Praça da República (Viana do Castelo)
Square in Viana do Castelo
At the heart of Viana do Castelo’s historic district lies the Praça da República, a wide and inviting square surrounded by several significant civic buildings. The square serves as a focal point where seven narrow streets converge, and during the summer months, its numerous cafes brim with visitors.
The central feature of the square is the Chafariz fountain, constructed in 1559 by João Lopes, who also designed several other fountains in the region. For centuries, the fountain was the primary source of drinking water for the town, and it continues to bring people together today.
Adjacent to the Chafariz fountain stands the Old Town Hall, built in the 16th century using stone from Viana’s city walls. The site previously housed the Santa Maria Maior church (now the Sé Cathedral), and the town council would convene on the first floor while scribes worked on the ground floor, drawing up documents and requests for the often illiterate populace.
Also situated in Praça da República is the Igreja da Misericórdia, a church that was originally part of the Misericórdia almshouse and was designed by João Lopes in a Renaissance style with Flemish and Italian influences. Its unique architectural style has earned it the nickname “Casa das Varandas.”
Other notable buildings in the square include the House of Sá Soutomaior, a 16th-century structure, and a variety of period buildings now occupied by banks, pharmacies, travel agents, real estate agents, boutiques, and lawyers’ offices.
At the far end of the square near the main Avenida dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra, which leads to Viana do Castelo Station, stands the Costume Museum (Museu do Traje) housed in a 1950s building that was once a branch of the Bank of Portugal. A modern civic fountain also stands in front.
The Romaria Festival (Romaria de Nossa Senhora d’Agonía), a yearly event held in August, takes place in the square, featuring marching bands and giant costumed figures called gigantones and cabeçudos.