15 Best things to do in Aveiro (Portugal)

On the shores of the lagoon, Aveiro is a marine city with water as its soul. The cityscape is criss-crossed by canals, and you can sail in painted gondolas called moliceiros. On the quayside in the old part of the city are charming Art Nouveau houses in pastel tones.

The biggest attraction is the Abbey of Jesus, a monastery with royal ties and a museum filled with religious art. But the Atlantic Ocean is also on your doorstep, and you are just minutes away from Ocean Beach and the lovely little resort of New Costa.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Aveiro:

1. The Temple of Jesus

jesus temple

Aveiro’s precious monument is this monastery built between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Its fame comes from one of its inhabitants, Princess Joanna of Portugal and daughter of Alfonso V. Because she was a member of the royal family, she was never able to take solemn oaths, but lived a modest life in the monastery and bequeathed her inheritance to it when she died in 1490. She was beatified in the 17th century and her stunning tomb at the lower altar is a fusion of marble and ceramics.

Equally fantastic are the nave and apse of the church, with stunning floor tiles and gilded wood carvings covering every surface.

2. Aveiro Museum

Aveiro Museum

Since 2011, the monastery building has been a museum, both showing off its architectural majesty and displaying an awe-inspiring collection of religious art on the newer upper floors.

This is collected from the many monasteries around Aveiro in the past.

Here you can find original and Renaissance paintings, Coimbra school sculpture, stone carving, glazed (glazed tiles), jewelry, furniture and historic vestments.

The dining room below is delightful with its tiled walls.

The cloisters, built in the 15th and 16th centuries, feature geometric tiles and two-storey galleries surrounding a central fountain.

3. Aveiro Canal

Aveiro Canal

The canals that are fed by the Aveiro Lagoon give Aveiro its character and are worth a few hours of your time.

There are several branches to stroll through historic and newer urban areas.

Along the marina in the Rossio area, there are some wonderful Art Nouveau buildings, which we’ll get to later.

Jardim do Rossio is a canal-front park with lawns and palm trees, a great place to bring a book.

The pastel-colored houses are the icing on the cake, and there’s no shortage of tuk-tuks for a quick tour.

4. Molicello Tour

Molicero Tour

These colourful boats are a regular in Aveiro, and you can board one for a 45-minute tour of the city by water.

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moliceiros were originally made for harvesting seaweed in lagoons.

This is used as a fertilizer for the local sandy soil.

When modern fertilizers were introduced, trade disappeared, but old shipbuilding techniques were revived to create a tourist fleet.

Paintings on the bow and stern depict traditional scenes around Aveiro, and during the trip you’ll get a good idea of ​​the city’s salt pans along the canals and bordering the lagoon.

5. Rossio District

Rossio District

Immigrants who made their fortunes in Brazil returned to Aveiro in the early 20th century and built themselves stylish houses in Art Nouveau style.

Some elegant properties worth checking out are Casa do Major Pessoa, now an Art Nouveau museum, with lovely wrought iron gates and balconies.

See also the waterside Casa dos Ovos Moles at Rua João Mendonça 24 and 25, with small decorative balconies and gables topped with curved windows.

On the same street, the Cooperativa Agrícola buildings at 5, 6 and 7 have beautiful tile work and floral patterns.

6. Sao Joao Evangelical Church

Church of the Gospel of Sao Joao

Also known as the Carmelite Church, this ornate building is part of a major monastery that was almost completely destroyed when Aveiro’s urban plan was redesigned in the early 20th century.

The church dates back to the early 1700s and was heavily decorated in the following decades.

This was a period of extreme affluence, when many churches across Portugal were decorated with dazzling gilded woodwork.

Once you pass the stern facade, this church is no exception, with gilded framed paintings on the walls and ceiling.

The lower half of the wall of the nave is decorated with a dazzling blue and white enamel.

7. Aveiro Forum

Aveiro Forum

Not your average mall, this mall is right next to the canal and has a classic design with two-story galleries and a bridge over a long central walkway.

The rooftop cafe and grassy space is so tasteful that you can bring a picnic in the summer.

As for the stores, it has all the big brands you’d expect, like Zara and Mango, as well as other everyday stores you’ll find in every Iberian city, like Bershka, Oysho and Pull & Bear.

The food court has plenty of restaurants to choose from, from fast food to traditional Portuguese food (Serra da Estrela), and a cinema.

8. The Old Railway Station

old railway station

If you come to Aveiro by train, you will be struck by the city’s early 20th century history as soon as you arrive.

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The old train station terminus contrasts sharply with the sleek new terminus, completed in 1916. What makes it special are the tiles; these blue varnished flowers were made in Fábrica da Fonte Nova and depict traditional scenes around Aveiro and the region.

There are images of moliceiros, salt pans, men and women in local dress, and the Aveiro canal.

It is now a time capsule of the city created more than a century ago.

9. Costanova

Costanova

This seaside village is very charming, located on a long peninsula with the lagoon on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Before visitors arrived at New Coast, it was a fishing village, with vertical stripes painted in its lovely weatherboard huts reminiscent of the era.

If you like fish and seafood, the fishing market is a must; while you wait, Cais dos Pescadores prepares you with conch, crab, goose barnacles and shrimp straight from the lagoon.

This is one of those rare opportunities to taste seafood straight from the water.

10. Playa da Barra

Playa da Barra, Aveiro

Anyone needing some beach time can head straight to Praia da Barra, less than 10 km from Aveiro.

There are two main beaches here; the upper level (Praia Velha) is where the Aveiro Lagoon reaches the ocean.

Long breakwaters on both sides block the waves and allow you to bathe in calm waters.

To the south is a long open beach surrounded by sand dunes and a long elevated wooden walkway to help you get around.

Surfers are popular for its rolling waves, and there’s a school on the beach if you want to try it.

11. Playa da Barra Lighthouse

Playa da Barra Lighthouse

The tallest lighthouse in Portugal is located behind Praia Velha, reaching a height of 62 meters.

This dates back to 1893 and was necessary because the sea near Aveiro is very shallow for ships, and the presence of the lagoon would make the land appear further away than it really is.

It will be another century before the lighthouse is automated in 1990. If you’re nearby on a Wednesday afternoon, you can climb the 271 steps to the platform for an aerial view of the lagoon, Praia da Barra, Costa Nova, Aveiro and San Jacinto and Galvanias.

12. Museu Marítimo de Ílhavo

Museu Marítimo de Ílhavo

During the dictatorship, Aveiro was one of the main ports for cod fishing in Portugal.

So if there’s any attraction that cuts to the heart of the country’s love of this fish, it’s the Maritime Museum just minutes from Ilhavo.

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Shown here are replicas of the trawlers that sail to Newfoundland for their catch, and you can learn about the tools of the trade, life on one of the boats, and the culture of the industry.

There is also an exhibition focusing on the Aveiro Lagoon and its salt harvesting industry and the characteristic moliceiro boats.

13. Museu Histórico da Vista Alegre

Museu Histórico da Vista Alegre

The Vista Alegre Porcelain Factory has been making fine ceramics for over 200 years.

It’s a huge complex that includes factories, a 17th-century palace, a chapel and an entire residential complex built for workers with its own theater.

The museum is located in the former factory building, which has just been remodeled.

You will gain an overview of the Vista Alegre company, as well as the history of porcelain and its role in Portuguese society.

There are more than 30,000 pieces on display, and you can see ancient kilns and modern facilities that still employ 700 people.

Getting through the gift shop without buying takes a strong will!

14. Cycling

ride a bicycle

Aveiro’s flat landscape and paved canal piers could have been built for bicycles, and they have been the preferred mode of transport since the early 20th century.

Recently, the city introduced the BUGA bike share system to make getting around easier.

There are 20 BUGA warehouses in Aveiro where you can get a bike with a special lock.

So you can stop and lock your bike before entering one of Aveiro’s attractions.

The system operates between 10:00 and 19:00. Cycling is also the easiest way to experience the Aveiro Lagoon, where you’ll glide by the salt pans and spot egrets and flamingos on the cornfields on the BioRia trail.

15. Egg Mole

egg mole

In addition to all the delicious seafood fresh from the water, there is a sweetness that is as characteristic of Aveiro as the canals and moliceiros.

These are ovos moles (literally soft eggs), and something made with egg yolks and sugar couldn’t be more complicated.

They were originally made by nuns in the old convent of Aveiro (traditionally nuns were given eggs by those who were about to marry), and when religious institutions were closed, the recipes were passed on to the townspeople.

Inspired by the proximity to the ocean and the abundance of shellfish in the Aveiro Lagoon, egg moles are hand-shaped to resemble clam and conch shells.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Aveiro, Portugal
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