We tend to give big cities a bit of a wide birth with our tribe of two under fives, puppy and a long wheelbase van to park, preferring wide open spaces and outdoor nature play.
However when we heard Aveiro described as the Venice of Portugal we just couldn’t bring ourselves to drive past without having a look in.
There is an easy designated autocaravanas spot on the river’s edge just under the main bridge into the city. It’s not glamorous but is an easy stop, large space, free parking within easy walking distance of old town and the added security of other van people around day and night.
According to park for a night there is even a water tap somewhere but we never found it!
In the city there is a free cathedral to look at for anyone that’s interested. We loved exploring the river and watching the colourful boats ferrying people up and down (tours available from about 15 euros per head if your budget will stretch to it..much cheaper than the staggering cost of a gondola in Venice!)
There is also a beautiful bridge of love over Ria de Aveiro where people leave silk ribbons adorned with written mementos for loved ones. So colourful and beautiful..the small ones loved it!
The Parque Infante Dom Pedro is another great spot to explore with children for free, little ponds with fish, picnic tables, green open spaces and a little play area.
If you are in need of anything practical whilst you are on the road Aveiro has a modern shopping centre with many familiar high street names nestled discreetly in the centre surrounded by cobbled streets.
We had such fun running around the many little side roads to get lost down opening up into plazas with welcoming looking cafes and tapas bars. The city centre is big enough to spend an afternoon gently meandering around on foot but not so big you get really lost or little feet get tired. A beautiful city with a friendly vibe, and with lots of amazing free street art & graffiti for any art lovers.
If you go to Aveiro you have to sample one of the famous ‘Ovos mules’ egg yolk and sugar sweets, traditionally made at the cathedral by the local nuns (85 cents each or a small box for 7 euros) pricey but so worth it.
If little ones still have any energy to burn then check out the fun pirate ship park next to the shopping centre on the walk back to the van.
One of our favourite city stops as a family in Portugal, colourful, fun and vibrant and not too hectic. Well worth a visit if you are looking for a fun free day out.