South of Porto, Portugal, is this petite port city, Aveiro, which has become a destination spot for many tourists. Known for their production of salt and seaweed, it has also become a college town, with a major university that makes up about a quarter of the population. It is also famous for its beautiful canals and streets full of history, as well as its long stretch of white sandy beaches. The best way to navigate around Aveiro is by foot as it is small enough and easy to walk.
Here are some suggestions of things to see and do in Aveiro!
Adventure onto a moliceiro (boat) for a quick tour of the city canals.
In 1808, when channels were cut, it opened the town to the sea and drained all the marshes. Two large breakwaters were added which provided access to the city center. The boats are known as barcos moliceiros and are in fact the traditional flat-bottomed boats used for collecting seaweed from the lagoon. Today they are used to take tourists around to explore the city.
Each boat has a unique painted motif that tells a story. The bow, the monumental part of the boat, is where the visual language is the richest. A monarch or an equestrian figure surrounded by flowers will be in the center part of the panel. Inscriptions related to the painted motif will be in the central part of the boat. In the stern, you may see depictions of popular devotion, military, girls and heartthrobs, as well as regional jobs. The use of intense colors attracts tourists to get up close and study the designs. These interesting moliceiro boats are what drew me to visit Aveiro.
Moliceiro tours leave from Rossio Park and last about 45 minutes. The cost is $10.00 per person
Indulge your sweet tooth with one of Aveiro’s traditional desserts
A famous sweet and sugary treat in Aveiro is called Ovos Moles. The pastry comes from ancient feminine convents in Aveiro. This delicious treat is made of egg yolks and sugar. It’s placed inside a small rice paper casing in nautical shapes, such as shells. Legend has it that Ovos Moles came about from a nun with a sweet-tooth at the Convent of Jesus. She was being forced to fast by her Mother Superior for committing the sin of gluttony. Disobeying orders, she grabbed the only ingredients she could find in the kitchen, eggs and sugar, and began to concoct something tasty. Fearful of being caught she hid the mixture inside what was used to create the communion wafers. The next day, the nuns discovered the confection and deemed it so perfect that it could only be a miracle of God.
Odilia dos Anjos Soares learned about this recipe in 1882 and founded Casa da Ovos Moles. Later she created the brand Maria da Apresentacao da Cruz & Herdeiros. This business has been passed down from generation to generation.
You can visit the store: Maria da Apresentação da Cruz, Herdeiros
Rua D. Jorge Lencastre, 37 3800-142 Aveiro
Take a Walking Tour to see Art Nouveau Architecture
Along the canal on João Mendonça St. in the city center, you will discover Art Nouveau style on the facades of buildings. Art Nouveau style was imported into Aveiro by wealthy immigrants from Brazil. The inspiration for design is from natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers.
As we walked from the Aveiro Cathedral, we saw this artistically designed building from the street. This building is on the corner with Art Nouveau décor where it once operated as a warehouse and grocery store.
Address: Avenida de Santa Joana, 31-43.
Major Pessoa House, located at Barbosa Magalhaes St. #9,10, 11 and Travessa do Rossio, has a variety of flowers and arabesques made in stone and wrought iron design. This was erected on behalf of Mario Belmonte Person in 1907, along with architects Francisco Augusto da Silva Rocha and Ernesto Korrodi. Today it is the New Art Museum (Art Nouveau).
Open Tue.- Fri. 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Weekends from 2:00 pm – 5:00pm. Closed Monday. Entrance Fee Required
Aveiro Rossio Hostel, located at Largo do Rossio #3 and 4, with beautiful windows made of crop and rolling frame stone with a wrought iron balcony.
The Aveiro City Museum is located in the building also known as the Ovos Moles House. It’s located at Joao Mendonca St. #24 and 25. The upper floors of the building stand out because of the curved windows and the flower design trim around the windows.
Republic Museum located at Joao Mendonca St. #11 and 13, stands out by its exuberant façade, dominated by a figurehead of a woman located near the balcony. The decoration uses floral stone motifs with the wrought irons of the windows and balcony guards.
Cooperative Agriculture Building, located at Joao Mendonca St. #5, 6, 7, has an elegant pink polychromatic tile covering the façade of the building.
Take a look closely at these buildings and see the details of the construction to make such elegant designs.
Appreciate Aveiro’s culture through displays of ceramic tiles.
When you first arrive in Aveiro, you will be taken by surprise at the blue azulejos tiles that tell a story of the city of Aveiro at the train station. Many of the tiles will share the professions and crafts that were practiced in the region, as well as a visual of the traditional clothing worn by working class people.
Across the canal, in the central area of Aveiro, you will find images that depict a time in history, all created with tile. Wander the streets and you will see many more murals made of ceramic tiles. When you visit the Praca da Republica, note the square’s grounds are covered in small mosaic tiles. Across the waterway you will see a mosaic tile design of men and women working the salt fields.
Notice the wall panels of the Republic Square, which have a background of orange color tiles representing traditional activities and characteristic symbols of the region, all designed by Vasco Pine Augusto Ferreira White.
Praça Joaquim de Melo Freitas is paved with small mosaic pieces. Many restaurants and shops are located here to provide guests with the enjoyment of the beautiful view.
See the Colorful Street Art
As we arrived into Aveiro by train, a chiseled portrait of a face was scratched into the surface of the building. Vhils is the artist, known to Portuguese as Alexandre Farto. He has been involved with urban communities creating images with a bas-relief caring technique. His artworks can be found in over 30 different countries.
Next to this unique piece of street art is a mural of people meandering about the streets created by Antonio Conceicao.
Another interesting mural is called the Arch of Commerce by Kest, which is painted underneath a archway depicting of birds and fish.
Located on Eduardo Cerquerica St. you will find murals painted by LuckyHell artist. Averio’s street art is fascinating and nicely created works of art throughout the city.
As we walked towards the Republic Square, we came upon a school and along the school walls was a mural created by Ruta Zooter.
Roam the Historical Churches
Aveiro offers several interesting historical attractions to visit. As we walked from the train station to the city center, we began our historical exploration at the main square where you will find the church of Sao Domingos, also known as Aveiro Cathedral.
Aveiro Cathedral, founded in 1423, designed in typical Gothic style, is the most notable perhaps for its façade which is clad in the most beautiful designed ceramic tiles. Inside are white-washed arch ceilings with some of the most detailed wood carvings.
- Address: Rua Batalhão Caçadores Dez, nº 67 • 3810-064 Aveiro
A short stroll to the Praca da Republica, a small square where the city hall is located is the Misericordia Church. This Renaissance church is known for its façade, clad in beautiful polychrome azulejos, blue tiles, and its depiction of historical themes. This church dates back to the 16th century. Explore the interior as you will find more ceramic tile works and an elegantly designed organ which was installed in 1767.
- Address: Rua de Coimbra n.º 27 • 3810-086 Aveiro
Carmelitas Church was built by a noble family for the convent of the Carmo nuns during the 16th century. The construction of this church took over 200 years to complete. Today this church is owned by the city and used for court hearings. You can take a stroll through the grounds where you will see blue tile designs outlining the outer walls.
- Address: Praca Marques de Pombal 3810-133 Aveiro
Capela dos Santo Martires is a very tiny chapel, built in 1670, with a bright yellow outline of the exterior of the building. Inside this tiny chapel you will see a few benches with beautifully decorated religious figures.
- Address: Rua dos Santos Martires and Cais dos Martires
As we began our walk back from the canal, we came upon Church of Our Lady Presentation also known as Igreja da Vera Cruz. The two tile panels with hagiographic motifs adorn the face of the building, which catches your eye as you walk by the church. Although we did not get to enter the church, it is said to have magnificent golden arches.
- Address: Largo da Apresentação 7, 3800-106 Aveiro
Aveiro is worth the visit with so much to see and do. We wish we could have stayed longer to see everything on my list. This city has some of the most interesting architecturally-designed buildings that are only seen from the outside. We enjoyed our day walking and wandering through many of the narrow cobblestone streets admiring the beautiful buildings and the colorful murals. Aveiro is a must see if your travel takes you to Portugal.