Porto was amazing, but we weren’t quite ready to end our time in Portugal here, so we jumped in a hire car and hit the road for Aveiro, an old port and fishing town just an hour south on the coast. It’s known as the “Venice of Portugal” for its canals and lagoons, but with fewer tourists and without the hefty price-tag, making it the perfect place to come and do not a lot for two days.
A wander around the old town
Aveiro’s old town is a miniature Porto (minus the hills), so as you might in Porto, expect to be strolling around gawking at its nostalgic blend of old crumbling facades and magnificent Art Nouveau buildings, all set around a pretty system of canals.
I wish shop signs still looked like this..
Take a ride on a painted gondola
As soon as I laid eyes on these brightly painted gondolas lining the canal-side, I knew I had to take a ride in one. But don’t expect your sailor to serenade you with opera on your water world tour, instead ramble a little history lesson in pigeon English as you float on by, watching Aveiro life unfold.
I couldn’t help be drawn to the intriguing paintings on the boats, which according to the tourist board’s website are different on each boat to reflect the owner’s personal preferences and skills, which it says include “religion, military, regional jobs and daily life subjects” as well as “girls and heartthrobs … with many paintings of an erotic nature.” Hmmm, it doesn’t take a genius then to work out who’s into what, and annoyingly I didn’t take a picture of the voluptuous topless lady on our boat.
A delicious lunch at a local favourite
I’d highly recommend jostling with the locals for a table at this busy no-nonsense fish place, called Restaurante Marisqueris Mare Cheia. It’s easily the best in town, serving up deliciously fresh bread and mussels as an appetiser, followed by more fresh fish alongside hearty portions of this traditional Portuguese vegetable and bean side dish I’m still yet to find the name of. I honestly could have eaten here each day we were here, twice a day.
…and for dessert…
We’d been told by Isabel at our Porto guesthouse, Maison Des Amis, to try a special dessert only found in Aveiro called Ovos Moles. So off we went in search of the best, our guidebook leading us to this pretty little cafe on the canal-side, called A Barrica.
It’s hard to explain what these dainty rice-paper shell-like sweet treats taste like, so I guess you’ll have to make a trip to Aveiro to find out! We also discovered these fruity and moist sponge cakes which we couldn’t resist, on sale in every bakery in town!
A visit to the nearest seaside town with the most adorable beach houses
After our boat ride, we hopped in the car and took a 10-minute drive to a place called Costa Nova do Prado. You can also get there by bus or even by boat via the lagoon and canals.
Look at that view! The best bit was we almost had this gorgeous sweep of sand to ourselves.
But windswept empty beach and flawless ocean views aside, let’s not forget the main reason we’d made the trip. To see this seaside town’s most special sight – row upon row of candy-striped beach houses set back from the beach!
I couldn’t stop taking pictures of these little chocolate-box wooden cottages painted in postbox red, sky blue, grass green and summer yellow.
What’s interesting when you’re walking around is how Costa Nova still very much belongs to the locals. There’s no evidence of tacky tourism, just real life being played out with locals going about their business, while we took endless snaps of their homes.
We spotted this quirky house for sale and it wasn’t long before the obvious holiday debate started: if we moved in, what colour stripes would we paint on it?
I highly recommend where we stayed
Dan and I checked into this perfect little yellow fisherman’s house along the canal called Casa de Mercado. It’s two-story two bedroom historical house right in the middle of Aveiro’s old quarter, and we found it listed on Booking.com for around £100 a night.
Psst! Our Porto holiday photos.