic, and the tours take visitors through the four (4) urban channels, for a cost of around €10 per adult (€5 per child), and lasting about 35-45 minutes. There’s also an option to visit the salt fields (salinas) – the salt from Aveiro is famous throughout Portugal and other parts of Europe (great souvenir idea)! Some tours even include samples of local treats and drinks – what’s not to love?
Depending on the day of the week and season, it may be very busy for the tours and a couple of hours wait is not uncommon. My suggestion is to get the tickets as soon as possible after arriving and then walk around town for some sightseeing until the tour time, stopping for a meal or snack if time allows. One can always enjoy some more time roaming around the city after the tour.
That brings me to another top attraction in Aveiro – the food! The city is regarded as a foodie paradise, and it did not disappoint. There’s plenty of options to choose from, and they are not limited to fresh fish and seafood. From fast-food to upscale dining, and from local to international flavours, there’s something for everyone. The streets around the pier also showcase many restaurants, pleasant cafes, pastry shops, and souvenir shops, all within a short walk. It’s worth it to “get lost” in the area and see what you can find! Several guides also recommend two food hubs in the city:
- For a more popular setting, the Fish Market Square (Praça do Peixe) offers a selection of local restaurants serving a wide range of fresh seafood dishes, as well as relaxed bars and eateries with varied food choices.
- For a quick bite and a refreshing contrast to traditional Aveiro, the Forum Aveiro shopping center combines modern ambiance and a wide range of chain restaurants and local cafes.
And no visit to Aveiro is complete without trying the traditional sweets! I believe the most famous are the legendary Ovos Moles (meaning “soft eggs”), which is a delicious pastry made with a sweet egg yolk cream inside a thin wafer shell. It is said that the origins of the ovos moles and other “convent sweets” (doces conventuais) can be traced back to medieval nuns, who used the egg whites to starch fabrics and were left with the yolks. To use them up, they started creating different yolk-based desserts, and in this case, used the same dough that communion hosts are made of (for Catholic mass) to make small vessels in which the yolk cream is served. The recipe has been passed on and is a protected component of the town’s heritage. To this day, these amazing sweets are still hand-made in the old-fashioned way, with the wafer molded into shapes symbolic of the Aveiro region, such as seashells, crabs, barrels, sardines, etc. Many shops (pastelarias) make the pastries on the premises (look for the ones that advertise “fabrico proprio”), and some allow visitors to watch the artisanal production process and to purchase freshly made goodies.
The ovos moles were one of my favourite sweets in this whole trip around Portugal! Other typical Aveiro sweets include the “raivas” (free-formed “worm” cookies), the “castanhas de ovos” (walnut size sweets made with eggs and almonds), and many more – sugar temptations are everywhere! 😉
Special mention to:
- Zeca Aveiro – A cute and unique souvenir shop, offering a friendly cafe with local snacks/desserts/drinks, and also selling moliceiro boat tour tickets in-store and online
- Confeitaria Peixinho – Open since 1856, it’s the oldest pastry shop in town, specializing in local and traditional Portuguese sugary delights
I would say that a day trip to Aveiro is enough to get a taste of this charming town and to enjoy the main attractions, but if more time is available, it is such an adorable place that I believe spending a few leisurely days there would be wonderful too. I’m looking forward to going back soon!
Ever been to Aveiro or would like to go? Leave us your tips, questions or feedback!