LivingTravelTop 5 attractions in Aviero, Portugal

Top 5 attractions in Aviero, Portugal

On the shores of a bird-filled coastal lagoon, the colorful city of Aveiro, in northern Portugal, has a fascinating combination of historic architecture, youthful exuberance, and quiet prosperity, all around a network of picturesque canals unique to the country.

Easily accessible as a day trip from Porto or Coimbra (a direct train takes just half an hour), the city is surprisingly overlooked by most international visitors. However, if you are looking for something a little different from the usual attractions, it is worth a visit. These are the five best things to do in Aviero.

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Take a walk in the canals

No visit to Aviero is complete with a trip through its famous canals: it is not known as the “Venice of Portugal” for nothing! While that nickname might exaggerate things a bit, exploring the city from the water is still well worth it.

The flat-bottomed moliceiro boats, once used to harvest seaweed from the adjacent Ria lagoon, have found new life as brightly decorated tourist gondolas.

Several companies that cover similarly priced tours that make their way under the raised and colorful bridges past grand buildings and humble fishermen’s houses, often adorned with the blue-tiled tile known throughout the country.

If you have time, go on a sunset cruise, which is when the city and the canals look best. Most tours last an hour or two, although there are longer options as well, including some that cross the lagoon to the adjacent sandbars.

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Visit the Convent of Jesus

The most impressive building in Aviero, the Convento de Jesús, is located right in the heart of the old town, opposite the cathedral. Also known as the Convent of Santa Joana, because it is the final resting place of a royal princess and a saint who dedicated her life to the religious order, the structure dates from 1462. The Infanta is so esteemed, as it is known. , the city dedicates a religious festival to him on May 12 of each year.

Finally closed after the death of the last nun in 1874, the building was briefly converted into a university, before becoming a national monument in the early 20th century.

The adjoining church features large gilded wood carvings and an ornately decorated ceiling, but it is the marble tomb of Saint Joana herself that stands out. Complete with mosaics and various panels depicting the life of the princess, it is certainly a highlight for most visitors.

The convent is open from 10 am to 7 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, except holidays. There is a small entrance fee.

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Enjoy delicious local food

Aviero is recognized as a destination for foodies, with several high-quality seafood restaurants serving delicious and inexpensive ocean meals such as clam chowder and eel stew, plus plenty of more traditional fare.

Even more widely known, however, is the leitao (suckling pig) that is the highlight of the region and indeed the country. If you’re a fan of pork, make sure you’re in town for lunch and bring a good appetite!

For those with a sweet tooth, you won’t have to walk long before stumbling upon moon ovos , a light treat made with egg yolk and sugar.

Some of the best restaurants can be found around the Mercado do Peixe, in the city center. Expect to pay a bit more for riverside locations, although food costs are generally low by European standards.

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Rest on the beach between candy-striped houses

Once you’ve filled up with tourist attractions in the city, head across the Ria Lagoon to the beachside spots of Averia. Costa Nova, Barra and Sao Jacinto are very close, and the first two are easily accessible by car or local bus. While you can also drive to Sao Jacinto, it requires a thirty-mile detour around the lagoon, so it’s best to take the short ferry ride or incorporate it into a boat tour.

Costa Nova is the closest stretch of sand to town, famous for the candy-striped houses that dot the shoreline. These palheiros , as they are known, are primarily used as vacation homes and are a great photo stop as you explore the beach.

The sandy beach on this narrow strip of land is on the exposed western side, where the winds and waves of the Atlantic make it a popular spot for surfing. The quieter side of the lagoon does not have a beach, but in any case you can practice kayaking, kitesurfing and other water activities.

You can walk along the beach on a wooden boardwalk, making it easy to track your own piece of sand. While the area can be busy in peak summer months, there is plenty of room for everyone, and it never draws anything like the crowds of the Algarve in the south of the country.

If you head to the top of Costa Nova, you will find yourself in Barra. Called literally for the sandbar it sits on, its most prominent sight is the 200-foot lighthouse located near the end of the beach. It is the highest in the country and dates from 1885. You can visit the lighthouse on Wednesday afternoons, but the area around it is open all year.

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Get back to nature

If you take the car or ferry ride to Sao Jacinto, you will soon find yourself in a tranquil nature reserve, the Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto . While there are plenty of opportunities for sunbathing, body boarding, and other water activities on the Atlantic Beach, many visitors prefer to stroll the nature trails through the dunes.

An approximately five-mile loop trail takes walkers past the abundant bird life, especially between November and February. Specially designed skins allow you to observe birds without disturbing them, and it’s easy to spend a few hours wandering around in a peaceful environment.

A helpful visitor center in the Sao Jacinto municipality can provide more information on trails, bird watching, and other activities in the area. To get there, take the bus from Aveiro to Forte da Barra, and then the ferry to São Jacinto.

Departures vary by day of the week and holidays, so it’s worth checking in advance. Fares for single trips, returns and combination tickets are available on the same site.

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