Viana do Castelo is a pleasant town where there is something to do for everyone. You will find a green mountain landscape, sea, river, harbour and must see´s.
After an hours drive from Porto, you're already there. On a Friday afternoon my boyfriend spontaneously took the turn to this city. We wandered around the city centre and visited its beautiful church on a mountain.
The journey to Viana is not a punishment. There is plenty to see and the further north we drive, the greener and hilly the landscape becomes. The travel time is not much longer compared to many drives to the centre of Porto, while we live nearby Porto. Naturally, traffic plays a major role in this and on the way to Viana do Castelo you continue to drive easily. You can also catch a train from Porto (Campanhã station) that will take you there in 1.5 hours.
Once we arrived I imagine myself on vacation in a completely different environment.
Viana do Castelo is surrounded by mountains and water: the Atlantic Ocean and at the mouth of the Lima River. As background decoration you can see the Santa Luzia mountain on which a beautiful church issituated. "That's where we're going at sunset." We will first discover the city. In terms of atmosphere, it´s a bit like the first capital of Portugal: Guimarães. We sniff the antiquity and the good vibes while we walk through the streets. We visited Viana, it´s December and verything is transformed into a Christmas atmosphere with the main street as a highlight. Later, we admire this street full of lights from the mountain.
As in any city, wandering around is the best thing you can do. In this way we arrive at lively squares and hidden alleys with small shops. If you really want to buy something traditional that comes from Viana, then that is the "Heart of Viana" ("Coração de Viana"). This represents Portugal more or less, together with the Rooster of Barcelos. The window displays of jewellers are full of golden and silver hearts. These are made very finely, with the 'filigree' technique.
At a local bakery we enjoy a quick lunch for a great price and then take the car to the Santa Luzia mountain and the church of the same name. We have certainly not seen everything yet. There is a municipal museum and there are other churches to admire. However, the sun shows its last rays, so we rush to the viewpoint. You can also take a cable train that will take you up in a few minutes.
The sun has just set and the sky turns pink, blue and purple, and the panoramic view is amazing. You look over the city with its long bridge, the ocean and the river. I quickly take a few photos with my back to the church before it is completely dark. But the view of the Santa Luzia church is also breath taking. The wall reveals the full name: 'Templo Monumento Santa Luzia'. It´s also called "The Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart". The church (built between 1904 and 1959) is dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. We will definitely be back to see this attraction from the inside next time. The doors are open every working day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday to 7 p.m. If you go to Viana do Castelo, you really can't skip Santa Luzia.
The cold makes us long for a hot drink and some food. That is why we end up back in the centre of Viana do Castelo. Here we enjoy delicious (vegetarian) dishes from Indian cuisine at 'Indian Punjabi Restaurante'. The menu is large, and the prices are small. This restaurant is highly recommended as the food is tasty, and the price / quality ratio is very good.
Although this was a short trip it was a nice introduction and requires a follow-up. If you make it a full day, you could combine a visit to the city with an activity in nature. There is enough to enjoy what Viana and its surroundings offer. A Portuguese saying goes: "Hi-de-voltar a Viana." This means: "I will go back to Viana." Sure!