The codfish route will take you to the city of Ílhavo that has a long sea-related tradition. In Ílhavo we will visit the amazing Ílhavo Maritime Museum and its one-of-a-kind codfish aquarium, as well as the Museum Ship Santo André and the gaff that once belonged to the mythical White Fleet, Navio Santa Maria Manuela. But there’s more to it! We will taste cod in the most challenging ways in the typical restaurant Bela Ria, near Ílhavo, owned by the official cook of Confraria do Bacalhau – the Codfish Brotherhood! The codfish – “bacalhau” – has always been Portugal’s “faithful friend”, a must of Portuguese cuisine. Legend has it that there are at least 1000 thousand ways to cook it, being hard to tell which would be the tastiest!But there is more to codfish than simply the label of a highly praised delicacy of Portuguese cuisine. The history of “bacalhau” is a true epopee, written by thousands of men who throughout the times faced the harshness of the high seas and who have made the exciting history of codfish-fishing. We will show you the codfish route with many interesting spots and fantastic stories to tell!
From Norway with love
The origins of the codfish history get lost in time, for the first codfish-processing factories appeared in Norway and in Iceland already in the 9th century! But it was not until the 15th century that the Portuguese began to trade codfish. Dried salted codfish lasted over three months during the long-lasting sea journeys without losing its proteins and nutrients, which was ideal in this historical period! Portuguese were the first ones to fish codfish in the Newfoundland in the 15th century. By that time codfish already represented 10% of the traded fish in Portugal.
Our journey starts in the coastal city of Ílhavo, located 8 km away from Aveiro. This city has a deep maritime tradition and the codfish is actually the landmark of this beautiful coastal city. Every year in August the municipality organises the popular Codfish Festival that attracts many visitors to the city. Apart from gastronomy, this festival also presents outstanding concerts and exhibits!
Ílhavo Maritime Museum is a true icon of architecture, designed by prestigious Portuguese architects Nuno Mateus and Pedro Mateus that was also nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2003. This amazing museum is one of the most visited museums in the region of Centro de Portugal. Ílhavo Maritime Museum tells the story of high sea fishing in the Newfoundland and in Greenland, as well as in the “ria” of Aveiro. The Sea Room presents an interesting collection of nautical instruments and miniatures of ancient boats. You must pay a special attention to the codfish fishing collection, which is truly breathtaking!
The Library/ Archive of Ílhavo Maritime Museum has the greatest collection of books on codfish fishing. All the books were donated by local inhabitants and the visitor can use all the available material for free. It is a place of memory and also a hymn to the Portuguese maritime tradition!
The Museum Ship Santo André belongs to the Ílhavo Maritime Museum. This fishing trawler is part of the Portuguese codfish fishing fleet and it was built in 1948 in Holland. This 71,40 m long fishing trawler was totally renewed and converted in a museum thanks to the commitment of the ship owner and the municipality of Ílhavo. It is nowadays a landmark of the city!
A codfish aquarium Ílhavo Maritime Museum has opened an absolutely unique venue in Portugal: a codfish aquarium! It is the first in the country and the ideal place to observe this interesting species with a closer look. The Codfish Aquarium is a must-see spot of the city of Ílhavo, which so intensely promotes the preservation of sea traditions.
Navio Santa Maria Manuela is a rare four-mast gaff first launched in 1937. Built at Companhia União Fabril in Lisbon, it began operating in cod fishing and together with ship Creoula was part of the famous Portuguese White Fleet. It has 12 cabins for 2 guests, 5 cabins for 4 guests and 1 cabin for 6 guests. The ship Navio Santa Maria Manuela has been brought to life by codfish seller Pascoal & Filhos, S.A. . In 2008 this beautiful ship was back in all its glory! Pascoal enterprise works in partnership with Ílhavo Maritime Museum and with prestigious University of Aveiro, promoting Portuguese maritime culture.
Now it’s time to taste this treat of Portuguese gastronomy. We suggest a cosy restaurant, located in Gafanha de Áquem (6,5 km away from Aveiro), named Bela Ria. It is one of those off the beaten track-spots that will strike you with its unpretentious ambiance and friendly service. The restaurant Bela Ria is famous for the several codfish-inspired specialities it serves. There are a 1000 ways to cook codfish and in restaurant Bela Ria this sentence proves to be totally true!
The story of codfish can easily relate to the Portuguese identity: it’s a story about overcoming harsh seas and longing for safe land, bringing back home the almighty king of all tables, the “bacalhau” by all means! Bom apetite!