Need help planning epic day trips to Coimbra and Aveiro from Porto, Portugal? One being a college town and the other a coastal town, they give off very different vibes but are both worthwhile days trips to experience all the different environs in Portugal.
Striped houses on the Atlantic Ocean? Yes please!
Cool college town vibe? Another yes please!
To be frank – I only found out about Coimbra as I was googling what town is halfway between Lisbon and Porto. I was looking for a place to get off the train, store our luggage at the station, and get lunch.
What a happy surprise this stop was! If you don’t want to make this a stopover on your way to Porto – it is still 100% worth taking a 1.5 hour train ride south to wander these cool streets if you have extra days in Porto and have gotten your fill of that northern town.
And Aveiro/Costa Nova? Well lets just say Instagram brought those two places to my attention a few years back ;).
If you need help planning your days in Porto – be sure to read my Porto travel guide here.
And I would assume you are planning to see Lisbon as well during your Portuguese adventures – so be sure to check out that travel guide too!
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Epic Day Trips to Coimbra, Aveiro, & Costa Nova
- What to Wear
- Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
How to Get to Coimbra
As I mentioned above, we made Coimbra a lunch/afternoon stop on our way from Lisbon to Porto via train.
I bought first class train tickets about two months before our trip at the Comboios de Portugal website.
If coming from Lisbon, you will leave out of the Oriente station and will need to change trains at the Coimbra-B station to go to the Coimbra station which is in the main part of town.
The train ride from Lisbon to Coimbra-B is on the express train, Alfa Pendular, and takes 1.5 hours. And the Coimbra-B to Coimbra is just a quick local train with multiple departures every hour so no need to worry much about the timetable for that 3 minute ride ;).
Interesting tip – we did not have to show anything but an ID with our names on it once on the train (the seat reservation with our names was our ticket basically). We were in 1st class with seat assignments that I got when I purchased the tickets so I am not sure if it is the same in 2nd class or not. But worth noting…
If coming from Porto – you will leave out of the Porto-Campanha station on an Intercidades train and will also arrive at Coimbra-B. This ride is 1 hour and 22 minutes.
We left our luggage in lockers at the Coimbra-B station which only accepts cash. There are only two extra large lockers at this train station. And our decision making was – if there are no lockers available (small or large), we will just get back on the train and keep going to Porto 🤪…
But we were lucky with a large locker being available that fit both of our rolling duffel bag suitcases and each of our backpack carry-ons ;).
What to Do in Coimbra
University of Coimbra is located at the top of the hill above the center of the city. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe with truly stunning architecture.
Of the 21 buildings that comprise this campus, many line the courtyard at the center of campus with one building originally a royal palace. The views from this courtyard are unparalleled in this vibrant town ;).
The campus is a Unesco World Heritage site that is worthy of the walk uphill to explore ;).
There is a ticket office on campus where you can buy tickets to buildings in the Palace of Schools including the chapel and Joanina library mentioned below.
Also on the University of Coimbra campus but worthy of its own mention on this list, the Joanina Library is truly stunning with nearly 300,000 ancient books and manuscripts dating to the 1500’s.
Entrance to this library is included with your Palace of Schools ticket that you can purchase in person at the campus ticket office in the courtyard.
The city of Coimbra has a “new” cathedral and an “old” cathedral. But don’t be fooled – the new cathedral is still over 400 years old ;0!
It is located close to the above University campus and the beauty inside is worthy of a quick stop.
My husband and I like to sit in church pews in our travels and say quick prayers for all our loved ones and churches like this make it easy to stop and reflect ;).
There is a box near the front door that “suggests” a 5 Euro donation to enter.
Church of Santa Cruz
Located in the lively May 8th Square, this is another church worth popping your head in to appreciate the ornateness and stunning architecture that is inescapable in Portugal. Actually all of Europe in my opinion.
The first two kings of Portugal are entombed here in this elegant building founded in 1131.
We ate a tasty brunch meal in the square with a view of the church and then ventured in after. There was a mass going on when we did so so we just took a quick peek and moved on to climb the hill to the University…
Walk Under the Almedina Gate
When you are wandering the streets of Coimbra, you are likely to find this historic gate or barbican.
It was one of the entrance points to the old city and used to be part of the fortified walls that surrounded and protected this city that was once the capital of Portugal.
Wander the Cobblestone Streets
Alas, my favorite part of visiting places in Europe – the old homes and cobblestone streets!
I could seriously do this for days and days on end. It also entails a fair amount of people watching – especially locals.
Being that I also love amateur photography, we take our time with our wandering, stopping often :).
Stop in at Chocolataria Equador
While I know this is not a Portuguese chocolate shop – it is absolutely worth mentioning and probably one of our favorite stops in Coimbra!
We had a leisurely glass of port, hot chocolate, a few pieces of chocolate, AND chocolate torte in this very welcoming and cozy shop. It was also our last stop in town before heading back to the train station and continuing on to Porto.
And a perfect way to end a perfect afternoon in Coimbra!
Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal due to the many picturesque canals winding through the city. It is a colorful city that has become increasingly popular thanks to Instagram highlighting the beachfront community called Costa Nova. To be frank – Instagram is exactly how I found out about this fun little day trip destination 🤪.
How to Get to Aveiro
The train from Porto-Sào Bento to Aveiro is a little over an hour on either an Alfa Pendular train or an Intercity train (the latter takes about 20 minutes longer but is half the price). It will stop in Porto-Campanha so if you are staying closer to that train station – you can also leave from there.
There are plenty of trains available during the day. In fact – almost hourly there is a train to Aveiro leaving Porto.
We bought our round trip tickets that morning at the Sao Bento train station on the Intercity train. This allows for flexibility on what time you return as you do not have to make a seat reservation for any specific train or time. However as mentioned above – there is a slightly faster option on the Alfa Pendular with a first class section. This is really not necessary though as the hour and twenty minutes on the Intercity train goes quite quickly :).
The Intercity train is the same type of train we took to Sintra so we were already familiar with the seating being similar to a commuter ride in New York (don’t forget to read that post here btw).
You can find out more about the timetables and prices on the Comboios de Portugal website here.
What to Do in Aveiro
Old Train Station
Imagine my surprise when we got off the train and immediately in front of us was a GORGEOUS white and blue train station building!!
This was nothing that I had found in my day trip googling but I knew it was going to be a perfect day in Aveiro if that was the first thing we saw ;).
We then continued to walk about 15 minutes into town where we hit the canals and the historical center. I was a tad surprised at how rundown the neighborhoods we were walking through felt but we eventually realized we were in an off the beaten path part of town that wasn’t quite so picturesque 😂.
We did however sneak a picture of three elderly locals deep in conversation that is honestly one of our most favorite photos of the area ;).
As mentioned above – Aveiro is known for its canals. A very touristy thing to do is a moliceiros (gondola) ride which we opted out of doing. The weather seemed a tad windy and the few people we did see on the gondolas just did not seem to be enjoying themselves.
Plus while we certainly always see the highlights of destinations we visit, we don’t always enjoy doing the most “touristy” thing in a place 😂.
Just seeing the canals and getting some fun photos was enough for us.
Try Ovos Moles
We ate lunch close to the fish market at Porta 36. While we cannot say the food was incredible here – it was decent enough and we were able to try the famous Aveiro dessert Ovos Moles.
Ovos Moles are a local pastry made of egg yolks and sugar. And most certainly not appreciated by everyone. Including us.
But I am glad we tried them – and if nothing else – they are a very pretty pastry!
Walk the Colorful Streets in Town
As previously mentioned – this is one of our favorite things to do. Aveiro city center has some beautiful picture-worthy (ahem- Instagram) streets to wander around on!
Take an Instagram Photo at M Bakery
We happened upon this cute Insta-stop as we were getting ready to walk back to the Aveiro train station. Since I was already full from all the snacking we had done during the day, we did not get a treat for ourselves here buy boy did I want to!
The city courtyard this bakery is in is quite photogenic too I must add with the police station on one end and a charming church caddy corner to that.
A photo of the waterfront striped cottages in Costa Nova is what I went all the way to Aveiro to see.
And see we did.
We took an Uber from Aveiro to Costa Nova (there is no other way to get to this coastal community). But it was literally only a 5 Euro ride so very easy on the wallet!
Since we were here in late April, there wasn’t a whole lot to do except get a crepe and gelato and relax. The people watching was even pretty limited on this off season time. But that’s okay – it was quiet and relaxing.
And I got to see and photograph the Insta-famous striped cottages! Which by the way – ARE NOT ON THE OCEAN! Or a beach!!
They are located on the lagoon side of this peninsula with the beaches about a ten minute walk.
Praia da Barra & Lighthouse
After getting our gelato and crepes snack in Costa Nova, we decided to walk the gorgeous boardwalk from here to the Praia da Barra Lighthouse.
This walk is about a 5 mile walk but the weather was perfect with the sun shining brightly and a nice breeze.
Being that we also live in a coastal community, it was quite fun to see the different beach atmosphere on the other side of the world :).
You could tell this beachfront had gotten some pretty intense winds based on how high the sand was on the boardwalk. In some spots – it was as high as the railings!
Once we made it to the lighthouse from Costa Nova, we caught an Uber back to Aveiro where we wandered the streets for about another hour before heading back to Porto.
All in all – we spent probably about 5-6 hours total in this coastal area of Portugal which was enough during this time of year to get a sense of what beach activities are available to area visitors in the warmer summer months.
Those are actually raindrops on my shoes as when we first got off the train – it was raining! And then lo-and-behold the sun appeared for the rest of the day ;).
What to Wear
Deciding what to wear in Portugal in spring was honestly SUPER HARD for me to do! The weather seemed to be matching our San Diego April temperatures but I knew I am always cold in San Diego spring.
However I also knew – the hills and walking that I was about to do in Portugal would warm me up more than at home.
All that to say – layers, layers, layers.
And SUPER GOOD WALKING SHOES!!
Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
I hope you found this post helpful in planning your epic day trips to Coimbra and Aveiro from Porto as well as Costa Nova. We had a magical time in both places and found them to be the perfect additions to our Portugal explorations.
Portugal is a picture perfect destination that can offer so much. Whether you are in the mood to cafe sit and watch the tourists and locals go about their days or get some exercise while wandering the streets like we do- anything you fill your Portuguese days with will be worth your time.
Please please please let me know in the comments below if you have anything to add to my suggestions. They are of course merely suggestions on what we enjoyed doing the most for our day trips to both places.
There is plenty more to do in all of these locations. Hopefully this post is just the beginning of planning your grand adventure in this charming part of Europe.
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