The small, vibrant town of AVEIRO was a thriving port on the Rio Vouga up until the 1570s, when the mouth of the river silted up, closing its harbour and creating vast, fever-ridden marshes. Recovery began only in 1808 when a canal was cut through to the sea, reopening the port and draining much of the water; only the shallow lagoons you see today were left. These were put to use as vast saltpans, and although salt is still produced in this way it is no longer the mainstay of the economy. Instead, tourism is increasingly important, boosted by a terrific series of beaches north and south of town, and the varied attractions of the São Jacinto nature reserve and the famous Vista Alegre porcelain manufactory.
Aveiro itself has a compact centre of handsome buildings, open squares, canals, footbridges and cruise boats. For once, the local authorities have restrained themselves – there are no ludicrous claims to be the “Venice of the West” – and Aveiro grows upon visitors, rather than being thrust upon them: it lends itself rather easily to a couple of days doing not very much, and with no fixed plans you might well end up staying an extra night or two. In this you’re ably supported by an excellent range of restaurants and some lively bars, courtesy of the large student population at the Universidade de Aveiro.
The town’s big annual event is the Festa da Ria (last two weeks of Aug), celebrated with boat races, folk dances, and competitions for the best decorated barcos moliceiros, the lagoon boats used to collect seaweed. The other major celebration is the Festa de São Gonçalinho (second week of Jan).Read More