Portugal, which is located in southwestern Europe, is divided into several provinces. About halfway between the Spanish border and the Atlantic Ocean, and nearly surrounded by mountains, lies the city of Viseu. This city is the capital of the north-central region known as the Beira Alta region. Viseu is sometimes referred to as the “City of the Green Pine” due to the pine forests and vineyards that surround it.
The city of Viseu’s name came from the Roman word “viso”, which means good view. The original settlement of this city can be traced back to the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle ages, and as its name says, it lies at the highest point of that area. A walk here is a trip into the past, with its Renaissance mansions, beautiful palaces, and narrow alleys.
As in other cities in Portugal, Viseu is home to many different and beautiful examples of architecture. One of city’s greatest examples of Middle Age architecture is its twin towered Cathedral, built on the highest point in the city, on top of ancient Roman walls. Its interior includes a gilded baroque altarpiece. Other examples noted for their style and beauty include the Igreja da Misericordia, a church built in 1775, and the Cava do Viriato, the oldest monument in the city. In addition, a portion of the 3rd century Roman wall built to protect the city is still standing, as well as a 15th century gate, which a visitor may pass through to reach the Igreja do Misericordia.
The city of Viseu is also known for its wealth of art created during its past. Next to the Cathedral mentioned above is the Museo Grao Vasco. It is named after the Portuguese artist Vasco Fernades (1480-1543), who is well known for his paintings and sculptures, including 14 paintings of the life of Christ that he originally created on the walls of the Cathedral. Also important in Viseu’s artistic past is Gaspar Vaz, whose paintings focused on various landscapes. This period of art in Portugal is known as the “School of Viseu”.
There is also a long mural in the main square, made of blue and white tiles, depicting country life scenes. Across from this mural is another that features the history of the town.
Viseu, Portugal, has many unique sites for the visitor to enjoy. Its landscapes, including the local rivers, abundant plant life, and mountains that surround it, are unlike any others. There are many accessible high places where one can view the city and all its beauty from above.
Wine production is also important in Viseu, and this city is considered the center of the Dao wine-grape growing area. Some of the wines originating in this area include “Vinho do Dao”, “Vinho de Lofoes” and “Vinho do Porto”, all of which are regarded as excellent wines. They are usually named for the area in which the grapes are grown.
One area that the traveler should be sure to visit is the “Parque do Fontelo”. This is an area open to the public. The bishop’s palace found here is now used as a wine tasting bar. Also in this area are former Renaissance gardens, campsites, swimming pools, tennis courts, as well as other attractions for the visitor.
Every Tuesday, the city opens itself to those involved in the local crafts, allowing them to sell what they have made. These include wicker baskets and handmade lace. In addition, from mid-August to mid-September the “Feira de Sao Mateus” takes place. This festival is held to celebrate the food, drink, music, and handicrafts of the area.
The most unique site in Viseu is its ice bar, the “Minus 5 Degree Lounge”. In this bar, everything is made from ice that is brought in from glaciers in Canada. These icy items include the walls, seats, sculptures and even the glasses used. This bar is in a shopping center known as the Ice Palace shopping center.
Like many of the other cities in Portugal, Viseu has something for every visitor. Whether it is the beauty of nature surrounding the city, the ancient architecture, or the food and drink unique to the area, this city has a character of its own. A visit to this city should be included whenever a trip to Portugal is being planned. It is a city of many wonderful sites that will not be soon forgotten.