Viseu, is a charming hilltop city and district capital (around 53,000 inhabitants) in central Portugal. It is situated in the Beira Alta between the mountain ranges of the Serra da Estrela and Serra do Caramulo, about halfway between Aveiro and Guarda off the new A25 Motorway right in the middle of the famous Dao wine region.
The city, a regional center for agriculture and education, has many schools, a modern polytechnic and 2 universities (the Catholic University and the Piaget Institute). There is no heavy industry.
Viseu has excellent motorway links with other major cities, the coast and Spain via the junction of the A25 (east/west) and A24/IP3 (north/south) motorways. There is an outer ringroad consisting of part A25 and IP5.
Porto airport is the nearest international airport, about 1 3/4 hours away by car.
Viseu has its own municipal airport for light private aircraft.
There are frequent long distance coach services operated by Rede/Expressos to other major cities.
There is no train service. The closest railway stations are in Nelas or Mangualde, both on the Linha da Beira Alta. This makes Viseu the largest city on the Iberian peninsula without a railway station.
By car: sign-posting for the city centre is good. There is an inner ring road with 12 roundabouts giving access to the inner city at frequent intervals.
The old town itself can easily be explored on foot. There is also a recently (2009) installed funicular connecting the lower city (The Forum) with the upper city (Adro da Se).
The well-kept, clean and prosperous city has a fine historic quarter (Centro Historico) with cobbled streets, hidden alleys, flights of steps and intriguing corners. There are numerous Renaissance and Baroque mansions and palaces as well as some remaining city gates like the 15th C. Porta do Soar de Cima. The crowning glory is the Romanesque and Gothic Sé (Cathedral), one of the finest in Portugal and partly built directly on granite boulders which is particularly evident at the back. It is located on the Adro da Sé, an impressive square, which is also the location of the striking Misericordia Church with its broad white Rococo facade. Since it is the highest point in town, the square provides extensive views to the surrounding countryside.
However, striking modern architecture is evident too. The Forum shopping, food and cinema centre (2005), bordering the river Pavia, is a good example as is the enormous Palacio do Gelo shopping & restaurant mall (2008) with its indoor ice rink and other sports facilities, easily accessible on the ring road. Also of note is the converted Old Market on the Rua Formosa with cafés and boutiques, and now a venue for exhibitions and open air concerts. The city has ample municipal facilities for visitors such as free internet locations, a modern public library, a new large district hospital, a youth hostel (Pousada de Juventude), a brand new swimming pool complex and other modern sports facilities.
- Old Quarter (Centro Historico) with Rua Direita, Rua Augusta Hilario, Rua D. Duarte, Praca D. Duarte, Rua Escura, Rua das Quintas.
- Sé (Cathedral) Romanesque/Gothic with Cloister, built on granite rocks. Walk around the Sé to fully appreciate this.
- Museum Grao Vasco (former Bishop's Palace, 1563)
- Museum Casa Almeida Moreira
- Misericordia Church 18th C.
- Rossio (Praca da Republica) with fountains, azulejos, Town Hall (19th C.) and Igreja dos Terceiros de Sao Francisco
- Porta do Soar de Cima
- Porta dos Cavaleiros
- Fontelo Park with Solar do Vinho do Dao (Dao wine institute)
- Nerys Convent (seminary with suspended staircase) and Igreja do Carmo on Largo Santa Cristina
- Cava de Viriato. Remains of a very large Lusitanian-Roman camp surrounded by an pentagonal earthen wall.
- Old Market on Rua Formosa
- Statue of Viriathus
- Visit the Tourist Information Centre (Adro da Se ) where friendly and helpful staff offer maps with free city walks in several languages.
- Walk the streets and soak up the atmosphere in this unspoilt Portuguese city. Eat and drink in one of the many cafés,restaurants or cervejarias.
- Visit the Municipal Theatre, Teatro do Viriato, where there is usually an exhibition during the daytime.
- Visit the Cathedral, churches and chapels, all free during opening hours.
- See works by the famous painter Vasco Fernandes in the Grao Vasco Museum. Free on Sunday mornings!
- Walk the newly constructed riverside walkway along the Rio Pavia which runs straight through the lower city.
- Visit the modern sports facilities in Fontelo Park
- Shop in the Rua Direita, Rua Formosa, The Forum and Palacio do Gelo
- See the Cava de Viriato with Viriato's statue in front.
- Dao Wine, Serra da Estrela cheese, handicrafts.
The numerous restaurants, cafés, pastelarias, bars and cervejarias provide excellent freshly prepared food for all budgets.
Try the traditional pastry of the region, the Viriato, for sale in good pastelarias.
The excellent local Dao wines from the co-operatives like UDACA (Union of the Dao Co-operatives) and private wineries such as: Casa de Santar, Quinta da Fata, Quinta de Cabriz, Casa da Insua, Duque de Viseu, Grao Vasco and many more.
There are many hotels in Viseu ranging from 1 to 5 stars. All have their own websites and may be booked directly or via various on-line booking agencies. A selection:
- Hotel Avenida,
- Hotel Grao Vasco,
- Hotel Moinho de Vento,
- Hotel Onix,
- Hotel Montebelo,
- Hotel Palacio dos Melos,
- Albergaria Jose Alberto,
- Hotel Principe Perfeito,
- Pensao Rossio Parque,
- Viseu Garden Hotel,
- Youth Hostel (Pousada de Juventude),
- Pousada de Viseu,
- Casa da Se,
- And quite a few more.
- Alcafache (spa), Almeida, Caramulo, Celorico, Guarda, Penedono, Pinhel, Sabugal, Santa Comba Dao (rivers Mondego, Criz and Dao), Santar, Sao Pedro do Sul (spa), Seia, Sernancelhe, Serra da Estrela (highest Portuguese mountain range), Vouzela.
- The road from Viseu to Nelas is very picturesque offering views of many vineyards.