The town center is Praça da República, one of Portugal's most handsome squares. At its heart is the much-photographed 16th-century Chafariz Fountain, with water spewing from the mouths of its figures. The most impressive building on the square is the dour, squat three-story Igreja da Misericórdia. The lower level is an arcade of five austere Roman arches, and the two upper levels are ponderous Renaissance balconies. A rooftop crucifix crowns the structure. Each level's four supporting pillars are primitive caryatidlike figures. The church fronts Rua da Bandeira and adjoins the former charity hospice, Hospital da Misericórdia. It contains pictorial tiles made in 1714, ornate baroque altars, a painted ceiling, and woodcarvings.
The other building dominating the square is the 1502 Paço do Concelho (the former town hall), constructed over an arcade made up of three wide, low Gothic arches. The crenel-topped facade displays a royal coat of arms and wrought-iron balcony windows above each arch.
The best views of both turf and surf are from the ramparts of the Castelo de Santiago da Barra, reached by following Rua General Luís do Rego. In 1589, Philip I of Spain ordered that the walls of the castelo be built -- this is the reason "do Castelo" was added to Viana's name. It's open Monday to Friday 9am to 12:30pm and 2 to 5:30pm. Call tel. 25/882-02-70 for more information.
To enjoy one of the great panoramas in the north of Portugal, you can visit the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a belvedere on the hill of Santa Luzia, where the view of Viana is especially stunning at night when all the lights go on. To the north of town, the belvedere is topped by the modern Basilica de Santa Luzia (tel. 25/882-31-73), constructed in a neo-Byzantine style. A trio of rose windows illuminates its interior, and the chancel and apse are adorned with frescoes. For another panoramic view, you can climb the 142 steps that begin in the sacristy. The basilica, reached along Estrada de Santa Luzia, is open daily from 8am to 8pm, and access to the dome is 1€.
It's possible to drive the 7km (4 1/2 miles) to the top following the signposts from the center pointing the way to Santa Luzia. You can also take a long, long series of steps up the 200m (656-ft.) climb. The steps begin behind the rail station.