Aveiro is a city of around 80,000, just under an hour south of Porto down the A1. Its long history includes the Romans who used it as a place for salt exploration. Aveiro developed trade links in the Middle Ages and became popular with Portuguese royalty. Aside from salt, Aveiro was associated with gathering seagrass and manufacturing fertiliser from the harvest.
The development of chemical fertilisers made that harvesting redundant, but the boats now fill up with tourists keen to meander along the canals. Another thing for which Aveiro is known is its ceramics, a legacy from the late Roman period.
The central part of Aveiro is rich in architecture, Art Nouveau and Romanesque. There are numerous landmarks to visit and the nearby beaches attract visitors keen to enjoy the sun, sand and sea. Here’s a selection of the ideas of things to do in Aveiro and others that involve travelling out of the city where you have made your base.
- Aveiro, Portugal
- Top Tours
- 20 Things To Do In Aveiro
- 1- Cruise The City’s Canals
- 2- Explore Praia da Barra
- 3- Spend Time in Costa Nova
- 4- Take A Walking Tour Of Aveiro
- 5- Learn About The Venice Of Portugal
- 6- Go Cycling
- 7- Download The App And Guide Yourself
- 8- Discover The Secrets Of Downtown
- 9- Enjoy A Day Of Real Highlights
- 10- Explore The Paiva Walkways
- 11- Take A Wine Tour Of The Douro Valley
- 12- Take A Lesson In Port
- 13- Eat Portuguese Treats
- 14- Learn About Cod
- 15- Learn To Cook A Favourite Dish
- 16- Paddle Yourself Around
- 17- Head South For A Day On Praia De Mira
- 18- Spend Time In Coimbra
20 Things To Do In Aveiro
1- Cruise The City’s Canals
Traditional Moliceiro boats date back to when harvesting seaweed was an important activity within Aveiro.
For example, just aboard, and you can begin along the Ria de Aveiro, the main canal of the lagoon.
In the heart of the city, you will pass the garden of Rossio towards the old building of the Capitania.
One canal was the route to the Antonio Maria Campos brick factory.
The 19th-century Canal das Pirâmides (the pyramids canal) goes to the main canal from the old fish market, and during the summer, you will pass hundreds of small white pyramids of salt.
As well as enjoying Aveiro’s waterways, some guided tours will take you to the fish market, where you can walk around and see the variety of species on offer.
There are photo opportunities at every turn while cruising, including the City Council building, a mill dating back to the 15th century and the Carcavelos Bridge.
The old parts of the city blend into the new with a shopping centre and an old ceramic factory that is now a convention centre.
You will walk in the neighbourhood of Beira Mar, the home of local workers, as you head to the busy Fish Market and the Centennial building.
2- Explore Praia da Barra
Crossing the Central Canal, you arrive at salt fields and have the chance to see flamingos before reaching the city’s two quays, the fishing quay and the commercial quay.
Here you will learn about the region’s evolution and economic history.
Praia da Barra is where you will see the 19th-century man-made opening as the lagoon and the sea meet.
The impressive lighthouse is worth a photo and the old wooden houses used to be fishermen’s homes in Costa Nova.
Ceramics were made at the next place, Vista Alegre, with its museum where you can still see the art of producing them.
Capela da Nossa Senhora da Penha de França is a 17th-century Chapel in Alegre, while you can also buy ceramic souvenirs if you wish before the end of the tour.
Recommended tour: From Aveiro/Ilhavo: Barra, Costa Nova and Vista Alegre Tour
3- Spend Time in Costa Nova
The 10th-century lagoon has been a popular feature of Aveiro because of the economic activities it resulted in; salt excavation and cod fishing.
The tallest lighthouse in Portugal stands in a prominent position at Barra Beach.
There is often a pleasant breeze to stand and enjoy here with the nearby white sand of Praia Velha in view.
Costa Nova, with its old striped houses (Palheiros), used to be buzzing with life but is now a quiet place to enjoy and perhaps sample tripa, a sweet famous in the small settlement.
A lovely day out away from the city!
Recommended tour: From Aveiro: Barra Beach Lighthouse and Costa Nova Guided Tour
4- Take A Walking Tour Of Aveiro
Starting at the Praça da Republica, where you will see the Town Hall and the Misericórdia Church, you head along Rua de Coimbra to the Marques de Pombal Square and the Carmelite Convent Church.
Other landmarks on the route include the Dominican Convent of Jesus before reaching the Canal da Fonte Nova, where there is still an old ceramics factory.
Beira Mar neighbourhood is next, and Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture are a feature of the turn of the 19th century.
Centuries before that, the salt pans were the source of Aveiro’s wealth and are on your route.
The tour finishes at the Church of São Gonçalinho, around a traditional January festival.
Recommended tour: Aveiro: Stories, Canals, and Azulejos Guided Walking Tour
5- Learn About The Venice Of Portugal
Aveiro’s nicknames include “the Venice of Portugal” and “the Capital of Art Nouveau in Portugal”, which immediately has you thinking of canals and architecture.
Add to that the history of salt excavation, the skill of making ceramics and the tradition of making sweets, and there is plenty to enjoy on a walking tour of Aveiro.
All you need is an experienced local guide, and you will be introduced to all the elements that make up this city.
Take this comprehensive walking tour and finish the day with much local knowledge and great photographs.
Recommended tour: Aveiro: All-in-One Guided Walking Tour
6- Go Cycling
It is easy to rent a bicycle if you want to explore Aveiro and cycling allows you to see more of the city than you would by simply walking around.
There are several alternatives, including electric bikes and mountain bikes.
In each rental case, you will get a helmet, a lock for the bike and maps with fine detail.
You will even get sunscreen if you need it.
Cycling allows you a degree of independence.
It is an excellent idea if you have seen plenty of Aveiro and want to see more particular landmarks or features.
You can rent a bike for whatever period you want.
Recommended tour: Aveiro Bike Rental – 5 to 8 hours
7- Download The App And Guide Yourself
If you download the app to your smartphone, you can have fun trying to solve the clues you get to take you to the next location.
There is no time limit involved.
If you treat this as a competition against friends or family, you will want to complete the course as quickly as possible.
Otherwise, take your time and stop whenever you wish.
You will start in the heart of Aveiro and go where the clues take you as long as you get the correct answers and succeed in the challenges you are given.
Recommended tour: Aveiro: “CoupleAdventure”: fun game, challenges and city walk
8- Discover The Secrets Of Downtown
If you want to see more than then just the popular landmarks, take a tour that dives a bit deeper into Aveiro’s history.
Downtown is an obvious place to visit while learning about Aveiro’s past.
There is a photo opportunity wherever you go, including the Art Nouveau architecture for which Aveiro is famous.
The history of salt excavation and the traditional boats, “moliceiro” and “mercantel”, that have cruised the canals for centuries are included in your day.
Learn about the significance of Princess Johanna and São Gonçalinho to the city and “ovos moles” (soft eggs) which the locals adore.
Recommended tour: Sightseeing Downtown Aveiro Walking Tour
9- Enjoy A Day Of Real Highlights
The Carcavelos Bridge, the Chapel of São Gonçalinho and the Arte Nova Museum are the early landmarks on this tour.
It’s not just about landmarks, though with Captain Major Pessoa’s tea house and listening to live jazz are other experiences of the day.
The Monument to João Afonso pays homage to an important figure from Portugal’s “Age of Discovery”, while the Se de Aveiro Cathedral, the Averiense and the Monument to José Estêvão Coelho de Magalhães are other highlights.
There is time to sample the local cuisine with great wines that Northern Portugal is famous for.
Recommended tour: From Porto: Aveiro Day Trip with wine experience
10- Explore The Paiva Walkways
The world’s second-longest suspension footbridge at the Arouca 516 and the Paiva Walkways are things to see and do near Aveiro, whether you go there independently or join a tour once it reaches Aveiro.
The Walkways are seven kilometres (4.5 miles) long, a beautiful downhill trail with few equals.
On completion, you can enjoy an appetising lunch of local produce and get your energy back.
Costa Nova, a pretty fishing village with traditional striped cottages made of wood, are certainly worth seeing before you board a boat to cruise through the waterways before returning to Aveiro to visit the wonderful fish market.
Recommended tour: From Porto: Aveiro, Paiva Walkways and Arouca 516 Footbridge
11- Take A Wine Tour Of The Douro Valley
If you are staying in Aveiro, you should consider one of the tours of the Douro Valley, famous for its wines, especially port.
Most organised tours start in Porto, so you will need to get there if you decide to book one.
You will not regret doing that.
You can expect to learn more about production and enjoy a lovely lunch made from local produce.
There will be the chance to visit two wine estates on this tour, and if you go for a full day, it will include some time cruising on the river.
Most tours limit numbers so that each guest gets the guide’s full attention.
UNESCO has recognised the Douro region, and you will see why once you have visited.
Numerous tours cover the Douro Valley, visiting different vineyards, cruising and heading to some viewpoints that provide stunning panoramas.
Some include lunch with traditional Portuguese cuisine on offer.
- From Porto: Douro Valley with Boat Tour, Wine Tasting and Lunch
- Douro Valley Small-Group Tour – with Wine Tasting, Lunch and Optional Cruise
12- Take A Lesson In Port
Port has been made in the Douro Valley for centuries.
You can learn about its history, including that of the lesser-known white port.
The tour includes going to the interactive museum that opened recently.
Your guided visit to Cálem Caves is a real experience; afterwards, you will know much about what port is all about.
The barrels within the caves stretch quite a way as the port is maturing, ready for bottling and sale.
There are different ones to sample, and you can buy some before you leave.
Tawny port is the more common, but you can also taste white port and see what you think.
Recommended tour: Porto: Cálem Cellar Tour, Interactive Museum & Wine Tasting
13- Eat Portuguese Treats
Aveiro and its near neighbour, Ílhavo, have an important maritime history relating to fishing and salt.
They date back to the time of the Romans, and documents mention them both in the Middle Ages, 10th and 11th centuries.
Visit Costa Nova do Prado in Ílhavo, founded by fishermen, with the “Palheiros” (wooden houses), both their former homes and acting as warehouses where fish were dried and salted.
Learn more about how the salt was collected and then transported.
You’ll enjoy a tasting of salted and sweet specialties paired with sparkling wine.
Recommended tour: From Porto: History and Food Tour of Aveiro and Ilhavo
14- Learn About Cod
The Maritime Museum of Ílhavo and Museum Ship Santo André form the beginning of an interesting tour where you will hear plenty of stories about the past and the traditions of the region.
The Cod aquarium is a highlight of the former, while you will see close up a boat once used for fishing in the latter.
Afterwards, you will have a greater appreciation of life back when fishing was so important to the economy.
Several traditional dishes that the fishermen cooked in the past are still favourites today, and you will get the chance to savour them.
Cod is cooked in several ways and it makes they make up part of a substantial meal with dessert and drinks.
Recommended tour: Aveiro: Cod Fish History Tour and Tasting
15- Learn To Cook A Favourite Dish
While Portuguese cuisine has not had the world exposure of other national cuisines, you will find some lovely traditional dishes if you take any of the day tours.
There is a walking tour where you can even learn to prepare a local favourite or two, possibly in the home of a local chef.
Cod is a national favourite, and visiting the fish market will show you a range of species found in local waters.
Before trying your hand at preparation, there is a walking tour where you can visit local landmarks.
However, once you work in the kitchen, you will learn how to cook cod Portuguese and then eat it with bread and a glass or two of wine from the Bairrada Region.
Recommended tour: Best of Aveiro Private Walking Tour with Personal Cooking Class
16- Paddle Yourself Around
Stand Up Paddles are a great way to get around if you want an adventure on the waters of the Ria de Aveiro.
You will need to perfect your balance, but it is easier than you think, so you can look around at the birdlife and flora as you glide along.
In most cases, you will be in a tranquil setting away from people and buildings.
This is an alternative to cruising in a wooden boat where someone else does the work.
Recommended tour: Aveiro: Sustainable Standup Paddleboarding Guided Tour
17- Head South For A Day On Praia De Mira
Especially if you are in Aveiro with the family, you should look to head half an hour south to enjoy a day on the beach.
Aveiro has no beach and although there are stretches of sand a little closer, Praia de Mira is worth researching.
It is a small town on the road to Figueira da Foz, attracting crowds in the summer months.
There is a promenade along the seafront and plenty of dunes.
The facilities are good, including plenty of cafes, sporting facilities, and paddleboats where you can move around the inland lagoon.
18- Spend Time In Coimbra
Another alternative if you want a day away from your base in Aveiro is visiting the city of Coimbra, south of Aveiro.
It will take less than an hour on the A1 to get there, and there is a train as an alternative to road travel.
This historic city is the former capital of Portugal and is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe.
There are plenty of historical landmarks in the city and two beaches if you want to split your time between the beach and a history lesson.
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