Portugal City Travel Guide: Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo
- picturesque resort in the Minho region.
- population 36,000.
- located on the banks of the River Lima.
- good beaches and watersports.
- within easy reach of Porto & Braga.
- historic city center with fine architecture.
- famous for the Romaria festival in August.
Viana do Castelo is one of northern Portugal's best resorts. Located on the northern bank of the Lima estuary the town has a long sea-faring tradition. Explorers, traders and fishermen set sail from its port for South America, Africa and Newfoundland.
The heart of Viana do Castelo is the elegant Praça da República - this lovely square of Renaissance buildings includes the Chafariz fountain at its center and the striking Misericórdia almshouse dates from 1589. The old town hall, Câmara Municipal, is another fine Renaissance building in the square.
The nearby Igreja Matriz is the town's parish church and dates from the 15th century. The Meseu Municipal (City Museum) is located in an 18th century palace and houses a collection of ceramics, azulejos and paintings.
The Castelo de Santiago da Barro at the mouth of the river was built by the Spanish king Philip II to protect the port from pirates and there's a market on Fridays outside its walls.
There is a fantastic view of the town and the river from the top Monte De Santa Luzia. Set in the eucalyptus trees.
Viana do Castelo's beach Praia do Cabedelo is across the river from town and reached by a five-minute ferry crossing. The beach is ideal for waterports of all kinds: surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, even good, old-fashioned swimming. The beach is as yet pleasantly undeveloped so it is a good idea to bring along your own food and drink for the day. North of town the beach continues on virtually uninterrupted to the Spanish border and the area is good for hiking, surfing and cycling. It is also possible to take a short river trip up the Lima.
Viana do Castelo is also rightly famous for its annual Romaria Festival held in August which features processions, fireworks and the streets decorated with sawdust. Other smaller festivals and music events take place throughout the year such as the Queima das Fitas in Semana Académica when the town's students celebrate in the style of Coimbra. Carnival is lively here too - check the tourist office for all fetival details and dates.
Viana do Castelo Tourist Office
Rua do Hospital Velho
Praça da Erva
Tel: 258 822 660
Fax: 258 827 873
Getting to Viana do Castelo
There are fairly frequent expresso long-distance services to Braga and Porto. The bus station is 2km from the city centre along Avenida Capitao Gaspar de Castro. The following bus companies operate services: AV Cura/Transcolvia (to Ponte de Lima, Valença), REDM/Rede Expressos (to Braga, Porto, Lisbon), AVIC/Transcoinha (to Porto, Lisbon), AV Minho (to Porto).
From Porto (90 minutes), Braga (75 minutes; change at Nine). The station is at the foot of Monte de Santa Luzia. There are also trains to Valença.
Book Accommodation in Viana do Castelo
Hotel Margarida da Praça
12 rooms, a suite and fine restaurant close to the Praça da República
Largo 5 de Outubro, 58
Tel. (+351) 258 80 96 30
Fax (+351) 258 80 96 39
The Pousada de Juventude (Youth hostel) is 1 km east of the town
center (Tel: 258 800 260).
There is another rather quirky youth hostel on board the old hospital ship the Gil Eannes - a floating clinic for fishermen working on the cod fisheries in Newfoundland (Tel: 258 821 582), which also doubles up as a museum. Other recommended hotels are Casa Mela Alvim, the Pousada de Viana do Castelo - Monte de Santa Luzia and the Quinta de Valverde set on hilly ground with views of the ocean and old city below.
There are a wide range of excellent restaurants in town, which cater to the many domestic tourists who holiday here. It is also possible to eat at guesthouses without being a guest. There are also a number of good bars in the town.
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The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22C and 26C.
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