Portugal’s oldest hero, Viriato, a Lusitanian chieftain, drove the Roman legions from the mountains that surround Viseu. This is commemorated in a statue in the Cava de Viriato (Viriato’s ditch), an archaeological site outside the town.
The hub of Viseu is around the cathedral square where there are several things of interest. Start with the cathedral’s original vaulted ceiling, secured by stone ropes and knots. You can see paintings by the famous artist Vasco Fernandes (known as Grão Vasco) in the museum named after him. The nearby Church of the Misericórdia is famous for the rocaille style façade and its beautiful cloisters. Ironically, the town is full of art relating to the Portuguese Discoveries, even though it’s so far from the sea.
Wander through the streets where Prince Henry the Navigator lived, who was also the Duke of Viseu.
In Rua Escura, Gothic gargoyles peer out from 16th Century houses. Walk along the twisting Rua Direita, now a busy commercial street.
The Quatro Esquinas (Four Corners) is a crossroads leading to some interesting sites in the city. You can see the house where King Duarte was born, brother of Prince Henry the Navigator. Further on is the Porta do Soar, a gateway in the ancient city wall. From here, another street opens out into the city’s “sitting room.” This is the main square known as the Praça do Rossio, where you can sit and relax under shady lime trees.
The mountain air, fine wines of the region and its famous cuisine will make your visit to the city of Viseu a memorable one.