Located on the Western coast of Northern Portugal, the magnificent Viana do Castelo is one of Portugal’s main hidden gems. It is renowned for its scenic downtown, 19th-century boulevards, narrow lanes lined with splendid Manueline houses, and its nonpareil hill-perched gargantuan basilica, Santuário de Santa Luzia. Head here not only to uncover its architectural grandeur but also to profit from its briny seaside charm and its paradisiac beaches.
What to do in Viana do Castelo
Pay a visit to Santuario de Santa Luzia
Go to the revivalist Santuario de Santa Luzia, one of Europe’s most grand cathedrals. The 1909 house of worship features the Iberian Peninsula’s largest rose windows (Europe’s second-largest), a humongous dome, and a spacious altar with a beautiful sanctuary.
Go to the Monta de Santa Luzia, where the basilica is located, by car or funicular; or climb the steps to get there. Here you can delight in a gob-smacking view over Viana do Castelo, rated the world’s third most beautiful panorama by National Geographic Magazine.
Make a trip to Viana do Castelo’s Old Town
Head to the town’s scenic old town with its quiescent narrow pedestrian lanes, spacious plazas, and many beautiful churches. Here you can not only gaze at its architectural grandeur and take in the peaceful charm of an old seaside town, but also plonk down at a bakery or a cafe to eat the famous Portuguese desserts over a cup of coffee or eat a slap-up dinner at a restaurant’s veranda.
Go kitesurfing at Viana do Castelo’s marvelous beaches
One of the best things to do in Viana do Castelo is to go kite-surfing on its Cabedelo Beach, one of Europe’s top emerging kite-sports spots. Here you will not only find wind and waves perfect for a zippy kite-surfing ride but also can bask in the tender Portuguese sunshine and take pleasure in its warm sand, if traveling in summer. Keep in mind that there is a great wooden walkway to promenade nonchalantly along the beautiful stretch of sand.
Walk to St Mary the Great’s Cathedral of Viana do Castelo
Known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Great, the place of worship is one of Vina do Castelo’s main landmarks. Built in the 15th century, it is one of the prime examples of Portuguese Romanesque architecture and features a magnificent altar and a nave and a truly exquisite rose window. Head to this fortress and church, oozing the medieval charm and pointing to the centuries-old history of Viana do Castelo.
What makes Viana do Castelo special
Viana do Castelo not only abounds in architectural marvels but is also a great beach destination. It is one of Europe’s emerging kitesurfing Meccas thanks to its propitious winds and great surf. The sand stretches for miles and offers splendid views over the Atlantic.
To see the Viana do Castelo coastline from above, head to Monta de Santa Luzia, where is perched one of Europe’s most striking places of worship, Santuário de Santa Luzia.
Where to stay in Viana do Castelo: 5 Best Hotels in Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo offers a wide range of accommodation in its scenic town center, in proximity to its beaches, and further inland. Here are our 5 favorite hotels in Viana do Castelo.
From family bungalows to suites and double rooms, Hotel FeelViana has a unit for any guest, some even boasting views of the sea. Only a 4-minute walk from the beach, this hotel offers an outdoor pool and water activities, as well as a large sun terrace and a spa center.
A 20-minute walk from the beach, Dona Emilia Guest House is located in the center of the city, close to historical attractions such as Praça da República’s 16th century Fountain. The living room and kitchen are shared between all guests, while the bathrooms are private. Guests also receive free products to cook their own breakfast.
Set on Monte de Santa Luzia, Pousada de Viana de Castelo has one of the best views of the city, with rooms offering panoramic views of the ocean. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, tennis court, and multiple terraces. The rooms come equipped with a minibar, cable TV, and air conditioner.
Located close to Viana do Castelo’s historical city center, the 4-star Axis Viana Business & Spa Hotel features a luxury spa and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. The guest rooms offer views of the city’s parks and are equipped with TVs and private bathrooms. The hotel also features a stunning trendy bar with vintage wines and a restaurant that serves an à la carte menu.
Located a 5-minute walk from the beach and 700 meters from the city center of Viana do Castelo, Hotel do Parque has been recently renovated and features a restaurant with panoramic views of the Lima River, as well as an outdoor swimming pool. The newly-renovated rooms feature air conditioning, satellite TV, and some private balconies. Guests can also enjoy the reading room and gym available on site.
What to eat in Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo offers plenty of local Portuguese fare such as one-of-its-kind seafood. A maritime region Viana do Castelo is known for its sea delicacies like oysters, cod, and sardines. Head to its Peixaria Costa Norte, a seafood market for the freshest sea catch. Also, don’t forget to visit its great Mercado Municipal.
When to visit Viana do Castelo
Travel to Viana do Castelo in April-September for you to profit from kite-surfing or sun-bathing on its long sandy stretches. Also, keep in mind that the twentieth of August is the day of Our Lady of Sorrow, celebrated since 1744, when fishermen started praying to Saint Mary to call upon her to make sure that the sea won’t be rough. Note that since April-September is a high season the price for accommodation can be slightly higher.
Traveling to Viana do Castelo is a great way to combine the scenic medieval charm of its downtown and bask in the sun on its great beaches. Don’t miss out on the medieval architecture in its old town such as Saint Mary the Great Church, or the revivalist Santuário de Santa Luzia. Travel here to make your Portugal holiday truly unforgettable and sun-lit.
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