Aveiro is one of the most understated Portuguese cities I have ever visited. Even some of my Portuguese friends wondered why I was spending the weekend in Aveiro.
For some people, Aveiro is just where other people come from. However, a few friends also raved about this beautiful town, which is often referred to as the Venice of Portugal as it has canals and boats giving off a Venetian feel.
Aveiro lies in the north of Portugal and officially belongs to the Centro region. Going there from Lisbon was easy as the bus only took three hours. It probably takes much less by car.
In the middle of being overwhelmed with so many things in life, I wanted to go somewhere where I can just do nothing.
So I am not going to recommend things you will be able to cross off your list (unless your list has: “Stare at a canal while drinking a Moijito.” Instead, I am going to recommend the perfect city to do nothing. It is a place where you only need to be, and enjoy being without this constant emphasis on being productive.
Away from tourists
I know that I was a tourist myself in Aveiro. But like all tourists, I like to be the only tourist in the place. This is selfish reality of being a tourist which I fully accept. This plan almost never works out though.
What did work out in Aveiro though is being with very few tourists. Aveiro isn’t a common destination for tourists coming for a few days to visit Lisbon or the beaches of the Algarve. Aveiro is for those who are on a long road trip in Portugal. It is a quiet city without the huge summer crowds of tourists. You can just chill in Aveiro.
Eating well … very well!
Eating well is part of me being in this “nothing” mode. The weekend revolved around food plans. Thinking about lunch during breakfast and thinking about the next dessert before finishing a plate of pastries. The fact that food is cheaper and the portions are bigger aren’t the only attractive gastronmic aspects.
The quality of the food itself is better than in Lisbon.
Seafood is so much fresher and made with great attention to details. Pastries at the most average breakfast place match those of very good cafes in Lisbon. I can’t recommend Evaristo enough for a real local experience. Don’t compare its ratings to other restaurants on TripAdvisor. It was recommended to me by two different locals and it was totally worth it. The chargrilled cuttlefish, the shrimp stew, and the desserts were incredible.
There are also the traditional sweets of Aveiro, called “ovos moles,” made from sugar and egg yolks. They are light and pair up well with coffee.
Known for its salt industry, Aveiro is also the perfect place to be many different types of salt which make great gifts for friends who are big on cooking.
Aveiro is the called ‘the Portuguese Venice’ for a reason
Aveiro is a bit of a southern European version of Amsterdam with canals flowing through the streets of the city center. The municipality provides free bikes for those looking to explore the town as they cycle through its beautiful little houses. The areas all around the canals are cycling-friendly.
But the city is not known for being the Portuguese Amsterdam, but for being the Portuguese Venice. You can’t really say you have been to Aveiro without getting on one of those traditional, pretty boats which takes you through the center. The boats also come with a tour guide who explains the history of the city and the traditions associated with those boats.
Of course there are beautiful nearby beaches such as Costa Nova beach which is a popular surfing destination. There is the Musuem of Aveiro as well which has a collection of valuable paintings and tiles.
But I neither surfed nor looked at paintings.
I slept really well in a comfy hotel bed, woke up, had a nice breakfast, walked all around the city taking in its unique architectural style, enjoyed the spacious parks, had a small, yet delicious lunch. Then I did the guided boat trip, went to have one of the best seafood meals of my life and sat by the canal at night with a cocktail.
I simply wanted a place where I can enjoy relative tranquility and do a holiday the proper Egyptian way: Eat, sleep, enjoy sitting outside … repeat.
You can read more about Portugal here in Dispatches’ archives.
Sarah Nagaty has a PhD in cultural studies, She’s lived in Portugal for six years.
As a student of cultural studies, Sarah is drawn to what connects people from different backgrounds to new cultures and places, how they relate to their new surroundings and what kind of activities they could engage with in their new hometowns.