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The county town of the region with the same name, Viana do Castelo, sits close to the mouth of the Rio Lima, 65 km (40 miles) north of Porto. Its strategic location and connection to the sea brought the town fortune. It was founded in the 13th century by Dom Afonso III. Viana do Castelo is now in the process of being discovered by tourists. Visitors are lured here by the fine beaches marketed as the Costa Verde, the Santa Luzia church that overlooks the town, the town's narrow medieval streets, the folklore, traditional festivals and the cuisine. Albeit some prestigious contemporary architecture such as the Praça da Liberdade riverside complex, the town retains much of its medieval charm and boasts many attractive Manueline and Renaissance buildings.
The central hub of the town is the Praça da República. It features some of the towns oldest buildings and has been the hubbub of activity for 500 years. The granite Antigos Paços do Concelho building (Old City Hall) constructed in the first half of the sixteenth century dominates the east side of the square. It is emblazoned with the city's coat of arms on its beautiful tri-arched facade crowned by bevelled battlements.
In the centre of the square, one finds a granite Renaissance fountain dating from 1553. It was designed by master stonemason João Lopes (nicknamed O Velho) to provide drinking water for the populace. The rich ornate style of Lope's design set a precedent for town fountains throughout the Minho district in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Another imposing building in the square is the Santa Casa da Misericórdia. The façade of this national monument is one of the most significant examples of Baroque architecture in Portugal. It was built by João Lopes in 1598, this former hospital was extensively remodelled in the 18th century. The three-storey edifice has an arcade at street level, fronted by five Roman archways supported by intricately carved pillars sculpted in the form of female figures supporting two levels of Renaissance balconies, the structure is crowned by a crucifix.
Adjoining the Santa Casa da Misericórdia is the 18th century Igreja de Misericórdia (church) famed for its rich interior that is adorned with fine giltwood carvings, sculptures, and paintings. Here too, are some of Portugal's finest azulejos, representing passages from the Bible. They were created by the master António de Oliveira Bernardes and his son Policarpo.
Viana do Castelo's Romanesque Cathedral has been enlarged and remodelled many times since its first conception in the 15th century, most significantly in the 19th century. The Apostles adorn the flanks of its Gothic portal. The facade is topped by two Romanesque crenellated bell towers. The interior is designed in the form of a Latin cross. One can find an impressive baptismal font and colourful 17th-century wood carvings. The two ancillary chapels dedicated to São Bernado and the Holy Sacrament are attributed to João Lopes (O Velho).
Monday - Friday: 09h00 - 18h00, Weekends: CLOSED
Largo Instituto Histórico do Minho 9, 4900-528 Viana do Castelo, Portugal
41º 41' 35.6" N | 08º 49' 58.3" W | +351 258 822 436
Close to the Cathedral, you will encounter several Medieval buildings, such as the "Casa dos Velhos", a beautiful example of distinct Galician/Portuguese architecture dating from the 15th century and the age of discoveries.
Basilica of Santa Luzia
Perched on top of the Monte Santa Luzia overlooking Viana is the domed Neo-Byzantine temple of Santa Luzia. The renowned architect Miguel Ventura Terra was influenced by the Sacré Coeur de Montmartre in Paris when designing the basilica. When constructed in 1903, its design caused controversy and was considered grotesque by style puritans. Loved or loathed, the temple has become one of the most iconic emblems of Northern Portugal. Consecrated in 1925, the church retains the tradition of pilgrimage started by the first chapel on this spot which dates back to 1694. Remains of the original chapel can be found on the grounds surrounding the site. Its three exaggerated rose windows and cupola are visible for miles. The view over the river, city and Costa Verde from the sanctuary has been heralded as one of the best in the world by National Geographic. The climb up the Monte Luzia is well worth the effort.
To get to the top, you can take the winding road or the 650 metres long Santa Luzia funicular. It departs from its base close to the train station. The first Funicular de Santa Luzia opened in 1923. You can still see one of the original carriages at the side of the rail as you ascend.
Low season: 10h00 - 17h00, High season: 09h00 - 20h00
Single: €2.00, Return: €3.00
Avenida 25 de Abril, 4900-496, Viana do Castelo, Portugal
41º 41' 48.6" N | 08º 49' 46.6" W | +351 258 817 277 | Website
The earliest evidence of human occupation of the area can be seen just behind the Basilica of Santa Luzia. Found in the form of a fortified iron age settlement which is believed to have been inhabited until the second century AD. The Citânia Santa Luzia, also known as A Cidade Velha de Santa Luzia, are Celtic-Iberian ruins consisting of circular housing structures typical of the Castro culture along with defensive walls, ditches and roads. Although excavations started in 1876 two thirds of the site remain uncovered.
The ancients took advantage of the strategic benefits of constructing a town at such a high elevation and utilised the natural flat terraces as a foundation for their buildings. A number of rock art and engravings have been unearthed here dating back to between the Neolithic and regional Chalcolithic periods.
Successive cultures continued to occupy the site shaping and adapting the landscape. The remains seen today was the pinnacle of the site's development preceding the arrival of the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Access into the site is via a small visitor centre where after watching a five-minute video you walk along elevated wooden walkways across the ruins allowing you to get a feel for the true sense of the scale of the site.
Tuesday - Sunday: 10h00 - 13h00/14h00 - 18h00, Sundays: CLOSED | €2.00
Monte de Santa Luzia, 4901-910, Viana do Castelo, Portugal | 41° 42’ 15” N | 08° 50’ 00 W
+351 258 825 917 | email@example.com
Citânia Santa Luzia
Romaria de Nossa Senhora d'Agonia
The cycle of Viana's festivals begins in May with the Festival of Roses or Flower Baskets of Vila Franca do Lima. The tradition reaches its peak in August, thanks to the incomparable Festival of Nossa Senhora d'Agonia dedicated to the city's patroness. The religious procession occurs both at sea and through the city's streets, decorated with carpets of flowers, confirms Viana's strong religious devotion. Secular traditions are also reflected at this time with the ethnographic procession. During the Costume Festival, you can admire the traditional costumes of the Minho region worn by beautiful girls adorned with genuine gold works of art that are the city's typical jewellery pieces.
The partying continues… the concertinas and drums sound… the folk-dancing do not stop… the grandiose firework display lights up the whole city, starting from the Eiffel Bridge, passing through the Santiago da Barra Castle to the Temple-Monument of Santa Luzia… According to Viana's inhabitants, all of this is a way of thanking the visitors who come during the third week of August.
In the square of São Domingos is a Renaissance church of the same name built between 1566 and 1575 and is all that remains of the old Santa Cruz monastery. It was founded by the Dominican friar Bartholomeu of the Martyrs, the Holy Archbishop of Braga. This church is home to his tomb. Also inside one encounters several beautiful carved gilded altars, of special note is the magnificent talha dourada altar found in the Nossa Senhora do Rosário side chapel, carved by the master José Alvares de Araújo from Braga, and is one of Europe's finest.
Largo de S. Domingos, Convento de S. Domingos, Monserrate 4900-330 Viana do Castelo, Portugal
41° 41′ 29.3″ N | 08° 50′ 02.6″ W | +351 258 847 701
Igreja de São Domingos
The bridge was designed by the infamous Gustavo Eiffel. It first opened on June 30th 1878. It is a fine example of 19th-century iron construction spanning 563 metres across the Lima River. The bridge uses over two million kgs of iron sitting on nine granite squared stone pillars. The foundations reach down 22 metres. It was built to replace the original wooden bridge and carries trains across the river Lima thus opening up railway routes to Northern Portugal. Today the bridge is double-decked, with rail traffic on the lower level, and road traffic on the top. The bridge was restored in 2006/7. The top deck widened to allow foot traffic.
Along and around the Lima valley can be found over 70km of traffic-free trails which meander through the countryside, opening up protected landscapes to the more adventurous traveller. In part, the trails utilise disused narrow gauge rail tracks. The trail is well signed as it takes you through idyllic surroundings, streams, vineyards, cornfields, orchards and views over the river Lima – a truly remarkable way to discover this land. The primary five routes are continuously being expanded and consist of:
Troço dos Açudes - Runs between Ponte de Lima and Ponte de Barca Website
Percurso das Lagoas - From Ponte de Lima to Ribeira da Silvareira in Fontão Website
Troço da Laranja - Runs between Ermelo, Arcos de Valdevez and Albufeira Touvedo Website
Percurso de Refóios do Lima - Runs between Ponte de Lima and the pier at Garrida Website
Percurso das Veigas - Runs between Deão in Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima Website
Accessible by boat that departs from Viana's riverfront close to the Gill Eannes ship or a short drive over the Ponte Eiffel. The sweeping sands of Cabedelo Beach and neighbouring Praia de Luzia Mar stretch for miles up to Praia Norte and are relatively untouched. Also referred to as Luziamar or Aquário, these beaches are popular with surfers, kite surfers and windsurfers as the Atlantic often batters this coastline with a vengeance. The sands are backed by pine forests and several wooden walkways. They are helpful when crossing the dunes. | 41° 41' 31.91" N | 08° 50' 56.08" W
Located in the historic district of Viana do Castelo, Residencial Laranjeira is one of the oldest hotels within the city that underwent a complete refurbishment in 2009. Each room is modern and comfortable, yet however, like the foundations, the service is genuinely friendly and welcoming. Facilities include en-suite, telephone, Cable TV, Air conditioning, WiFi and private parking.
Rua Candido dos Reis 45, 4900-082, Viana do Castelo, Portugal.
41º 41' 38.1" N | 08º 49' 47.7" W
Located in an old listed and atmospheric building the two-star Hotel Jardim Viana do Castelo provides picturesque views over the river Lima, the city centre or the mountains. The staff offer their guests an equally authentic friendly welcome, so typical of the region. Each room combines authentic features with modern facilities. They all open out onto private balconies with iron railings. Breakfast is served each morning in the homely and friendly dining hall.
Largo 5 de Outubro 68, 4900-515 Viana do Castelo, Portugal.
41º 41' 29.8" N | 08º 49' 38.9" W
Built in the 16th century, this beautifully restored manor offers individually styled rooms with minibars. The historic Viana do Castelo, features a piano bar and garden with a cascade. Casa Melo Alvim provides 20 air-conditioned rooms decorated in different styles. Ranging from neoclassical to baroque and rustic, each room is appointed with rich fabrics and original furniture. Guests can enjoy a luxury breakfast in the cosy bar with live piano music. A Baroque-style staircase leads to the upper floors and the library.
Av. Conde Da Carreira, 28, 4900-343 Viana do Castelo, Portugal.
N 41º 41' 40.0" | W 08º 49' 52.8"
This is Brazilian food at its best found just outside of Viana. A wide selection of grilled meats, feijoada, small and large plate meals, a choice of artesian beers, wines and good coffee. All served up in a homely atmosphere by friendly staff, ideal for either lunch or dinner. On occasions, they have live music to aid your ingestion.
Tuesday – Sunday: 12h00 - 15h00/19h30 - 22h00, Monday: CLOSED
Avenida do Meio 146, Areosa, Viana do Castelo 4900-834, Portugal.
N 41º 42' 33.1" | W 08º 51' 07.9"
+351 932 498 809
This small renowned fish restaurant with Viana with a homely relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. Speciality dishes include grilled sea bass stuffed with crab, house style mussels and sardines. A selection of delicious homemade desserts is available if the large portioned main didn't finish you off.
Monday - Saturday: 12h00 - 15h00/19h00 - 22h00, Sunday: CLOSED
Largo de S. Domingos 35, 4900-330, Viana do Castelo,, Portugal.
41º 41' 29.7" N | 08º 50' 2.38" W
+351 258 826 039 / 914 462 301
firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
A reasonably price restaurant dressed with typical Viana table decoration and a homely atmosphere. Specialising in regional cuisine, especially fish. The friendly staff are attentive and multilingual.
Daily: 12h00 - 16h00/19h00 - 23h00, Tuesdays in low season: CLOSED
Rua Gago Coutinho 162/164, 4900 509, Viana do Castelo, Portugal.
41º 41' 36.8" N | 08º 49' 36.1" W
+351 258 826 954
Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport Porto is 66.7km (41.5 miles) South of Viana do Castelo Website
GET A GREAT DEAL ON FLIGHTS:
Only 44 minutes north of Porto, 44,8 miles (72km) up the the A28. From Braga take the A11 and A28, 40.1 miles (64.6km).
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Regular trains to Viana do Castelo from Porto Campanhã, use the Regional train service (comboios regionais) Linha do Minho: Train Timetable | Comboios de Portugal Website
Rede Expressos run services to Viana do Castelo from various locations within Portugal. Website