This Coastal City Is Called the 'Venice of Portugal' — With Gorgeous Canals and Colorful Boats

Aveiro, Portugal, is worth a day trip and more.

<p>Antonio Duarte/Getty Images</p>

Antonio Duarte/Getty Images

If you ever find yourself in Porto, Portugal's major city to the north, do yourself a favor and get out of town for a day. Specifically, take a trip to Aveiro, known as the "Venice of Portugal."

Aveiro, located along Portugal's Silver Coast, is a charming destination beloved for its colorful boats, azulejo-adorned buildings, and, of course, gorgeous canals, which travelers can walk along or ride through on a leisurely afternoon.

"Aveiro is a great day trip from Porto, and there's a line that runs daily," Dale Ott, a certified sommelier and founder of Nossa Imports, which specializes in Mexican and Portuguese wine, shared with Travel + Leisure. "While it is a major university city, the charming historic parts of the municipality are small in area and accessible, so you could have a four- or five-hour day here from Porto and make your way back on the train."

But if you happen to have more time, it's a place deserving of an entire trip, too.

"Aveiro is a beautifully vibrant place that was once considered a city of passage, but has since earned the title of 2024 Portuguese Capital of Culture," Nuno Silva, an on-the-ground expert for the holiday platform TravelLocal, said. "Transformations over recent years have made it an ideal destination for longer stays, with a cultural diversity that defies the stigma of it being 'just a stepping stone city." Silva added, "The city offers a wide range of activities and sights to captivate visitors and create a memorable experience."

Here's everything you need to know to plan the perfect vacation in Aveiro, Portugal.

<p>Courtesy of 1877 Estrela Palace</p>

Courtesy of 1877 Estrela Palace

Best Hotels and Resorts

Hotel Aveiro Palace

Located in the heart of Aveiro, Hotel Aveiro Palace combines historic charm with modern comfort. The property overlooks the town's central canal, giving guests who choose a riverside room a fantastic view. Don't miss the buffet breakfast before stepping out to explore.

Meliá Ria Hotel & Spa

Meliá Ria Hotel & Spa, which sits by the Ria de Aveiro lagoon, is an ideal spot for those looking to stay close to the action while also getting pampered. The contemporary hotel is home to a luxurious spa offering an array of treatments, along with an indoor pool ready for anyone who wants to take a dip.

1877 Estrela Palace

Find romance and grandeur at 1877 Estrela Palace. As the property itself describes, it's filled with "maximalist charm," housing bedrooms draped in soft, velvet, technicolor furnishings and gold detailing throughout. And because the hotel has just nine rooms and suites, every guest will feel like it's their own private palace.

Hotel das Salinas

Hotel das Salinas is an excellent place for travelers hoping to experience the ultimate in Portuguese hospitality. This boutique property comes with 16 well-appointed rooms, views of the canals, a fantastic buffet breakfast (included in the stay), and access to the on-site pub, open every night until midnight.

<p>DaLiu/Getty Images</p>

DaLiu/Getty Images

Best Things to Do

Cruise the canals on a moliceiro.

Taking a scenic canal cruise on a traditional moliceiro boat is a must. "No trip to Aveiro is complete without a cruise along the canal on a moliceiro vessel (typical boat in the area), taking in the sights and enjoying the atmosphere," said Silva. There are plenty of guided tours you can get on for as little as $13.

Explore the Aveiro Museum.

Explore the region's fantastic history at the Aveiro Museum, located inside an old convent. Here, visitors can discover an impressive collection of religious artifacts, including the tomb of Princess Saint Joanna, colorful azulejos, and more fine art. It's open every day but Mondays, making it easy to pop by for a visit.

Visit Praia da Costa Nova.

Take a quick 15-minute drive from Aveiro to Praia da Costa Nova to admire its famed striped houses lining the sandy shore. "These charming, colorful striped houses were traditionally painted in shades of red, ochre, and black and used as warehouses for storing fishermen nets and other materials," explained Silva. "They now provide a stunning backdrop along the coastline, attracting plenty of photo opportunities." Silva has one more tip for while you're there: "Don't forget to try the local seafood at one of the beachfront restaurants."

Wander through the fish market.

Come experience the fun of Aveiro's active fish market, where local purveyors haul in their daily catch to sell to locals — and tourists, too. If you're feeling peckish, see if you can find some bacalhau (salted cod), a Portuguese specialty, and grab some tinned fish to bring home with you.

Discover the salt ponds.

Learn all about the ancient methods of salt production and the role it played in Aveiro's history at the salt ponds. Here, guests can visit the open-air Troncalhada Ecomuseum to see the harvest in action and pick up a bit of salt before leaving, thanks to local companies like Cale do Oiro.

<p>Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images</p>

Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Best Restaurants

O Bairro

Find traditional Portuguese bites with a modern twist at O Bairro in the center of town. Share a few small plates, including garlic shrimp or salad, and move onto fresh seafood like the daily market fish. Wash it all down with local wines.

Restaurante Dóri

Located along the seashore, Restaurante Dóri offers a variety of meals, but the real star here is the ultra-fresh fish, including its fritada de pescado (fried fish), which the Michelin Guide calls a not-to-miss meal.


Plan an upscale evening at Salpoente, a fine-dining restaurant housed in a former salt warehouse. Here, you can dive into stellar seafood like smoked eel and fish filet, which can be enjoyed one by one from the extensive tasting menu.

<p>Aliaksandr Antanovich/Getty Images</p>

Aliaksandr Antanovich/Getty Images

How to Get There

By Plane: The closest airport to Aveiro is Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (a.k.a. the Porto International Airport). It's serviced by several major airlines with flights from all over the world, including direct routes from the U.S. to Porto. From here, you can either rent a car or take the train right to Aveiro.

By Train: Travelers can also reach Aveiro by taking the train from Porto. The journey takes about an hour each way, making it easy to get back and forth for a day trip or longer. Coming from Lisbon? You can take the train from the Santa Apolonia station to Aveiro, which takes about 2.5 hours each way.

By Car: Travelers can also arrive by car via the A1 highway from Porto to Aveiro, which takes about 45 minutes. Or, they can drive the 2.5 hours from Lisbon by hopping on the A8 to the A17 to N235.

<p>DaLiu/Getty Images</p>

DaLiu/Getty Images

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Aveiro is during Portugal's summer months (May to November). "Aveiro has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters," said Silva. However, as Silva noted, its shoulder seasons are quite lovely, too. "The hottest month in Aveiro is August, so if you’re looking for milder temperatures, I’d recommend visiting during the shoulder season months of May and June or September to November.”

But the summer wins out, thanks to the plentiful festivals, including the Festival of the Canals, which features art shows, music performances, and plenty of dancing.

Related: The Best Times to Visit Portugal, According to a Local

<p>Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images</p>

Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

How to Get Around

By Car: Having a car is a nice luxury while visiting Aveiro as it allows you to not only explore the town, but also see the surrounding area, including the beaches. Parking is usually fairly straightforward, though you may have a tough time during the peak travel season.

By Public Transportation: Aveiro has an excellent public transportation system, including buses and trains, which allow travelers to get around with ease. However, the city center is also rather small and walkable, so you can always arrive and see it on foot.

By Uber: Uber is also available in Aveiro. All travelers need to do is ensure they have the app downloaded before their trip. 

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