Viseu is both a city (capital of Viseu District) and a municipality. The Greater Metropolitan Area of Viseu is also one of the Greater Metropolitan Areas of Portugal with 354,162 inhabitants.Viseu has undergone a considerable economic growth, especially in the areas of telecommunications, industry, trade and education. Located in Portugal’s northern-center the city is a crossroads linking the seaport of Aveiro in the Atlantic coast to Guarda near the Portuguese-Spanish border and then on to Salamanca, Spain.
The city is noted on the arts scene due to the Grão Vasco Museum and the Teatro Viriato. Wine making (Dao wines) is an important activity in the region. In ancient Portuguese history, Viseu is noted as one of the major urban centers in the area where Viriathus, a legendary warrior and national hero, lived. With three higher education institutions within its limits, the city has played a role as a regional educational center. Its business community is among the largest of Portugal’s interior countryside.
What to do in Viseu
The city name goes back to the end of the Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages where its name is derived from the Roman term “viso”, which means a good view. This was in accordance with the place where the original settlement was formed in Roman times, that was its highest point.
Viseu has a statue of Viriathus (? – 139 BC), the Lusitanians’ leader who fought the invading Romans for the freedom of Lusitania, made by the Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure (1862–1947). In 714 AD Viseu was taken by the Moors who held it for almost a century.
The city’s fine Romanesque/Gothic cathedral dates from 830 AD. It was captured by Alfonso II of Asturias in 791 but was recaptured by Moors in 930. It was finally captured by Ferdinand I of León on expense of the Taifa of Batlabus in 1058.
When Alfonso II of Asturias conquered Viseu a grave was found with the following inscription: ‘Hic requiescit Rudericus rex gothorum ‘ (Here lies Rodrigo gothic king). Rodrigo was the last Visigothic king before the Muslim invasion of Iberia, and he was supposed to have died in the Battle of Guadalete, but his body was never found.
Viseu was the birthplace of one of the greatest Portuguese painters of the sixteenth century, Vasco Fernandes (1475–1540), known as Grão Vasco, who today lends his name to a museum that houses most of his paintings (the Grão Vasco Museum), a hotel, a school, and even a wine label. The museum, installed in the old episcopal palace, shows some of his masterpieces and paintings of other painters of the period known as the School of Viseu.
The city of Viseu is rich in churches, convents and chapels and has a fine historic quarter (Centro Historico) with narrow cobbled streets, hidden alleyways and intriguing flights of steps. In addition to its important cathedral there are six major churches, four chapels, two convents, and the bishop’s palace. There is also a sacred art museum in the cathedral.
What to eat in Viseu
Rich and varied, the traditional gastronomy of this region is one of its main attractions.
The flavours of the Beira soup or “Caldo Verde”, “Migas à Lagareiro”, shrub rice, “Rancho à Moda de Viseu”, Roast Veal “à Moda de Lafões”, roast codfish and Octopus “à Lagareiro”, Roasted kid, catfish rice, trouts from the Paiva river, duck rice, smoked ham, sausages (black-pudding, smoked pork sausage, pork sausage made of flour) are the delight of those who seek them.