What to do in Viana do Castelo
Set between the Lima river and the Atlantic ocean, you'll find the
historic city of Viana do Castelo. In the Age of Discovery, Viana was a
departure point for Portuguese explorers and, later on, it became a port
for codfish trade. This connection to the sea is still visible today in
the city's traditional cuisine and museums, like the Museu do Traje and
the Gil Eannes ship.
The old town is full of historic buildings, but
the real draw for visitors is the dramatic views from the Monte Santa
Luzia. At the top of this hill lies an imposing neo-Byzantine sanctuary
and the ruins of an Iron Age village, reached via a funicular.
There are also several beaches near the city, where you can go for a swim or practise watersports like surf and bodyboard.
you're wondering what to do in Viana do Castelo, below is a guide with
the main attractions in the city. At the end, we’ve included a section
with the best restaurants and hotels, so you can make the most of your
See traditional costumes at the Museu do Traje
As you arrive in the city centre, a striking yellow building immediately
stands out. It houses the Museu do Traje, a museum dedicated to
traditional costumes from Viana do Castelo. Inside you'll find a variety
of clothes used by locals throughout the centuries for farming, fishing
or special events like pilgrimages. Downstairs is a display of gold
jewellery which is also typical of this region.
Wander around Praça da República
Just opposite the museum is the picturesque Praça da República, the
central square of Viana do Castelo. It's here you'll find many of the
city's landmarks such as the Chafariz, a Renaissance fountain built in
1554, the old city hall with its striking crenellated top and the
16th-century Igreja da Misericórdia. There are also a couple of cafés
around this area so you can stop here for a drink.
Step inside Igreja da Misericórdia
From the outside, Igreja da Misericórdia stands out with its Renaissance
façade and Venetian arcade. João Lopes, who worked on the square's
fountain, also designed this magnificent church in the 16th century. It
got renovated later on, giving its present Baroque interior, with
hand-painted tiles covering the walls, gilded altarpieces and beautiful
frescoes adorning the ceiling.
Admire the Cathedral of Viana do Castelo
A few steps away from the square is the Cathedral of Viana do
Castelo, also known as Cathedral of St.Mary the Great. This impressive
church dates back to the 15th century, but went through several changes
through the centuries, resulting in a mix of architectural styles. The
original Romanesque towers give it a fortress-like exterior, and the
Gothic doorway draws visitors with its beautiful stone carvings. Step
inside, and you'll find a series of Renaissance-style chapels hiding
below the vaulted ceilings.
Visit the Chocolate Factory
Families and chocolate fans will love this small museum in Viana do
Castelo. Set inside a former chocolate factory, it includes a circuit of
five rooms, using fun interactive features to explain the origins and
the history of this sweet ingredient. The museum is part of a boutique
hotel and if you want you can spend the night in a chocolate-themed room
or treat yourself to one of their chocotherapy treatments.
Walk to the Marina of Viana do Castelo
After visiting the museum, take a walk down to the marina of Viana do
Castelo. From here you can see the Ponte Eiffel, a multi-level bridge
designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1878. The bridge crosses over the Lima
river, making the connection to the beaches in the south coast of the
city, such as Praia do Cabedelo. If you want to spend some time on the
beach, check out the Viana do Castelo Beaches section below.
Morning Tour Map
Climb aboard the Gil Eannes ship
From the marina, follow the promenade along the river, passing through a
park, until you spot a large white ship by the water. Known as the Gil
Eannes, it was once a hospital ship, supporting trawlers who set out to
fish in Newfoundland. Its last journey was in 1973, and it was left
abandoned in Lisbon until a public campaign rescued it and brought it
back to Viana. Today, fully restored, the Gil Eannes ship is open to
visitors as a museum, allowing them to climb aboard and wander through
its cabins. Inside you'll find a variety of medical equipment, including
x-ray machines and an operating room.
Visit the Forte de Santiago da Barra
If you continue down the docks, you'll soon reach the Forte de Santiago
da Barra, also known as Castelo de Viana. Standing on the edge of the
Lima river, this 16th-century fortress once guarded the city against
pirate attacks. It's worth walking around the ramparts to capture the
views of the sea and the Monte de Santa Luzia.
Go up to Monte de Santa Luzia
Perhaps the most iconic attraction in Viana do Castelo is the Santuário
de Santa Luzia, a stunning neo-Byzantine church towering above Monte de
Santa Luzia. There are three ways to get up here: you can drive, get the
funicular or climb the 659 steps if you're feeling brave.
in 1959, the sanctuary has a similar style to the Sacré-Coeur in Paris,
combining Neo-Gothic and Byzantine elements. Standing outside, you
can't help capturing the magnificent scenery featuring the mountains,
the river and the ocean. For an even higher view, you can climb up to
the church's dome. An elevator takes you halfway, but the final section
includes a narrow spiral staircase. The interior is quite modern, but
the altar stands out with its fresco paintings and marble sculptures.
Explore Citânia de Santa Luzia
Just behind the sanctuary, you'll find another landmark—the Citânia de
Santa Luzia. Similar to the one in Guimarães, these ruins belonged to a
Celtiberian village. A boardwalk leads the way through this historic
fortified settlement dating back to the 4th century BC. Its privileged
location above a mountain made it possible for residents to surveil the
Lima estuary below. Today, visitors can enjoy the panoramic views from
here while capturing the remains of the village. For detailed
information about the site, make sure to grab a leaflet from the
interpretation centre or book a guided tour in advance.
Afternoon tour Map
Viana do Castelo Beaches
Viana do Castelo is home to a series of incredible beaches, which stretch up and down the city’s coastline.
you want to stay near the city centre, Praia do Norte and Praia do
Cabedelo are your best options. Praia do Norte is a small urban beach
located north of Viana. Although there’s not much sand around, the large
saltwater pool makes up for it. Along the beach, you’ll find two cafés
where you can go for a drink.
Located on the other side of the
river, south of the city, is Praia do Cabedelo. To get here, you’ll
need to drive or take a ferry. The ferry departs near the cultural
centre and takes about five minutes to reach the other margin. From
there, it’s a couple more minutes walk to arrive at the beach. It offers
perfect conditions for watersports activities such as surfing and
A few miles down from Cabedelo are the beaches of Rodanho
and Amorosa. Praia do Rodanho offers a vast sandy stretch surrounded
by dunes and vegetation. In the summer, this beach welcomes many nudists
who enjoy its quiet atmosphere. Also protected by dunes, Praia da
Amorosa is a favourite spot for surfing and bodyboarding. When the tide
is low, you can observe many species such as limpets, mussels or
There are three other beaches near Viana do Castelo that
are also worth the visit: Praia de Carreço, Praia da Arda and Praia de
Afife. Sheltered from the wind, Praia de Carreço is a popular choice
among families. As you walk to the beach, you might spot the European
shag, a dark coloured seabird that inhabits this region. If you’re
heading this way, make sure to visit the traditional windmills of
Montedor located nearby. Praia da Arda attracts a younger crowd, and
it's famous among surfers and bodyboarders. There’s a surf school here
in case you want to get a lesson.
Finally, there’s Praia de Afife, a
large beach with golden sands accessed by a wooden walkway. The sea is
usually strong here, so it attracts many surfers too. Families can enjoy
the southern end of the beach, as the river meets the sea and forms a