Viana do Castelo is one of the most beautiful Portuguese cities, in the Minho region of Northern Portugal. The Pilgrimage of Nossa Senhora da Agonia and the amazing views of the Lima River make this city unforgettable. Classified as the Mecca of Architecture by Wallpaper, the city is famous for the monuments in and around the city, and the surrounding natural beauty.
The Legend of Rio Lima
The city is the capital of a municipality with 314,36 km² and has some 36.750 inhabitants. The municipality borders the municipality of Caminha in the north, the municipality of Ponte de Lima in the east, the municipalities of Barcelos ans Esposende in the south and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The city's origins date back to before the Christian era, as it can be seen in the hill fort near the Basilica of Santa Luzia. It received its first foral from King Afonso III of Portugal in 1258, as well as the name Viana da Foz do Lima, because of its geografical location; in 1848 it became a city by a decree of Maria II of Portugal, and received the name of Viana do Castelo.
The closest airport is Sá Carneiro International Airport in Porto, with frequent flights from Lisbon, Madeira, and many principal European cities. You can fly to Porto and then catch a transport to the city (see below).
The train station of Viana do Castelo is located in this borough, and there is a train to almost every city in the country, such as Lisbon, Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Fátima, Figueira da Foz, Portimão, Porto, Guimarães and Guarda.
The two main highways through town are:
- A28 - Connects the town to Porto, Matosinhos, Leça da Palmeira, Póvoa de Varzim, Apúlia/Barcelos, Esposende, Vila Praia de Âncora and Caminha.
- A27 - Connects the town to Ponte de Lima and Ponte da Barca.
The most obvious way to see the town is on foot. Most of the city's attractions and a large part of its shopping are found in the historic downtown, quite close to each other, and many pathways downtown are pedestrian-only.
Although there are few bicycle lanes, the city center is very bike friendly. Rentals are available in the Tourist Information Office near Praça da Liberdade. During the summer, the 2/4 seats pedal karts are also very popular.
AVIC and Transcunha city buses ply the streets.
Traffic is light, and roads are clearly marked.
- Avis Rent-a-Car, Rua de Gotim 35, tel. +351 258 817 540, .
- Auto Europe Portugal, 800 780 008, .
- Europcar, Praça General Barbosa 124, tel. +351 813370.
- Auto Jardim, Rua Alves Cerqueira, 71, ☏ . / 73.
- Basilica of Santa Luzia, on Mt. St. Luzia - Constructed in 1903, it was inspired by the Sacré Coeur de Montmartre in Paris. From the basilica's location on top of Mount St. Luzia, there are spectacular views of the city and the beach. The best view of the city can be seen from the pinnacle of the church, accessible from the church through an elevator or through the stairs. You can reach the basilica either by car via the Santa Luzia highway, or by taking the Santa Luzia Elevator.
- Gil Eanes Naval Museum, on the Dock - A floating naval hospital constructed in 1952 and which operated until 1973. It is now open to the public as a kind of museum, housing the original equipment. The ship has operation rooms, communication equipments, refrigerating chambers and a reinforced hull. It was restored by a group of locals. It was then adapted to become a youth hostel and is one of the city's biggest attractions.
- Former City Hall, at the Praça da República (Republic Square) - Built in the 16th century, it is located in the Praça da República. In the facade you can see the coat of arms of the city: a boat and an armillary sphere.
- Sá Family House, at the Praça da República (Republic Square) - An ancient building, also in the Praça da República, with a beautiful facade. It was projected by João Lopes, the same architect that projected the fountain in the middle of the square. Each battlement of the facade has a human renaissance figure.
- Fountain at Praça da República, at the Praça da República (Republic Square) - This granite fountain, richly adorned with carved figures, was built by João Lopes in the 16th century.
- Monument to Caramuru and Paraguaçu at the Praça da República (Republic Square), was built by Jose Rodrigues in 2009.
- Consistory of Misericórdia, at the Praça da República (Republic Square) - Situated at the Praça da República, the complex is constituted by the Misericórdia Hospital, with one of the most beautiful renaissance facades in the city, built by João Lopes, and by the Misericórdia Church, remodeled in the 18th century, with beautiful tiles inside.
- Cathedral, on the Largo da Matriz - The cathedral is Gothic in style, with Galician influence, and has two large towers. It has a very beautiful interior.
- Fort of Santiago da Barra, on Campo do Castelo. Consisting of an quadrangular outer wall with the Roqueta tower in the center, this fort was constructed during the reign of Dom Manuel I. The tower displays the coat of arms of the city, flanked by an armillary sphere and by the Order of Christ Cross.
- Church of St. Domingos, Largo de São Domingos. - The church of the old Santa Cruz convents, founded by Frei Bartolomeu dos Mártires.
- Viana Municipal Museum, Largo de São Domingos.
- Beach - most beaches along the coast line have Blue Flag classification and start not more than a 10 minute drive from the city center, so make sure you take your time to enjoy one of the best things the region has to offer.
- Hiking - the foothills of Viana Do Castelo have some hiking paths. You can get maps from the tourist information office.
- Museums - Viana do Castelo is the capital of gold of Portugal. You may visit a privately owned gold museum with some characteristic exhibits of the Minho area. The most characteristic technique of working the gold in Viana do Castelo is filigree and you have excellent examples in exhibition there.
- Viana crockery. The most traditional craft of the city is sold in many local shops, as well as in the factory in Meadela. The Viana Municipal Museum, in the Palacete Barbosa Maciel, hosts a vast collection of it as well.
- Filagree pendants
Local specialties include bacalhau à margarida da praça (a cod dish), pescada Vianense (local fish), and caldo verde (green soup).
- Pastry - Bolas de Berlin from the pastry shop Ze Natario are one of the welcome cards of the town. They are a made out of a bun of sweet dough that is baked in the oven then covered on sugar frosting powder and cinnamon, with a filling on sweet egg cream in the middle. Expect queues of 15 to 30 mins (that can even grow outside the shop) at the time the batches are coming from the oven. There are some other traditional sweets from the region easily available, but make sure you don't miss Natario's bolas de berlin.
- Taberna do Valentim, ☏ . Rua Monsenhor Daniel Machado 180. Specializing in local fish.
- A Messe, ☏ . Rua de Viana 112.
- As Quatro Colunas, ☏ . Rua João Paulo II - Meadela.
- Astúrias, ☏ . Largo 5 de Outubro.
- Átrio, Rua da Gramática, 77, ☏ .
- Covas, ☏ . Rua Prior do Crato.
- Casa D'Armas, ☏ . Largo 5 de Outubro, 30. Splendid seafood restaurant on the banks of the river.
- Cozinha das Malheiras, ☏ . Rua Gago Coutinho 19. Regional cuisine in historic downtown, famous for its rojões, as well as for its cabrito (goat) and its seafood.
- Casa de Pasto Maria de Perre, Rua de Viana, 118, ☏ .
- Restaurante Camelo, ☏ . Rua de Santa Marta 119, Estrada Nacional 202 - Santa Marta de Portuzelo (on the outskirts of town). One of the best places to try local cuisine.
- Restaurante Náutico, ☏ . Praça da Galiza.
- Restaurante O Pescador (Largo de São Domingos, 35, +351 258 826 039 - +351 914 462 301, http://www.opescadorviana.com)
- Restaurante da Casa Melo Alvim, ☏ . Avenida Conde da Carreira 28.
- Restaurante Ásia, ☏ . Avenida da Praia Norte. Beachside Asian restaurant featuring a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai dishes.
- Margarida da Praça.
- 1 Quinta do Bento Novo - Casa de Campo - Turismo Rural, Caminho da Cabine, 187,Perre, 4925-581 Viana do Castelo, Portugal (Perre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:30, check-out: 12:30.
- 2 Paço de Lanheses, Lanheses, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 3 Torre de Refóios, Refóios do Lima, Ponte de Lima, ☏ .
|Routes through Viana do Castelo|
|END ←||W E||→ Ponte de Lima|
|Caminha ←||N S||→ Póvoa de Varzim → Porto|
|END ←||W E||→ Ponte de Lima → Braga|