The origins of Viana do Castelo dates back to the Iron Age, as evidence has shown the city was erected by the ancient Pre-Romans on Mount Santa Luzia. But its history is always linked to the sea and describes a set of events that made Viana one of the main commercial ports of the country. In 1258, D. Afonso III gave it its first Charter, naming it Viana da Foz do Lima, anticipating its maritime vocation. Later, on the 20th of January 1848 and by decree of D. Maria II, Viana was elevated to the rank of city and adopted the name that it is known by nowadays: Viana do Castelo.
Full of history the city has countless points of cultural and touristic interests, which are essentially related to: the sea, the river and the mountain; 3 ecosystems closely linked to the city and its history.
Viana do Castelo located along its 24 kilometres of coastline came to acknowledge the importance of its beaches and to value its heritage, nature and landscapes which has been improved through various interventions.
This special concern is focused on through significant investments, ranging from the reclassication of the beaches to the preservation of the dune sand and the respective flora and fauna, as well as the Organization of campaigns who work on the stimulation of conservation, development and defence of the coastline of Viana.
Therefore, Viana do Castelo has been awarded with the blue ag, the highest distinction as far as beaches quality goes; therefore, its coastline claiming to be transformed into a “territory of excellence” through the implementation of the Polis Program of the north coastline “Polis do Litoral norte” - Operations of requalification and valorisation of the coastal margin.
This ambitious plan works on the strategic importance of the coastal zone and considers that interventions in the coastline must pursue the objectives of modernity and innovation, such as the enhancement of popular agglomerates, with the benefits of access roads and parking areas reorganization; as well as coastal protection, beyond the cycle lane, and the creation of supports for resorts and water sports practice.
The London prestigious magazine: “Wallpaper”; a reference of Design and Architecture, describes Viana do Castelo as being a ‘Mecca of Architecture’, clearly referring to the new buildings standing out in the city; the Liberty Square “Praça da Liberdade” by Fernando Távora, the Library of Siza Vieira, the ‘innovative’ Hotel Axis as well as the Cultural Centre of Souto Moura.
«A Maritime Portuguese City being rehabilitated as an Architectural Mecca with a collection of buildings by Fernando Távora, as well as the arrival of an innovative designed Hotel», quotes the Wallpaper, adding that these buildings are «a source of municipal pride», particularly the new public Library, built in white concrete by Álvaro Siza. «The Library overpowers a square conceived by Fernando Távora - mentor of Siza Vieira and founder of the Prestigious Architecture School of Porto», also referring to it as being «two ambitious buildings» located at Liberty Square «Praça da Liberdade».
Also the Cultural Centre stands out. Designed by the Architect “Souto Moura”, it is characterized by its transparency between the city, the river and the interior of the building. The Cultural Centre is prepared to host large events such as music festivals, concerts, cinema, conferences, exhibitions and fairs, as well as sports activities.
Placed in an environment of indescribable beauty, the city of Viana do Castelo is perfect for tourism, with a set of places that are dedicated to recieving and welcoming visitors who are willing to discover the Culture, Art and traditions of the city.
Museum of Decorative Arts
The rich museum collection, as well as distributed museum nuclei in various Parish Councils are put forward and dedicated to the traditions. The Museum of Decorative Arts is located in another building (a former feudal mansion) from the 18th century and has one of the most important collections of ancient Portuguese earthenware of great value, dating from the 17th to the 19th century. This collection includes various pieces of the famous factory of Viana ceramics. Beyond an important collection of paintings, drawings and pieces of Sacred Art, stands a magnifcent collection of 18th-century Indo-Portuguese furniture. In this area it is also possible to discover the richness and diversity of the remains of Portuguese and Hispano-Arabian unique ceramics.
Museum of “Traje”
Located in the noble area of the city - The republic square - there is the Museum of Traj, a part of a renovated state building housing with an excellent collection of traditional outfits and goldsmith craing; promoting, enhancing and restoring a Parish heritage of great value. With the same objective a set of nuclei museum was created, namely the D. Prior watermill, which is located in the Centre of Monitoring and environmental Interpretation of Viana do Castelo (the CMIA; which includes the Portuguese mills network), as well as the Bread Museum of Outeiro, located in the former first grade school and which shows all the farm implements forming the cycle of wheat and bread confection (also a water mill).
Viana do Castelo also offers the opportunity to discover a course of galleries and museums, festivals and traditions, crfts, jewellery and, of course, gastronomy.
The Gil Eannes Ship was built in the Viana do Castelo Shipyards in 1955 with the mission of supporting the Portuguese codfishing fleet in Newfoundland and Greenland. Although its main purpose was to provide shermen and members of the crew with medical assistance, this ship was also a flagship, a mail ship, a tug and an icebreaker, providing the codfishing fleet with food supply, nets, bait and fuel. In 1998 it was brought to Viana do Castelo to become a living memorial of the city and country maritime and shipbuilding history in the form of a museum.
The Council is rich in traditions, and the traditional pageantry of Viana do Castelo is a true national symbol of Portugal. It is recognized abroad because of its colour and originality. The goldsmiths craftsmanship of Viana is also reflecting faithfully its traditions. earrings, chains and other loops “da Rainha”, gold braided and elaborate gold ligree wire are intergrated in the name of the city. It is intimately linked to the pageantry of Viana and its image.
Music is part of Viana’s community life, assuming a particular symbolism for its visitors. The diversity of the ethnographic groups is also accompanied by music schools that flourish inside the Parish council, producing qualifed musicians who will eventually integrate folkloric and regular bands as well as orchestras responsible for the rich diversity of viana's cultural events.