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Portugal has attracted attention from tourists for quite some time. While many visitors head straight for the major cities of Lisbon and Porto, you’ll discover local gems by heading a little off the beaten path to the charming city of Aveiro and the beachside village of Costa Nova.

Colorful houses in Costa Nova.

Sometimes called the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro is a laid-back and navigable city offering history, romance, delicious food, and art. Part of the region known as the Silver Coast, Aveiro encompasses several beach communities, one of which is the delightfully colorful Costa Nova.

Here are just a few of the reasons we love these local treasures and think that you will, too.

Canals and moliceiro boats in Aviero.

Aveiro’s Canals And Moliceiro Boats Are Charming

Aveiro captivates many a visitor with its most distinctive feature: its canals. At the juncture of the freshwater Vouga and the Atlantic Ocean, Aveiro was founded during the reign of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The Grand or Central Canal lends a romantic air to the city, and it is only enhanced by the barcos moliceiros, or traditional Portuguese riverboats that are reminiscent of the gondolas of Venice. The brightly painted boats were once used to harvest seaweed, but they now provide transportation through the Ria lagoon in the heart of Aveiro.

View of the Grand Canal near the Hotel das Salinas.

Some hotels offer views of the enchanting waterways. We stayed at the Hotel das Salinas, which offers a convenient location, view of the Grand Canal, comfortable accommodations, and ample breakfast for an extremely reasonable price.

Salt ponds in Aveiro.

The Area Offers Salt Ponds, Baths, Spas, And Products

Aveiro was once a major center of salt production. While that industry has slowed down, you can still see how salt is produced at the Aveiro Salines, or salt ponds. Guided tours are available, or visitors can go see for themselves and check out the interesting photo exhibit of one family’s salt-producing business. Birdwatchers will delight in the many species of migratory birds that fly through the area.

Salt ponds in Aveiro.
Diana Laskaris and Sue Reddel

Those seeking the therapeutic benefits of a salty bath or spa can soak and enjoy from the summer through the fall.

Additionally, Aveiro’s charming shops provide plenty of artisanal local salt, which makes unique and memorable souvenirs or gifts to take back home.

Blue tiles in Aveiro.
Diana Laskaris and Sue Reddel

The Tiles And Art Nouveau Architecture Are A Feast For The Eyes

Art and architecture lovers will be delighted with the beautiful tiles that adorn many of the city’s buildings. From the traditional blue-and-white azulejos to the wide array of colorful tiles, the decor is a feast for the eyes. On some of the city’s narrow streets, nearly every building bursts forth with color! The train station and churches present many examples of artistry in tile. Even the sidewalks and pavement in Aveiro feature calcada mosaics.

A historic building in Aveiro.

In addition to the lovely tilework, Aveiro boasts a number of art nouveau buildings. Visitors can view impressive examples on a walking tour. The Art Nouveau Museum is located inside one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the city, which also happens to have a lovely tea room on the first level. Several other museums, such as the Museum of Aveiro, are worth visiting as well.

Seafood from Mare Cheia.

The Seafood And Bakeries Are Spectacular

Aveiro offers some of the best and freshest seafood we had during our time in Portugal. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the fishing traditions of the area make the food hard to beat. The hospitality of the locals and comfortable surroundings only enhanced our experience.

We ate at Mare Cheia, a restaurant filled with locals -- and for good reason. We ordered a seafood skewer loaded with perfectly grilled octopus and a spiny lobster served with potato salad and huge prawns. Many restaurants in the area offer half-bottles of wine, which were perfect for the two of us.

Pastelaria Rossio bakery in Aveiro.
Diana Laskaris and Sue Reddel

Aveiro bakeries are in a class all their own. They have so many delicious breads and local treats, some of which could feed a whole family! We stopped in at Pastelaria Rossio and marveled at the incredible goodies there.

Costa Nova Beach in Portugal.

The Beaches Are Beautiful

If you love nothing more than strolling along a gorgeous beach, Costa Nova Beach will be a pleasure. This long sandy shoreline is perfect for a leisurely walk, sunbathing, or relaxing with a good book, and the dunes nearby offer fun exploring. With waves that can get quite big at times, Costa Nova Beach is popular with surfers.

Mother Church of Costa Nova on the beach.

Across the coast road lies the Aveiro Estuary, whose calm waters are great for water sports and activities such as windsurfing, waterskiing, rowing, and sailing.

A 10-minute drive or taxi ride from downtown Aveiro, Costa Nova is also serviced by buses and trains.

Colorful houses in Costa Nova.

Costa Nova Is Home To Pretty Painted Houses

While the beach draws water fanatics to Costa Nova, landlubbers will adore the unique painted houses that line the promenade and streets above. Originally, these were places for fishermen to store their gear. But people took a liking to them, and many have been converted into homes, restaurants, rental properties, shops, and inns.

Striped houses in Costa Nova.
Diana Laskaris and Sue Reddel

Just looking at the cheerful, colorful buildings is bound to make you smile. We found ourselves comparing the buildings and deciding which colors we liked the best, even though the sight of them all together is what makes Costa Nova such a special and photogenic place.

A visit to the city of Aveiro and the beautiful Costa Nova Beach provides travelers with an opportunity to experience some of the natural treasures of Portugal. The less hurried pace here affords a chance to create lasting, authentic memories.

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