Portugal? It's got more spotlights shining on it than a West End production as of late. Sure, Porto might be known for its exceptional wine offering. Yes, Lisbon might be the country's unofficial culinary capital. But it's the western city of Aveiro we think you'll love. Set along the hypnotic waters of the Ria de Aveiro lagoon, this sun-baked spot remains relatively off the tourist map. Flanked by a beautiful canvas of art nouveau architecture, Aveiro's streets are divided by a handful of narrow canals navigated by traditional moliçeiro boats, which are used to both harvest seaweed and whisk you from A to B.
The perfect day? A stroll beneath the soaring palm trees of waterfront park Jardim do Rossio; a pastry pick-up from M Bakery Aveiro; a wander around the buzzy Beira Mar district; a balmy beach afternoon; and an evening spent singing and dancing at neighbourhood Lovecraft Beer Lounge Aveiro. Read on for our top picks of where to eat, stay and play while in town.
A beautiful facade, left, and the dune-flanked boardwalk of Praia da Costa Nova. | Photo credit: Leandro & Ricardo / Unsplash.com
Make tracks to Praia da Costa Nova. Just a 10-minute drive from the city centre, this sprawling stretch of powder-white sand is ideal for both beach bums and surfers, thanks to its wild Atlantic waves. The area is also known for its candy-coloured cottages, which were originally constructed in the 18th century by fishermen to store their equipment in. Head down mid-morning; that way you can take the 6km-long stroll along the weather-beaten boardwalk from Costa Nova to Praia da Barra before temperatures begin to soar. After which, reward yourself with a visit to the 1893-built Farol da Barra - Portugal's tallest lighthouse. Climb its 288 steps to be rewarded with magical views.
Where to stay?
Aveiro's accommodation landscape isn't exactly brimming with boutique stays, but that shouldn't stop you from exploring the culture-rich city. Make this one-bedroom studio your base - a contemporary space with two spacious balconies, brass pendant lamps, velvet furnishings and the kind of plush headboard you'd save on your Pinterest interiors board.
What about food?
Everyone knows that the best way to taste the true flavour of a destination is to try its signature dish. Aveiro's? Ovos moles - a pastry-like delicacy crafted from egg yolk, sugar and often chocolate. Snag one from M Bakery Aveiro, or alternatively book into one of the daily workshops at Oficina do Doce to learn how they are made.
Make restaurant Raiz your choice for dinner, whose veggie menu includes an exceptional organic chickpea and vegetable curry - and a pretty great lentil bolognese, too. Subenshi Sushi delivers on the tempura front, while the stylish, canal-facing Cais do Pescado is known for its meat and seafood entrees - the octopus with pepper purée gets our vote.
A moliçeiro boat cruises along the canal, alongside a plate of ovos moles. | Photo credit: Ricardo & Franca / Unsplash.com / Shutterstock.com
And for a drink…
Neighbourhood Alavarium Bar, which has a deckchair-dotted courtyard, tropical cocktail menu and the kind of light bites you can't help but order twice. We suggest swinging by mid-afternoon, when a late lunch looks like club sandwiches and paper-wrapped fries accompanied by a passion-fruit mojito. If it's a craft ale that you're craving, then it's over to Lovecraft Beer Lounge Aveiro.
Who to take with you?
That friend who still bangs on about their trip to Lisbon from three years ago. They'll appreciate Aveiro's old-school charm and laid-back attitude.
Essentials to pack
Sport effortlessly glossy locks with the Dr Barbara Sturm Repair Hair Mask, a blend of organic shea butter and plant-based squalane that promises to both hydrate and protect hair against heat damage. It's infused with lavender extract to reduce scalp sensitivity, too.
How to get there
Take a direct flight from London Gatwick to Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, from where the city centre is around an hour's drive away.