Portugal has no shortage of amazing spots to experience, and Aveiro, an hour south of Porto, is one such place.
It is occasionally dubbed by tourist literature as the Venice of Portugal for its small network of picturesque tree canals that cross the town and “gondola” type painted boats.
Even though it bears some resemblance to Italy’s favourite city, it doesn’t have to have an international doppelganger to stand on its own.
This authentic, quaint and characterful fishing district that boasts unique Art Nouveau architecture has its own colourful personality.
Its streets are filled to the brim with buildings covered in a flair of unique mosaics and patterns.
The city centre is just as good looking and offers a youthful, energetic buzz.
Contemporary craft shops, boutiques, themed cafes and gourmet stores will ensure that you will simply get lost in its streets.
Arguably the most unique and colourful part of Aveiro is its Moliceiros.
These slim wooden vessels take you on a journey through the network of canals on the delta of the Vouga River.
Traditionally, they were used by locals to collect algae and seaweed as well as transport other goods.
Today, they serve as a great transport means to get a glimpse of the natural side of the estuary or to admire an alternative viewpoint of the city from the water.
Moreover, take a closer look at their unique intricate paintings at the end of each boat. Some are rather saucy!
Another great way to get around is by making use of the cities ‘Bugas’. These bicycles have been made freely available by the Averio City Council and can be rented free of charge.
The electric Tuk-Tuks are also super cool.
Aveiro definitely holds true to Portugal’s unique architectural style. Each of its buildings adorning its narrow streets is uniquely different from the next.
In fact, the city is renowned as the city museum of Art Nouveau and Romanesque styles.
The usage of exposed iron and large, irregularly shaped pieces of glass attribute to its architectural style. Such buildings can be found along the main channel.
The beautiful blue building on Rua Dr. Barbosa de Magalhães is one of the best examples of Art Nouveau styles and home to the Art Nouvea Museum. It can be found just above the garden cafe and is worth a visit.
The University buildings display contemporary Portuguese architecture and are also special.
The old train station
The old train station, built in 1861, is a must see.
Whilst the original buildings have been replaced by a more modern version, the old one boasts beautiful blue “Azulegos,” which refers to Portugal’s unique tile work.
They are usually square in shape and covered with impermeable and glossy enamel.
Each ceramic tile hints at previous civilizations, displaying intricate details from scenes from the past Aveiro region culture. As a matter of fact, you will find a wide variety of tiles displaying different colour combinations throughout the city.
Another thing that makes Averior unique is its pavements. They are far from boring.
Their black and white calcada take on maritime motifs, swirly circular patterns and geometric forms.
In addition to its unsurpassed characterful surrounds, Aveiro has some local delicacies for the foodie.
Emblematic of the city is “
Originally, they come from the ancient women’s convents that once existed in the area.
The presentation of them here is key. You will find them either encased in rice paper or wrapped in a crusty wafer made from the whites of the egg; similar to those that, once blessed, are served in Holy Communion.
What’s more, is that they come in a variety of shapes resembling that of the ocean and some are served in wooden barrels.
Another delicacy characterised by the region is fresh grilled or fried eels, that come from the nearby town of Murtosa. They can be found accompanied by delicious seafood rice and an escabeche sauce (a combination of olive oil, garlic, laurel, and vinegar).
Pair your meals with Portugal’s famed Port wine, that is native to the Douro Valley, and is a popular drink in the north.
The salt lagoons
Aveiro used to be a major artisanal salt-producing centre for centuries thus attributing to the economy of the region.
Nowadays, this activity takes place on a smaller scale.
You can see evidence of this in the form of top quality salt crystals being sold in stores. More so, you can find flor de sal, used to flavour local dishes.
Enjoy a day at Piscina e Spa Cale do Oiro, an outdoor spa where you can apply wet mud from the base of the salt pan onto your skin.
You will be surprised at how wonderfully soft your skin will feel afterwards.
Nearby Aveiro, is the beach town of Costa Nova.
Although it is still pretty much low key on the tourist radar, it has become popular by those that have visited for its wooden colourful and quirky stripped houses.
These ‘haystacks’, as referred to by the locals, are quite exceptional and add to its authenticity and the uniqueness this place offers.
The long soft sand beach is perfect for a day of sunbathing, and one of the best beaches for windsurfing and kitesurfing. But beware, it is on the Atlantic, so it might not be that ideal for swimming.
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