15 Best things to do in Ovar (Portugal)

On the coast in the north-west of the Centro region, Ovar is known for its natural beauty within its boundaries. With the Atlantic Ocean just a stone’s throw away, you’ll come to Furadouro, a small resort, an inexpensive alternative to larger resorts and cities, with wild Atlantic beaches that lure surfers with rolling waves.

Also close by is the Aveiro Lagoon, which is both a treasured nature reserve and a great place for sailing, stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking. As for the town of Ovar, it is proud of the traditional Portuguese tiles that cover the walls of churches, chapels and residences, and even the sidewalks of the central square.

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

1. Igreja Paroquial de Válega

Igreja Paroquial De Válega

In the quiet village of Válega there is an 18th-century church, probably one of the most beautiful in the country.

It all depends on the coloured tiles covering the facade and the interior.

These may not be antiques since they were painted in the 20th century, but they are still beautiful.

If you can memorize your biblical passages, you will know the scenes represented on panels a few meters high and wide.

These panels glow when the evening sun hits the façade.

The tiled panels continue inside, where there is also an ornate coffered ceiling from the same period, and stained glass windows made in Madrid.

2. Fuladoro Beach

Praia do Fuladoro

West of Oval is the small resort of Fuladoro, with its vast white-sand beaches.

This is supported by a system of sand dunes that you have to cross via a boardwalk and then drive several kilometers along the coast.

If you want service and convenience, you can stay on the south side of the beach, where most of the resort is located, but if you prefer privacy, the crowds will decrease the higher you go.

This is the Atlantic Furadouro is more about relaxing on the beach and dipping your toes in the water than swimming.

The water may be on the cold side and the waves are very strong.

3. Igreja Matriz de Ovar

Igreja Matriz De Ovar

From the second half of the 17th century, the main church of Ovar has undergone many changes since then, but still has many interesting elements.

One of them is a limestone carving of Saint Christovan, the church’s patron saint, in a niche on the façade.

This predates the church, dating back to the 1400s.

Like the church in Valega, the 20th century façade is tiled, but here’s a simple but pretty blue-and-white geometric design.

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Inside are three barrel-vaulted naves, separated by Tuscan columns.

You can admire 17th-century altarpieces (more on this later) in the side chapels, as well as the chancel with an 18th-century gilded wood altar and Rococo wood ceiling.

4. Atelier de Conservação e Restauro do Azulejo

Glazed tiles or “azulejos” will forever be associated with Portugal, and in Ovar these ceramics have a special affinity.

Many houses in the old town are decorated with tiles, which both serve a decorative function and help the buildings insulate in winter and reflect sunlight in summer.

The floors of Ovar’s Praça da República are now even covered with a blue and white patterned non-slip glazing, paying homage to the town’s tile heritage.

You can cut to the heart of this tradition at the Tile Conservation Studio, and even if this is not an official tourist attraction, you can arrange a visit with the tourist office.

5. Praia da Maceda

Praia da Maceda

Continue north from Praia do Furadouro, where it joins Praia da Maceda.

There are few traces of human civilization on this beach: aside from a bar and lifeguard station, there are only rolling waves, wide sand strips, and a wall of sandy cliffs topped by tall maritime pines.

You might be interested to know that there’s a NATO air base hidden in the woods, but you’d never guess it’s on the beach.

Like Furadouro, it’s popular with surfers, but also ensures hours of sun solitude for the average beachgoer.

6. Oval’s Museum

Sacra Art Museum

The town has a series of small museums that might grab your attention while browsing in the morning.

Museu de Ovar tackles the town’s ethnography and art using traditional tools and mannequins dressed in 19th-century clothing worn by wealthy bourgeois or ordinary citizens.

Museu Júlio Dinis preserves the house where the acclaimed 19th-century writer lived in the 1860s, complete with period furniture and décor.

Finally, Casa Museu de Arte Sacra collects the sacred art of the Franciscan secular order, a collection of valuable works from the 1400s to the 1900s.

7. Capelas dos Passos de Ovar

Capelas Dos Passos De Ovar

The two splendid chapels of the Oval Cathedral are the first stop on the sacred tour, which includes seven 18th-century Rococo churches.

If you do it right, you will visit five other chapels around the old quarter of Ovar, one by one, ending at Capela do Calvário.

The five outside the main church were all built between 1747 and 1751, replacing portable wooden shrines.

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The order in which you should visit them is important, as this is the faithful walk of Letal Sunday in the weeks leading up to Easter.

The number of churches even makes sense because seven symbolizes the seven words of Christ.

8. Riad Aveiro

Riad Aveiro

The northernmost channel of the Aveiro Lagoon is just a few steps away from Ovar.

The lagoon is more than 45 kilometers long and experts call it one of the last undeveloped wetland areas in Europe.

The large undeveloped space provides an important haven for otters, blue turtles, eels and foxes, as well as for a variety of birds such as little egrets, red herons, kingfishers and African ospreys.

Near Oval, the lagoon is more tourist-friendly, with several sandy beaches along the shore and a marina where you can rent kayaks, stroll along the esplanade or dine on the waterside terrace.

9. Parque do Buçaquinho

Parque Do Buçaquinho

In 2005, a wastewater treatment plant a few kilometers north of central Oval was decommissioned, and over the next few years it was transformed into an award-winning sustainable park.

You wouldn’t know what was here before, but it’s worth knowing just to appreciate the transformation.

It has been replaced by a green space with six ponds, spacious lawns and pine forests.

Aromatic herbs such as marjoram, lavender, rosemary, thyme and tobacco flowers are planted around the park, while all electricity for lighting and facilities around the park is generated by wind turbines and photovoltaic cells.

10. Centro de Arte de Ovar

Oval Art Center

In 2009, Ovar launched a multidisciplinary arts venue as part of national incentives to develop Portuguese culture at the local level.

There were similar projects all over the country in the 2000s, and Ovar’s project was conceived by architect João Paulo Rapagão.

It’s a striking white cube with clean lines, and even if you’re not here to see the performers, you can still visit and admire the building and see what’s in the art gallery.

As for the auditorium, it can accommodate nearly 400 spectators and book dance, pop music performances, theatre and classical soloists and ensembles.

11. Playa da Torreira

Playa da Torreira

From Fuladoro, a 25-kilometer uninterrupted stretch of beach stretches down to the sand dunes of San Jacinto, where the Aveiro Lagoon meets the Atlantic Ocean.

These beaches are located on a small plot of land with the roaring Atlantic Ocean on one side and a gentle lagoon on the other.

Torreira is such a place, with magnificent beaches and surfable waves to the west, and a superb setting for windsurfing and sailing for a few minutes to the east.

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This tiny settlement is still a working fishing village, with its brightly coloured wooden boats launching from the waterfront into the waves in spectacular fashion.

12. Surf

Praia do Fuladoro

Sand and rocks on the seabed create rolling beach seating areas where surfers can ride all year round.

These waves are well-shaped but rarely exceed waist height in summer, so are never too dangerous for beginners.

The RedAnimal Surf Shop in Furadouro is also a school with menus for beginners and refresher courses.

If you want to try something different and more accessible, the shop also arranges stand-up paddle boarding tours in the Aveiro Lagoon by day or by moonlight.

13. Santa Maria da Feira Castle

Santa Maria da Feira Castle

Crow flies ten kilometers to the northeast, a medieval castle almost unmatched in Portugal.

Most of the building is intact and is a perfect record of military technology from the 11th to 16th centuries.

It played a role in the Reconquista when Portugal was retaken from the Moors in the 12th century, but before that it helped crush a revolt by his mother Queen Teresa against the future king Alfonso Henrique , and was supported by the northern Galicians.

Throughout July, the castle is the backdrop for the Viagem Medieval a Santa Maria da Feira, a medieval fair with markets and massive reenactments.

14. Sao Joao da Madeira

Viarco

For a complete change of scenery, the industrial town of São João da Madeira is also within easy reach.

While this may not seem interesting, the town has started to position itself as an industrial tourism destination, and some local manufacturers have joined and welcomed tourists.

It’s for people inspired by high-tech manufacturing, craftsmanship passed down through generations, or just those who have fun with shows like “How did they do it?” The mandatory factory is Viarco, which makes drawing tools for artists, architects, and other professional draftsmen.

15. Food and drink

Paddlelow

de Ovar is a luxurious sponge cake that has been baked in Ovar since at least the 1700s.

No one knows how this cake became a town specialty unless it was introduced by the monastery.

It’s light and fluffy in texture, with a soft brown crust covered in a layer of oozing unbaked dough.

Ovar’s bakery sells it wrapped in its characteristic white linen paper.

For main dishes, the Aveiro Lagoon has always been a source of eels, pickled, fried, baked or slow-cooked in stews.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Ovar, Portugal
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