An hour south of Porto, Aveiro is often dubbed the Venice of Portugal for its multitude of canals and colourful, gondola-like boats, known as moliceiros. These were traditionally used to collect seaweed, but now carry tourists down the Ria de Aveiro and its network of waterways. Wander past the city’s bright Art-Nouveau facades, dip into the lively local fish market, then sink between the sheets of the area’s equally colourful hotels.
Behind a typically attractive city facade, the Hotel das Salinas offers 18 rooms with kitchenettes, providing a perfect base from which to explore the area. Giving a real sense of place, you’ll find poems by Fernando Pessoa and paintings by Amadeo de Souza-Cardozo, Paula Rego and Vieira da Silva woven throughout the hotel against a minimalist backdrop. Stop for a drink at the bar to soak it all up.
Standing out for its striking contemporary architecture, the 128-room Meliá hotel is just five minutes from the historic heart of Aveiro, near one of the city’s canals. There’s a good spa on-site with a wide range of treatments – and the health theme continues on the restaurant menu, with special dishes offered for visitors who may be diabetic, gluten-free or lactose intolerant. À la carte options include the local eel stew or monkfish and shrimp rice.
There are 49 rooms in this opulently decorated hotel, where bedrooms come in rich brown velvets or chic monochrome stripes, and the lobby gleams with marble floors and the scent of fresh flowers fills the air. It’s in the heart of the city, near the central canal of the Ria de Aveiro. Allow time to explore the area with its rich history, and don’t miss Costa Nova beach with its Crayola-coloured huts.
In a quiet street in the city centre, near the main canal, the Aveiro Center Hotel has clean and simply furnished rooms with a choice of doubles, twins or triples on offer. Nearby, don’t miss the Vista Alegre Museum, displaying some of Portugal’s finest porcelain, or the Art Nouveau Museum, housed in the Casa do Major Pessoa – one of the city’s most acclaimed buildings.
The Baga de Sal Wine Guesthouse is located a five-minute walk from many of the Aveiro’s restaurants, serving the region’s traditional fish-centric dishes. There’s a range of rooms, from suites with private bathrooms to mixed dorms, all decked out with upcycled and vintage furniture. There’s an atmospheric outdoor terrace, with crate-style seating and candle-lit tables, plus a garden for all to enjoy.
There are just four rooms at this colourful B&B, each with a fridge and microwave, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and a bathroom to share between them. All have views of the city’s terracotta-roofed skyscape. Guests at Ria do Sal can play tennis at nearby courts, and the hotel has complimentary bike hire for freewheeling around the canals. Don’t miss the chance to explore the waterways by traditional boat, too.
For an immersion into the wonderful world of Vista Alegre porcelain, there’s no better place to stay than this renovation project. It’s part of a complex that includes the Painters’ Palace, where the original founders lived, a chapel and the Vista Alegre Museum. The 95 rooms are divided between three floors in this luxurious, porcelain-themed hotel. Try the prawn-and-scallop risotto at the restaurant, served on Vista Alegre plates, of course.