Aveiro: The Complete Guide


Aveiro is a picturesque town characterized by a network of numerous canals that are spanned by low-arched bridges. It is situated at the mouth of the Vouga River and separated from the sea by a long sandbar, which protects clusters of islets. The architecture in Aveiro is reminiscent of Flemish style, which contrasts beautifully with the natural surroundings of low-lying willow-reed flatlands, salt marshes, misty dunes, and rice paddies.

The lagoon is a hub of activity, where brightly painted swan-necked boats, called “barcos moliceiros,” traverse the waters. These flat-bottomed vessels carry fishers who harvest seaweed used for fertilizer. They are on the lookout for eels, a regional specialty. Beyond the town, visitors can find extensive salt pits, with fog-white pyramids of drying salt lining the landscape. The entire setting is a feast for the senses, with vibrant colors, unique landscapes, and a rich local culture and history.

History of Aveiro

Aveiro, a city located in the central region of Portugal, has a rich and multifaceted history that spans several centuries, marked by periods of prosperity and decline. Here’s an overview of its historical development:

Early History

Aveiro’s history dates back to the Roman period, evidenced by Roman artifacts found in the area. Initially, it was a small fishing community benefiting from its proximity to a large coastal lagoon, the Ria de Aveiro.

Medieval Period

During the Middle Ages, Aveiro grew in importance due to its salt pans and fishing industry. The town received a charter in 1515 from King D. Manuel I, which officially recognized it as a city and allowed it more autonomy in managing its affairs. The city also became an important port, with its economy centered around maritime trade, salt production, and shipbuilding.

16th to 18th Century

The 16th century was a period of expansion and wealth, driven by the salt industry and the growing importance of its port for international trade, especially with Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. The construction of various religious buildings, like the Convento de Jesus, during this period reflects Aveiro’s prosperity.

However, the city faced significant setbacks in the 17th and 18th centuries due to sediment build-up in the lagoon, which hindered naval access and led to economic decline. Efforts were made to clear the channels, but these were only partially successful.

19th Century Industrialization

The 19th century brought industrialization and modernization, including the development of railways. Aveiro’s connection to the national railway network in 1864 marked a turning point, revitalizing the city’s economy and restoring its status as a vital commercial and industrial hub. This period saw growth in the urban fabric of the city, with expansion beyond the old city walls.

20th Century to Present

The 20th century continued to see growth and modernization in Aveiro, including significant urban development. The University of Aveiro, established in 1973, has been pivotal in transforming the city into a vibrant academic and technological center. Today, Aveiro is known for its unique historical architecture blended with modern influences, its continuing salt production, and its tourism, especially involving the moliceiros (traditional boats) in the canals.

Aveiro’s history of maritime trade, salt production, and industrial growth has given it a unique cultural heritage, making it one of Portugal’s most interesting and attractive cities to visit. The city continues to embrace both its historical roots and its modern developments, offering a rich tapestry of experiences for residents and visitors alike.

Visiting Aveiro for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Aveiro on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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1 Best places to See in Aveiro

This complete guide to Aveiro not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Aveiro and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Convento de Jesus em Aveiro

Mosteiro De Jesus Museu De Aveiro
CC BY-SA 3.0 / David Machado
The convent’s current facade, which boasts three doorways with stunning frontons, bearing the royal coat of arms on the central one, dates back to the 18th century. The building has retained several former convent areas, including the atrium that serves as the entrance hall, the 15th century cloister adorned with a collection of Renaissance columns, […]
Location: Aveiro Museum, Avenida Santa Joana, Aveiro, Portugal | Hours: 10am-12.30pm & 1.30-6pm Tue-Sun | Price: adult/child €5/free | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Convento de Jesus em Aveiro

Best Time to Visit Aveiro

Aveiro, with its mild climate and charming canals, is a wonderful destination to visit throughout the year. However, the best time to visit might depend on what you’re looking for in terms of weather, events, and crowd size. Here’s a seasonal breakdown to help you plan your trip:

Spring (March to May): Spring is a fantastic time to visit Aveiro as the city begins to warm up and the days get longer. The weather is generally mild, making it ideal for strolling around the city and exploring the canals by traditional “moliceiro” boats. Spring is also less crowded than summer, allowing for a more relaxed experience.

Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Aveiro, attracting visitors with its warm temperatures and sunny days. This is the best time to enjoy outdoor activities, such as beach visits near the city or cycling around the lagoon. Aveiro hosts various summer festivals, including the colorful Festa de São Gonçalinho in June. However, be prepared for larger crowds and higher accommodation prices during this time.

Fall (September to November): Autumn is another great time to visit Aveiro, as the weather remains pleasant and the summer crowds begin to thin out. The temperatures are comfortable for outdoor exploration and enjoying the city’s sights without the peak season rush. This season also offers beautiful autumn colors in the parks and along the canals.

Winter (December to February): Winter in Aveiro is mild compared to many other European destinations, with temperatures rarely falling below freezing. It’s a quieter time for tourism, which means fewer crowds and potentially lower prices for accommodation. The city’s Christmas lights and decorations add a festive atmosphere, making it a cozy time to visit, though you should be prepared for some rainy days.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Aveiro depends on your preferences for weather and crowd levels. If you enjoy warmer weather and vibrant city life, summer is ideal. If you prefer fewer tourists and mild temperatures, spring and fall are excellent choices.

Average Temperatures in Aveiro

  • January 16°C 16
  • February 17°C 15
  • March 20°C 13
  • April 23°C 12
  • May 24°C 8
  • June 25°C 4
  • July 29°C 1
  • August 30°C 1
  • September 28°C 7
  • October 26°C 20
  • November 19°C 19
  • December 17°C 20

How to get to Aveiro

Aveiro, often referred to as the “Venice of Portugal” due to its picturesque canals, is easily accessible by various means of transport. Here’s how you can get to Aveiro:

  1. By Air:
    • The nearest major airport to Aveiro is Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto, which is about 70 kilometers to the north. This airport serves both international and domestic flights.
    • From the airport, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or use public transportation to reach Aveiro. The drive typically takes about an hour.
  2. By Car:
    • Driving to Aveiro can be very straightforward. From Porto, you can take the A1 motorway, which is the main north-south highway in Portugal. The journey takes about 50-60 minutes.
    • From Lisbon, the drive takes about 2.5 hours via the A1 motorway heading north.
  3. By Train:
    • Aveiro has excellent train connections from major cities like Porto and Lisbon. Trains from Porto to Aveiro are frequent, departing from São Bento or Campanhã stations, and the journey takes about an hour.
    • From Lisbon, you can catch a train from Santa Apolónia or Oriente stations to Aveiro. The journey takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Both high-speed “Alfa Pendular” services and regular “Intercidades” (Intercity) services are available.
  4. By Bus:
    • Regular bus services connect Aveiro with Porto, Lisbon, and other Portuguese cities. The main bus operator is Rede Expressos, and the bus station in Aveiro is centrally located, making it convenient for reaching the city center.
    • The bus from Porto takes about an hour and a half, while from Lisbon, the journey can take about 3 hours.
  5. By Taxi or Rideshare:
    • Taxis and rideshare services like Uber are available from Porto and can provide a direct route to Aveiro. This option offers convenience and flexibility but is more expensive than public transportation.

For those without a car, taking the train is particularly convenient due to the frequency of services and the speed of the journey, especially from Porto. The train stations are well-connected, and trains in Portugal are comfortable and reliable, making them a popular choice for travel between major cities.