Viana Do Castelo is a city on the Costa Verde, Portugal and one of the stopping points on the Portuguese Camino De Santiago.
If you have fallen in love with Lisbon or Porto, then Viana should be the next city on your travel hit list.
Viana has been an important port and shipbuilding town for centuries. When the Age of Discoveries was in full swing, ships from Viana sailed all over the world, bringing back goods and glory. The city still plays an important maritime role being home to a number of shipyards.
On the banks of the Rio Lima with a small historical centre boasting an impressive square, the Plaza de Republica, Viana has a little of everything, including the regal Santuario Santa Luzia which overlooks the city. Cafes, restaurants and bars line peaceful plazas and there are many narrow shopping lanes to explore. A small beach is located close to Viana’s centre.
So, let’s take a look at the things to do and see 24 hours in Viana Do Castelo.
Historical Centre & Placa de Republica
The Placa de Republica is a long pedestrianised square in the centre of the old town surrounded by many century old buildings including the Old City Hall. Built in the 16th century, the granite building has an arcade on its lower floor. Just above the central window is Viana do Castelo’s coat of arms.
A few steps back from the old city hall is the square’s Renaissance fountain also made from granite in the 1550s.
The historical centre is home to the city’s many great restaurants serving the catch of the day. Viana has a lively nightlife and there are plenty of cafes and bars serving drinks until the early hours.
Santuario de Santa Luzia
Rising above the old town is the Monte de Santa Luzia on top of which sits the Santuario de Santa Luzia. Inspired by the Sacré-Cœur in Paris, the Santuario was built at the turn of the 20th-century.
Designed in an eclecticist style, mixing Neo-Gothic and Byzantine styles, the rose windows are the largest on the Iberian Peninsula. Leading craftsmen were brought in to work on the frescos, sculptures and altar sculpted from Vila Viçosa marble.
The views from the dome of Viana do Castelo’s old town are stunning as they overlook the Atlantic Ocean, the River Lima, and pine-topped hills in three directions.
While the view is worth the climb up, visitors can take the “elevador” one of the longest in Europe.
Museu do Traje
The Museu do Traje (Costume Museum) shares the history of the traditional dress in this part of the northern region of Portugal.
The focus is on the traditional dress during the 20th century. The ceremonial clothing for young women was colourful and loaded with gold filigree which would communicate their age and marital status. There are also costumes worn by farmers, fishers, and the workers who used to cultivate seaweed along Viana do Castelo’s beaches.
Santa Casa De Misericordia
João Lopes, the same Renaissance craftsman who sculpted the fountain also worked on the facade of the Santa Casa de Misericordia – a church and the hospital complex. The old Hospital gave shelter and support for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela in the 15th century and was later used as a primitive hospital.
The building now houses the tourist information office as well as an intimate space for concerts held in the balconied courtyard.
Ruins of Citania de Santa Luzia
A short distance from the Sanctuaria is Citania de Santa Luzia, an Iron Age fortified settlement inhabited from the 7th century BC up to Roman times.
While the inhabitants of Viana had knowledge of the existence of the town for hundreds of years, the excavations didn’t begin until the end of the 19th century, and only one-third of this vast site has been uncovered so far.
Viana has many other historical buildings and architecture of note that are worth exploring. Museu Municipal houses furniture, painting, and Iron Age artefacts from the citadel at Santa Luzia, including the largest tile collection in Portugal.
The Forte de Santiago da Barra is a 16th-century fortress, guarding the anchorage in the Lima Estuary, what used to be one of Portugal’s major seaports.
Nossa Senhora da Agonia is a baroque chapel near the port and a shrine for the Virgin of Agony erected in 1674 for fishermen praying for good luck on their voyages.
Viana also boasts its own cathedral which is rather military in style yet still worth a visit.
If you plan to walk the Camino de Santiago, check out my book, A Wild Woman’s Guide To The Camino de Santiago. I share everything you need to know before you begin your Camino. Read at A Wild Woman’s Guide To The Camino De Santiago or click the link below.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2019. All Rights Reserved.