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Viana do Castelo, Portugal; a tourism guide for 2023

Viana do Castelo is the gem of Northern Portugal and exemplifies all of the finest aspects of the Costa Verde region. There are pristine beaches, dramatic natural scenery, and a city rich in history and Portuguese culture.

Viana do Castelo has always been a hardworking industrial city, with a proud shipbuilding heritage and a large fishing fleet. It is also a personable and likeable destination, which has a surprising amount of sights and activities to offer you.

Contained within the compact historic centre are ornate religious buildings, handsome 17th-century villas and cobbled shopping streets. Viana do Castelo spans the northern banks of the mighty Rio Lima, and this shoreline has a pleasant mix of park, ultra-modern architecture and a bustling fishing port.

Dominating the skyline of Viana do Castelo is the Santuário de Santa Luzia, a neo-byzantine church that stands atop the Monte de Santa Luzia hill. From the top of the church’s domed roof is one of the finest panoramic views in the whole of Portugal.

Viana do Castelo lies in a region of outstanding natural beauty. The city sits at the mouth of the slow-flowing Lima River, and is surrounded by rugged hills characteristic of the Minho region, while the coastline comprises of gorgeous sandy beaches.

Viana do Castelo is barely known by foreign visitors, but the city and surrounding region has so much to offer, that it deserves to be discovered by you. This article will show you why you must visit Viana do Castelo and help you get the most from the region. Relate articles: Ponte de Lima – Dy trips from Porto – The Douro valley

Highlights of Viana do Castelo

The Santuário de Santa Luzia – The magnificent white church that stands high above the city, with beautiful rose windows and a spectacular view from the top of its roof.

Santuário de Santa Luzia Viana do Castelo

The Praça da República – The heart of Viana do Castelo, with its historic buildings, cobbled streets and the Santa Casa da Misericórdia church, with its stunning interior.

Praça da República Viana do Castelo

The Gil Eannes hospital ship – The 1950s ship constructed in Viana do Castelo to support the city’s Atlantic fishing fleet, now converted into a fascinating museum that details its history.

Gil Eannes ship boat Viana do Castelo

The Praia do Cabedelo – Sweeping sandy bay south of Viana do Castelo, with pristine natural scenery and near-perfect surfing waves.

Praia do Cabedelo beach Viana do Castelo

A day trip to Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo is a great destination for a day trip from Porto but is rarely considered. There are sufficient sights to easily fill a day of sightseeing, and the city has a completely different atmosphere to Porto.

It is even possible to visit Viana do Castelo as a day trip from Porto using public transport. The inter-region (IR) train service from Porto to Viana takes 95 minutes, and a return ticket costs €14.40; see Comboios de Portugal https://www.cp.pt

A typical day trip to Viana do Castelo is divided into three sections; the historic centre, the waterfront and the Monte de Santa Luzia hill. To explore each of these distinct areas takes five to six hours and makes for an enjoyable day trip.

The map below shows a suggested day trip to Viana do Castelo. The green line marks the tour of the city, and the yellow line shows the tour around Monte de Santa Luzia ( Note: zoom out to see all of the points)

Sights of the day trip: 1) Museu do Traje 2) Praça da República 3) Igreja da Misericordia 4) Sé Catedral 5) Ponte Eiffel 6) Monumento ao 25 de Abril 7) Centro Cultural 8) Gil Eannes 9) Forte Santiago da Barra 10) Santuário de Nossa Senhora 11) Igreja de São Domingos 12) Elevador de Santa Luzia 13) Santuário de Santa Luzia 14) Citânia Santa Luzia 15) Praia Norte (beach) 16) Praia do Cabedelo (beach) Note: On Monday, all of the city’s museums are shut, so it is advisable not to visit Viana do Castelo on this day

se cathedral Viana do Castelo

The gothic styled Se Cathedral

For your day trip, we suggest beginning in the historic centre, which is conveniently close to the train station. The historic centre follows a grid layout with the Praça da República at its heart. Highlights include the Sé Catedral, the Misericordia church and the informative Traje regional museum.

The waterfront is a mix of ultra-modern buildings and parks, that are centred around the Centro Cultural. Towards the mouth of the Lima River is the spawling Santiago da Barra Fort and port complex where the Gil Eannes ship is moored.

The final area for the day trip is the Monte de Santa Luzia hill (228m). This is where the Santuário de Santa Luzia is situated, along with the iron-age ruins of the Citânia de Santa Luzia. A funicular climbs the hill and stops at the base of the Santuário de Santa Luzia.

The view from the top of the Santuário de Santa Luzia

The view over Viana do Castelo from the top of the Santuário de Santa Luzia

Citânia Santa Luzia

The Citânia Santa Luzia ruins were a major iron-age town and fort that covered the entire summit of the Santa Luzia hill.

Igreja de São Domingos church

The Igreja de São Domingos

Viana do Castelo for a longer stay or holiday

Viana do Castelo may not seem an obvious choice for a holiday, but it is a fantastic location if you are seeking a completely undiscovered and unique destination.

Along with the historical sights and activities, Viana do Castelo boasts a wide selection of restaurants, hotels and bars. The city has the facilities, services and nightlife of a large city but without the excessive clamour or hecticness of Lisbon or Porto.

For a holiday, Viana do Castelo provides exceptional value for money, as all restaurants and nightlife are designed for locals and not tourists.

Our opinion: If you adored Lisbon, fell in love with Porto, and the Algarve is too touristy for you, then Viana do Castelo should be the next place you visit in Portugal.

Viana do Castelo is not a classic beach resort, but there are amazing beaches within walking distance of the historic centre (the Praia Norte), and there is a summertime ferry to the beautiful Praia do Cabedelo.

The city is an ideal base from which to explore the Minho region and the Costa Verde coastline, and Viana do Castelo is the primary transport hub of the region. A suggested 1-week itinerary could include: • Day 1 – Explore the historic centre and the Santa Luzia hill. • Day 2 – Visit the Gil Eannes ship and the beaches • Day 3 – A day trip to Ponte de Lima (a pretty town) • Day 4 – A day trip to Valença (a fortified town on the Spanish border) • Day 5 – A day trip to the Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês (car needed) • Day 6 – A day trip to Caminha and Vila Nova de Cerveira (delightful coastal towns) • Day 7 – A day trip to Barcelos (a pretty riverside town)

The Viana do Castelo has a decent selection of hotels and rental rooms, and the best are seen in the map below. If you adjust the dates to your trip, it will display current prices and availability:

The weather of Viana do Castelo

One consideration for a trip to Viana do Castelo and the Minho region is the weather. The Costa Verde (the Green Coast) is named after its lush vegetation, but this is due to the amount of rain that blows in from the Atlantic Ocean and falls over the hills. The summer months are dry and warm, but there can be a lot of rain in the autumn, winter and early spring.

Viana do Castelo weather temperature hot cold

The daytime maximum temperature (measured in the shade) and night-time minimum

Viana do Castelo sunshine rainfall rain sun

The average hours of sunshine per day and monthly rainfall

The Gil Eannes

The Gil Eannes hospital ship was constructed in 1955 to support the city’s fishing fleet during their month-long cod-fishing expeditions to Newfoundland (off the coast of Canada). The ship doubled up as a supply ship and mobile hospital for this incredibly dangerous profession.

The boat was rescued from scrappage in 1992, and has been lovingly restored to its former glory, and celebrates the fishing heritage of Viana do Castelo. The entire boat can be explored, from the bridge to the engines, and even the operating theatres. This is a fantastic tourist attraction for adults and children alike: http://www.fundacaogileannes.pt

Gil Eannes ship

The operating room was at the lowest point of the ship, to have the least movement during rough seas

The Santuário de Santa Luzia

The magnificent Santuário de Santa Luzia stands atop the Monte de Santa Luzia, and is visible from any point of the city. The neo-Byzantine styled church is much younger than it appears, with its construction only starting in 1904, and completed in 1959.

The Monte de Santa Luzia hill provides amazing panoramic views of the region, and if you are fit (without claustrophobic or vertigo) can climb to the top of the churches dome for even better views. Related articles: The Santuário de Santa Luzia .

Santuário de Santa Luzia

The Igreja da Misericordia

The nondescript exterior of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia gives no indication of the opulent and decorative interior of the church. Inside gilded leaf and beautifully painted Azulejo tiles adorn every surface.

Igreja da Misericordia Viana do Castelo

The interior of the Igreja da Misericordia is simply stunning

The beaches of Viana do Castelo

The Costa Verde has a gorgeous coastline of pristine and windswept beaches. These beaches are stunning, and in the summer, when there is less wind, they can easily rival the best beaches of the Algarve.

The seawater of the Northern Portugal coastline is surprisingly cold, only reaching 16-18C in the summer.

The Praia do Cabedelo is the finest beach of Viana do Castelo and lies on the southern side of the Rio Lima. This pristine beach extends for over 3.5km and is popular for surfing and kite surfing due to its excellent waves and reliable sea breezes.

On the northern side of the mouth of the river Lima (and closer to the city) is the Praia Norte. This is a beautiful sandy beach interspaced with rocky outcrops, and has a bustling promenade of cafes, bars and restaurants.

Further north along the coastline are the smaller resort towns of Carreço, Afife and Vila Praia de Âncora, and each offers a wonderful sandy beach.

Praia Norte beach Viana do Castelo

The Praia Norte beach

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viana do castelo tourism

There are two good reasons to visit Viana’s 228m eucalyptus-clad hill. One is the wondrous view down the coast and up the Lima valley. The other is the…

Demanding attention on the waterfront near Largo 5 de Outubro is a pioneering naval hospital ship, the Gil Eannes (zheel yan-ish). Now restored, the ship…

This is one of the Minho’s best beaches: a 1km-long arc of blonde, powdery sand that folds into grassy dunes backed by a grove of wind-blown pines. It’s…

This fine hub of seven narrow laneways is at the heart of the old town’s zone of mansions and monuments. An especially elegant example is the Chafariz, a…

This fabulously over-the-top, 20th-century, neo-Byzantine church is one of two reasons to visit Viana’s 228m eucalyptus-clad hill. You can get a little…

The 18th-century Palacete Barbosa Maciel bears witness to Viana’s affluent past. It houses this impressive collection of 17th- and 18th-century ceramics …

This small five-room museum devoted to chocolate is fun and interactive, treating you to tidbits of facts and curiosities, but it's also often packed with…

You can still scoot around the ramparts of this squat castle, a short walk west of the centre, which began in the 15th century as a smallish fort. It was…

This attractive museum houses the traditional wear used for farming, fishing and seaweed harvesting in centuries past. You’ll see costumes worn during the…

Behind the Pousada do Monte de Santa Luzia are these ruins of a Celtiberian citânia (fortified village) from around the 4th century BC. You’ll see the…

This elegant parish church – also known as the sé – dates from the 15th century, although it has since been through several reincarnations. Check out its…

A Renaissance fountain built in 1554. The fountain is topped with Manueline motifs of an armillary sphere and the cross of the Order of Christ.

The fortresslike Antigos Paços do Concelho is the old town hall from the 16th century. It sometimes hosts contemporary art exhibitions.

Rebuilt in 1714, this church is adorned with some fine azulejos (hand-painted tiles).

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Home » Travel Guides » Portugal » 15 Best Things to Do in Viana do Castelo (Portugal)

15 Best Things to Do in Viana do Castelo (Portugal)

Where the Limia River arrives at the Atlantic Ocean, Viana do Castelo is a lovely historic city.

In the old town, especially at Praça da República, there’s 16th-century Manueline and Renaissance architecture to win your heart.

Behind the city looms the Monte de Santa Luiza, which can be reached by the longest funicular railway in Portugal.

At the top is a majestic basilica, as well as an Iron Age “castro” and panoramas to die for.

Beachgoers  have all they could wish for at Praia de Cabedelo, a gigantic, untouched bay with golden sands, traced by dunes and washed by rolling waves.

Lets explore the best things to do in Viana do Castelo :

1. Praça da República

Praça da República

This long square in the centre of the old town is somewhere you’ll returning, whether on a sightseeing tour or just to take the weight off for a few minutes  with a shot of coffee or cold beer.

It is totally pedestrianised, and has many centuries-old buildings.

You’ll be drawn towards the old city hall, built in the 16th century: This granite building has an arcade on its lower floor and is capped with merlons, while 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 wonderful Renaissance fountain, also made from granite in the 1550s.

2. Santa Casa Da Misericórdia

Santa Casa Da Misericórdia

João Lopes, the same Renaissance craftsman who sculpted the fountain also worked on the facade of the church and the hospital complex in front of it.

It’s a sight to savour from the steps of the fountain, with a Venetian arcade and a two-storey loggia.

The quantity of sculpture will keep you rapt for a few minutes, whether it’s the sundial, the caryatid pillars on the loggia or the extravagant portal to the right of the arcade.

The church inside is Baroque from 1714, and is equally astounding thanks to its marvellous 18th-century azulejos conveying bible scenes, all the way up the walls and on the vault.

3. Gil Eannes Ship

Gil Eannes

This vessel in Viana do Castelo’s commercial docks was launched in 1955 and as the flagship of the “White Fleet” is a compelling memorial to the Estado Novo regime.

The Gil Eannes was a hospital ship that would set sail for the Ocean off Newfoundland and Greenland, and support the trawlers fishing those waters for cod.

A lot of the original medical equipment on board, like x-ray machines and the operating room, set close to the hull to minimise sway.

In its 20 years in service the Gil Eannes was also used for breaking ice, transporting mail and as a tugboat.

4. Santuário de Santa Luzia

Santuário de Santa Luzia

Rising just north of the old town is the Monte de Santa Luzia, which at the turn of the 20th century was crowned with a sanctuary inspired by the Sacré-Cœur in Paris.

This took a few decades to complete and was designed in Eclecticist style, mixing Neo-Gothic and Byzantine styles.

The rose windows on this building are the largest on the Iberian Peninsula, and leading craftsmen were brought in to work on the frescos, sculpture and altar, sculpted from Vila Viçosa marble.

The scenery from the dome(and the platform below) will leave you lost for words, presenting Viana do Castelo’s old town, the Atlantic, the River Limia and pine-topped hillscapes in three directions.

5. Funicular de Santa Luzia

Funicular de Santa Luzia

The most enjoyable way to get to the sanctuary and viewpoint on Santa Luzia is to take the “elevador”. This has been in place since 1923 and at 650 metres is the longest in Portugal, more than twice the length of its nearest rival in Nazaré.

At 160 metres the climb is also larger than any other in the country, no mean feat given the array of funiculars in Lisbon for instance.

The journey to the top takes seven minutes, and the last journey in summer is at 20:00.

6. Citania de Santa Luzia

Citania de Santa Luzia

A quick stroll from the sanctuary atop Monte de Santa Luzia is an Iron Age fortified settlement inhabited from the 7th century BC up to Roman times.

From this lofty perch it would have commanded the Limia Estuary and had a privileged vantage point for miles around.

People had known about this lost town for hundreds of years before excavations started at the end of the 19th century.

Today only one third of this vast site has been uncovered.

Via a boardwalk you’ll traverse this ancient citadel and marvel at the technical skill that went into building the dry stone walls for the perfect circular houses.

7. Viana do Castelo’s Architecture

Viana do Castelo

The centre of Viana do Castelo is a trove of exquisite architecture.

There are Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque facades at Praça da República, and on the parallel streets down to the riverside.

These all have whitewashed walls, with portals and windows sculpted from granite, while some will be covered with geometric tiles.

Outside the old town there are also plenty of noteworthy 20th-century buildings: Avenida dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra has Art Deco houses and amenities from the 1920s and 1930s.

For avant-garde architecture, check out Praça da Liberdade, designed by Fernando Távora, and the municipal library by Álvaro Siza Vieira.

8. Praia do Cabedelo

Praia do Cabedelo

In the summer months there’s a ferry across the Limia Estuary to this heavenly beach.

The Praia do Cabedelo is absolutely immense, curling out in to the distance with no sign of development beside a few huts.

Even though the river’s width from the city you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

The beach is on the edge of a nature reserve, with dunes and pine scrub in a delicate ecosystem that can be seen from a boardwalk but is cordoned off to protect the plants.

The beach shelves very gently, so even though there are rolling waves there’s a big shallow area that kids can play in quite safely.

9. Museu do Traje

Museu do Traje

In stylish modern galleries, this museum tells the story of traditional dress in this part of the Norte region.

There are items spanning hundreds of years, but the era in focus is the 19th century.

At this time ceremonial clothing for young women was colourful and loaded with gold filigree, and the museum will help you decipher the code that each piece of clothing would communicate (age, marital status and so on). There are also costumes worn by farmers, fishers and the workers who used to cultivate seaweed along Viana do Castelo’s beaches.

Get up close to the showcases to see the precision in the embroidery.

10. Cathedral

Cathedral - Viana do Castelo

With a military appearance, Viana do Castelo’s cathedral is both Gothic and Romanesque.

The facade is from the 15th century when the two square towers were crowned with crenellations.

Also from this time is the carving that you can see on the archivolts with images from the Passion and apostles beside the doorway.

This indicates the influence of Galician architecture, as this doorway is almost identical to the one at Tui Cathedral across the border.

The chapels inside are decorated in the Manueline and Renaissance styles and merit a quick peek.

11. Museu Municipal

Museu Municipal Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo’s municipal museum is housed in two connected buildings.

The older part fronts the Largo de São Domingos and is an 18th-century palace for the powerful Teixeira Barbosa Maciel family.

You can spot their coat of arms on the facade, and interiors are a joy with azulejos lining the walls.

The galleries will acquaint you with Viana do Castelo’s time-honoured faience industry, and contain the largest ceramics collection in Portugal.

Much of this was made at workshops in the city, or at the factory in Meadela.

There’s furniture, painting and Iron Age artefacts from the citadel at Santa Luzia.

12. Forte de Santiago da Barra

Forte de Santiago da Barra

In Viana do Castelo’s commercial docks is a 16th-century fortress, guarding the anchorage in the Limia Estuary and what used to be one of Portugal’s major seaports.

This building replaced an earlier fort, and in the last decades of the 1500s was equipped with all of the elements developed to counter artillery.

The walls have a trapezoidal outline on a pentagonal plan, with bartizans at the angle of the bastions.

The fort isn’t bursting with interest, but it’s a sight to keep in mind: To enter you have to cross the dry moat and pass through a vaulted tunnel, and from the walls you can contemplate the Limia Estuary or the Hill of Santa Luzia.

13. Nossa Senhora da Agonia

Nossa Senhora da Agonia

At an adorable Baroque chapel near the port is a shrine for the Virgin of Agony erected in 1674 for fishermen praying for good luck on their voyages.

The feast day for this patron saint is August 20, the day of a procession down to the water.

Over the centuries this celebration evolved into the unrestrained festivities that happen today.

The festival runs from the 17th to the 20th and involvesparades with giant ceremonial puppets (gigantones & cabeçudos), thousands of participants and scores of floats.

There’s also a costume party, fireworks and a programme of folk music recitals.

14. Watersports

Praia do Cabedelo - Surfing

Tucked behind Praia do Cabedelo are a few companies helping you get the best out of the beach’s rolling surf and steady ocean breezes, picking from regular surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

The beach is so exposed that the last two can be done at almost any time of year.

Even if you come for a walk in winter there will be kites dancing in the air all along the beach.

In summer Praia do Cabedelo is spacious enough that surfers and swimmers won’t need to fight for room.

15. Local Food

Pescada à Vianense

Every harbour town on the Norte region’s coast has its own ways of preparing fish and seafood.

In Viana do Castelo there’s pescada à Vianense, which is cod, hake or other whitefish seasoned with lemon juice and garlic, then baked with sliced potatoes and garnished with sautéed garlic and onions.

The Minho Province here in the far northwest of the country is the birthplace of caldo verde, the famous Portuguese vegetable soup made with kale and potatoes.

It’s a fine vegetarian option but can also come with cured meats like chouriço, linguiça or paio.

15 Best Things to Do in Viana do Castelo (Portugal):

  • Praça da República
  • Santa Casa Da Misericórdia
  • Gil Eannes Ship
  • Santuário de Santa Luzia
  • Funicular de Santa Luzia
  • Citania de Santa Luzia
  • Viana do Castelo's Architecture
  • Praia do Cabedelo
  • Museu do Traje
  • Museu Municipal
  • Forte de Santiago da Barra
  • Nossa Senhora da Agonia
  • Watersports

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Viana do Castelo Portugal

Viana do Castelo – The Complete Guide to Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo is a charming waterfront city in the North of Portugal. It’s a delightful place and a perfect example of a classic Northern Portuguese city, rich in history and culture, surrounded by incredible scenery, while proudly displaying its Portuguese heart. You’ll find unique attractions, and some of the best food Portugal has to offer, all in an underrated destination devoid of mass tourism!

A Brief History of Viana do Castelo

The area around Viana do Castelo has been inhabited since at least the Mesolithic era. Although its first significant settlement appears in the iron age. Citânia de Santa Luzia is a remarkably well preserved citânia providing ample evidence of settlement in the pre roman era. The town grew to prominence and gets its first mention in the Portuguese history books under Afonso III who grants the town of Viana, a charter renaming it Viana da Foz do Lima.

Viana do Castelo View

During the Age of Discoveries, its port was one of the main arrival points for Portuguese explorers and traders returning from their travels of the new world. Many of the town’s historic buildings, including its grand churches date to this period of wealth and expansion. The prosperity continued and it was the main northern port that exported wines, salt, and fruit from Northern Portugal, and was heavily involved in the importation of textiles, ceramics, and glass. On the 20th of January 1848 the queen elevated the town to the status of city and gave the city its current name of Viana do Castelo.

What to see and do in Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo has an almost effortless charm, historic buildings, winding streets, and some unique attractions – a museum dedicated to traditional clothing, a hospital ship with a storied history, and some very impressive religious architecture. It’s also surrounded by natural beauty, the Lima River valley and its hills, and the stunning coastline. Read on to find out everything to see and do in Viana do Castelo.

Viana do Castelo Streets

Praça da República

We often like to start our visits to new towns in Portugal by checking out there most prominent squares and plazas. They are a great place to take in some local life, grab a coffee and absorb the sights and sounds of an unfamiliar city! Praça da República in Viana do Castelo is one of those.

It’s a large and very open square surrounded by historical buildings, and at its centre you’ll find a 16 th century fountain. It’s a great starting point as from the square you can easily access the Igreja da Misericórdia church, Viana do Castelo’s Se (cathedral) and Museu do Traje (The Costume Museum).

Viana do Castelo Praca

It’s also the crossing place for many winding and narrow streets that are also lined with cafés and local shops. It’s a pedestrianised area, so you’ll find families meeting here, children playing, and typical buskers giving the whole square a lively but friendly atmosphere.

Igreja da Misericordia

One of the historic focal points on the square is the Santa Casa da Misericórdia on the Northern side, it’s historic but plain exterior is noticeable but somewhat discreet. Inside is the complete opposite, every surface of the walls, ceiling and features of the archways are intricately designed. Granite archways, goldleaf features, all surrounded by beautiful blue Azulejos. It’s a very unexpected surprise compared to the somewhat nondescript exterior.  Entrance costs €1 and allows entry to a small courtyard on the inside of the church as well!

Viana do Castelo Church

Catedral de Viana do Castelo

If you head directly down a small street southeast of the square called Rua Sacadura Cabral after a short walk you’ll find Viana do Castelo’s cathedral. It’s a 15 th century Romanesque church that was elevated to a cathedral by Pope Paul VI in 1977. From the front, its two castle like towers watch over a gothic Portal and large rose window. An original church is dated to 1400, but the twin bell towers were raised in the 17 th century. Internally, it’s much more sedate than the azulejo of the Igreja da Misericordia, but still grand and offering lots of intricate details. Entrance is free and it’s open between 8am and 7pm, but closed during lunch at 12pm to 2pm.

Viana do Castelo Cathedral

Surrounding the cathedral is a network of traditional and winding streets, filled with local cafés, restaurants and shops, it’s well worth spending some time exploring in any direction.

Museu do Traje – Costume Museum

Directly south of the square is the imposing Museu do Traje. It’s taken residence in the 1950s former Bank of Portugal building. It’s a museum dedicated to the traditional outfits made by local women. These bright and colourful outfits made of dresses, shirts and headdresses were a symbol of local identity and pride. Essentially displaying wealth, and skill in the intricate designs.

The brightly coloured dresses known as Traje de Lavradeira, were typically worn by the young women on special occasions and festivals to attract a husband. They were showing off their wealth – the colours and quantities of material, and their suitability as homemakers in their ability to embroider intricate patterns and stitches. You’ll also find many examples of the a traditional heart shaped bag – an algibeira, this was carried with the costume as an accessory. The typical heart shape of an Algibeira is now used across Portugal in many logos and is prominently displayed in many parts of Viana do Castelo – even forming part of the cities logo!

The museum is a fascinating place to get under the skin of some of the local traditions and embroidery you’ll find in many places in Northern Portugal. The displays with many different types of costumes are explained in both English and Portuguese. The museum is open from 10am – 6pm everyday, other than Mondays when it is closed.

Viana do Castelo Streets

Viana do Castelo’s Waterfront

After a morning or afternoon of exploring Viana do Castelo’s historic quarter, we recommend heading towards it’s river front. It’s an area with a very different character, opening up into several large gardens, parks and marinas. It’s yet another place to simply walk along and get a feel for Viana do Castelo. Jardim Público de Viana do Castelo is a great place to start, it’s lined with trees and has multiple cafés, you’ll also find a footbridge that takes you over a small section of the marina and directly to the river front. This section of the river front is a great place to view the historic Ponte Eiffel.

Viana do Castelo Waterfront

Ponte Eiffel – Eiffel Bridge

Ponte Eiffel, known fully as Ponte Rodo-Ferroviária de Viana do Castelo is a 645m bridge that crosses the Lima River. It connects Viana do Castelo on the northern bank of the river, with the south bank and parish of Darque. Its design and construction was completed by world famous engineer – Gustave Eiffel, although most prominently known for the Eiffel tower, he’s left his mark on Portuguese architecture too, being the mastermind behind Maria Pia bridge in Porto, and Pinhão Bridge in Pinhão.

Monumento ao 25 de Abril

Continuing southwest along the waterfront towards the mouth of the river will lead you to Praça da Liberdade and the Monument to 25 th April. It’s a large square that’s surprisingly quiet, with the hulking steel monument dominating the landscape. The monument itself is dedicated to the victims of the dictatorship, and praises those who rose up on the 25 th April 1974 in what would later be called the Carnation Revolution.

25th April Monument Viana do Castelo

Gil Eannes – Hospital Ship

Continuing along the iyllic waterfront, you’ll soon find a large white ship called the Gil Eannes that’s moored in Viana do Castelo’s port. It’s a storied ship that was originally built and launched from Viana do Castelo’s very own shipyards. Originally it was the flagship of the Portuguese White Fleet – a group of white fishing and merchant ships that would make yearly trips to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland to fish for cod.

For nearly twenty years it served as a flagship, mail ship, tug ship and even an icebreaker in support of Portugal’s fishing fleet in the Atlantic. In 1977 it was decommissioned and left rusting in Lisbon’s dockyard before being recovered and restored as a tribute to the Viana do Castelo’s maritime past. It’s a truly unique attraction for Portugal, and anyone interested in maritime history. Large parts of the ship have been restored and you can visit the bridge, kitchen, bakery, engine room, medical office, various treatment rooms, including a  radiology office , as well as several cabins. Individual tickets cost €5.00.

Gil Eanes

Forte Santiago da Barra

The hospital ship and cultural centre offer a more pristine and restored look at Viana’s do Castelo’s maritime history. However, if you continue to head out of the city and towards the mouth of the river, you’ll soon discover both modern and historic evidence of Viana’s maritime prominence.

Fortress Viana do Castelo

The first of those is Forte Santiago da Barra, a 16 th century fort surrounding the remains of a 13 th century castle and keep. The continued development of the defences of Viana do Castelo (Originally Viana do Foz de Lima) really show just how important this historic city was to protecting the north of Portugal, and its trade routes to Galicia, France and Flanders. A full lap around the fortress will introduce you to its significant walls, triangle bastions, protruding keep, and significant moat.

Facing the waterfront, you’ll also find the Estátua à Mulher Vianesa, a statue representing local women welcoming visitors arriving to the port.

Fort Viana do Castelo

Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Agonia

Directly north of the fortress and through a large open park is the historic Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Agonia. It’s an 18 th Century Baroque church that’s closely tied to one of the most famous traditions in Viana do Castelo – Festa da Senhora da Agonia. Each August the pathway to the church is lined with flowers and a religious procession is performed. On the evening of the 15 th August a procession escorts statues of Our Lord of the Afflicted and Our Lady of the Assumption to the church. During the evening and weekend before the event you’ll find the typical Portuguese feira with large gatherings, street foods, and local music.

viana do castelo tourism

Igreja de São Domingos

The last church of note in Viana do Castelo is Igreja de São Domingos, which can be found in the praça of the same name. It’s a beautiful 16 th century Renaissance church made up of exposed granite and white washed walls. The lively little square is also a delight, with several cafés and traditional shops. From here you can head directly along Rua Manuel Espregueira, a pedestrianised street that will lead you back to the main historic square of Praça da República.

Igreja de São Domingos

Santuário de Santa Luzia

If you haven’t yet noticed, from nearly all angles of Viana do Castelo an imposing hill to the north can be seen. On the top of that hill is one of the most famous religious monuments in Portugal – the Sanctuary of Saint Luzia. It’s an imposing monument and forms that backdrop of the city. And, yes, we’re aware this is the fourth church we’ve recommended visiting in this city!

Santa Luzia Sanctuary

It’s an iconic church that was only constructed in the early 20 th century, even if you’re perhaps tired of Portugal’s religious heritage, we really recommend heading up the hillside. It offers stunning views of the landscape that surrounds Viana do Castelo, the river, the town, and the ocean.

Construction began in 1904, but it was only finished in 1959. It was supposedly inspired by the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, although this is disputed it does have its similarities. It’s a remarkable mix of architectural styles featuring neo-romantic, neo-gothic and Byzantine styles. Its large rose window is reported to be the largest of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula. For the adventurous, and if the views from its base aren’t good enough, you can take the stairs to the top of the dome. Entrance to the church is free, but if you want to take the stairs or a lift to the top of the dome it will cost €2 per person!

Santa Luzia View

Elevador de Santa Luzia

The hilltop location of the sanctuary is 3km by road from the city centre, adventurous people, and pilgrims will need to walk up the 2km walking path that also features 659 steps. However, there is also a historic funicular directly from the city – Elevador de Santa Luzia. Getting to the base of the elevador from the historic centre is a little awkward, you’ll need to cross the railway at the main train station, then walk around a large roundabout and one of the main roads into the city. From there you can take the longest funicular in Portugal, 650m directly to the top of the hill. It costs €2 to go one way, and €3 for a return ticket.

Elevador Santa Luzia

Is there a beach in Viana do Castelo?

Yes, Viana do Castelo has several beaches easily reachable from the city itself. The closest is Praia Norte just 2km from the city by road. Praia Coral is around 3km from the city, although it’s a much more rugged beach and much closer to the industrial port.

It’s popular with walkers and dog owners who want a secluded beach, but not an exceptional beach for sunbathers. One of the best beaches is Praia do Cabedelo, although you’ll need to cross the bridge by road, or take the ferry across the River Lima, as the beach is on the southern side of the river.

Viana do Castelo Beach

Praia Norte – Viana do Castelo’s Prime beach and swimming spot

The rocky shorefront of Viana do Castelo results in the beach being relatively protected from strong Atlantic waves but means there’s very limited swimming opportunities other than a brief paddle. However, if you look further out to sea, you’ll find two sea pools that are available for swimmers.

The beach has successively been awarded a blue flag since 1998, you’ll find lifeguards during the bathing season, and accessible changing rooms. There’s also a variety of cafes and restaurants serving the beach as well as several grass parks. At the northern end of the beach is a 17 th Century fort – Fort Areosa. It’s a great focal point, and its free to enter and explore!

Praia Norte Viana do Castelo

Should you stay in Viana do Castelo?

Among international visitors, Viana do Castelo is not really heard of, and it may not seem an obvious choice for an overnight stay or longer trip. However, it is a really great location to base yourself and explore the wider and less travelled northern region of Portugal. Along with the historical attractions and local city, Viana do Castelo boasts a wide selection of restaurants, hotels, and bars. The city itself serves a population of 88,000 people so you’ll find plenty of options available to support a longer stay!

Where to stay in Viana do Castelo?

As a small city, you’ll find multiple options of hotels, guesthouses and even hostels within Viana do Castelo. The city is not overly developed for tourists, so you won’t find your major hotel chains, or giant luxury hotels here either. However, there are a few gems here! First up, for a luxury stay the stunning AP Dona Aninhas . It’s a newly refurbished hotel in the historic centre. It’s spa and indoor is a great place to recharge yourself after a day of exploring or hiking! For something slightly more budget minded Hotel do Parque . It’s a 3-star hotel just 700 metres from the city centre, it has an outdoor pool, and restaurant with views of the Lima River. For a full list of accommodation available in Viana do Castelo check here!

Dona Aninhas Viana do Castelo

How to Get to Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo is located in the north of Portugal, around 70km north of Porto. Nearly all public transport connections will take you through Porto.

Driving – If you have a rental car or your own vehicle, then driving directly to Viana do Castelo is a simple option. It will take around 50 minutes to drive from Porto, or around 3 and a half hours to drive from Lisbon. Don’t have a rental car yet? Then our guide covers everything you should know about renting one in Portugal!

Public Transport – Trains and Buses

Viana do Castelo has its own train station on the Linha do Minho trainline. Allowing you to catch multiple services from the likes of Coimbra (Coimbra B), Porto (São Bento and Campanha). The same trainline runs further north to Viana do Castelo and Valença. For the full timetables and for tickets, book directly on the official website ( Combois de Portugal ).

Viana do Castelo is also served by a large bus station, with multiple connections to the local and wider area. Rede Expressos also known as Renex operate regional services, as well as the low-cost long-distance operator Flixbus. Services from Lisbon are available but they typically have transfers in Porto or Braga, travel times are also quite long – usually around 5 hours or so!

Fort Areosa Viana

Is Viana do Castelo worth a visit?

Yes, Viana do Castelo is absolutely worth visiting. It’s a great example of a Northern Portuguese city that has kept its historical heart, despite the recent industrialisation, its still surrounded by pristine nature and offers something for nearly every type of visitor. The city hosts multiple attractions that can support both day trips, or longer stays as a base to explore the Minho region. Nearby towns like Barcelos are well worth exploring too!

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Top 20 Things to do in Viana do Castelo

Considered one of the most beautiful cities in  Northern Portugal , Viana do Castelo is a city seen by some international magazines as the  “the crown jewel of Costa Verde” , which is the same to say, a stoppage point in the country’s northern coastline.

As a small town and due to its strategic location beside Lima river, Viana do Castelo was originally named as  Viana da Foz do Lima  (literally Viana of Lima river mouth). As the town grew along with its importance as a  trading post , especially with Northern-European countries, the town was elevated to the category of city in 1848 and, with that, adopted its current name.

About the name Viana do Castelo, legend has it that there was a big castle and people liked to stare at it, admiring its beauty until some of them noticed that a princess used to sit by the window.

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She was a beautiful girl, with bright eyes and long hair with two braids. The princess didn’t like to be seen and so she hid herself every time someone was looking at the castle and, because of that, it was a “privilege” to gaze at the princess. Whenever someone saw her, they’d say “ Eu vi Ana no Castelo! ” (literally “I saw Ana of the castle!”). Legend has it that this is how the name of the city first appeared.

The historic centre stands out because of its avenues and narrow streets flanked by  Manueline and Rococo-style houses and palaces .

The proximity to the river and the sea offers great conditions for nautical sports and, apart from that, the city is also known as the  capital of Portuguese folklore and handicrafts , with special emphasis to the beautiful embroideries and ceramics.

Located 75 km north of Porto and 55 km northwest of Braga, Viana do Castelo is, today, a wonderful city with  beautiful monuments ,  great gastronomy ,  popular and religious festivities  and much more!

In this article, I’ll show you the 20 places you can’t miss during your visit to Viana do Castelo, the itinerary so that you won’t lose too much time from one place to another, where to sleep, where to eat, the festivities and important tips so that you can fully enjoy your stay in the city.

Before reading my suggestions, please watch my video about Viana do Castelo. In this video you’ll have the opportunity to see the most beautiful places as well as a magnificent sunset!

Top 20 things to do in Viana do Castelo:

Conteúdos do Artigo - Sommaire - Contents

1. Museu de Artes Decorativas

2. igreja de são domingos, 3. capela de nossa senhora da agonia, 4. forte de santiago da barra, 5. navio-hospital gil eannes, 6. casa dos nichos, 7. sé catedral, 8. praça da república, 9. museu do traje, 10. palácio dos távoras, 11. santuário de santa luzia, 12. citânia de santa luzia, 13. praia norte, 14. carreço, 16. cascata do pincho, 17. santuário da nossa senhora do minho, 18. capela de são silvestre, 19. praia do cabedelo, 20 – miradouro da nossa senhora dos emigrantes (castelo do neiva), itinerary to visit the 20 most beautiful places in viana do castelo, where yo sleep in viana do castelo, where to eat in viana do castelo, what will also interest you:.


The Museum of Decorative Arts is a city museum and here you’ll find the most complete and richest collection of Portuguese ceramics, with around 1600 pieces.

This museum’s main objectives are the conservation and promotion of its collections and the story inherent to each piece. In that regard, know that, apart from the collection of Portuguese ceramics, you can also admire the  wonderful collections of furniture, sculpture, painting and numismatics .


Built during the second half of the 16th century, the Convent of São Domingos Church is classified as a  Portuguese national monument  since 1910 and it is one of the religious buildings you can’t miss during your visit to Viana do Castelo.

The first highlight of this church is its  magnificent facade , unique in the city and similar to the one you can admire in the Convent of São Gonçalo Church, in Amarante.

Inside the church, it is possible to admire  several altars in gilded wood  and the big altarpiece in the northern part of the cross, sculpted by José Álvares Araújo.


The Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Agonia was erected in the mid-1700’s and it is today another  beautiful religious building  in Viana do Castelo.

You’ll easily notice some influences of the Portuguese-baroque style, like the altarpieces, among which the cenotaph of the Passion of Christ, made by André Soares. The tower, dating back to 1868, was built separated from the chapel, which isn’t very common in the Portuguese churches and chapels.

Information:  the exterior of the chapel is basic but don’t hesitate to go inside – you’ll be amazed with its beauty!


The Fort of Santiago da Barra was built in the 16th century, a construction that ended during the reign of D. Sebastião but with  unique traits from Manueline-style architecture .

Throughout the years, the fort underwent several improvement works during the time Portugal was under the rule of D. Filipe II of Spain (D. Filipe I of Portugal), that commissioned the present  polygonal fortress .


The hospital ship Gil Eannes, built in 1955, supported the Portuguese fishing fleet for decades close to the coast of Newfoundland and Greenland.

The transformation of this ship into a  museum  offered the possibility for visitors to experience something unforgettable and unique. Nowadays, it is a tourism reference in Viana do Castelo, having been visited, since its inauguration in 1998, by close to 400 000 people.


Information:  before leaving the ship, watch the video in the conference room to see how the Portuguese caught codfish and the trials the fishermen had to go through to bring this loved fish to the tables.


Casa dos Nichos was built in the 15th century and renovated more recently to become  a museum where part of the archaeological collection of Viana do Castelo is displayed . In this building you can admire pieces from the Prehistory, Iron Age and Roman periods.

Information:  before visiting Casa dos Nichos, don’t miss the opportunity to go to  Café Zé Natário , well-known for its  bolas de Berlim  (Berliner pastry)!


The construction of the main church of Viana do Castelo dates back to the 15th century and has some influences from the Gothic period. In November 1977, Pope Paul VI authorised the constitution of Viana do Castelo diocese, elevating the old church to the category of Cathedral.

While heading to this point of interest, don’t forget to go to the garden  Jardim da Marginal  to admire the statue Estátua de Viana and the  Eiffel Bridge , created by Gustave Eiffel’s company and directed by the engineers João Matos and Boaventura Vieira. Its inauguration took place in the 30th June 1978.


Don’t miss the opportunity to admire the house  Casa dos Costa Barros , built in the 16th century and property of the same family since 1765. Stop at the street Rua de São Pedro to contemplate the beautiful facade with an architectural style that pays tribute to the Portuguese discoveries.


Considered one of the main points of interest in Viana do Castelo, the square Praça da República is the perfect location for commerce and leisure. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to admire three Portuguese national monuments: the fountain ( Chafariz ), the old Town Hall building ( Antigos Paços do Concelho ) and the building  Edifício da Misericórdia , all of them built during the 16th century.


If you have the chance, visit the church Igreja da Misericórdia to admire the beautiful glazed-tile panels you’ll find there.


Located in the historic centre, the  old building of Banco de Portugal  welcomes since 2004 the Costume Museum which displays the richness of traditional costumes from Viana do Castelo through several exhibits of ethnography and clothes from Viana.

Information:  behind this museum, you’ll find  Pastelaria e Confeitaria Manuel Natário , well-known for its pastry, especially Berliners, considered the best in the city and in the country! Don’t miss the opportunity to try this delicacy when you visit the city.


Personal opinion:  during my visit to Viana do Castelo, I savoured both the Berliners from  Confeitaria Manuel   Natário  and  Café Zé Natário , located a few metres away, and despite the Berliner from Manuel Natário being more famous, the truth is that I consider the one from  Café Zé Natário  more delicious!


Located in the street Passeio das Mordomas da Romaria,  this 16th-century palace is one of the most beautiful in the city  and was built by Fernando Brandão who wanted to make it the residence for Abreu Távora.

Years later, the palace was renovated by the architect Manuel Pinto Villalobos, more precisely in the 18th century. In the second half of the 19th century, the building was bought by the City Hall to use it for its municipal services.

Information:  you can’t visit the interior, but it’s still worth stopping in front of the building to admire the Manueline doors.

Santuario de Santa Luzia -Viana-do-Castelo-Portugal

The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, built in the westernmost point of mount Monte de Santa Luzia is, definitely,  one of the most famous and emblematic monuments in Portugal .

This temple is an excellent example of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romanesque architecture. The construction of this sanctuary in the highest part of Monte de Santa Luzia began in 1904 and finished in 1959 and was commissioned by the confraternity Confraria de Santa Luzia.


In June 2014, an amphitheatre was inaugurated in the garden Jardim das Tílias. Four years later, a building was inaugurated in the same place and there you can visit a museum and even spend the night.

To get to the Sanctuary of Santa Luzia, you can choose the car,  climb the long stairway  or take the  funicular of Santa Luzia  with space for 24 people. The route is 650 metres long and has a gradient of 160 metres and the trip takes about six to seven minutes.


The old fortified village of Santa Luzia, also known as the “old town”, is one of the most famous in Portugal and one of the most important for the study of the Romanisation of this Portuguese region.


The strategic location of this place was fundamental to dominate big seacoast areas and, at the same time, control the movement of ships in Lima river mouth, that would be navigable centuries ago.


The beach Praia Norte is a place of great beauty where you’ll find  salt water natural pools , built as a way to get around the major issue of this area – rocks.

Despite its small beach area, you should know that there is a first aid post nearby as well as some cafes that offer panoramic views.

Don’t hesitate to go for a walk along the beach until you get to the fort Forte da Areosa to admire the beauty of this place. For those who like hiking or cycling, know that a part of the eco path  Ecovia Litoral  crosses this location from the city of Esposende to Caminha, a path that spans for 73 km.


Information:  when I wrote this article, the path wasn’t finished yet.

Moinhos de Montedor


Built in the 19th century, Montedor Windmills are  windmills made with wooden trapezoidal sails , very common in Northern Portugal. There, you’ll have access to information about the windmills and the region as well as the environmental and patrimonial routes that are present in the natural areas of this parish.

The group Grupo Folclórico Cultural Danças e Cantares de Carreço is responsible for visits and, if you schedule ahead, you can have a wonderful experience trying local gastronomy, dance and music.

Farol de Montedor


Built in 1910, this civil-architecture lighthouse is laid out in U and its entrance is facing North with the tower in the centre. The lighthouse tower has a two-floor cylindrical dome and an optical illumination system with crystal-directional rotation.

Information:  if you visit Viana do Castelo on a Wednesday, take the opportunity to go on a free guided tour to the lighthouse (from 14h to 17h). I loved discovering the history of this place, how the lighthouse works and what the lighthouse keeper does here as well as climbing the spiral staircase to the top of this building. The 360º view is amazing!

Praia do Carreço


Carreço beach is well-known among families because it is protected from northern winds thanks to the geography of this location. Here, you’ll find several geological formations and you’ll have the opportunity to admire some bird species like the cormorants.

Praia de Afife


Afife beach has a unique seascape where the blue water, fine sand and beautiful dunes come together. When walking along the beach you can admire the dunes and all the  fauna and flora diversity . Afife river, dominated by a set of granite rocks, flows into the beach forming a small lagoon close to the river mouth.

Capela Santo António


In Afife you can also take the opportunity to go to the chapel Capela de Santo António. Apart from the small chapel, you should know that this place is also a viewpoint where you can enjoy the amazing views over the surrounding area.

I had the opportunity to enjoy the sunset from this viewpoint and it was an unforgettable moment!

Please check  the itinerary  from Afife beach to the chapel Capela de Santo António. The itinerary the GPS or Google Maps suggest will take you to a dead-end road!


Located in the village of Montaria, 20 km away from Viana do Castelo, Pincho waterfall is  one of the most beautiful waterfalls you can discover in Northern Portugal .

If you have time, enjoy the silence and go for a swim in the crystal clear waters of this place.

Information:  there are three paths to get to this waterfall (one rocky path and two dirt paths).  Here is the itinerary  for the rocky path. If you make a wrong turn and enter a dirt path, then I suggest you park your car and go the rest of the way on foot.


The Sanctuary of Senhora do Minho is located  up in Serra d’Arga , where the famous pilgrimage take place. From here, you’ll be able to enjoy the amazing views that stretch for kilometres in every direction.

Apart from the beautiful views, you can also admire wild horses and cows grazing and have a picnic using the tables already on-site.

Information:  the road is narrow so it’s better to visit this place only when there’s good weather.

After leaving the sanctuary, don’t miss the opportunity to make a stop at the  restaurant Caçana  to savour the Portuguese tapas and enjoy a wonderful view that reaches the sea (the sunset is just amazing).

viana do castelo tourism

This chapel offers a  magnificent view over Lima river and Viana do Castelo .


Apart from the tables you can use for a picnic or relax, this place has what it needs to protect more than 100 people from wind and rain in case of bad weather.

Information:  at this place, climb up the stairs behind the chapel to access the viewpoint and admire the amazing view!


This beach is the first south of Lima river and is divided in two areas. The first one is a beach north of the pier with strong winds, perfect for  windsurf and other nautical sports  and where several international competitions take place. South of the pier, there is a second beach with long dunes and clear waters.

Information:  about 7 km south of this beach, you can visit Amorosa beach, a fine-sand beach with dunes and many rocks. At this beach, you’ll have the opportunity to admire a rich fauna and flora like algae, mussels, shrimps, crabs, starfish and several small fish.


The viewpoint and small chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Emigrantes are on top of a hill and from there one can enjoy the wonderful view over the Atlantic Ocean and Neiva river. The road to get there is steep but it’s worth it if you want to relax for a while.

  • Location:  https://goo.gl/maps/G8pGNySVR3SbSchx7

Historic centre

If you’re counting on driving to Viana do Castelo, then I suggest you park your car at the Estação Viana Shopping pay-parking lot since it is the best place to start following the itinerary below.

As an alternative, you can also park your car at the free-parking lot close to the ship Gil Eannes.

To visit Santa Luzia Sanctuary, you can take the funicular (elevator) that will take you to the temple, climb the  long stairway  or you can drive there instead (free parking).

If you choose to take the funicular (before or after visiting the historic centre), know that you can climb the stairs to the right of the train station and then turn right to get to the funicular of Santa Luzia.

If you’re going to take the  train  to Viana do Castelo, you should know that there is a direct connection to Porto city; if you’re staying in other locations like Braga or Guimarães, then you’ll need to transfer from one train to another in one or two train stations.

The other way for you to get to Viana do Castelo is on a  coach trip . The bus station is also in the historic centre, close to the train station.

To visit the historic centre, I suggest you follow 1 to 10 as they are presented in this article.

viana do castelo tourism

Information:  in the above map, Google Maps doesn’t recognise the stairs that will allow you to cross the railway line. To use the funicular, follow the above-mentioned tip.

As an alternative to discovering the historic centre on foot, you can take the electric mini-buses that will take you to the main points of interest in the city. To discover the routes, please  click here .

If you don’t want to hire a car or waste time on public transportation, and if you’re staying in Porto, consider booking a guided tour to Alto Minho . Considered one of the most authentic regions of Portugal, here you will have the opportunity to start by discovering the beautiful city of Viana do Castelo.

There, take a walking tour to get to know the historic centre and admire the beautiful buildings as well as the medieval streets. The visit to this city will end with a stop at the sanctuary  Santuário de Santa Luzia  from where you can enjoy the magnificent views over the city and the Atlantic Ocean.

Next,  this experience   will take you to what is known as the oldest town in Portugal:  Ponte de Lima . After lunch, get to know the unique atmosphere of this town and be sure to cross the landmark that gave the name to this place, the beautiful  Roman and medieval bridge .

To end your tour to Alto Minho, you will also follow the Lima river through the mountains of the Peneda-Gerês National Park where you will have a last stop at a village where you will savour the tasty Verde wine.

Viana do Castelo surroundings

To explore the surroundings of Viana do Castelo, my suggestion is that you use a car as your means of transportation since it’ll give you more freedom and time to visit each place.

viana do castelo tourism

Important information:  to visit the chapel Capela de Santo António, in Afife, and Pincho waterfall, follow my tips given in nº 15 and nº 16.

viana do castelo tourism

Pousada Viana do Castelo ****  


Pousada de Viana do Castelo is one of the best options for those who want to spend the night in the city. In fact, this amazing 4-star hotel is on the top of Monte de Santa Luzia, offering a  privileged view over the beautiful sanctuary , the city, Lima river and the Atlantic Ocean.

At this amazing accommodation, you’ll have the opportunity to spend the night in one of the beautifully decorated rooms, with air-conditioning, a mini-bar and cable television. You can also go for a  swim in the exterior pool  or  play at the tennis court .

By staying at this hotel, you won’t need to drive to the historic centre of Viana do Castelo nor worry about parking your car since the funicular is just a few metres away.

Hotel do Parque ***  

Located just a few metres away from the historic centre, Hotel do Parque is a modern 3-star hotel with amenities that guarantee a wonderful stay for those who want to spend some nights in this region.

Enjoy your stay in the comfortable rooms, make some exercise at the  fitness centre , go for a swim in the  big swimming pool  and know that there is also a  pool for kids . This is, definitely, one of the best hotels for families!

Hotel Laranjeira **  

Another of the hotels people prefer when visiting Viana do Castelo, Hotel Laranjeira is  right in the historic centre of the city  and a few metres away from points of interest like the Cathedral, the square Praça da República and Távora Palace.

Despite being a 2-star hotel, the Hotel Laranjeira offers amenities that many other places would like to have, including a  bike rental service , a  room service  and a  bar .

Tasquinha da Linda

Tasquinha da Praça

Sr. Bife Restaurante

Restaurante O Pescador

Traditions and Festivities in Viana do Castelo

Romaria de Nossa Senhora da Agonia

Probably the biggest pilgrimage in Portugal , the festivities in honour of Nossa Senhora da Agonia date back to the 18th century, a time in which the devotion to this saint began at the chapel Capela do Bom Jesus, present Capela de Nossa Senhora da Agonia.

With a duration of four or five days and with a rich an varied programme, this festivity takes place during August attracting thousands of visitors who are in the country on holidays.

Among other highlights, there is one you can’t miss – the  Desfile da Mordomia . This is the true highlight of this festivity and the one that brings more fame to the event since it gathers 400 women that show off  typical garments  and  several gold pieces  (necklaces, earrings, rings) and parade through the streets of the city.

Don’t miss the opportunity to admire the  magnificent fireworks display  that light up the sky of the city on Saturday to Sunday nights, the  Cortejo Histórico-Etnográfico  (an Ethnographic-Historic Procession),  folklore perfomances  and much more!

Feira Medieval de Viana do Castelo

With its origins in 2007, Viana do Castelo Medieval Fair is gaining relevance at a national level and is another event that attracts thousands of visitors to the city during June. At this fair, you’ll find the typical artisans, merchants and other interesting activities that take visitors back to the Middle Ages.

Festival de Folclore Internacional Alto Minho

Considered one of the biggest folklore festivals in Europe, this festival appeared in the last decade of the 20th century. Its main objective is to promote this type of  popular culture  through the performances of several folklore groups that come from Portugal and other guest countries. An event to follow during July!

As you can see, there are more than enough reasons to discover Viana do Castelo. Whether it’s monuments, churches, museums, beaches or festivities, don’t miss the opportunity to visit this city during your stay in Northern Portugal.

viana do castelo tourism

Are you going to visit Viana do Castelo? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below . This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal . Thank you !

  • 7-Day travel guide to visit Porto and Minho (Guimarães, Braga, Ponte de Lima, Viana do Castelo)
  • Top 10 of the places to visit in Northern Portugal
  • Top of the places to visit in Ponte de Lima
  • Top 20 things to do in Braga
  • Things to do in Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal
  • Top of the places to visit in Peneda-Gerês National Park

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viana do castelo tourism

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Viana do Castelo

viana do castelo tourism

  • 1.1 Visitor information
  • 2.1 By plane
  • 2.2 By train
  • 3.1 On foot
  • 3.2 By bicycle
  • 3.4.1 Car rentals
  • 7.2 Mid-range
  • 7.3 Splurge

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. The city is famous for the monuments in and around the city, and the surrounding natural beauty.

Understand [ edit ]

viana do castelo tourism

Viana do Castelo ( vee-UH-nuh doo kuhsh-TEH-loo , /vi.ˈɐ.nɐ du kɐʃ.ˈte.ɫu/) is the capital of a municipality with 314.36 km 2 (121.38 sq mi) 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 and 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 geographic location; in 1848 it became a city by a decree of Maria II of Portugal, and received the name of Viana do Castelo.

Visitor information [ edit ]

  • 41.6911 -8.8283 1 Viana Welcome Centre ( Posto Municipal de Turismo ), Praça do Eixo Atlântico , ☏ +351 258 098 415 , [email protected] . Mar–Jun Sep Oct Tu–Su 10:00–13:00 & 14:00–18:00, closed M; Jul Aug daily 10:00–19:00; Nov–Feb Tu–Su 10:00–13:00 & 14:00–17:00 . ( updated Jul 2021 )

Get in [ edit ]

By plane [ edit ].

The closest airport is Sá Carneiro International Airport in Porto ( OPO  IATA ), 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).

By train [ edit ]

viana do castelo tourism

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 .

By bus [ edit ]

Some companies, such as AVIC , have connections to Porto and Lisboa .

By car [ edit ]

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.

Get around [ edit ]


On foot [ edit ]

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.

By bicycle [ edit ]

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.

Car rentals [ edit ]

  • 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 , ☏ +351 258 847 301 .  

See [ edit ]

viana do castelo tourism

  • Basilica of Santa Luzia , 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. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • 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. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Former City Hall , Praça da República . 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. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Sá Family House , Praça da República . 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. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Fountain at Praça da República , Praça da República . This granite fountain, richly adorned with carved figures, was built by João Lopes in the 16th century. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Monument to Caramuru and Paraguaçu , Praça da República . built by José Rodrigues in 2009. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Consistory of Misericórdia , Praça da República . 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. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Cathedral , Largo da Matriz . The cathedral is Gothic in style, with Galician influence, and has two large towers. It has a very beautiful interior. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Fort of Santiago da Barra , 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. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Church of St. Domingos , Largo de São Domingos . The church of the old Santa Cruz convents, founded by Frei Bartolomeu dos Mártires. ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Viana Municipal Museum , Largo de São Domingos . ( updated Jul 2021 )
  • Museu do Traje , This is a museum dedicated to traditional Portuguese clothing, with a particular focus on the costumes from the Viana do Castelo region. You can learn about the history and significance of the costumes, as well as see some beautiful examples.

Do [ edit ]

  • 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. One of the most popular beaches is Praia do Cabedelo, known for its great surfing conditions, on the south bank of the Lima River. It has a long stretch of golden sand, clear waters, and excellent facilities. Another popular beach is Praia do Norte, on the north bank of the Lima River. It is a long, wide beach with soft sand, calm waters, and good facilities, including showers, toilets, and a beach bar.
  • 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.

Buy [ edit ]

  • 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

Eat [ edit ]

Local specialties include bacalhau à margarida da praça (a cod dish), pescada Vianense (local fish), and caldo verde (green soup).

Budget [ edit ]

  • 41.6915 -8.829 1 Zé Natário , Avenida dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra 20 , ☏ +351 258 826 856 , [email protected] . Su–F 08:00–00:00, Su 8:00–20:00 . Bolas de Berlin from the pastry shop Zé Natário 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 Natário's bolas de berlin. ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6902 -8.8359 2 Taberna do Valentim , Avenida Campo do Castelo 45 , ☏ +351 258 827 505 . M–Sa 12:00–14:30 & 19:30–21:30, closed Su . Specializing in local fish. ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.708 -8.8107 3 As Quatro Colunas , Rua João Paulo II 231 , ☏ +351 258 845 425 . M W–Sa 12:00–15:00 & 19:00–23:00, Su 12:00–15:00, closed Tu . €15-25 . ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6911 -8.8292 4 Restaurante Astúrias , Rua Alves Cerqueira 21 , ☏ +351 258 823 814 . Tu–Su 10:00–00:00, closed M . ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6941 -8.8258 5 Restaurante Átrio , Rua da Gramática 77 , ☏ +351 258 823 944 . ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6922 -8.827 6 Restaurante Covas , Rua Prior do Crato 41 , ☏ +351 258 828 376 . Su–F 12:00–15:00 & 19:00–22:00, closed Sa . ( updated Apr 2021 )

Mid-range [ edit ]

  • 41.6913 -8.8289 7 Casa D'Armas , Largo 5 de Outubro 30 , ☏ +351 258 824 999 , [email protected] . 12:30–15:00 & 19:30–23:00, closed W except Jul Aug . Splendid seafood restaurant on the banks of the river. ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6939 -8.8274 8 Restaurante Cozinha das Malheiras , Rua Gago Coutinho 19 , ☏ +351 258 823 680 . 19:00–22:00 daily . Regional cuisine in historic downtown, famous for its rojões , as well as for its cabrito (goat) and its seafood. ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6916 -8.8282 9 Casa de Pasto Maria de Perre , Rua de Viana 118 , ☏ +351 258 822 410 , [email protected] . Tu–Su 12:00–15:00, 19:00–23:00, closed M . ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.7095 -8.7723 10 Restaurante Camelo , Rua de Santa Marta 119 (EN 202), Santa Marta de Portuzelo ( on the outskirts of town ), ☏ +351 258 839 090 . Tu–Su 12:00–15:00 & 19:00–22:30, closed M . One of the best places to try local cuisine. ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6956 -8.8208 11 Restaurante Náutico , Praça da Galiza 100 , ☏ +351 258 822 330 . Th–Tu 09:30–22:00, closed W . ( updated Apr 2021 )
  • 41.6916 -8.8341 12 Restaurante O Pescador , Largo de São Domingos 35 , ☏ +351 258 826 039 , [email protected] . Tu–Sa 12:00–15:00 & 19:00–22:00, Su 12:00–15:00, closed M . €9-27 . ( updated Apr 2021 )

Splurge [ edit ]

  • 41.6945 -8.8314 13 Restaurante da Casa Melo Alvim , Avenida Conde da Carreira 28 , ☏ +351 258 808 200 . ( updated Apr 2021 )

Drink [ edit ]

Sleep [ edit ].

  • 41.6915 -8.828 1 Margarida da Praça , Largo 5 de Outubro 58 , ☏ +351 258 809 630 , [email protected] .  
  • 41.724689 -8.767793 2 Quinta do Bento Novo - Casa de Campo - Turismo Rural , Caminho da Cabine, 187,Perre, 4925-581 Viana do Castelo, Portugal ( Perre ), ☏ +351 962 823 186 , [email protected] . Check-in: 15:30 , check-out: 12:30 . ( updated Feb 2016 )
  • 41.7349 -8.680512 3 Paço de Lanheses , Lanheses , ☏ +351 258731134 , [email protected] .  

Connect [ edit ]

Go next [ edit ].

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