Viana do Castelo is a city located on the northwest side of Portugal very close to the Spanish borders.
It is a city full of charming places and, if you’re planning to visit Portugal, Viana deserves a visit. The journey to Viana takes around 1 hour by car from Porto and, if you’re staying in Lisbon, it takes circa 4 hours, so maybe you should consider a stay of 2 to 3 days in Viana.
What’s so special about Viana?
Viana do Castelo is a very peculiar city as it stays on the shores of Rio Lima and by the ocean, so great views are always a guarantee here. The city is known for its religious tourism, but there’s much more to it and you’ll even find great surf spots!
Nowadays the city is known for its remarkable architecture done by the famous architects Sisa Vieira and Souto Moura and the hotel Axis Viana is a great example of that. But the great gem of the city is its Sanctuary: the Santa Lúzia Sanctuary!
From there you have the best views of the city, the river, and the ocean! The architecture of the Sanctuary was inspired by the Notre-Dame of Paris and as you can see on the image below it is a mesmerizing building! To reach it you can use a lift that was created to take people from the city center to the top.
Besides the sanctuary, you should take some time to walk along the riverside and on the town to see its beautiful streets and architecture like the Távoras Palace and the Cathedral. Once you’re by the river, one of the places you can not miss is the Gil Eanes hospital-ship. This ship was built during the 60s for codfish fishing in Groeneland areas and once it settled back in the city, all its areas, including its inside hospital were kept as a museum so people can learn more about the history of living onboard. It’s worth a visit!
If you’re a surf person the spots not to miss are the Cabedelo and Norte beaches. This last one, on low tides, creates some natural pools on the rocks, and it’s an amazing place to spend some fun hours.
What’s the best time to visit?
You can visit Viana all year round, but if you want to have a really special stay there you should visit in August during the celebrations of Nossa Senhora da Agonia. During this weekend that normally happens at the end of August, the streets are covered in flower carpets and there is a procession to the ocean. The girls and women of the city wear their best traditional dresses and a lot of gold jewelry that’s also typical from Viana (filigrana) and at the end of the day there’s a firework show that lights the full town! In 2020 the weekend was on the 19 to 23 August, there is still no date for the 2021 one.
If your stay in Viana catches a Thursday you should also visit the town of Barcelos and its weekly market which’s one of the best ones in this region of Portugal. Barcelos is a nice town to visit and it crosses the path of the Road to Santiago.
Souvenirs and desserts
One of the most typical arts of Viana is filigrana (filigree), the art of making jewelry with thin threads of gold. The most famous piece is the Heart of Viana (you can see in the image below).
Regarding sweets, you should try the Does de Gema (egg yolk cakes), the Sidónios (almond cake), and the Manjericos. The best place to try all these cakes is the Zé Natário pastry shop.
Where to stay
For me, the best places to stay in Viana do Castelo are the Pousada which has a view of the Sanctuary or the hotel Feel Viana, which is the most sustainable hotel in the area and has a great location closer to the beaches.
If you need any help doing your reservations you can contact me on my social media for the best prices.
Although being a simple town, Viana do Castelo is one of my favorite places in Portugal and I think you will understand why once you visit it.
Hope you enjoy this article!
You can follow my tips on my accounts @travellingtothegreen
Traveling to the Green