Viana do Castelo: A Guide to Portugal’s Hidden Gem

Viana do Costelo is one of the lesser known towns in Northern Portugal, but is actually one of the most beautiful.

Where is Viana do Castelo?

Viana do Castelo is located in the district of Beira Interior, which is the Northern part of Portugal, and is considered to be Portugal’s hidden gem. Viana do Castelo, which means “I am the knight in the stone”, was founded in the 16th Century and has two different meaning; the first is that in old times, it was the village in front of the church in order to save her face, and the other meaning, which is not actually true, is that every house in the village have the same shade of stone which has the same shape. The town is actually made up of different districts that aren’t connected by roads and come to life in the summer months as a relaxing vacation spot.

The town’s history

This little town of just 18,000 inhabitants has endured centuries of war, invasion, and rebellion. It even served as a garrison during the English Civil Wars, and therefore takes its name from the famous campaign in which King John of England was defeated by Oliver Cromwell.

The beauty of Viana do Castelo

The true beauty of Viana do Castelo is its location. Situated at the easternmost tip of Portugal, this island town is separated from its continental neighbours by the Douro River. It’s at the foot of the Picos de Europa mountain range. The epic road to Viana do Castelo is so different from any other part of Portugal, and it’s the road of ascent that makes the difference. It has been called the most beautiful road in the world.

What to do in Viana do Castelo

At the northern tip of the Alentejo, and around 60km from Lisbon, Viana do Castelo was a pretty place in centuries past. But its ancient castle is now a Unesco World Heritage Site, and its story has been lifted from dusty history books and put on the big screen. Viana do Castelo, Portugal. If you’re looking for a quick city break, this is the town for you. It’s easily navigable, the beaches are nice and the medieval castle is utterly unique. The best hotels in Viana do Castelo Hotels in Viana do Castelo First look around the town The old town is split into two sections, the old part, centred on the Town Square, and the newer, more modern part of the town that lies to the west. The castle, of course, is the best spot for taking a snap, but take a look at the Baroque buildings, too.

Where to eat in Viana do Castelo

Paco’s Famous Pizza 15 São Pedro do Paço, Viana do Castelo – Stop by this little takeaway pizza shop run by Paco and his father and you will surely become a regular. The fantastic homemade Sicilian-style pizzas are scrumptious. (Shy of tasting the Neapolitan-style pizzas outside of Italy, you will not experience anything like them in Portugal.) As I said, it is a family run shop and Paco takes some risks, creating some unbelievable pizza creations!

NoMad Largo do Campo da Costa, Viana do Castelo – A fun and quirky, fine-dining restaurant for delicious Mediterranean food. The interior is a little stylish and chic and the food is nothing short of amazing. The sushi is unbelievable and the portions are HUGE. The cute pizzas and pastas are superb as well.

Where to stay in Viana do Castelo

Z.D. Helder – The old Z. D. Helder is just begging to be taken back in time. With historic church services and an array of rooms with balcony views over the city, you’ll never want to leave. Book via

Hotel Portinho near the monastery – Hotel Portinho is both family-friendly and charming, with its huge garden and oriel windows. Some rooms have balconies, which are great for admiring the cathedral.

Hotel Cláudio de Braga – With a relaxed atmosphere and excellent food, Hotel Cláudio is a great choice for families. Just a few steps from the river, it has gorgeous garden terraces overlooking the Douro.


Viana do Castelo is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal. It boasts stunning architecture, waterfalls and trails that lead to beautiful views of the mountains and countryside. Viana do Castelo boasts over sixty centuries of history and is home to some of the most beautiful art museums in the country. It’s also a perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a low-key European city break, so you can relax, do some drinking and eating, and see a pretty amazing collection of historical buildings.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about Prettiest Places in Portugal and Things to do in Braga

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