Aveiro, Portugal | Explore Portugal’s Little Venice

Aveiro Portugal canal boat detail

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Take a Stroll Along the Scenic Canals

The scenic canals criss-crossing the lagoon in Aveiro have nick named the vivid town the “Little Venice of Portugal”. Like its big Italian sister, the maze of waterways may be explored on a sightseeing tour in beautifully decorated gondolas.  After our long weekend in Costa Nova, Portugal’s prettiest village we had a few hours left before we needed to return to the airport in Porto, enough time to take a stroll through the charming streets and along the scenic canals of Aveiro.

Admire the Architecture!

We started our short expedition at Park Jardim de Alboi, just around the corner from the main canal. The small square was surrounded by low, residential houses their façades entirely covered in tiles with psychedelic and interesting patterns of the 60’s and 70’s similar to the motifs we had seen on the houses in Costa Nova

Aveiro Portugal azulejos
Aveiro Portugal door detail
Aveiro Portugal window detail
Aveiro Portugal tiles detail

Take a ride on a Moliceiro

After a short walk we arrived at the canal surrounding the heart of Aveiro’s old town on three sides. We immediately noticed the large gondolas, called moliceiros, floating along others lay anchored awaiting passengers for a ride through little Venice.  The wooden boats were used to harvest seaweed in the estuary, now serve as a main tourist attraction in Aveiro.  The gondolas are not only larger in size to their Venice counterparts, they also typically displayed peculiar paintings of women in various states of undress at one end and religious scenes on the other end.  Sadly we did not have enough time for a ride on the moliceiros, instead we headed for the bridge that would take us into the historical town centre.

The Historical Town Centre

Just before the bridge we discovered an impressive colourful, relief painting crafted out of glazed tiles, depicting local life and history. Crossing the bridge we took a moment to watch the gondolas drift underneath, admittedly they did not quite match the charming gondolas we had seen in Venice. Following the edge of the canal we turned left, admiring the grand and stately art nouveau houses, some had been turned into museums, others into shops and restaurants.

More Cute Houses

Strolling through the town centre, we stumbled onto other cute houses, ancient churches and the main market hall, offering fresh fish caught by local fisherman in the lagoon and off shore along the Atlantic coast. One house in particular caught our eye, painted in bright yellow and blue it stood out in a row of otherwise subtle abodes and I remembered it from my hotel search for our stay.

Across Cobbled Streets

Again we reached the main bridge across the main channel, walking across and uphill on the cobbled streets, laid in interesting patterns. Jerome stopped to gaze through the window of a shut pastry shop at the local delicacies like Castanhas de Ouvo and Berbigaos (filled pastries). We then passed a beautiful church with the famous blue and white tiles, common in Portugal.

We will be Back!

Before returning to our car our stroll took us past the university and a residential area, with further houses, donning crazy patterned tiles. We were happy to explore Aveiro, Portugal’s little Venice and would have loved delved deeper into this vivid town, an overnight’s stay would have been ideal to discover more of its charm and beauty.


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3 thoughts on “Aveiro, Portugal | Explore Portugal’s Little Venice

  1. We’d done Aveiro as a day trip from Porto last year. We found it to be pretty , but thought that the moniker if ‘Venice of Portugal’ was a tad bit exaggerated 🙂
    After lunch, we took a public bus to Costa Nova, and spent a couple of hours there before taking the bus back. It was truly picturesque, especially those coloured houses, and then the wooden walkway to the beach.

  2. Can’t wait to head to Portugal and check this out! I love reading your bits about daytrips. Thank you.

  3. I just love how “portuguese” it is — there is no place with tiles and architecture quite like that country. Honestly, its a rare thing in an homogeneous world.

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