Aveiro, Portugal

We were able to spend a couple days in Aveiro, Portugal in March.  It was our first trip to Portugal and we were exploring cities that we felt we can retire to.  Aveiro is on the short list.

First, the details.  Aveiro is a city of approximately 80,000 people in the Centro region of Portugal.  Once an important city for salt and seaweed harvesting, Aveiro is now better known as a popular tourist destination.  Known as “the Portuguese Venice,” the coastal city is built around a couple canals where former salt and seaweed harvesting boats called moliceiros now carry tourists along the river.

Aveiro Canal Sunset

Now, a tourist attraction isn’t what we’re looking for as a place to make a new life.  That being said, Aveiro had a lot that appealed to us.  First, it’s a beautiful city.  Aveiro is famous for its art deco and art nouveau architecture, so the buildings are quite interesting.  There’s plenty of calçada, the wonderful patterned pavements of Portugal, and azulejos, the blue and white tiles common throughout the country.

Azulejos

Aveiro also has plenty of green space.  One of our favorites was the Parque Dom Pedro Infante, also known as the City Park.  It’s a beautiful place just a few blocks from the canals and a wonderful place to spend time.

Parque Dom Pedro

Culturally, there’s a lot to do.  Aveiro is home to the University of Aveiro and, as you’d expect, there’s plenty of things to do to keep the 15,000 students entertained.  The Museu de Aveiro was once a monastery and home to Aveiro’s most famous resident, Princess St. Joana.  It has a great collection of sacred art.

Museu de Aveiro

There are plenty of good restaurants.  Being a coastal city, seafood is plentiful in Aveiro.  One specialty in Aveiro is eels from the lagoon.  We didn’t try them, but we did go for the city’s famous sweet, ovos moles.  It’s a tasty mixture of egg yolks and sugar.  Ovos moles are served either in small shell-shaped casings or in small wooden barrels.  We opted for a barrel and shared.

Ovos Moles

We also found a great little cafe for breakfast and a popular hamburger joint, both just minutes from the canal.

There were a few things we weren’t able to experience in our limited time in Aveiro.  There are two popular beaches  just outside town.  The Estádio Municipal de Aveiro is a 32,000 seat stadium that occasionally hosts the national football team and Portuguese Super Cup games.  The Teatro Aveirence is an entertainment hall showing movies as well as putting on concerts and plays.

Aveiro made quite an impression on us and is one of the cities at the top of our list for potential retirement destinations.  We enjoyed the city and I can’t wait until we can make it back to explore it in more depth.

Aveiro Sunset

 

Aveiro’s Moliceiros

Aveiro has been called the Venice of Portugal because of its canals and the colorful moliceiro boats that carry tourists along the canals.

Moliceiros are long open boats that were originally used to collect seaweed.  The brightly colored boats are right at home on Aveiro’s canals, and fit nicely in a city where Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings are everywhere.

It was raining on our first day in Aveiro, but that didn’t keep us from exploring the city.  One thing the inclement weather did do was cut down on the number of people wandering along the canals, so we pretty much had the area to ourselves.

All the moliceiros were docked when we walked by, but the next day the weather was much nicer so they were back to carrying tourists up and down the canals.

Moliceiros

Sunset, Aveiro

Half of Portugal’s border is coastal and faces west.  It’s ideal for catching some gorgeous sunsets. This sunset was over the canal in Aveiro.  The moliceiros are docked for the night.  Aveiro was a great city and I look forward to returning.

Sunset on Canal

Parque Dom Pedro Infante, Aveiro

The City Park in Aveiro is a beautiful little park just a few blocks from the canal.  There are walking paths, an Arte Nouveau bandstand, a duck pond and a wonderful azulejo covered staircase.  It’s a great place to escape the crowds around the canal and to enjoy a bit of quiet in the center of the city.

Parque Dom Pedro

Graffiti, Aveiro, Portugal

There’s street art, with varying degrees of sophistication, all over Portugal.  It seems that wherever there’s a flat surface someone will mark it.  I saw this wall while walking back from a visit to Aveiro’s old train station.  I find the face intriguing and just a little creepy.  I don’t know the significance of the face, but it’s interesting.

Aveiro 2

Municipal Cemetery, Aveiro Portugal, March 2018

I find cemeteries beautiful and peaceful places.  The Cemitério Municipal de Aveiro is no exception.  We visited the cemetery, located behind the Cathedral, on a sunny March day.

Street Art, Aveiro Portugal, March 2018

This beautiful painting is on a wall near the Aveiro Cemetery.  Aveiro has opened its arms to street art and there are a lot of incredible works scattered throughout the city.  This is just one of them.

Aveiro 3

Azulejos, Portugal, March 2018

Azulejos, the beautiful decorative tiles that adorn buildings throughout the country, are now synonymous with Portugal, but they have a history that spans several countries and cultures.  Of Moorish origin, the tiles were not only beautiful, they had a functional purpose as well, serving as insulators against the intense heat of the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Azulejos first came to Portugal from Seville, when Dom Manuel I, during his visit to the Spanish city, was struck by the beauty of the tiles.  Originally the tiles were of geometric or floral patterns.  Their use rapidly spread throughout Portugal, becoming a popular building material for the outside of buildings as well as being used to decorate the interiors structures.

Azulejos
Aveiro building with both geometric and pictorial tiles

As the popularity of azulejos grew, so did demand.  During the second half of the 17th century, Delft potter makers, whose blue and white pottery was already popular throughout Europe, began producing tiles.  The popularity of the Dutch tiles was such that they effectively created a monopoly and shut out many Portuguese manufacturers.  Dom Pedro II, alarmed at the rate that the Dutch tiles were taking over the market, banned all imports of azulejos between 1687 and 1698, allowing Portuguese artists to fill the void left by the ban.

Aveiro Station Detail
Detail of tiles on Aveiro train station

Over the next few centuries azulejos remained popular in Portugal.  The influence of the Dutch tiles continued to be felt, as the blue and white tiles were the most commonly used, but more and more the tiles were used to depict scenes and tell stories.  Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs became popular in the early 20th century as artists such as António Costa and Jorge Colaço began to create works of art from azulejos.

Sao Bento 8
São Bento train station

From the stunning São Bento Station in Porto, featuring over 20,000 blue and white tiles, to decorative scenes featuring just a couple dozen tiles, azulejos can be found throughout Portugal.  This art form with an international history is now forever a part of Portugal.

 

Aveiro, Portugal, March 2018

Aveiro was one of my favorite stops on our visit to Portugal.  It’s a beautiful city with a long history.  It also has a lively feel, which I think can be at least partly attributed to the University.

We stayed at the Suites and Hostel Cidade Aveiro, a beautiful little hotel next to the Aveiro Museum and just a few minutes walk from the canals. It was a great location for exploring Aveiro on foot.

Aveiro is known for its canals, on which moliceiros, formerly used for harvesting seaweed, now provide tours of the city.  Once a thriving seaport, 16th and 17th century storms blocked Aveiro’s access to the Atlantic Ocean.  Access to the ocean has since been restored and the city is once again an important seaport.

Moliceiros

There were a  lot of things to see and do and we didn’t let periods of rain stop us.  Next door to our hotel was the Mosteiro de Jesus, the beautiful 15th century convent where Princess Santa Joana spent the last years of her life.  It’s now the Museu de Aveiro and home to the princess’s tomb.

Museu de Aveiro

Next to the convent is the Sé, or cathedral, of Aveiro.  The 15th century baroque church is quite beautiful and has been a Portuguese National Monument since 1996.  We spent quite a bit of time exploring the church, its bookstore, and the incredible cemetery behind the cathedral.

Se de Aveiro

As I said, Aveiro is a beautiful city.  Like a lot of Portuguese cities, Aveiro has some great displays of azulejos.  A prime example is the estação, or train station, of Aveiro.  Opened in 1916, the station is covered with the famous blue tiles, which display scenes from around the Aveiro region.  It’s undergoing a renovation, but it’s still quite a sight.

Estacao de Aveiro 3

There are also very nice art nouveau examples throughout the city.  This building was across the street from our hotel, and has some beautiful tile work as well.

Art Nouveau building

Another Portuguese architectural tradition I really like is the use of patterned stone to pave roads and sidewalks.  Known as calçada Portuguesa, the tradition goes back to Roman times and is common throughout the country.  Praça da República is a great example of the art of the pavement.

Praca da Republica

There are a lot of beautiful parks in the city as well.  Parque Dom Pedro Infante, or the City Park, is a great place for a walk.  It has a lot of interesting things to see as well as duck ponds, benches and walking paths.  Ann Marie took this beautiful photo.

Parque Dom Pedro

There’s a lot of street art in Aveiro as well.  Graffiti and street art are common in cities throughout Portugal.  Here’s an example from near the Aveiro train station.

Street Art

We really enjoyed our time in Aveiro.  It was one of our top stops in Portugal.  While the canal area is quite touristy, most of Aveiro is quite nice.  It’s very walkable, with lots of nice restaurants, shops and things to do.  It’s just a few minutes from a couple beaches and less than an hour from Porto or Coimbra.  And, to top it off, it has some spectacular sunsets…

Sunset on Canal