This Trendy City Known As 'Portugal's Venice' Is One Of Europe's Most Romantic

Perched on the northern coast of Portugal's central region, Aveiro has long been called the "Venice of Portugal" with its city-wide canals, hand-painted gondolas (moliceiros), and vibrant streets adorned with mosaics. You may want to rethink that Valentine's Day trip to Italy, as Aveiro happens to be the top-ranked destination for a romantic getaway by Guardian readers. A colorful canvas from east to west, its cobblestone streets are lined with vintage cottages that display a whimsical montage of art nouveau. 

Afternoons in Aveiro are strictly reserved for strolling the edge of Aveiro Lagoon — the hub of life in Aveiro. This symbolic icon is the heartbeat of this fishing town, and these ancient waterways were once used to haul seaweed from the city center to the agricultural outlands to fertilize crops. Aveiro is an extremely walkable city with a flat topography that's built for cruising the terrain on foot or by bike.

A small port city with a heritage steeped in the sea trade and salt production, it still retains much of its rich fishing history despite its growing reputation among tourists. If you keep a sharp eye out, you can catch a glimpse of the ancient salt pans locals still use to harvest the bread and butter of this city, known as flor de sal. From tasting your way through the city's culinary offerings to leisurely beach days basking in the sunshine, Aveiro will have you falling head over heels in love with the culture of its romantic city.

How to spend an idyllic day in Aveiro

It's hard to find yourself bored while perusing the ceramic-tiled black-and-white streets of Aveiro. Rua de Coimbra is one of the prettiest streets that showcases a plethora of native cultural murals and brightly tiled buildings. At the end of the street rests Pombal Square, a vibrant space of activity brimming with boutiques, cafés, and ornate cottages. Aveiro boasts a balanced blend of urban and natural settings, linked by the picturesque Jardim do Rossio Waterfront Park. This lush garden space is shaded by palms, overlooking the Aveiro River, and is often the site of cultural gatherings and public events. It also makes for a tranquil spot for a picnic lunch while gazing out at the passing moliceiros.

Just 5 miles from Aveiro, Costa Nova should be on any visitor's bucket list. This mesmerizing beach town neighbors the city of Aveiro, resting along the pristine Portuguese coastline. It's hard to beat the expansive stretch of white sand that makes up Praia Costa Nova. Only 10 minutes away, this dreamy Portuguese hidden gem is lined by quaint coastal cottages and a long trailing boardwalk that skims the top of the dunes. The prettiest beach in town also happens to be right next door to a breezy palm-lined promenade and a local fish market boasting the fresh catch of the day. Cap off a visit to Costa Nova at Barra Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Portugal, standing at 217 feet tall.

Wind down and dine Aveiro style

While Aveiro may not outshine its next-door neighbor, Lisbon, in the culinary world, it's an underrated city for foodies and a fierce competitor, especially when it comes to ovos moles — Aveiro's signature delicacy. These delightful morsels don't consist of much more than sugar, egg yolk, and chocolate. Visitors who can't resist bringing a bit of Aveiro's food culture home with them can stop by Oficina do Doce for a tutorial on how to bake these at home. The hunt for where the locals dine is over after stumbling upon O Batel. Hidden near Canal Central on a tiny side street, it's recognizable only by the vintage-style sign and hand-scrawled menu on a chalkboard. Be sure to try arroz de bacalhau, a classic coastal Portuguese dish centered around salt cod.

Sitting pretty in pink just a few blocks from Canal Central, M Bakery Aveiro is a trendy pastry shop whose pastel interior is just as pleasing to look at as its baked goods. Try its mantra "Enjoy Life Eat Cake" for yourself with a slice of its pink velvet cake. Nourishing salad bowls, egg plates, and croissants mean guests can also stop in for a quick brunch or lunch. Why not take your trip to the city of romance and leisure one step further and check into the elegant Hotel Moliceiro? This luxury abode features a classy, contemporary design and is situated in the heart of town, surrounded by lush greenery and the peaceful channel of Ria Aveiro.