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I recently took a fantastic day trip from Porto to Aveiro, a beautiful canal city near the coast. In this guide, I’ll share what to do in Aveiro and how to visit as a day trip from Porto.
Although there are countless things to do in Porto, I urge you to leave for at least one day trip into Northern Portugal. Although visiting the Douro Valley from Porto was my favourite day out, I can say Aveiro was a close second.
Where is Aveiro and why to visit?
Aveiro is conveniently located just an hour from Porto. This small city at the mouth of the Ria de Aveiro is known for its canals, ‘gondolas’ and salt pans. With a long history of salt production, pottery making and fishing, it’s a traditional city with these things still practised today.
Throw in calçada Portugues (black and white limestone pavements arranged so the tiles create images from Aveiro’s naval history) and Art Nouveau buildings and what do you have? One of the prettiest and most captivating cities in Northern Portugal.
In this guide, I’ll cover things to do in Aveiro as well as Costa Nova not far away.
Read next: 16 best day trips from Porto
Read next: how to spend 3 days in Porto, Portugal
Is taking an Aveiro day trip from Porto worth it?
Yes – if you’re in the mood for a leisurely day exploring a small city without loads of must-see attractions. If you’re expecting the entertainment factor of Lisbon or Porto, of course you’ll be disappointed. A few people told me they’d been underwhelmed by Aveiro, probably because it gets hyped as the ‘Venice of Portugal, just like Madeira Island gets dubbed the ‘Hawaii of Europe’.
It’s nothing like Venice, but it’s still very pleasant.
For a relaxed day wandering the canals, sampling local food and visiting a few museums, it’s certainly worth a visit.
If you’re keen for a busier day adding Costa Nova (a seaside town known for its colourful beach huts) to your itinerary, Aveiro is even more deserving of a trip. This excursion was a highlight even if it required slightly rushing to include it.
How to get to Aveiro from Porto
By train: the slow train departs hourly, taking 1 hour 20 minutes from São Bento station or 1 hour 10 minutes from Campanhã station and costing €7 return. You don’t need to book; just buy tickets from the counter in the station.
There’s also a fast train taking 50 minutes but I believe this is around €15 each way.
By bus: You can also take a Flixbus from 99 cents (although most are €2.99) also taking just over 1 hour. Book your ticket here.
By car: If you’re thinking of hiring a car in Porto, use Rentalcars.com. The drive to Aveiro should take 1 hour.
Day tour: take an organised tour from Porto inc. boat ride for €40
Things to do in Aveiro, Portugal
Whether you’re spending one day in Aveiro or longer, here are the top things to do in no particular order, although it’s fair to say the first is the most famous!
Take a moliceiros ride
When you Google ‘Aveiro’, you’ll immediately be greeted with photos of the attractive boats that cruise the waterways. Known as moliceiros, these gondola-style boats are named after moliço, a type of seaweed traditionally used to fertilise land for agriculture.
Taking a moliceiro ride is easily the most popular activity in Aveiro. Arrange one with a vendor for a cost of around €5-10 for 45 minutes.
But beware – the creepy pictures! These picturesque boats were the last place I was expecting to see something lewd. I noticed one that looked a bit odd and used my camera zoom to take a closer look.
It turns out that most of the moliceiros have images of women being objectified or harassed alongside rude captions. So bizarre. Whether you want to take a ride and continue their upkeep is down to you!
Eat ovos mole
When I learnt that Aveiro has its own typical dessert, I headed straight to a cafe.
However, when I tried ovos moles (translating as soft eggs), I discovered why they’re perhaps not widespread. They’re very – how to say – eggy. Many Portuguese desserts are, and who doesn’t love a pastel de nata?, but these are nothing but sweetened egg yolk in a wafer.
As you can tell, I wasn’t a huge fan of ovos moles but they’re worth trying. They come shaped like clams and fish; a nod to Aveiro’s fishing history.
Related read: what to eat in Porto, Portugal
The most famous cafe to try different varieties of ovos moles is…
Even if ovos moles don’t sound up your street, it’s worth visiting Confeitaria Peixinho. This attractive confectionary counter open since 1856 has high ceilings, painted walls and chandeliers. They sell not just the original ovos moles but also a huge range of cakes and meringues containing the sweet mixture.
I purchased a meringue which I enjoyed more than the original ovos moles. There are endless pastries to browse including ones shaped like the moliceiros boats outside.
Address: Rua de Coimbra 9, 3810-086 Aveiro.
Take a trip to Costa Nova
One of the best things to do in Aveiro is take a trip to this beautiful beach town 12 kilometres away.
Initially, I didn’t think I’d have time to visit unless I stayed the night in Aveiro. However, it’s just a 15-minute drive away and you only need an hour to stroll the promenade of Casas Típicas da Costa Nova (colourful beach houses) so it’s possible to visit during a day trip to Aveiro from Porto.
Costa Nova is the peninsular connected to Aveiro by the A25 Expressway. The main attraction is the aesthetically-pleasing promenade but there’s also a long sandy beach and an attractive lighthouse (Farol de Aveiro) in Praia da Barra, the section of beach between the estuary and the port.
In summer, you can practice watersports here and, on Wednesday afternoons, you can climb 271 steps to the top of the lighthouse.
It’s also possible to catch a ferry in peak season to Dunas de São Jacinto, a 700-hectare nature reserve with forest, marshes and sand dunes. You’ll need an extra day for this if you want to properly explore Aveiro, too.
Getting to Costa Nova from Aveiro: You can either find a local taxi or use one of the three taxi apps available in Portugal: Uber, Bolt or FREENOW. As the second two are cheaper, I called a FREENOW there for €5 but, as there were no cars available on the way back, I had to get a Bolt for €7.
There’s also a local bus but I hear this takes 45 minutes to 1 hour rather than the 15 minutes a taxi takes. If you’d rather save money, it costs around €2 and departs from the bus stop across the road from Menina Da Ria hotel.
If you take a Porto to Aveiro guided tour, a stop at Costa Nova will be included.
Praia da Costa Nova (Costa Nova Beach)
Another reason to visit Costa Nova is Praia da Costa Nova. As I visited in November, I took a windy walk on the sand before returning to Aveiro. On a summer’s day, I imagine it’s popular with holidaymakers.
Suggestion for 2 days in Aveiro – if you’re staying the night in Aveiro rather than taking a day trip from Porto, it would be nice to spend one day exploring Aveiro at your leisure and another one in Costa Nova do Prado. This way, you can visit the vibrant beach houses, Costa Nova Beach and take a ferry to Dunas de São Jacinto nature reserve without worrying about time.
Spot Aveiro murals
I wasn’t expecting a street art hub from a small and traditional Portuguese city but I was pleasantly surprised by the murals I saw there.
The first mural pictured above is right across from Aveiro train station. The image is made from chipped-away paintwork on a red brick wall, creating a man’s face. Although I couldn’t see an artist tag, I believe it’s by Vhils, an artist I learnt about while discovering the Porto street art.
The second is this mural of local fisherpeople made from painted tiles. I particularly like how this piece connects to its location and shares the story of Aveiro. Find it beside Canal Central de Aveiro.
In addition to the traditional shops and markets, there’s a modern shopping centre in Aveiro. Forum Aveiro doesn’t quite have the feel of a regular mall: it’s built with red stone and typical calçada Portugues paved floors. With shops, restaurants and a cinema, it’s worth a quick wander when visiting Aveiro.
Address: Rua Batalhão, Caçadores 10, 3810-064 Aveiro.
Coming from Porto, my benchmark for beautiful architecture was sky-high yet I was still impressed by the buildings in Aveiro. As my day trip to Aveiro from Porto was my first excursion from the city, I thought perhaps everywhere was this beautiful but, since taking other day trips, I’ve realised Aveiro is pretty special.
The first tiled building you’ll see is this blue and white one next to the train station. The azulejos depict scenes from Portuguese history.
Art Nouveau walking trail
Listing the buildings as a thing to do in Aveiro may sound like a cop-out but I assure you it’s worth it. There are no less than 28 Art Nouveau buildings in Aveiro, many surrounding the central canal and one (fittingly) containing the Art Noveau Museum.
The Art Nouveau buildings of Aveiro can be discovered whilst following this walking route.
Eat fresh seafood
Eating delicious seafood is not just one of the best things to do in Aveiro but Portugal in general. As a coastal city, fishing is still a valuable profession for many locals and, judging by the busy seafood restaurants on Praça do Peixe (Fish Market Square), business is booming!
Before meeting Ponte dos Botirões (Circular Pedestrian Bridge), the canal separates two pretty streets, Cais dos Botirões and Cais dos Mercanteis. The only thing to rival their selection of seafood restaurants is the spectacular views you’ll soak up during a leisurely lunch.
I ate at Faros Gourmet which I can recommend for the quality of the seafood, although the service was a little slow. Luckily, I was in no rush and I’m guessing you won’t be either as there are only so many activities in Aveiro to fill your time.
I ate squid stuffed with a pork and spinach mix. It was delicious (although sadly quite small) washed down with a glass of vinho branco (white wine). I paid €15.
Mercado do Peixe
This fish market dating back to 1904 is a must-see in Aveiro but only in the AM. It’s where freshly caught seafood is brought in by fishermen and sold to locals and restaurants. By lunchtime, it’s all packed up. Swing by early if you can!
Address: Largo da Praça do Peixe 1, 3800-243 Aveiro.
Sé de Aveiro (Church of St. Dominic)
Those who appreciate religious sites may wish to visit the Church of St. Dominic. Also known as Sé Catedral de Aveiro, this building was a Dominican convent in the 1400s.
Pop your head inside to see an impressive altarpiece built in 1559. Entry is free and the church is open from 9am-7pm.
Address: Rua Batalhão Caçadores 10, 3810-082 Aveiro.
Check out Aveiro’s museums
Some of the best places in Aveiro for culture and history fans include…
Beside the Cathedral is Aveiro Museum, housed inside an ancient convent building. If you only have time for one museum in Aveiro, this is the one I’d pick.
As well as Renaissance paintings, jewellery, stonework and tiles, you can learn about Portuguese Princess Joana who spent most of her life resisting her parents’ efforts to marry her to a suitable man (Richard III of England). I admire her efforts! She’s now the patron saint of Aveiro with a feast held in her honour each May.
Address: Av. Santa Joana, 3810-164 Aveiro.
Opening times: 10am-6pm with lunchtime closure from 12.30-1.30pm. Closed Mondays.
Museu de Arte Nova
To see beautiful artwork and more beautiful tiles, head inside the Art Noveau Museum. Located inside the old Major Pessoa House, it focuses on art created between 1890 and 1910 including fashion and furniture. There’s also a hidden tearoom, Casa de Chá, and garden. Entry is €1.
Address: Rua Barbosa Magalhães 9-11, 3800 Aveiro.
Opening times: 10am-6pm (with lunchtime closure from 12.30-1.30pm), Tues-Sun; closed Mon.
Museu Marítimo de Ílhavo
This museum in the next town along from Aveiro (10 minutes’ drive away) is dedicated to cod fishing. Inside this impressive modern building, you’ll find lifesize boats that would travel to Scandinavia and Newfoundland to catch cod, and learn about the gruelling job of the fishermen. There’s also a huge aquarium of live cod inside.
Note, only some of the exhibits are in English. Entry is €6.
Address: Av. Dr. Rocha Madail 193, Ílhavo, Aveiro.
Opening times: 10am-6pm (with lunchtime closure from 1-2pm), Tues-Sat; 2pm-6pm, Sun; closed Mon.
Vista Alegre Museum
To see spectacular pottery and learn about the porcelain industry in Portugal, pay a visit to this traditional village home to a thriving community of potters. The original families still reside here and can teach you to make pottery during interactive workshops.
Entry to the museum is €6.
Address: Lugar da, 3830-292 Ílhavo, Portugal.
Opening times: 10am-7pm daily.
See the salt flats (Salinas de Aveiro)
If you’ve finished with the main things to do in Aveiro, take a short walk to open-air museum, Ecomuseu Marinha da Troncalhada. It’s not a particularly nice walk along the main road, but it’s worth it on a sunny day when the sky reflects in the stretching salt pans.
These active salt marshes kept Aveiro prosperous in the 12th century when this small settlement provided salt for the whole of Portugal. Although you won’t learn much about them during a solo visit, you may spot interesting birdlife. The other option is a guided tour to learn about their history.
Although they’re no longer used for mass production, artisanal salt is still sourced and sold in Aveiro. Buy some ‘flor de sal’ to take home.
Marinha da Noeirinha spa
Although it was closed during my November visit, a fun option for the summer months is taking a dip in the nearby saline spa. It’s thought the rich minerals aid various ailments. Visit the leisure zone at Marinha da Noeirinha and relax on the sandy ‘beach’ beside the spas after you’ve taken a dip.
The spa costs €5 for half-day entry. Remember to pack swimwear for your Aveiro day trip.
If you’re looking for a quirky place to stay overnight, you can opt to sleep in one of the luxurious huts on the banks of the spa.
Hire a bike and explore the countryside
Although I ran out of time for this activity in Aveiro, two of my friends visited the day before and can vouch for it. Many tourists don’t know but there’s a 48km cycle path winding through the marshy land near Aveiro named Ecológica Ciclável.
Hire a free Loja BUGA bike provided by Aveiro City Council. The service is available from 10am-7pm and includes a bike lock. Head to Passadiços Ria de Aveiro just north of the city and cycle along riverside boardwalks, spotting birdlife and soaking up the views.
If you spend a day in Aveiro and don’t visit Costa Nova, consider exploring Aveiro in the morning and going cycling during the afternoon.
Shop for souvenirs
Pick up some souvenirs along Rua Joao Mendonça before ending your Aveiro day trip. Despite being a small city, it has a lovely selection of shops. A Casa da Rosa, inside a purple-tiled building, sells beautiful homeware, trinkets, clothes and jewellery.
Top things to buy in Aveiro include flor de sal (salt crystals farmed from Aveiro’s salt pans) and takeaway ovos de moles… If you’re a fan!
Address: R. José Estevão n36, 3800-202 Aveiro.
Suggested Aveiro day trip itinerary
9am: depart Porto by train or bus
10am: arrive in Aveiro and hail a taxi to Costa Nova
10.30am: snap photos of the colourful beach houses and take a walk to the beach
12.30pm: call a taxi back to Aveiro and head to a local restaurant for lunch
2pm: take a moliceiros ride along the canal
3pm: head to some museums of interest or shop for souvenirs
4pm: head to a cafe for coffee and ovos moles
5pm: pay a visit to Salinas de Aveiro salt flats
6pm: catch a train back to Porto or go for dinner in Aveiro before heading home.
Alternative itinerary – explore Aveiro in the morning then hire a bike and cycle to Passadiços Ria de Aveiro in the afternoon.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoy your day trip to Aveiro from Porto and enjoy this pretty Portuguese city as much as I did.
Visiting from Porto? Check out my numerous Porto blog posts.
- The best day trips from Porto
- Is Porto worth visiting?
- The best bars for Porto nightlife
- Vegan restaurants in Porto
- How to take a Douro Valley day trip
- 3 day Porto itinerary
- Everything to see & do in Porto
- The cutest cafes and coffee shops in Porto
- Where to eat Porto’s best pastéis de nata
Maderia island blogs:
See you next time,
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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING PORTUGAL
Getting there by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
For trains, I use Omio. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website. This is also a handy tool to compare trains and buses in one search.
For buses, I use FlixBus. Find journeys between European countries from €1!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s some of the most affordable insurance out there but still covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!