Occupied since the Castro era, the History of Viseu is closely connected with the History of Portugal. If the mythical figure of Viriathus, the warrior who led Lusitanian tribes against the Romans, gave the old city vital importance during Roman times, King Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese King, established a close connection between the first years of the foundation of the country and this noble Beira Alta city. A place of high strategic and commercial importance since remote times, there are many traces which archaeology and, sometimes, chance have revealed here.
Visiting with Art and History
It’s not possible to separate Viseu from the History of the country, but the arts also owe much to the birthplace of Vasco Fernandes whose works are a symbol of the scholarship and excellence of Portuguese Renaissance. This famous 16th century painter is the figure who left the greatest artistic heritage in Viseu and the Grão Vasco Museum gathers a considerable collection of works from this artist, keeping his memory alive in the city.
The city also had a golden age for religious art and architecture as proven by the great number of churches decorating the old town, the Religious Art Museum and the Cathedral itself which is one of the most symbolic buildings in Viseu and shows the importance of this Beirã city as the seat of the diocese.
Viseu Cathedral is actually a great starting point for a visit to the city. In the cathedral churchyard, one of the most interesting places in the old town, you will find, apart from the Cathedral and the museums, Misericórdia Church, the pelourinho and Passeio dos Cónegos. Here you will often find dark granite, typical in the region, surrounded by contrasting white and seemingly immaculate façades. Then, continue your visit until you reach Rossio, where you will be able to relax and enjoy green areas, or you can follow the traces of the defensive wall built by King John I which was only finished during the reign of King Afonso V and can still be seen beyond the Cavaleiros and Soar Doors.
After you experience the art and culture of Beira Alta from a close perspective, you must give your body its well-deserved prize. Leave the city boundaries and discover, right in the middle of the Viseu municipality, the best Nature can give you at Caramulo Mountain. Fill your lungs with the freshest while your eyes get lost in the majestic landscape or enjoy the therapeutic benefits of São Pedro do Sul baths; this is the ideal place for your body and spirit to rest with tranquillity and delight.