If you have never been to Viseu, you are missing out on one of the most precious and interesting cities in Portugal! Besides being the stage for one of the oldest fairs in the Iberian Peninsula, the Feira de São Mateus, which stands out thanks to its good music, authentic craftworks and excellent cuisine, Viseu is also a city dotted with plenty of gardens, parks and green spaces – it is easy to see why it has the title of Garden City! The city has a lot to offer: charming squares, monumental churches, cobbled streets, interesting museums, delicious wines and lots of urban art. In this article we will show you the best things to see and do in Viseu, so you can enjoy this destination to the fullest!
Stop by the Praça da República (Rossio) and admire the tiles
This leafy, lively square is Viseu's most famous postcard. Covered with Portuguese pavement, with its centuries-old trees, colorful flowerbeds, garden benches to rest on after a day of sightseeing, and quaint lamps reminiscent of ancient times, the Praça da República, also known as Rossio, also houses one of the city's most emblematic works of art – a stunning tile mural by the Porto painter Joaquim Lopes, created in 1930, depicting everyday life in the region. It is a cultural heritage worthy of careful admiration, as it has beautiful details. Around the square there are several buildings, including the City Hall. It is a great meeting place where you can have a coffee on the terrace and enjoy the surroundings.
Marvel at the monumental Sé Cathedral
The Cathedral of Santa Maria de Viseu, also known as the Cathedral or Sé de Viseu, is located at one of the highest points of the city and is one of the oldest buildings in Viseu. It is worth admiring the Mannerist facade, the large twin towers, the Renaissance cloister, the beautiful well-preserved tiles, the vaulted ceiling, the gilded carvings, the upper choir and the beautiful chapels.
From the imposing church, which has been considered a National Monument, you can enjoy a great view of the city. It was built on the site of a primitive temple, as found during archaeological excavations. The building began to take shape in the 12th century, but since the work took many years, the current church has elements from different eras, resulting in an authentic mix of architectural styles. Visit the Treasure of the Cathedral of Viseu as well, where you can admire incredible sculptures and other valuable objects.
Hang out in one of Viseu’s parks and gardens
If Viseu is known as the Garden City, then it is the perfect place for those who love nature, parks and gardens. One of the best known is the Jardim das Mães, near Rossio. This small garden, located in the center of the city, is full of pansies, roses and other colorful flowers and trees. The verdant garden got its name (which translates to Mother's Garden), thanks to a bronze sculpture depicting a boy sleeping on his mother's lap. There are also several benches where you can rest, and cobblestone paths.
Another green space worth visiting is Aquilino Ribeiro Park, an old wooded park behind the Church of Terceiros. It is a true green oasis and the lungs of the city. Admire the lake and the large shady trees, take a walk, read a book or just breathe in the pure, fresh air!
Finally, you can also visit the large Fontelo Park, full of centuries-old trees, lush vegetation, good walking paths and even peacocks with beautiful colors. For many people, it is the most exuberant garden in the city. It is a recreational and sports area, relaxed and quiet, with good structures where you can take a break or even a picnic after a long day.
Admire the amazing street art
The walls and buildings of the city of Viseu are much more than stone and cement – they are true works of art! The city's commitment to street art is quite remarkable and a real treat for art lovers. Walking through the streets of Viseu, which is a true open-air gallery, you will see works by Artur Bordalo (or Bordalo II), AKA Corleone, Mário Belém, Mesk, Frederico Draw, and many others.
If you want to explore the stunning works of art in detail, you can even create an itinerary focused on these creative works and spend a few hours admiring the shapes, colors and beautiful designs that will catch everyone’s attention. Be sure to admire, for example, the work “Barbary baby and mom monkey” by Bordalo II, on the wall of a building. There is even an annual festival dedicated to this art form - Viseu Street Art Festival.
Walk down Rua Direita
Rua Direita is the main commercial street in Viseu. It is a must for anyone who wants to really get to know the historic center of this charming city. This narrow and winding pedestrian street that crosses the heart of Viseu is full of small clothing stores, goldsmiths, shoemakers, pastry shops and cafes. In medieval times, this street was called Rua das Tendas (Street of Tents), such was the number of existing shops. Besides exploring the traditional shops, take the opportunity to admire the details on the facades of the old houses and the Manueline windows.
Visit the interesting museums
There are several very interesting museums that are worth visiting in Viseu. You will be able to learn a little bit more about this magnificent city (and they are an excellent option in case you want to escape the rainy days). One of the city's museums is the Almeida Moreira Museum. Almeira Moreira was considered one of the most important personas in Viseu of the 19th century, and the museum was established in the former home of the professor, collector and art critic. On the museum terrace and on the stairs leading to it, you can admire beautiful tiles. Inside the museum, you will find beautiful works of painting and sculpture. It is worth highlighting the collection of naturalistic paintings of national and foreign painters.
Almeira Moreira was also the founder and director of the Grão Vasco National Museum, located next to the Cathedral. In this museum, you will find beautiful paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics and furniture, among others. The most important collection is a remarkable set of altarpieces by Vasco Fernandes (Grão Vasco), from the Cathedral, churches in the region and other museums. Explore these national treasures and works of art of different types and periods.
Also visit the Museum of Sacred Art, located in the Cathedral. Here you can admire the Treasure of Sacred Art, also known as the Treasure Museum of the Cathedral. It consists of all the cultic objects exhibited in the Grão Vasco Museum that come from the Cathedral. You will see collections of images, cult utensils, sculptures, choir books, reliquaries, furniture, liturgical vestments and other national treasures.
Admire the Porta do Soar
Relatively close to the picturesque D. Duarte square, you will find Porta do Soar, which was one of the most important and imposing entrances to the medieval village of Viseu. Today, it provides access to the historic center. It is one of the two remaining gates of the medieval city walls (there used to be seven gates). Along with the Porta do Soar, you can also see a piece of the old city wall from the time of D. Afonso V. The granite gate consists of a pointed arch that bears a coat of arms with the national emblem. Above this arch there is also the stone image of Saint Francis (Porta do Soar is also known as Porta de São Francisco). Both existing gates are classified as national monuments.
Stroll along Ecopista do Dão
A walk along the Ecopista do Dão, whether on foot or by bike, is also an excellent thing to do in Viseu. This path, formerly known as the Linha do Dão, an old disused railroad line, connects Santa Comba Dão with Viseu and has a total length of about 49 kilometres. It crosses the municipalities of Viseu, Tondela and Santa Comba Dão, has good support structures and is the longest Ecotrail in Portugal!
The first part, starting in Santa Comba Dão, runs along the banks of the Dão River. If you start in Viseu, you should begin your hike in the heart of Parque Urbano da Aguieira. Viseu is considered the heart of the Dão wine region and is therefore known for its delicious wines. The magnificent views that this trail offers amidst incomparable nature are remarkable. The landscape is dotted with cork oaks, chestnut trees, viaducts and bridges and even some vineyards and villages. The path is easy to walk, relatively flat and with a cemented surface.
Wonder at the Igreja da Misericórdia
Once in Viseu, you must visit this monumental and elegant church, built in the 16th century and renovated in the 18th century, located directly opposite the Cathedral. Admire the outstanding Rococo-style exterior, the impressive facade that harmoniously combines shades of white and gray, the portico surmounted by a balcony and the windows decorated with pediments. The single-nave interior, in neoclassical style, is a bit more sober and simple, with polychrome carvings. However, it is worth going inside to admire the details and paintings. On the throne of the main altar, you can admire an image of Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia, an 18th century work. Also admire the gilded organ on the north wall and visit the museum.
Take a moment to contemplate the view at Miradouro do Monte de Santa Luzia
From this viewpoint, located in the municipality of Tondela, you can admire the beautiful landscape of Viseu and its surroundings. On a clear day you can see the village of Carvalhal and even the Serra da Estrela. The viewpoint is located in a rocky cluster close to Posto de Vigia Monte de Santa Luzia. It is a beautiful place to go for a walk and take beautiful photos!