The charming historical city of Aveiro in central Portugal is set amongst picturesque winding waterways and a labyrinth of salty lagoons. My comprehensive travel guide includes the best things to do in Aveiro and surrounds, including the colourful Costa Nova and Barra Beach.
A popular day trip from Porto, Aveiro is often referred to as the Venice of Portugal due to its colourfully painted gondolas and a maze of canals winding throughout the city centre. Whilst there are some similarities between the Aveiro moliceiros and the Venetian gondolas, the comparison does this striking city a slight disservice.
With a unique personality of its own, Aveiro charms with its stunning architectural heritage, deep-rooted maritime history and its abundant natural wonders. Full of opulent Art Nouveau architecture, flamboyant religious buildings, interesting museums, distinctive ceramic Aveiro tiles and a maritime history dating back to the Middle-ages, it is easy to see why Aveiro is a favoured getaway destination for many Portuguese locals.
Situated at the mouth of the Ria de Aveiro, a series of saltwater lagoons renowned for their plentiful fish, salt and seaweed, this regional university city will completely capture your imagination as you stroll the city’s pretty cobbled pavements.
Located in central Portugal, 75km south of Porto, Aveiro is set amongst a series of saltwater lagoons connecting it to the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
Whilst the famed Praia da Costa Nova (Costa Nova Beach) and the beautiful sand dunes of the São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve attract visitors in the summer, Aveiro can be visited year round.
We visited Aveiro in winter as part of our 10-day road trip from Lisbon to Porto, and the weather was simply sublime; warm and sunny – perfect for an Aveiro boat ride and strolling the traditional Portuguese city full of character.
Although less visited than the more popular cities in Portugal, Aveiro has plenty to keep you occupied for a day or two. It makes a perfect stop-off when road tripping between Lisbon and Porto, and Aveiro’s direct train connections means it is an easy and affordable day trip from Porto. However, I strongly suggest staying overnight to enjoy outstanding restaurants, the local vibe and a jaunt to the vibrant striped houses of Costa Nova.
There is a lot to enjoy in Aveiro, so please read on to find out what to see in Aveiro and its surrounds.
Whether visiting Aveiro as a day trip or longer (I recommend staying for 2 days), here are the very best things to do in Aveiro.
A highlight of visiting Aveiro is undoubtedly taking a ride on one of the brightly painted traditional boats known as moliceiros. Traditionally used to harvest seaweed, these colourful Aveiro boats are often compared to the Italian gondola – but on a much larger scale. The elegantly curved moliceiros are painted with scenes of traditional Aveiro life, often with a comical twist.
An Aveiro boat ride along the historical canals running through the heart of the city centre is the ideal way to orient yourself. You’ll not only get to sit back and relax, but you’ll start to get a feel for the fun-loving Aveiro locals – just check out a few of the humorous (and often racy!) paintings on the boats.
There’s no need to book an Aveiro boat trip in advance – there are plenty of tour operators all vying for your business. Running year round, you’ll find tour operators along the central canal on Rua joão mendonça, adjacent to the Jardim de Rossio.
Most tour guides speak several languages (usually English, Spanish and French in addition to Portuguese) and will entertain you with interesting facts about the city, its canals and history.
Costing 10 Euro (5 Euro for children) and taking around 50 minutes, a ride on a moliceiros will take you through the main canal in the city centre and along one of the side canals. Some will even travel into the Ria da Aveiro lagoon itself.
Tip: If taking a boat trip during the summer months, use sun protection as the boats have no shade. Explore Aveiro canals
Exploring Aveiro canals
Fed by Aveiro’s lagoon, the canals are what makes Aveiro unique and are worth a couple of hours of your time. There are just a few branches cutting through this small, compact city so take some time to simply wander on foot and explore.
The terrain is flat, making for easy walking (although the cobbled streets do tend to wreak havoc on your feet – so make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes!).
Apart from the main canal which snakes through the historic city centre along Rua joão mendonça, running into the Ria de Aveiro lagoon, there are branches along Parque dos Remadores Olimpicos and in the new city along Cais do Alboi and Cais dos Santos Mártires.
A statue of A salineira (salt farmer) along the canals of Aveiro
Simply stroll the canals and take in the scenery, but if you’re short on time or would prefer a set route, you can follow a suggested self-guided walking tour.
Another option is to grab a “BUGA”, a free-use bicycle made available by the Aveiro City Council. Simply head to one of the several BUGA stands throughout the city (try Manuel Firmino Market) where you’ll be required to leave your identification and that’s it! You’ll be given a lock and the bicycles are yours free to use between the hours of 10am until 7pm.
Cycle through the historical Rossio area, and to the Ria de Aveiro (Aveiro Lagoon) to spot flamingos and herons, or keep going to stop at the famed Aveiro salt farms (see below). If you’re keen, you can even cycle to the Atlantic coastline to see local fisherman collecting clams and enjoy the isolated beaches of Praia da Costa Nova and Praia da Barra.
Visit an Eco-museum to discover traditional salt extraction in Aveiro
Salt industry in the city of Aveiro, Portugal
Since the year 959, Aveiro has been a major salt producer in Portugal due to the sheltered lagoons of Ria de Aveiro and its proximity to the coast. Indeed, Aveiro salt is still highly sought after for use in cooking the local cuisine and can be found at many shops throughout the city.
Once a major source of income for the region, traditional extraction methods have fallen out of favour but the traditional salt pans, or salinas, can still be found in Aveiro, along with a small amount of artisanal salt production.
Salt pans and pyramids in Aveiro
Traditional salt extraction in Aveiro
Visit the Ecomuseu da Marinha da Troncalhada, just a 15 minute walk from the city centre, to explore the salt pans and learn about traditional methods of salt extraction.
Located near the Troncalhada Marine, this open-air museum showcases the history, culture and methods of traditional salt production in Portugal. Boasting glistening salt flats and traditional salt pyramids (seasonal), the centre literally allows you to get hands on by touching the salt and even digging your toes in the salt pans.
Visitors can visit independently (no charge) to learn about the stages of salt extraction by following signposted panels in both Portuguese and English throughout the site. Explore how the ponds are organised in three stages to store, evaporate and crystallize the incoming seawater before harvesting.
If you would like to gain more in-depth information, you can also request a guided tour from a local expert. Tours can be organised in advance through the Aveiro City Museum but does require a minimum of six people to run.
Treat yourself to an Aveiro salt spa
A unique treat in Aveiro is a visit to an outdoor spa for a salt treatment or mud bath. Visit the Cale do Oiro Spa Salínico where one of the Troncalhada saltpans has been transformed into a simple salt bathing pool and rustic spa.
Plunge into the salt pan to gather up handfuls of the salt-mud slurry and smother it over yourself. While the mud dries, simply relax in the sun, before hopping back in the water to wash it all off again. Packed with minerals, the salty-mud will leave your skin feeling soft and silky smooth.
Tip: You will definitely get muddy and dirty, so make sure to wear old swimming gear.
With the high salt concentration (higher than seawater), this Aveiro spa is purported to aid poor circulation and improve skin conditions. The spa is seasonal, operating from July to October, and costs just 4 Euros (7 Euros with a guided tour). To enquire, contact Cale do Oiro in Marinhas Grã Caravela e Peijota (Tel: 915661480).
Take delight in Aveiro’s pretty pavements
Many patterned Portuguese pavements in Aveiro feature maritime motifs
The distinctive Portuguese pavements (calcada portuguesa) can be found throughout most Portuguese cities – and Aveiro is no exception.
Many pedestrian areas in the city are patterned with black and white stone arranged in pleasing patterns and swirls, similar to mosaics.
However, several of Aveiro’s pavements are unique in that they adopt the local maritime history and activities with motifs such as rope knots, fish and ocean waves. Let me know how many you can spot!
Be captivated by the Art Nouveau architecture in Aveiro
The fluid lines of Aveiro’s Art Nouveau buildings make them easy to spot
If you appreciate architecture, and particularly the Art Nouveau period, you’ll love Aveiro’s extravagant buildings. Each street seems to vie with each other for the most ornate and opulent architecture.
With 28 Art Nouveau buildings in Aveiro, there are plenty of opportunities to spot pretty patterned tiles, ornate wrought iron balconies and detailed window frames.
Although you’ll see plenty of beautiful buildings simply strolling Aveiro’s historical centre (the main canal is lined with a ton of beautiful facades from this era), there is an actual Art Nouveau route identifying all the Art Nouveau buildings and monuments in the city.
You can also pick up a brochure of the Art Nouveau walk from the Art Nouveau Museum (see below). The curved lines and bright colours make these architectural gems stand out, so you shouldn’t have a problem spotting them.
Art Nouveau architecture is a feature of Aveiro’s streets
If you really enjoy this style of architecture, don’t miss the Art Nouveau Museum (Museu de Arte Nova) set in the magnificent Major Pessoa House with an on-site garden café, Casa de Chá (more below).
Spot superb Portuguese tiles (Azulejo)
Stunning Portuguese tiles on the exterior of the old train station in Aveiro
Decorating everything from the walls of churches and train stations, to palaces and regular houses, spot the glorious traditional blue and white painted tiles known as azulejo.
As in most cities and towns throughout Portugal, the distinctive blue and white glazed ceramic tiles can also be found in Aveiro, including the stunning Aveiro Train Station (under restoration in early 2020). This bright white 19th century building is covered with beautiful azulejos depicting life in Aveiro, as well as some impressive portrait panels.
Mosaic depicting salt extraction in Aveiro
If you too love Portuguese azulejos, be sure to check out the Sé Cathedral, the Aveiro Museum and the Art Nouveau buildings in the Rossio area – and don’t miss the impressive ceramic mural in the city centre with its nod to Aveiro’s fishing and salt industries.
Tip: If you are particularly interested in Portuguese ceramics, you may enjoy a visit to the Vista Alegre Museum. Visit an Aveiro Museum (all closed on Mondays)
Whilst the museums in Aveiro are all inexpensive in themselves, if you are a lover of art and history and wish to visit more than one, it is possible to purchase one single ticket for €5 which allows you entrance to them all.
The Aveiro museum pass includes the following:
Aveiro Art Nouveau Museum
Aveiro Museum (Santa Joana Museum)
Marinha da Troncalhada Ecomuseum
You can purchase an Aveiro Museum Discount Ticket at any of the museums listed above (keeping in mind that all are closed on Mondays).
Art Nouveau Museum (Museu de Arte Nova)
For lovers of the Art Nouveau period you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot the flamboyant entrance to the Aveiro Art Nouveau Museum.
With its large ceramic mural featuring ducks, lilypads and water-reeds, and its swirling, curved doorways, this museum pays homage to Art Nouveau architecture and monuments in the region.
Housed in the magnificent bright blue Art Nouveau building (Major Pessoa House), the museum also boasts a beautiful outdoor café called Casa de Chá. Even if you’re not a huge museum aficionado, you’ll still appreciate the glorious Major Pessoa House for its decorative tiles, curved, fluid windows, and wrought-iron gates.
Spread over a couple of floors, the museum’s permanent exhibition is print heavy with most of the information in Portuguese only. Nevertheless, with a standard entry ticket costing a mere 1 Euro, lovers of this era will thoroughly enjoy a visit to this museum. There are also temporary exhibitions on display on the top floor (when I visited, there was an exhibition on Aveiro ceramic tiles).
You’ll find the Art Nouveau Museum in Aveiro on Rua João Mendonça where it is open Tuesday to Friday 9.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-6pm; Saturday and Sunday 2-6pm (closed Mondays).
The opulent tomb of Santa Joana at the Aveiro City Museum
If you are visiting Aveiro on a day trip, this would be my recommended choice for a museum visit. The Aveiro City Museum (Museu da Cidade de Aveiro), housed in a former Dominican convent, is home to permanent exhibits of religious art, jewellery, azulejos (glazed tiles) and historical artefacts from the Aveiro city and region.
The Aveiro Museum is most famous for housing the inlaid marble tomb of Princess Santa Joana, the most well-known inhabitant of the former convent.
With several exhibits devoted to the life of the popular Portuguese princess (daughter of the first King of Portugal), the museum is often simply referred to as the Santa Joana Museum (Museu Santa Joana). With exhibit information in English, you’ll enjoy wandering this museum, discovering interesting facts about the history of Aveiro and the Princess Saint Joana.
Built in the 15th century, the convent building is in itself an exhibit, featuring a striking blend of Art Nouveau and Portuguese tiles. Located opposite the magnificent Se Cathedral, it is also worthwhile popping into the City Museum just to marvel at its Gothic architecture.
The Museum of Aveiro is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-6.00pm with tickets costing 4 Euro.
Discover Portuguese ceramics at the Vista Alegre Museum
For lovers of Portuguese ceramics, head just a few minutes’ drive outside the Aveiro city centre to the Vista Alegre Museum (Museu Vista Alegre) in Ílhavo.
This interesting museum details the evolution of porcelain production in Portugal, as well as the history of the favoured brand, Vista Alegre which was founded in 1824. Showcasing Portuguese porcelain as a cultural heritage, the museum is set within a traditional village occupied by the original potters.
Exhibits include samples and first runs which emerged from the factory, right up to enormous elaborate tea services produced for royalty. There are also machines and displays of the raw materials required for making porcelain as well as a huge 20th century brick kiln.
The Vista Alegre Museum is also part of a flourishing art community, running several workshops suitable for children and families, where you can experience being a potter for the day. The museum is open daily from 10am to 7pm (7:30 in summer) while workshops run between 10.15am and 6.45pm.
Browse Aveiro handicrafts and local produce
Aveiro salt flakes for sale
Whilst shopping is not the first thing that springs to mind when you hear of Aveiro, it does boast a number of appealing boutiques and small stores selling an interesting mix of Portuguese handicrafts, local produce and quirky, contemporary items.
Find traditionally painted porcelain tiles (azulejos), Aveiro salt crystals (flor de sal), hand-turned wooden kitchen utensils and of course, who could leave without a box of the local sweet treat, ovos moles?
Most shopping in Aveiro is concentrated around the banks of the main canal on Rua Joao Mendonça. Definitely check out Mercado Negro for quirky original clothing and alternative accessories, Doce Pimenta for speciality herbs, spices and local delicacies, and Confeitaria Peixinho (on Rue de Coimbra) who, along with producing the local speciality of ovos moles, also make the lesser known (but no less tasty) local biscuits Raivas and Alemães.
Whether or not you wish to purchase any fish, head to the Mercado do Peixe, or Fish Market, for a truly local experience. The covered market is not only the best place to buy fresh fish but is an interesting place to watch all the action of the local fisherman bringing in their catch of the day.
Head upstairs to the Restaurante Mercado do Peixe – with its beautiful glassed-in view overlooking the Aveiro canals – if eating is more your thing. Although I didn’t see the fish market in full action, if you get there early enough you can witness the local fisherman at work.
For more mainstream Aveiro shopping, the Forum Aveiro on Rua Batalhao de Cacadores offers everything you would usually expect from a shopping mall – but this open-air complex is quite lovely in itself, running along the side of a main canal.
For those with more time, take a short jaunt out of the city centre to the nearby Ilhavo to visit the Porcelain factory of Vista Alegre. Makers of the most famous porcelain brand in Portugal, you can take a tour in the museum, take part in pottery workshops or simply shop on site for some truly distinctive pieces of Portuguese ceramic art.
Sample the sugary ovos moles
Ovos moles – a local Aveiro treat
Before I visited Aveiro I would never have assumed sugary egg yolks were a thing – but the city’s signature sweet is simply everywhere you turn.
The distinctive local delicacy of ovos moles (literally “soft eggs”) are made from just egg yolks and sugar. The bright yellow filling is enclosed in small rice paper casings shaped like shells, clams and fish, reflecting the region’s nautical history and abundance of seafood.
According to legend, this sweet morsel was invented by a greedy nun who was forced to undertake a fast in her convent. She disobeyed by combing egg yolks and sugar which she then hid in communion wafers.
However, it was probably more likely that ovos moles arose in order to utilise the left-over egg yolks after the whites had been used by the nuns to starch their habits.
Approved by the European Union in 2008, Ovos Moles de Aveiro became a product with Protected Geographical Indication ensuring that the traditional techniques in making this local treat will be always preserved.
A selection of Portuguese sweets in an Aveiro bakery
Although found in just about every café and shop throughout Aveiro city, the best place to taste ovos moles is at one of the several pastry shops in the Rossio area along Rue João Mendonça, or from Confeitaria Peixinho, who have been producing ovos moles in Aveiro for over 160 years. You can find Confeitaria Peixinho on Rue de Coimbra.
For those interested in trying their hand at making ovos moles, visit Oficina do Doce, where you can learn everything there is to know about this unique pastry, from its history, to watching demonstrations, to taking part in your very own workshop.
Visit Sé Cathedral
Sé Cathedral in the Aveiro city centre
Located opposite the Aveiro Museum, the Aveiro Cathedral (Sé de Aveiro) was founded in 1423 as a Dominican convent, although most of the church has been reconstructed from its original state. Also known as Sao Domingos Church, the cathedral’s architecture reflects an interesting mix of Baroque and Gothic styles due to its many restorations over different eras.
Feel free to wander the external courtyard to view the cathedral’s imposing bell tower, floral frieze, the coat of arms of the Duke of Coimbra and, sitting front and centre on a tall pedestal, a beautiful Gothic cross from the 15th century. Inside, the cathedral’s ornate side-chapels boast alabaster religious images, beautiful paintings and walls decorated with Portuguese tile and stone.
Get an early start at the Aveiro fish market (Mercado do Peixe)
Aveiro’s tradition and connection to fishing and the sea is most obvious in the style of cooking in the region – which is predominantly seafood-based. Renowned for its eel dishes (fried eel, eel stew and eel with escabeche (vinegar) sauce), a visit to Aveiro’s fresh fish market is a must to get a feel for the city’s maritime culture and history.
Built in 1904, the Aveiro fish market (Mercado do Peixe) is housed in an attractive iron and glass structure overlooking the canals of the city. Whether or not you intend to buy fish, it is an interesting spot to watch the action of local fisherman bringing in their catch of the day to auction off to the highest bidder.
Head to the market early in the morning to witness all the sights, sounds (and smells!) of this bustling Portuguese fish market before popping upstairs to the on-site restaurant overlooking the Aveiro canals to sample locally caught fresh fish and seafood.
Where and what to eat in Aveiro
Grilled codfish in Aveiro, Portugal
No matter where you go, sampling the local cuisine is always a top activity – and with Aveiro being on the coast, the local dishes are heavily influenced by fish and seafood. There are plenty of quality Aveiro restaurants to try, although most, as you would imagine, are heavily seafood based.
As mentioned above, a top choice in Aveiro at any time of day is the Fish Market Square (Praça do Peixe) where you can select from amongst the freshest of fish and seafood. Daring eaters should try the local favourite, caldeirada de enguias (eel stew) or the feijoada de búzios (sea snail and bean stew) whilst those less daring should experience the arroz de marisco (seafood rice).
For those staying for dinner, or overnight in Aveiro, try Salpoente, a modern, sophisticated restaurant overlooking the canal São Roque. Set in a former salt warehouse, this Aveiro restaurant won’t disappoint with its delicious upmarket meals of beautifully presented seafood dishes (with codfish being their specialty).
Eel stew in Aveiro, Portugal
For seafood, you also can’t go wrong with Maré Cheia, although it’s a little harder to find, being located a block behind the São Jacinto waterfront.
One of the busiest restaurants around, thanks to their super fresh mussels, clams, crabs and fresh grilled fish. Locals head to Maré Cheia for their eel dishes, served fried, grilled or in a caldeirada (stew). The enormous seafood platters are highly recommended!
For more affordable options, try Restaurante O Barril for their amazing octopus cozido (cooked octopus) served in an upturned terracotta roof tile.
Another favourite is O Moliceiro, specialising in fresh grilled fish, mussel espetadinha (mussels roasted on a spit) and el escabeche (eel marinated in vinegar), served cold as a petisco (Portuguese tapas), together with fresh bread to soak up the sauce.
Not in the mood for seafood? Head to O Augusto to sample one of the most traditional “prego” meals in town. Prego (meaning “nail”) is a famous Portuguese sandwich where thinly sliced steak is smothered in garlicky sauce and “nailed” to a fresh, hot roll.
Served with French fries and a fried egg, the prego sandwich is similar to its cousin, the bifana (pork sandwich), and together they are considered the two national sandwiches of Portugal. Interestingly enough, a prego sandwich is traditionally eaten at the close of a seafood meal. Now, that’s my kinda meal!
Grilled sardines are a traditional Portuguese dish
For traditional Portuguese fare, you can’t beat O Telheiro, with its charming wood-beam ceilings and long bar, perfect for perching, this local favourite simply exudes character. Serving simple food and huge portions at reasonable prices, their perfectly grilled meats, excellent fish soup, and melt-in-your mouth grilled squid are stand outs.
For such a small city, there are a surprising number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Aveiro. For a quick (and inexpensive) lunch stop, join the young and hip by heading to the vegan-friendly Saladas + for fresh and tasty salads, soups and sandwiches.
For lunch or dinner, try da Terra, an all-vegan, self-service buffet at a set price or Ki Macrobiótico, serving simple, healthy vegan dishes.
Vegetarians and vegans will rejoice in finding Restaurante Musgo, for their all-vegan Portuguese-style dishes. With the focus on high-quality, delicious meals, you’ll need to book ahead in high season as Musgo quickly becomes full.
With its gorgeous tiled exterior, you’ll fall in love with Espaço Criativo Biscoito, a vegan-friendly café serving a range of coffees, tea and cakes. With a small but excellent menu, Biscoito serves up some impressive traditional Portuguese dishes with a vegan twist. Plus, the vegan brownies are superb!
And last, but by no means least is my favourite, A Mulata, a vegetarian and vegan-friendly café (with plenty of gluten free options too). Enjoy the perfect plant-based cappuccino with a superb vegan cake-of-the-day. Everything is delicious, fresh and homemade. Whether you’re enjoying the awesome vegan toasties, or simply sipping a freshly made smoothie, you can’t go wrong at A Mulata – even the Pastéis de Nata (egg tarts) are vegan here!
What to do in the Aveiro region
Detail on pier benches at the Aveiro lagoon
Whilst Aveiro city is compact enough to be visited in one day, there are plenty of Aveiro attractions to be found beyond the city centre. I would highly suggest spreading your Aveiro trip over two days, allowing you the opportunity to visit the two nearby beach towns of Costa Nova and Barra.
Here are some of the best things to do near Aveiro Portugal. Visit the striped houses of Costa Nova
The colourful striped houses and sand dunes are signatures of Costa Nova
Head just ten kilometres outside the city centre to visit an Aveiro beach and the charming fishing village of Costa Nova. Set amongst rolling sand dunes, this oceanfront town is the epitome of an old-school Portuguese fishing village.
Running along a thin peninsula, with the calm Aveiro lagoon on one side and the wild Atlantic on the other, the beaches of this pretty village are long and wide. Just keep in mind the ocean here, whilst perfect for surfers, is often rough, so take care if swimming.
However, Costa Nova has recently become most famous for its brightly coloured striped palheiros, or little wooden cottages. The bright red, green and blue vertical stripes on the little houses have turned out to be the perfect insta backdrop, launching Costa Nova into one of the most instagrammable places of Portugal.
The cute cottages, once used to store fishing gear, have now been turned into vacation homes, many of which are available to rent. Whilst you’ll find Aveiro’s signature houses dotted throughout the village, there is a colourful cluster on the lagoon side of Costa Nova along Avenida José Estevão.
Aside from the dollhouse-like cottages, you’ll find Costa Nova is a quiet, local fishing village with a variety of seafood restaurants and a fresh fish market overflowing with shrimp, whelks, crabs and fish straight from the sea.
Sit back and people watch at one of Costa Nova’s cafes or beach bars, enjoy sunbathing on the praia da Costa Nova (Costa Nova beach) or a stroll along the wooden walkway stretching right along the oceanfront.
Tip: For calmer swimming water (with lifeguards), head just a few minutes’ drive north of Costa Nova to Barra beach (see below). Praia da Barra
Feeding seagulls on the breakwater at Praia da Barra
The two beach towns of Costa Nova and Barra are located just under ten kilometres from the centre of Aveiro, with Costa Nova being a few minutes further south along the peninsula from Barra. Upon reaching the Ponte da Barra (Barra Bridge), turn left for the village of Costa Nova, or right for the beaches of Barra.
If you are seeking some beach-time, Barra beach (praia da Barra) offers calmer waters than Costa Nova due to a couple of long breakwaters keeping the wild ocean at bay. Situated at the mouth of the Aveiro River, Praia da Barra is extremely popular for sunbathing during the summer months and is patrolled by lifeguards.
Both Costa Nova and Barra are easy to reach, being a short taxi or bus ride from the city centre of Aveiro. A taxi will take around ten minutes from Aveiro and will cost around 12 Euros. At 2 Euros, a public bus is even cheaper, and will take around 45 minutes to get you there.
Visit the Lighthouse of Praia da Barra (Farol da Barra)
With a height of 62 metres, the Praia da Barra lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Portugal
The Praia da Barra Lighthouse, also known as the Aveiro Lighthouse (and Farol de Aveiro/Farol da Praia da Barra in Porguguese), is a working lighthouse in the beachside town of Barra.
Located on the tip of the Aveiro Lagoon, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Barra Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Portugal with a height of 62 metres (203 feet).
Dating back to 1893, the lighthouse was built to warn ships of the dangerously shallow water and the deceptive presence of land, as the Aveiro lagoon gives the illusion that land is further away than it actually is.
Climb the 271 steps to the small viewing platform for a stunning aerial view of the Praia da Barra (Barra beach), Costa Nova, Aveiro lagoon, Aveiro city and the further off communities of São Jacinto and Gafanhas.
Visit the historic lighthouse on Wednesday afternoons from 2.00pm to 5.00pm (tours run at 2.00pm, 3.00pm and 4.00pm).
Visit the Ílhavo Maritime Museum (Museu Marítimo de Ílhavo)
Traditional Portuguese fishing boats
Located in the town of Ílhavo, just six kilometres (10 minutes’ drive) from Aveiro city centre, the Ílhavo Maritime Museum (Museu Marítimo de Ílhavo) is an interesting museum definitely worth a visit.
Set in spectacular modern building, the museum showcases the history of maritime life in the region and the importance of cod in Portugal. With three main galleries to visit, you can easily get a feel for why cod is almost a way of life here.
Traditional moliceiros in the Aveiro region
Learn about the history of the Aveiro lagoon and its painted wooden boats, the “White Fleet”, (the huge four masted sailing ships in the ice-cold North Atlantic seas) and personal accounts of life onboard. And for families there’s even a replica of a huge cod-fishing trawler moored outside that the kids can clamber over, as well as an aquarium to discover live cod and other local fish species.
Hike the sand dunes of the São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve
Sand dunes are a feature of the beaches in the Aveiro region
Nature enthusiasts will love heading to the beautiful sand dunes of the São Jacinto Dunes Natural Reserve (Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto). The reserve extends along the peninsula between the placid Ria de Aveiro and the wild Atlantic Ocean.
Follow one of the four paths to stroll through dense forest, coastal marshes and a wooden boardwalk over the pure white sand dunes. The seven-kilometre (three-hour) loop is a haven for wildlife and birds, particularly herons. Enjoy the silence of the forest before approaching the crashing waves of the Atlantic ocean.
Best visited during the summer months (November to February), the reserve is free to access. Obtain a map and information, including a guided visit if you wish, at the Information Centre.
To get to the reserve, take a ferry from Barra beach to São Jacinto to arrive in the south (return passenger costs 3.00 euro /return car costs 9.00 euro). Alternatively, you will need a car to drive around the canals to approach from the north.
Tip: Swimming is not allowed on the reserve beaches due to the dangerous surf conditions. How many days do you need in Aveiro Portugal?
There are plenty of things to do in Aveiro, Portugal to keep you busy for two days – if not more, if you wish to explore further in the region. Aveiro’s close proximity to Porto and ease of access, via either train or road, means Aveiro can easily be visited as a day trip.
In my opinion, I think Aveiro makes the perfect weekend destination as two days in Aveiro will allow you to explore the city centre and enjoy the local cuisine at your leisure, as well as the chance to visit the nearby beaches and towns of Costa Nova, Barra and Ilhavo.
The best time to visit Aveiro is during the summer months of March and September. Whilst the winter months (December to March) are cooler, with temperatures around 9ºC, the sun still shines year round. Being located nearby the Atlantic Ocean, Aveiro can get particularly windy, and I would definitely pack a windbreaker or jacket no matter what time of year you visit.