Porto is not a big city. You can easily see all there is to see in two days’ time. If you have booked a long weekend, like I did, then that gives you the perfect opportunity to plan a day trip outside Porto. We chose the picture-perfect city of Aveiro, often called the Venice of Portugal. With the colorful gondolas in the city canals I can see the resemblance a little bit, but on a much smaller scale, and without the huge numbers of tourists. Personally, I skipped the – sadly motorized – moliceiro boat ride, because I actually found it more fun to explore the city by foot. Just wandering around and see whatever we come across. I think that this is the best way to explore a city. And I loved doing this in Aveiro, because this city is stunning!
First things first, why are there actually gondolas in the canals of Aveiro? Well, today it is mostly used to entertain tourists, but in the eighteenth century the boats were used to transport seaweed (in Portuguese: molico). The local population used this to fertilize the fields around the Ria de Aveiro. The seaweed could be stacked up for two meters high and the boats could even transport cows. That is how strong they were! The introduction of artificial fertilizer meant the end for the traditional moliceiros. Without the tourist tours – for only 8 euros – the boats would probably disappear from the public eye and that would be a bit of a shame. The starting point for most moliceiro tours is Jardim do Rossio.
City of tiles
Wandering in Aveiro is pure pleasure. Almost all houses are covered in the most colorful azulejos (handmade tiles). Just like in Porto the blue tile is the most popular one, but you will see many other color combinations and patrons. The tiles are not only beautiful to see, it also has a practical function. With a location close to the sea, houses in Aveiro tend to absorb sea salt. The tiles actually function as a protective layer.
The canal in the city center divides the city into two parts. One the one side of the water you will find the Praça de Peize, known as the place of the fish market (but as a vegetarian I don’t find this detail interesting at all). I was mainly attracted by the brightly colored houses in this cute little area. Great for wandering around, it is beautiful! On the other side of the canal you will find the Praça de República. A more quiet place; perfect to sit down for a bit, relax and observe the old church and city hall. And don’t forget to look underneath your feet, because the mosaic patron on this square is stunning.
One side of the canal
Other side of the canal
The architectural style Art Nouveau was very popular at the beginning of the twentieth century and can be found in many Portuguese cities. I already showed the Art Nouveau in Porto, but also Aveiro has a lot to offer. Aveiro is actually part of the European network Réseau Art Nouveau Network. To honor this membership the city has devoted a museum to Art Nouveau (Museu Art Nova de Aveiro), located in probably the most photogenic building of the city: Casa Major Pessoa. There are ten Art Nouveau locations in Aveiro, easily spotted by the square tile in front of it. I especially loved the following places:
- Casa do Rossio near Jardim do Rossio
- Pharmacy Ala near Obelisco da Liberdade
- Casa dos Ovos Moles near Rua Joao Mendonca
Of course I also paid attention to street art in Aveiro and I saw some great works. The best work by far can be found at the beautiful train station of Aveiro. The well-known Portuguese artist Vhills has created a male face carved out of a stone wall, giving everyone a warm welcome to the city. I have seen his works before, but every time I am astonished by this technic. But also a bit further down to the city center there is more street art to find.
More art in the streets
Art in Aveiro can not only be found on the walls, it also manifests itself on the street. This time in unique sculpture shapes, created by artist Luis Queimadela. A head like a square, a rectangular body and a pair or large feet. The sculptures definitely grabbed my attention when I walked passed them. In total there are fourteen statues in the city and they guide you along the highlights of the city. I am curious how long they will be there, but as long as they are there please go look for them.
From Porto to Aveiro by train
Aveiro is super easy to reach by train from Porto. There are two train stations in Porto: São Bento and Campanhã. We took the train from São Bento. A return ticket will cost 7 euros per person (2018) and we bought it at the station. This was quite easy as the people at the counter spoke pretty good English. The train ride took a little over 1 hour. For checking the timetable I used the website of Comboios de Portugal.
Would you want to go to Aveiro?