Resting majestically atop a mountainside overlooking Viana do Castelo is the basilica of Santa Luzia – formally called the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (“Templo do Sagrado Coração de Jesus”). Amid the eucalyptus aroma of its surrounding trees, the church overlooks Viana do Castelo and its port on one side – looking out to the Atlantic – and the River Lima valley on the other.
Construction on the temple started in 1903 and wasn’t completed until 1943, but the church was open to the public for prayers in 1925. Designed in the shape of a Greek cross, the building features granite and marble in its construction, some magnificent stained glass windows and some beautiful statues and carvings.
Behind the basilica, you will find the Pousada Monte de Santa Luzia – a luxurious hotel modernised out of a historic development that was originally created by a local landowner as a tribute to his town.
You can get up the mountain by car or taxi (3.5km) or on foot – an often steep, 2km climb only for the fit and/or penitent. Finding the basilica and the hotel is easy because the building can be seen from miles away, from far across the Lima river as you approach Viana do Castelo on the A28 (a comfortable 40-minute drive from Porto, less from Braga). You then just follow the road into the town and look for the turning up to Santa Luzia on the right.