A Guide To Aveiro, Portugal: Things To Do In The City Of Canals


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.

Aveiro central canal at night

Aveiro’s central canal at dusk

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.

things to do in aveiro portugal

Spring in Aveiro, Portugal

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.

Aveiro, Portugal: Things to do in the historic city of canals

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.

Take a ride on an Aveiro Moliceiros

Traditional Aveiro moliceiros

The traditional moliceiros are a distinctive feature of 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.

Traditional boats in Aveiro