Aveiro is located in the north of Portugal, about 2 hours from Lisbon, and 45 minutes to an hour from Porto. It’s got fantastic transport links to these two major cities, whether it’s by car, coach or train, and I’d highly recommend that anyone heading to Porto for a long weekend should make the one hour trip by train (see http://www.cp.pt for details) to visit this town of waterways, ovos moles and Art Nouveau buildings.
Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal thanks to the canals that run through it. There’s one main canal that runs through the town, from the former tile factory of Jeronimo Martins past Forum, the main shopping centre, and then past the fabulous Art Nouveau buildings, once the homes and shops of the rich business owners around here. The canal then heads down towards Cais do São Roque, where you can see the larger lagoon of water that Aveiro is built on and the salt production buildings, before heading out to the Aveiro lagoon – known locally as the Ria, and eventually, out to sea. Aveiro’s wealth in the early 20th century came from two main things – salt and seaweed, quite a combination! The boats that take you along the canal are called moliceiros, from the Portuguese for seaweed – moliço. These boats were used to bring seaweed in from the lagoon but today they’re simply used for tourist purposes.
Portugal rivals France for its patisserie like goods. There are bakeries every where and it’s heaven for anyone with a sweet tooth, and Aveiro is no different to any other city here. From macaroons to pineapple upside down cake to meringues, bakeries have them all on display, and trust me they’re good! One of the specialities from the area, though, is Ovos Moles. These egg yolks and sugar that are cooked in a flour paste to create shell. They’re shaped into shells, just like Belgian chocolates, or even tiny moliceiros, like the boats that roam the canals. They’re sold on their own or in boxes of 250gr, 1/2 kilo or even a full kilo, and it’s quite common to see people with bags full of the boxes wandering the streets. My top tip – try them with a glass of Port for the ultimate in sweet toothed indulgence.
Finally, if you’re in Aveiro, check out the aforementioned Art Nouveau buildings. They’re marked with a small square plaque on the ground in front of them. Some are houses, some are shops and one is even a tea room with china cups from one of my favourite local places, Vista Alegre, as well as the original 1920s tiles and beanbags to huddle up in when it’s cold outside and you want to hang out with the coolest kids in town.