A modern town with ancient roots, Viana do Castelo is in the very north of Portugal, crushed between the estuary of the River Lima and the wild surf of the Atlantic Sea. The Praça da República, its beautiful fountains and the Church of the Misericórdia –a three-story melange of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture – form the medieval heart of the city. Along with the 15th-century cathedral, the ancient piazzas and Manueline mansions all contrast neatly with the area’s modern-day seafront marina. But Viana is best known for its Santuario de Santa Luzia, a church perched on a hilltop overlooking the Atlantic rollers. It is accessible by funicular from the town center, which will climb the 820-foot hill.
The construction of this elaborate Neo-Byzantine church began in 1903 based on a design by Miguel Ventura Terra, who was inspired by the Sacré Coeur in Paris. The church’s ornate façades are adorned with delicate rose windows, double-domed twin spires, a rounded apse and a grand central dome. Take the elevator to the top of the dome for panoramas across Viana do Castelo to the Atlantic.
Viana do Castelo is a 45-minute drive north of Porto along the IV1. Tickets for the funicular up to Santa Luzia cost €2 one-way or €3 return. The ride takes less than 10 minutes, and the funicular station is on Avenida 25 de Abril. Santuario de Santa Luzia is generally open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., with hours extended until 7 p.m. during the summer. Admission free.