Located about an hour north of Porto is the town of Viana do Castelo. It is considered one of the most beautiful cities in northern Portugal, with a picturesque location nestled between the Hill of Santa Luzia and the banks of the Lima River.
Viana do Castelo’s strategic location on the river made it an important seaport during the Age of Discovery, when the country embarked on extensive overseas exploration. The town prospered from being a point of entry for explorers and traders, and it was during this period that many of the historic buildings were constructed.
The Basilica of Santa Luzia is one of the main sites to visit during your stay in Viana do Castelo. Modeled after the Sacré Coeur in Paris, the domed Neo-Byzantine basilica has three rose windows that illuminate the interior and frescoes. The upper lantern of the central dome provides panoramic views of the town below and the Lima estuary.
Other sites to see during your visit to Viana do Castelo include:
- Praça da República – main square with a Renaissance fountain facing the former 16th C. Town Hall
- Misericordia Church and Hospice – built in 1598
- 15th C Parish Church
- Municipal Museum – housed in an 18th C. palace with a fine collection of rare ceramics, furniture from Portuguese India and Moorish Spain, and archaeological finds
- Stroll through the streets of the Old Quarter – lined with interesting examples of Renaissance and Manueline architecture
Many visit the town in the summer to enjoy the nearby Cabedelo beach, which is accessed via ferry from the Avenida dos Combatentes. Viana do Castelo is also known for being one of the most folkloric towns in the country. If you happen to visit on a weekend around August 15 during the Festival of Our Lady of Sorrows you will be able to see traditional regional dresses, parades, processions and folk dancing.
If you decide to spend the night you can stay at the Pousada de Viana do Castelo – Monte de Santa Luzia, located near the basilica. The Pousada was built in 1918 and offers guests panoramic views from its privileged hilltop location. For more information and reservations, click here.
Photo Credit: Marcio Santos / Photo of Basilica of Santa Luzia
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