On our travel to Northern Iberia, we took a detour from the main route towards Viana do Castelo. I had read in an article that the city is beautiful and worth exploring... but I didn't expect it to be this charming...
The first thing that caught our eye as we walked from the parking lot was the view of the well-maintained riverfront of the Lima River, which flows through the town and joins the ocean.
This is a great place to park your camper for free and enjoy the city. Click Here
While strolling along the harbor dock, we reached the museum ship named after the 15th-century Portuguese navigator and explorer, Gil Eannes. Gil gained fame by circumnavigating Cape Bojador in 1434, an achievement considered as the symbolic beginning of the Age of Great Geographical Discoveries.
The Gil Eannes is a historic fishing vessel that was built in Viana do Castelo, Portugal, in 1955. It served as a hospital ship for the Portuguese cod fishing fleet in the North Atlantic for decades. After it was decommissioned, it was laid up in a Lisbon dock, where it deteriorated for many years. In 1998, the Gil Eannes was restored to its original condition. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Viana do Castelo. It is also a youth hostel, offering visitors a unique opportunity to experience life on a traditional fishing vessel.
The skyline of Viana do Castelo is graced by the iconic bridge, designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel himself. The Eiffel Company contributed the iron structure for public use in 1878. This bridge accommodates both cars and trains, running on the lower deck of the structure.
The area surrounding the city is full of lush greenery and tranquility. Green hills roll across the horizon, with one of them being Mount Santa Luzia, crowned by an impressive basilica of the same name. Due to our four-legged friend Vega :), we didn't take a ride on the longest cable car in Portugal (650m), which could have taken us to the summit, undoubtedly offering a magnificent view of the city and its surroundings.
Behind the basilica are the remains of a Celtic settlement, which testify to the fact that the history of this place dates back to ancient times.
From the very beginning, the city was associated with the ocean and the seas. Its strategic location made Viana one of the main commercial ports in Portugal.
In 1258, King Afonso III granted Viana do Castelo its first charter, naming the port and its surroundings 'Viana da Foz do Lima.' Then, in 1848, Viana do Castelo was elevated to city status and adopted the name it is known by today.
The city center of Viana do Castelo is a feast for the senses, with its historic buildings and modern architecture. I was particularly struck by the abundance of sculptures and reliefs depicting marquises, fishermen, merchants, and other figures from everyday life. These artistic works perfectly capture the city's commercial character and give us a glimpse into the occupations that were important to Viana's residents and visitors for centuries.
Everything is adorned with colorful, well-kept, and neat decorations.
Viana do Castelo - an inspiring city
After our visit to Viana, I came across an article online that revealed we weren't the only ones enchanted by the city. The prestigious London magazine 'Wallpaper,' specializing in design and architecture, describes Viana do Castelo as an 'architectural mecca.' It highlights the extraordinary attention to detail in seamlessly blending modern architecture with historic buildings.
Some of the interesting places worth considering for your visit include: Freedom Square 'Praça da Liberdade,' the Siza Vieira Library, the innovative Axis Hotel, and the Souto Moura Cultural Center.
On the Costa Verde, or the 'Green Coast,' we could already get a taste of what awaited us as we ventured further north on the Iberian Peninsula. Here, cooler winds blow, much to the delight of water sports enthusiasts. We immediately noticed the colorful kites of kite- and wing-surfers gracefully dancing on the waves near beautiful beaches. The evening temperature drops and the refreshing air provided a completely different experience compared to the typical July weather on the Algarve coast, where we usually reside.
When visiting Viana do Castelo, there are several must-see places and attractions:
- Góra SANTA LUZiA (św. Łucji), wraz z kolejką i bazyliką na górze – nie zwiedziliśmy… jak będziecie to możecie wysłać mi foty 😉
- Rua de Viana "The oldest street, located by the former docks, is where you'll find 'Casa dos Nichos' (House of Niches), a building from the 15th century."
- The museum on the ship Gil Eannes.
- Museu do Traje The museum of traditional costumes, some of which bear a resemblance to Polish folk costumes.
- Municipal Market The city market.
- Republic Square – beautiful 15th-century buildings and the town hall, the construction of which was initiated in the early 16th century.
- The Museum of Decorative Arts.
- Monumento ao 25 de Abril – a monument commemorating the date of the revolution in Portugal, April 25, 1974.
My experiences in Viana do Castelo will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time. This is a place that surprised me with its charm and diversity... I highly recommend seeing for yourself how beautiful Northern Portugal is, so distinct from its southern regions.
Take a look at the gallery: