Row, Row, Row Your Moliceiro

Moliceiros and a church

The coastal inlets cutting through the city of Aveiro – in northern Portugal – created four canals, which became integral to Aveiro’s development and identity. Along these canals, you’ll find moliceiros. A moliceiro is a type of boat unique to the city and they’ve subsequently become one of the most widely recognizable symbols of the region and throughout Portugal. But what’s so special about these boats, and what makes them so iconic?


Two moliceiros

Two moliceiros in front of some Art Deco buildings

These long, narrow boats are easily distinguished by their painted exteriors and curly fronts. Traditionally, they were used for hauling seagrass, or moliço, which was used as fertilizer for farming. Nowadays, they’re used for tourism.


Riding a moliceiro

Enjoying the ride on a moliceiro

I went on such a tour on my last trip to Aveiro. The 30-45 minute tours take you along the four canals. At the end of one of the canals you can see salt pans (insider tip: go in the late summer/early fall for the most impressive views of the salt stacked up). Passengers are also told about the fishing history of the area and how the city has grown, all the while enjoying the views of the beautiful art deco buildings which line the ria (the inlet). The moliceiro has become such an iconic part of the city that it’s depicted in all sorts of traditional art forms such as in the Portuguese calçada and on azulejos (both below). There’s even a convent sweet called a moliceiro which is shaped like one.


Calçada com moliceiro

Portuguese calçada depicting a moliceiro


Moliceiro azulejo

Tiles depicting moliceiros

The artwork on the moliceiros are typically very colorful, often have flowers and other ornaments and their subjects can range from religious imagery of the Virgin Mary to more vulgar artwork with rude puns. But do not confuse the moliceiros with another traditional boat you can find in Aveiro: the mercatelo. Mercatelos are wider and their bows don’t curl up the way the moliceiros do. Mercatelos were used for transporting salt and other merchandise. So when you go to Aveiro next, you can impress all the tour guides with your insider knowledge!


Mercatelo in the back, moliceiro in the front

A mercatelo in the back, and a moliceiro in the front

Moliceiro in Aveiro

Have you been to Aveiro and seen the moliceiros? Share with me in the comments below!

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  • brickthomas
    January 4, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    What a colorful and interesting place to visit. Thanks for the information and your photographs were beautiful. Brick

    • aportugueseaffair
      January 5, 2017 at 11:45 am

      Thank you! I really enjoyed learning that sea grass was used for fertilizer and about how the different boats served different purposes.

  • cityodes
    January 5, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Que fotos lindas Catarina! Para mim Aveiro é uma das cidades mais bonitas de Portugal e os moliceiros são super giros, gostei imenso de andar num e tal como disseste ao pôr-do-sol é fantástico 🙂

    • aportugueseaffair
      January 5, 2017 at 11:47 am

      A parte velha da cidade é linda e aquela rua principal ao longo da ria é tão bonita. Os moliceiros decorados realçam estas cores.

  • nicklewis
    January 5, 2017 at 9:54 am

    I want to go, it looks like a fabulous place to be!

    • aportugueseaffair
      January 5, 2017 at 11:50 am

      It’s a small city but a great place to eat convent sweets and fish, and to see the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings than I’ve ever seen in Portugal.

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