Secrets from Viana do Castelo: Everything You Need to See ♦ Located in the region of Minho, up North in Portugal, Viana do Castelo has it all. Beaches, Pools, Shellfish, Seafood, ‘Bolas de Berlim’, Filigree, Air Quality, Riverside parks that lead to riverside walks. Viana has the full package, and Secrets From Portugal is going to share some tips about one of the best-kept secrets from Minho.
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With more than 80 thousand people, Viana do Castelo is one of the most beautiful cities in the north of Portugal. The special geographical situation of the city, next to the sea and to the mouth of the river Lima, can be seen from the Santa Luzia hill. This stunning view and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a revivalist building by Ventura Terra, of 1898, could be your starting point for visiting the city.
Viana is rich in palaces emblazoned with coats of arms, churches and monasteries, monumental fountains and water features that constitute a wealth of heritage worth visiting. At the Tourist Office, you can ask for a brochure and choose a route inspired by Manueline, Renaissance, Baroque, Art Deco or tile architecture. Whichever streets you stroll through in the historic centre, you will always come back to the Praça da República, the heart of the city. This is where you will find the 16th-century Misericórdia building and fountain, as well as the old Paços do Concelho (Town Hall). Close by is the Romanesque Cathedral or Igreja Matriz (Parish Church).
Facing the sea that was responsible for Viana’s history, a baroque church guards the image of Nossa Senhora da Agonia, the patron saint of fishermen. She is taken out every year on 20 August to bless the sea in one of the most colourful festivals in Portugal, where the beauty and richness of the costumes that are paraded during the festivities are notable.
Viana – also known for its filigree gold work – has maintained its traditions, as can be seen in the Museu do Traje (costume and gold museum), the Municipal Museum (emphasis on the typical Viana tableware that is displayed here) and the ship Gil Eanes. Built in the Viana do Castelo shipyards to support the cod fishing industry, the vessel is once more anchored here in memory of the city’s maritime and shipbuilding traditions.
But Viana do Castelo is known for being a “Mecca of Architecture” thanks to the many important names in contemporary Portuguese architecture who have designed the city’s amenities and spaces. This is the case of the Praça da Liberdade by Fernando Távora, the Library by Álvaro Siza Vieira, the Youth Hostel by Carrilho da Graça, the Axis Hotel by Jorge Albuquerque and also the Viana do Castelo Cultural Centre, by Souto Moura, amongst many others. In the city’s surroundings, you can take a bicycle ride on the cycle paths along the coast or the river or a walk on one of the many marked trails, as well as practise surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing and bodyboarding on the golden sandy beaches. There are also opportunities for jet skiing, sailing, rowing and canoeing on the River Lima.
Viana do Castelo has it all, ‘Papas de Sarrabulho’ in Ponte de Lima, the Summer Festival in Paredes de Couro, riverside walks in Ponte da Barca, ‘cachena’ meat in Arcos de Valdevez or the heart of the city of Caminha. Amazing food and restaurants, Architecture, Museums, Filigree and amazing breathtaking views are some of the experiences to have in this amazing city.
Secrets From Viana Do Castelo
Portuguese Filigree: The Heart Of Viana
Filigree is a delicate kind of Jewellery metalwork, usually, gold and silver made with tiny beads or twisted threads, or both in combination, soldered together or to the surface of an object of the same metal arranged in artistic motifs. Filigree is considered one of the most delicate types of jewellery metalworking. The art of filigree uses precious metals like gold or silver to create intricate works of art. Its fragility often makes us remember the texture of lace. Traditionally, this technique is connected to luxury design and fine craftsmanship. Secrets from Portugal brings you everything about the origin of this amazing technique that is deeply rooted in the Portuguese culture.
Viana’s heart is one of the most popular designs of Portugal’s exquisite filigree jewellery. Many Portuguese souvenirs and contemporary designs now sport this distinctively curved heart with its crown-like growth at the top so you’re bound to see it at some point. Portuguese jewellery has a strong religious inspiration, and the Heart of Viana is no exception. This design, which is currently used as a symbol of the city of Viana do Castelo, arose in Portugal with the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the end of the century. XVIII.
The cornucopias at the top of the Heart are a stylisation of the flames that spring from this sacred symbol. The Heart of Viana soon became an icon and emotional heritage of Portugal and of the Portuguese art of filigree. For those who own it, the Heart Of Viana is a symbol of honesty and generosity.
Last year it was at Ourivesaria Freitas in Viana do Castelo that Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa chose earrings to offer Letizia from Spain when he crossed the border on a three-day state visit. The historic goldsmith’s shop was created in 1920 and brings together some of the most incredible filigree pieces in the country. Manuel Freitas, who was at the head of the establishment until his death in 2017, donated his entire collection of more than 500 gold pieces, to the Costume Museum of the city.
Santa Luzia’s Hill Breathtaking View and Cathedral
The Santuario de Santa Luzia is the majestic icon of Viana do Castelo that dominates the skyline of the city. This wonderous structure, inspired by Byzantine architecture with flurries of Gothic elements, is like no other religious building in Portugal, in part that it is less than 80 years old. The Gothic styling of the Santa Luzia suggests a longer history than it actually has, it was only commissioned in 1904 and fully completed in 1943. Interestingly, the first religious service held in the church was seventeen years earlier before the final completion.
Not only is a magnificent monument the Santuario de Santa Luzia complex is also an outstanding tourist attraction. There’s a quaint funicular that climbs the steep hill, at the summit are spectacular views, the interior of the church is beautifully decorated, and tourists can even traverse through the hidden interior to reach to the top of the domed roof.
Before rushing into the Santuario de Santa Luzia, we suggest walking around the exterior of the church and admiring the stunning views. These views are amazing, looking east along the Lima river valley, south over the city, or west over the rugged coastline and the Atlantic Ocean. On the lower terrace is a useful info-picture, which details all of the sights of the city.
Outside of the Funicular station, there is a selection of cafes and gift shops, coffee could be good to boost energy as there is a lot of steps to climb. The entrance to the main chamber of the Santuario de Santa Luzia is on the southern side, while the dome entrance is on the east (side closest to the funicular).
With a privileged location in the Cabedelo Beach, in Viana do Castelo, the FeelViana Hotel is a four-star-superior development that proposes a sophisticated concept of leisure and comfort, in a perfect fusion of relaxation and sports’ practice.
With a contemporary design and perfectly fit in the surrounding scenery, the FeelViana Hotel preserves and respects the exceptional habitat where it is set, by using natural building materials, such as wood, for a sober and harmonious integration in the vast pinewood forest that made its home. The FeelViana Hotel has 46 rooms and 9 bungalows where a simple and functional decoration prevails. They all offer a view and access to balconies, which are perfect spaces to enjoy excellent moments.
Besides the Sports Center, the hotel has a Restaurant, a Bar, a Lounge Terrace overlooking the beach, an outdoor swimming pool and a Wellness & Spa area, where you can enjoy massages and various treatments; this area also includes a Sauna, a Turkish Bath, a Gym and a heated Indoors Swimming Pool.
The FeelViana Hotel also offers a Business Center, with a multifunctional room, designed to accommodate all types of meetings, conferences and events, ideal for team building days, training, retreats and other corporate events.
The Siza Vieira Library and the Souto Moura Cultural Center
The views of a city on the sea would already be enough to put Viana do Castelo at the top of any ranking on cityscapes. But as if that did not arrive, also the architectonic slope came to help, with the construction of three buildings in the riverside zone that ask for a visit and many photographs. The municipal library of Viana do Castelo was designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, the cultural centre is owned by Souto Moura and the Atlantic Sports Pavilion won last year the Global Awards – Architecture Masterprize 2018.
Gil Eannes Ship
This vessel in Viana do Castelo’s commercial docks was launched in 1955 and as the flagship of the “White Fleet” is a compelling memorial to the Estado Novo regime. The Gil Eannes was a hospital ship that would set sail for the Ocean off Newfoundland and Greenland, and support the trawlers fishing those waters for cod. A lot of the original medical equipment on board, like x-ray machines and the operating room, set close to the hull to minimise sway. In its 20 years in service, the Gil Eannes was also used for breaking the ice, transporting mail and as a tugboat.
Museu do Traje – The National Costume Museum Of Viana do Castelo
The National Costume Museum, created in 1976 by diploma, brings together a collection of historical costumes and costume accessories, dating back to the 19th century. XVIII to the present, which presents the public both in its permanent exhibition and in temporary exhibitions. It is installed in the Palácio Angeja-Palmela and has attached the Monteiro-Mor Botanical Park. Its mission is to construct a strategy of investigation, conservation and divulgation of the costume and of the textile. It also defines a safeguard strategy for the Monteiro-Mor Botanical Park and promotes the linkage of this heritage to the community.
The permanent exhibition tells the history of The Costume in Portugal of the XVIII century to the actuality in the noble floor of the Palace. The exhibition is organized in several nuclei that allow independent visits and facilitate the rotation of the pieces, this is the way found to invite you to repeat the visit and provide new encounters with other pieces. At the same time, they guarantee the greatest possible durability for the collection, alternating the exposure time with rest periods in the technical reserve in order to reduce the effort of the materials.
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