Viana do Castelo is one of the most beautiful Portuguese cities, in the Minho-Lima subregion of NorthernPortugal. The Pilgrimage of Nossa Senhora da Agonia and the amazing views of the Lima River maked 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.
It is said that when the Roman legions arrived in the first century C.E. at the falls of the Lima River, they were so taken aback with the landscape that they thought they were at the gates of paradise, with the River Lethe, the famed river of forgetfulness at their feet. The men refused to take another step. The then Councilor who accompanied them charged ahead and crossed it alone. He was then only able to convince the others it was safe by calling out the name of each and every man, to prove that the river hadn't caused him to forget everything.
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 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.
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 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.
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. The beach at Cabadelo is also accessible by public transport; ask at the Turismo for the times of the buses, which run several times a day from the bus station. Alternatively, walking there takes about 45 minutes from the city centre. Cross the Limia River on the upper level of the green Eiffel Bridge, then immediately turn right at the roundabout and follow this road to the end.
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.