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A local’s guide to Aveiro, Portugal

Hey all, this is my first Travel post! This one made me very nostalgic. So, I wanted to talk about a bit lesser known Portugal and I wanted to talk about my hometown of 2013-2014, Aveiro! Are you curious? I went there to work at the University of Aveiro when my previous fellowship was ending and there was a chance to work in computational tissue engineering, that I was really eager to try. From Lisbon to Aveiro, find out how this “local” enjoyed the city!

My workplace

 

I worked at the Mechanical Engineering department, one of the buildings of the University that won an architecture prize. The University was founded in 1973 and the campus is very pleasant by the Aveiro Lagoon, when you come you shold definitely walk around. It is rated the 83rd best university in the world under 50 years and the current 2nd best in Portugal in the Times Higher Education ranking. I think the strongest fields are material science, engineering and biotechnology. Also one good thing is that there is a concern with collaboration with industry that, for me, sets an example.

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University of Aveiro. Photo by Universia.pt

The main attractions

The city of Aveiro is quite large for Portuguese standards, with 78,000 inhabitants. It is 70 kms south of Porto and its main attractions are related to nature. The city center is filled with canals from the Aveiro lagoon that are crossed all the time by “moliceiros”, boats that resemble gondolas that were used to extract mud from the lagoon for fertilization purposes. Those boats are generally very colorful, with naughty paintings and sayings! The ride is done with a tour guide that explains facts about the city. A ride is 5€ and lasts about 45 minutes.

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Speaking of natural beauty, the city is also known by its “salinas”, sites where fleur de sel is still extracted traditionally by hand. You can go to Ecomuseu Marina da Troncalhada and learn a bit more about how salt is extracted and the different tanks used for it. You can see huge piles of salt there! It’s worth a walk, but better in the Summer. In the Winter the lagoon level is too high to walk around the tanks.

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Speaking of architecture, you can see the traditional fishermen triangular roof houses in the Beira Mar neighborhood, as well as some Art Nouveau houses around the city. My favorite one is a bright blue one that is now the Art Nouveau Museum, with a tea house that I fully reccomend.

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Crossing the Lagoon in the direction of the sea, 7 Kms away from Aveiro, you will reach Praia da Barra. It is the access to the Port of Aveiro and it has the tallest lighthouse in Portugal at 62m tall and the 17th tallest in the world. You can go there to the beach, it’s a nice one, but be aware that it is very windy! You can reach it by car, bike or by taking a bus that stops in the Aveiro city centre

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Barra lighthouse / Farol da Barra. Photo by Câmara Municipal de Ílhavo

From Barra, a bit more to the South, easily reachable by foot, you will reach Costa Nova. This nice village is well known due to their typical striped houses called “palheiros”. These houses were also typical from fishermen and served as warehouses. Nowadays, most of them are inhabited. These houses are super fancy for photography!

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Costa Nova. Photo by Visit Portugal

Get there and get around

The easiest way to reach Aveiro from abroad is to go by plane to Porto, served by plenty of low cost carriers, and rent a car or catch the city metro to Campanhã (the main train station) and from there the suburban train to Aveiro. This should cost combined (metro+train) 5€. From Lisbon, you can take the long distance trains, Intercidades (cheaper) or the slightly faster Alfa Pendular in either Santa Apolónia or Oriente stations. 

The city is very small and you can cover it all by foot. However, to go to Barra and Costa Nova, there are buses every hour and they cost 2.25€ one way. The city is very plane and you can explore it by bike by renting a BUGA, the free bikes of Aveiro. You only need to leave an ID and you are free to explore the city this way for one day.

 

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Me trying to balance myself on a BUGA. I had not ridden a bike for years! Photo by Pedro Martins

What to eat

The area of Aveiro is historically related to “bacalhau” (codfish) fishing and from there the fishermen used to go to Newfoundland. There is even a Codfish Museum in the city of Ílhavo (7Kms south of Aveiro) where you can learn more about this and how attached Portuguese became to codfish. They even have an aquarium with codfish. With this said, you definitely should eat “bacalhau” here. Three places I went to and liked were Telheiro, in Praça do Peixe, Rebaldaria, in Rua Direita and Ceboleiros, in a more residential area. The prices are fine for Portuguese standards, about 10-12€ for a dish that is so big that you can split with someone.
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Cods at the Codfish Museum aquarium, Ílhavo.
Want a hamburger? The most typical ones are in Café Ramona. It is nothing like regular fast food and you pay the same as you would pay for McDonalds in Portugal (5.5€) and get much more satisfied. This is incredibly popular with locals for several generations!
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My Ramona burger! I am “healthy” and ask with turkey and no sauce. People told me I’m crazy since their sauce is the trademark =D
Talking about sweets, the typical ones are “ovos moles”. This literally means “soft eggs” and they are incredibly sweet small treats with a crusty sugar leaf outside and a egg yolk cream on the inside. For me they’re a bit strong but very yummy! Since Aveiro has such a strong relationship with the sea, all the sweets have sea motifs. You can ask one with your coffee in some places in the center or you can buy a box if you have a sweet tooth. The best ones are sold in a garage in Rua Dom Jorge de Lencastre, go find it, the recipe has been passed over 150 years in the same family.
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Aveiro also has a typical crepe-like treat, “tripa”. No, it’s not the pork intestine. It’s a more elastic type of dough that is folded like a roof tile that you can eat by hand. The typical ones have chocolate, cinnamon or “ovos moles” and the best price quality relationship is in Praia da Barra, where you can eat one by 1.50€ and be very full.
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I can’t eat this all! Tripa from TêZero, in Aveiro city center

Where to go out

Now for the drinks and nightlife. As I said, Casa de Chá Arte Nova is very nice to chill out, they even have jazz and bossa nova concerts sometimes. As I am a big fan of old decadent houses turned into bars (hello Budapest, I miss you!), I love Mercado Negro and its dark atmosphere. Also to chill out, listen to good music and eat delicious homemade cookies, I recommend Zeca Aveiro in the Vera Cruz neighborhood. They also have free concerts. To drink beer, a good place is Guesthouse in the night center of Praça do Peixe. Speaking of beer, Aveiro has four craft beers: Vadia, Maldita, Toira and Medieavalis. I only drank Maldita I think and I liked it. For clubbing, I did not like very much the commercial type of music they put in Praça do Peixe bars and the most well known club by locals, Estação da Luz, is in the outskirts.

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Where to go nearby?

Of course you can always catch the train to Porto or to Coimbra, the two largest cities in the surroundings, filled with history, nice river views and nightlife. However, for other lesser known experiences, I recommend the following:

  • Bioria, a park with hiking trails along the Aveiro Lagoon and birwatching spots, it’s super peaceful and also good to take your bike to. Get there from Aveiro by catching the suburban train to Porto and getting out in Salreu station or by car.
  • Termas da Curia, an art-nouveau thermal town with a very nice park and lots of cute buildings to photograph. By public transportation, catch the regional train to Coimbra and get out in Curia. 
  • Mata Nacional do Buçaco, a very beautiful mountain with a forest with lakes and one of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal, Bussaco Palace Hotel, built in the 19th century for the kings of Portugal. There’s also a Military Museum about the Buçaco battle fought against the Napoleon troops during the French Invasions in Portugal in 1810. Get lost there! By train, take the regional train to Coimbra and get out in Pampilhosa, then change to the regional train to Guarda and get out in Luso-Buçaco. Be careful, there’s only three trains to Buçaco daily, so going with a car is much more convenient.

Did you visit Aveiro already? What did you enjoy the most? Or will you put it in your list of cities to stop by in your next Portugal trip?

Cátia

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