The region known as Central Portugal lies between Lisbon and Oporto on the Portuguese coastline and includes the area known as the Silver Coast, due to its white sandy beaches. One of the major cities in this section of Portugal is Aveiro.
Aveiro was once an important seaport on the Rio Vouga from as early as the Roman times. However, in the late 1500s, the mouth of the river filled with silt, creating vast marshes, making it impossible for ships to enter or dock there. It was not until 1808 that a canal was cut through to the sea, allowing the port to re-open. Most of the water was drained and all that is left are the few lagoons that are visible today.
Aveiro is sometimes called the “Venice of Portugal” because there is a major canal that runs through the center of the city, as well as smaller canals that criss-cross the area. Right at home on the canals one will find the “moliceiro boats”, brightly colored boats that sail on the canals.
As with other cities in Portugal, there are many remarkable sites for the visitor to enjoy in Aveiro. One of the most popular is the Church of Saint Dominic “Se Catedral de Aviero”. First built in 1423, and then remodeled in the 16th and 17th centuries, it includes examples of mannerist, baroque, and modernist architecture.
A visit to the Convento de Jesus, built in the 15th century, is another worthwhile stop for the vacationer. As part of the renaissance cloisters, the interior of the convent was decorated with gilded carvings and embroidered works from the school of embroidery that was housed there at the time.
This convent also houses the town museum, which is dedicated to the daughter of King Alfonso V, who lived there until her death in 1490. The museum holds her marble tomb, as well as examples of 15th century and earlier artwork.
Because of its location on the “Silver Coast”, Aveiro is home to several pure white sand beaches, some within a 10-minute walk from the center of the city. They are separated from the city by the Ria (lagoon) formed when the canals were dug to open up the port. These include Barra, Costa Nova, and Sao Jacinto. During the fall and winter, there are strong coastal winds, which make the beaches perfect for kite and wind surfing. Barra is noted for having the third tallest lighthouse in the world, which was built during the years 1885 to 1893.
Also within the town of Aveiro is the University of Aveiro, founded in 1973. It has approximately 12,000 students, and is becoming more popular as time goes on.
No visit to a town in Portugal is complete without visiting the shops and restaurants there. Those who like to experience foods will truly enjoy the eel stew, as well as the lagoon and sea fish. One item for which Aveiro is most well known is the “ovos moles”. This consists of a sweetened egg yolk put into a candied casings shaped like barrels or fish. In addition, Aveiro is famous as the “leitao” (suckling pig) capital of Portugal, with many restaurants having this dish on its menu.
Visiting Portugal is a trip many wish for, but often times do not get the chance to realize. Therefore, if one is lucky enough to tour this country, a stop at Aveiro should be included in the itinerary. This city allows the tourist to escape the chaos of a big city, and spend some time enjoying the low-keyed atmosphere, pristine beaches, and sites both old and new.