The substantial inland town of AVEIRO lies south of Porto on the edge of a system of coastal lagoons which stretch for around 40km both north and south. Until the mid-1500s, it was a vibrant coastal port but the local economy was devastated when the river mouth silted up and the hinterland turned to swamp. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, canals were dug to open up the town and drain the marshes, creating saltpans, and facilitating the harvesting of seaweed, and the town began to flourish once more. Today, Aveiro’s economy depends increasingly on tourists, with visitors attracted to the “Venice of Portugal” by boat rides on the canals, Art Nouveau buildings and the nearby Vista Alegre factory, famed for its ceramics. The town’s closest beaches – at Barra and Costa Nova – are built up and packed in summer, but still good fun, while the São Jacinto nature reserve provides coastal attractions of a more peaceful kind.