Aveiro is the Centro region’s second largest city and a very pleasant one to visit. The town has always been closely connected to the nearby sea and lagoon. A historic producer of salt for preservation of fish and meat (salt in Aveiro was first mentioned in a document in 929 AD) , Aveiro is still producing salt in the traditional way: today for chefs who prize fine finishing salts and for the home cook who appreciates the spiced and flavored salts that make subtle flavor changes easy. You can visit Aveiro’s salt pans to see how it’s done.
Canals slice through the historic center. Once plied by the long and narrow boats called Moliceiros bringing seaweed and unwanted critters from the lagoon to local farmers to use as fertilizer, today the Moliceiros ferry tourists to nowhere in particular and then back where they came from, plying them with the local bubbly and sweet Ovos Moles as they bob away merrily, the sights slowly fading into a winy fog.
You see the mural above and you’d think Aveiro was one of those gritty, coastal towns where sailors belly up to grungy bars to drink the night away. But Aveiro is a very clean and beautiful University town. There is still a lively fish market featuring the morning’s catch—but you can eat as much of it as you can above the market floor in a restaurant just made for folks who want their teeming sea life served absolutely fresh and close to the source.
Ovos Moles de Aveiro
Aveiro has its own, special sweet called Oves Moles. It’s essentially a sweetened egg yolk mixture encased in a crunchy shell like a communion wafer or “host”. Get them near the main canal on Rua Joao Mendonca at a place that claims to be the first to have made them: A Barrica.
As you’d expect in a University town, Aveiro has its share of museums. Here are three of the best.
- The Art Nouveau Museum is located in Casa Major Pessoa, an icon of art nouveau style. Thirsty? The Casa de Chá on the first level will quench your thirst in style.
- Maritime Museum of Ílhavo will show you what a big business of all this Portuguese cod fishing was (and still is). You’ll need a car to reach it.
- The Aveiro Museum on Avenida de Santa Joana Princesa is situated in a 15th century convent, Convento de Jesus, and offers examples of archaeology, sculpture and painting between the 15th and the 18th centuries.
When to Go
Aveiro, by virtue of its location near the sea and lagoon, has some amazingly mild weather. Summer temperatures are extremely pleasant; this is a place to go when you don’t like extremely hot weather on your summer vacation. See historic climate charts and the current weather conditions: Aveiro Weather and Climate.
Where to Stay
Although pricey, the Hotel Moliceiro is not only in a very nice position across from a park and canal but is one of the best run hotels I’ve had the pleasure of staying in. We enjoyed the piano player in the evenings and the wi-fi worked very well.
If you would rather feel like part of the fabric of this great city by renting an apartment in the heart of it, a stay at Innapartments – São Gonçalinho, might be in order. Get an apartment with a view for the full experience.
The three star Venezia Hotel is housed in an elegant Art Nouveau mansion and offers free wi-fi as well. It’s not very far from Aveiro’s historic and interesting train station.
Where to Eat
Portuguese food is a bit of an unknown. San Francisco, where I hang out when I’m not in Europe, has only one Portuguese restaurant that I know of, yet there are quite a few Burmese restaurants—more, they tell me, than you’re find in Burma/Myanmar. But if you don’t know modern Portuguese cuisine, then you’re going to be surprised in a very good way when you vacation in Portugal.
It isn’t hard to find good things to eat in Aveiro, especially if you’re looking for seafood. Tops on my list is the cod specialist restaurant called Salpoente. The tasting menu might be considered a splurge, but it consists of a quality of food only likely to be available at a much higher price elsewhere. The rooms are awash in contemporary Portuguese art which changes over time, and there’s a smattering of traditional craft objects. The food is spectacular, and trends toward seafood and salt cod prepared in a modern way—but meat is available. A meal at Salpoente might have been my favorite restaurant meals ever in Portugal. And if they invite you to the special table with the copper lighting that must have cost more than all the _Moliceiros _ in Aveiro, go for it.
Canal de São Roque, nº 82/83,
Tel: +351 234 382 674
Salpoente, despite being located in an old salting warehouse, is light, airy and artsy. If you’re looking for a rather dark “joint” with a woody nautical theme loaded with locals and featuring a big and enticing selection of appetizers, look no further than O Batel, on an alleyway behind the main canal. It seats a mere 26 people, so you’ll need to reserve in the season.
O Batel Restaurant
Travessa Tenende Resende 21
Tel: +351 234 484 234
We’ve also enjoyed A Tasca do Confrade, a restaurant near the mural above. They serve the classic seafood dishes of Aveiro in a tavern-like setting, popular with local businessmen. If you happen to like eel, once a popular seafood option in Aveiro, this is the place.
A Tasca do Confrade
Rua dos Marnotos 34 3800-220 Aveiro
Tel: +351 234 386 381
And After? Why not have a lick of Aveiro’s latest venture, turning the flavors of traditional sweets and Portugal’s fruits into artisan ice cream called Gelados in Portugese? You can visit an upscale cafe Gelados de Portugal on Rua João Mendonça, 1 to try the following flavors, including the iconic Ovos Moles. And they have those colorful cookies…Ovos Moles de Aveiro Leite Creme (Crème brûlée with cinnamon) Mirtilo com Framboesa e Chocolate (blueberries and raspberries with chocolate) Banana da Madeira com Petitas de Chocolate (Madeira bananas with chocolate chips) Chocolate com Suspiros e Requeijão com Doce de Abóbora. (chocolate, soft cheese with squash compote)—My favorite!
Where to Go From Here
To the north, Porto is a 29 minute train ride from Aviero’s historic station. The train actually goes to Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto. Driving takes almost twice as long. For cost and route maps, see: Aveiro, Portugal to Porto, Portugal. If you are based in Porto, you can take a coach tour of Aveiro that lasts approximately 4 hours: Aveiro Tour from Porto Including Moliceiro Cruise.
The train to Coimbra, a compelling University town to the south, takes 37 minutes, while driving takes almost an hour. For cost and route maps, see Aveiro to Coimbra.
The train to Lisbon takes 2 hours and 26 minutes and drops you off at Estacao Santa Apolonia or Avenida Stations.
The Bottom Line
Aveiro is an extremely pleasant town to wander, with some unique examples of Portuguese architecture. While you can “do” Aveiro on a day trip, I suggest two or three nights.