Typically international tourists would go for major sites, but Portugal has a lot to offer in small towns like Ílhavo. Last week, we talked about how the porcelain brand Vista Alegre became an icon of social responsibility, by forever changing the face of this town.
If someday you and your loved ones pass by the area near Aveiro, and you have a day to spare, we recommend that you visit Ílhavo and the Vista Alegre Museum.
What can you visit?
Vista Alegre Museum:
Your main attraction will be the old Vista Alegre factory, which has now been turned into a museum (tickets: 6 € for individual adults)
Enter a decommissioned furnace with its inside walls glazed with crystallized porcelain.
Follow the company’s history, and the way it transformed the town of Ílhavo.
See historical porcelain pieces ranging from the 19th century to the present.
Watch skilled painters do the finishing touches on their Vista Alegre pieces in real time.
Chapel of Our Lady of Penha of France (a.k.a. Vista Alegre Chapel):
Visit this seventeenth century chapel, housing the luxurious mausoleum of Manuel de Moura Manuel, Bishop of Miranda and Rector of the University of Coimbra.
Admire also the impressive ensemble of traditional Portuguese tiles, sculptures, and ceiling frescoes.
Worker’s Neighborhood / Plaza:
Take a stroll through the neighborhood created by José Pinto Basto, the founder of Vista Alegre, where the workers could live (and still do today).
Vista Alegre shop / outlet:
Splurge ceramic items of the Vista Alegre brand.
Walk along the Ria: A shallow inlet of seawater spanning 45 Km, formed by the mouth of the Vouga river. Vista Alegre stands in its margins.
Note: Unfortunately, the Vista Alegre Theater (mentioned and pictured in our article) is not open for visitors, except if the space is rented for conference purposes. You can still see it from the outside, though.
How can I get there?
Vista Alegre Museum can only be accessed by car.
- Select the following coordinates in your GPS: N 40° 35′ 21″; W 8° 41′ 00″.
- Alternatively, type “Capela Vista Alegre” in your Waze App.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit is during springtime or summertime (April to September), when the weather is more likely to be favorable.
The Vista Alegre Museum opens at 10 am and closes either at 7 pm (October to April) or 7h30 pm (May to September). The Museum tour includes the Vista Alegre shop at the end.
If you visit the Museum in certain schedules, the ticket can also give you access to the Workshop and to the Chapel. Check here for what those schedules may be.
The Worker’s Neighborhood, the Vista Alegre outlet, and the Ria are all at a walking distance from the Museum, and can be visited free of charge at any time. They make up for a very pleasant stroll.
Where can I lodge?
We stayed at Montebelo Vista Alegre Ílhavo Hotel, a modern hotel which also integrates the palace where José Pinto Basto lived.
This hotel belongs to the Visabeira group, the same company that acquired Vista Alegre in 2009. Therefore, the hotel features the Vista Alegre porcelain as its theme.
It faces the Ria on one side and the plaza on the other, being at a walking distance from all the other features.
It has many amenities, including gym, spa, and indoor / outdoor swimming pools.
The restaurant is particularly enjoyable, and features a wide breakfast buffet.
Where can I eat?
- Restaurant of the Montebelo Hotel features many delicious dishes: we particularly enjoyed the tuna Tataki with sweet potato puré.
Food is served in Vista Alegre dishware, in accordance with the Hotel’s theme.
The view to the Ria completes this nice meal experience. Perfect for a calm romantic dinner!
- Restaurant O Navegante stands at a 5 min drive from the Museum.
It has very good Portuguese cuisine, namely dishes with both meat and fish. They even offered us a tray with a wide selection of entrées!
Note: All pictures taken in either 2019 or 2020, always during periods without lockdown.