It is the capital of the district and is known as the "The Princess of Minho". It extends from the sea to the Lima river and has the Santa Luzia Hill on the North. King Afonso III granted it a charter in 1258. It was a fishing village. He built a tower at the mouth of the river to protect the village from pirates from Galicia and North Africa. From fishing Viana expanded to maritime commerce with Northern Europe and later with Brazil. It became one of the busiest ports in Portugal. It is also closely linked with the Age of Discoveries via a native son, Gonçalo Velho, one of the first navigators of Prince Henry, who was given the task of populating the Azores Islands. Also Fernão Martins who headed an expedition to Africa under the orders of King João II.
Viana was elevated to a city in 1847 as a reward for the loyalty of the Commander of the Castle, by Queen Maria II. Viana had been besieged by the forces of the Count of Antas, who rose against the Cabrais during the Patuleia Civil War. The Commander went to Lisbon and gave the key of the castle to the royal sovereign. She elevated Viana to a city and changed its name from Viana da Foz do Lima to Viana do Castelo. Today, its is a progressive city. Its economy is based on naval industry, commercial fishing, cellulose and food industries and recently tourism.
Viana do Castelo has been a city since 1848 and a town since 1258. Before that it was an agri-piscatorial settlement on the right bank of the Lima river that had developed from pre-Roman communities in the surrounding mountains, especially from those in the Santa Luzia Hill. There you can still visit the remains of a pre-Roman village, later romanized and inhabited at least until the 4th century. Nevertheless, on former river terraces and beaches you can still find Paleolithic remains.
In the 10th century this region was bestowed upon a Galician nobleman, Paio Vermudes, who was to found a monastery in the village of São Salvador da Torre. His descendants later restored the building. The purpose of the Municipal Charter issued by King Dom Afonso III in 1258 was to create an urban settlement by the Lima river's mouth that was to be centred on maritime trade. The new town would encompass all the population that had until then been scattered in neighbouring "towns". The Town Hall was to be in charge of the town's administration and eventually even its defence.
The wall, finished in 1374, was initially comprised of four doors, but today there are few distinguishable remains. It encircled a maritime quarter and a rock around which the town's most powerful men met. Next to that rock was to be built the donjon. Nevertheless, the parish church, rural settlements and the riverside were left out of the wall's protection. That is why in the 15th century a new church, dedicated to Santa Maria Maior, was built inside the wall thus replacing Salvador Church as the main church. Santa Maria Maior was to become the Parish Church (today the Sé/See).
In the 19th century as Viana had put up a strong resistance to the Patuleia (popular rebellion) troops, Queen Dona Maria II made it into a city on the 20th January 1848. Its name was changed to include the most important reminder of its past and its deeds: the castle (Castelo). Viana da Foz do Lima thus became Viana do Castelo for good.
18th century's economic recovery flooded Viana with new wealth that was invested in the building of the manor houses that still beautify the Lima Riverside.
Such constructions as well as churches went on arising in the 19th century. At this time Sá de Miranda Theatre, the railway station (designed by Alfredo Soares and brought about by the spreading railway network) and the metallic bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel were built.
Viana may still be proud of its recent past but is also getting ready for its leap into the next century. You just have to think of the new port on the left bank that has Darque and Cabedelo's area moving at a completely different pace. Or the new bridge that highlights IC1 road's importance to the linking of Valença, Viana and Oporto. Or the industrial center and Higher Education facilities. Or even the new recreational dock, the marina, the tourist facilities on the riverside. Or the historical centre and its century-old streets. Or, finally, an entire municipality aware of its own strength and willing to improve itself.