The small, vibrant town of AVEIRO is best known for its local beaches, though it's a place of some antiquity and interest. It was a thriving port on the Rio Vouga up until the 1570s, when the mouth of the river silted up, closing its harbour and creating vast, fever-ridden marshes. Recovery began only in 1808 when a canal was cut through to the sea, reopening the port and draining much of the water; only the shallow lagoons you see today were left. These were put to use as vast saltpans, and although salt is still produced in this way it is no longer the mainstay of the economy it once was.
Aveiro itself has a compact, restored centre of handsome buildings, open squares, canals, footbridges and cruise boats. For once, the local authorities have restrained themselves – there are no ludicrous claims to be the "Venice of the West" – and Aveiro grows upon visitors, rather than being thrust upon them: it lends itself rather easily to a couple of days doing not very much, and with no fixed plans you might well end up staying an extra night or two. In this you're ably supported by an excellent range of restaurants and some lively bars, courtesy of the large student population at the Universidade de Aveiro.