Located on Portugal’s Atlantic Coast, Aveiro is the center of the Rota da Luz, or Route of Light, known for Art Nouveau buildings, modern architecture and historic sites. Aveiro for centuries based its economy on its fishing industry, salt-flats and canals but in recent years it has undergone a cultural renaissance, with new hotels, museums, and places to eat popping up across the city. It is considered one of Europe’s up and coming destinations.
Often called the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro is surrounded by salt-flats, beaches and lagoons. The city is built on a Central Canal running through town. They canals are dotted with the famous moliceiros – brightly painted seaweed gathering boats that look similar to the ships of the ancient world. Aveiro was a prosperous port city until the end of the 17th century when the entrance to the harbor filled with silt.
This economic slow-down helped preserve the city’s rich history and culture. Visitors will find an inviting mix of 16th century, maritime, and early 20th century Art Nouveau architecture that was largely left unchanged for centuries.
Aveiro's main museum, housed in the former Jesus Monastery, displays the mementoes of Santa Joana, the daughter of King Afonso V. Nearby is the city's 15th century São Domingos cathedral and the Carmelite Church, decorated with paintings depicting the life of St Teresa. Another popular site is the Misericórdia Church, which dates back to the 16th century. To the south lies the Vista Alegre Museum that details the history of the famous Vista Alegre porcelain from the 1850s to present day.
At the edge of town, visitors can look for music and art showings at a former tile factory that was converted into a cultural center with eight performance and exhibit spaces. If shopping is on the agenda, a new, outdoor market is nearby.
The best way to see Aveiro, however, is to catch a ride on a traditional moliçeiro and take in the sites by canal.
There are two main clubs, known as "discotecas" in Portuguese, around the Aveiro area. The most famous one is called Estaçao da Luz, literally "station of light." (www.estacaodaluz.com). This sophisticated club and bar is located in an industrial part of Aveiro and is best reached by taxi. Visitors will find an upbeat mix of house music and pop, and a smaller dance floor that features salsa music.
If you are looking for a delicious local cocktail, head to Quest where they serve the "caipirinha," a drink made with rum and lime and often mixed with fresh fruit, like strawberries. For those who want to club hop, go to the Praça do Peixe, or fish market square. By day, fish mongers sell their catches, but by night the young people of Aveiro flock to the spot. The square offers a variety of bars that stay open until 3 a.m. in the winter and 4 a.m. in the summer.
The Mercado Negro, or black market, is in an Art Nouveau building, but inside has been transformed with modern design. The club also serves as a cultural space and shopping center. For alternative and rock music, go to Clandestino and for the best sangria in town, head to Botirao along the Canal de São Roque. This traditional night spot is where you’ll find the locals dancing the bossa nova.
Directly above the Aveiro fish market is the Mercado do Peixe Restaurant, serving fish in a relaxed, minimalist décor. The glass and steel room overlooks the picturesque neighborhood and canals, and kitchen serves up signature dishes like the mussel soup, grilled mackerel and mixed grilled fish.
For a gorgeous view of the water and delicious seafood, travel to the edge of Aveiro to the Clube de Vela da Costa Nova. Located on the beach and directly overlooking a marina, the restaurant offers excellent fish dishes, such as clams and shrimp in garlic sauce, monkfish casserole with rice, and fried calamari with olives and tuna pate. Three-course meals are affordable at about $44. The Clube de Vela da Costa Nova is a 15-minute drive from downtown Aveiro by taxi or bus. For a more adventurous journey, take an exhilarating 45-minute boat ride through the marshes and channels forming the estuary of the Aveiro River.
More information about Aveiro: The Rota da Luz Visitors Bureau at Rua Joao Mendonca 8, 3800-200 Aveiro, phone 351/234-420-760, email [email protected], website http://www.rotadaluz.pt/ and www.visitportugal.com