Overlooked by the Hill of Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo enjoys a beautiful setting on the north bank of the Lima River estuary and it’s a great option if you are looking for some Porto day trips! Let’sgo?
It was an important seaport during the Age of Discovery (King João VI set off from here to explore the Congo), and the resulting prosperity led to the building of opulent mansions in the Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque styles in the largely pedestrians-only old center. The Viana do Castelo’s tourism office has brochures pointing out some of the most attractive mansions, most of them in Rua Cândido dos Reis and Rua de São Pedro.
There are more fine buildings around the vast main square, Praça da Republica. In the center is a Renaissance fountain, and facing it is the former 16th-century Town Hall (now used for exhibitions) with three wide Gothic arches, and the Renaissance Misericordia Church and Hospice built in 1598.
From the square, Rua Sacadura Cabral leads to the 15th-century Parish Church (also known as the “Sé”), with a Gothic doorway with reliefs of the apostles and one of the most popular atracctions in Viana do Castelo!
The Municipal Museum is housed in an 18th-century palace and holds a fine collection of rare ceramics, furniture from Portuguese India and Moorish Spain, and archaeological finds.
Standing on the Hill of Santa Luzia is the massive domed Neo-Byzantine Santa Luzia Basilica, other must see in Viana do Castelo, modeled on the Sacré Coeur in Paris! Three rose windows illuminate the interior and frescoes, and there are exceptional panoramic views from the top. On the same hill are also traces of a Celtic settlement. Don’t miss it!
Events in Viana do Castelo
The town is also known for being the most folkloric in the country. Its traditional regional dresses are best seen during the annual Festival of Our Lady of Sorrows (in Portuguese: Romaria da Senhora da Agonia), which takes place during the weekend nearest August 15th, with processions, parades, folk dancing, and nightly fireworks. Expect to see typical clothes and gold – lot’s of gold!
Summer in Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo is especially popular in the summer for a splendid beach nearby, the beach of Cabedelo, reached by ferry from Avenida dos Combatentes, the town’s main avenue. Also popular is the beach of Vila Praia de Âncora to the north.