Many visitors to Portugal will go to the capital Lisbon and perhaps even Porto. The sunseekers head to Algarve in the south. But much of the rest of the country is overlooked. So if you’re looking for something off the beaten path in Portugal, Aveiro is worth the visit. Aveiro is a coastal city along the Silver Coast, just 75km south of Porto. It is full of colour and charm, steeped in maritime history and culture. A true taste of authentic Portugal.
While visiting family this past summer, I took the chance to explore this charming city on a day trip. I packed it all in one day but Aveiro would be best savoured slowly. Here’s my photo diary and recap of how I spent the day off the beaten track in Portugal in the city of Aveiro.
Free Walking Tour
The first thing I Googled once I decided to visit Aveiro was “free walking tour.” I didn’t have high hopes since it isn’t a major tourist spot. So when Suzy’s website popped up, Aveiro Free Walking Tour, I immediately added it to my agenda. She is a passionate local wanting to share Aveiro’s history and charm with visitors. She runs daily free walking tours and that day, I joined 3 Spanish tourists for the 2-hour walk around Aveiro. Suzy pointed out important local landmarks and regaled us with folk tales. She talked about the hardships the city went through and the rise and fall of the local sea salt production.
One festival she described that would be fun to visit is the Festa de São Gonçalinho. Each year in celebration of the saint, people climb the steeple of the church of São Gonçalinho and toss down cavacas. They are a sugar-coated hard-shelled cake the shaped like a bowl. Spectators below use nets and inverted umbrellas to catch the local sweets, falling from the skies. And if they take them to the local restaurants during the festival, they are filled with free wine. Suzy did a great job showing us around Aveiro and sharing her love of the city. This is the best way to discover the city and get the most out of your visit.
Aveiro is dubbed the Venice of Portugal due to the colourful boats called moliceiros. The gondola-like boats motor along the two canals providing visitors with different views. Instead of singing gondoliers, sexual innuendos painted onto the boats provide enough entertainment.
From left to right they say: “My husband’s is bigger and thicker,” “He doesn’t know how to thread the worm,” “I don’t know what poked me.”
The city has beautiful examples of Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture. They are well marked with heritage signs indicating they are of important cultural value. In addition, the buildings are accentuated by the colourful painted tiles. All around Aveiro, even the simplest of houses are covered in tiles. Since they are close to the sea, the tiles help protect the traditional construction materials from disintegrating. I was annoyed at myself for not bringing my DSLR camera to Portugal. It’s a shame because the city is so picturesque that these iPhone photos I’m sharing here don’t do it justice.
The locale sweet delicacy is called ovos moles which translates to ‘soft eggs’. The recipe is simple: egg yolk, sugar and water, but the key is in the technique. The ovos moles are encapsulated in thin seashell-shaped wafers. It’s a must try when in the region but this dessert can be found all over Portugal and in a variety of other desserts.
What I Missed
My only regret is that I wasn’t able to visit the beach of Costa Nova. It’s lined by picturesque colourfully striped beach houses. And the lagoon is a hotspot for wind sports. So next time I’m back in Portugal visiting family, it’ll be at the top of my list.
Hope you enjoyed the little tour around Aveiro. Before I started researching day trips near my family’s home, I had no idea this was so close by. Even my parents who had grown up in the area had never been. After I left, they did the same day trip and discovered a bit more of their own country.
Have you ever been surprised by a hidden gem that was right under your nose the whole time? Share it in the comments below.