The Camino Diaries – Crossing the Border

Viana-do-Castelo

Viana-do-Castelo

Cheese drizzled with oregano and olive oil, prawns covered in garlic, the heat of the sun on our skin as the water lapped against the shore. This was the life!

With our bags packed, boots on, and Google Maps firmly by our side our goal was to head across the border into Spain but not before we took a bit of a detour to the coast!

It was from Sao Bento train station in Porto that we arrived in Viana do Castelo, a municipality in the Norte Region of Portugal.

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While many will skip past Viana do Castelo, it’s a place that’s worth taking a gander around if you have a day to spare. It’s described as a “city” even though it has a population of around 36,000 with the surrounding area housing the remaining 50,000.

While it might not be the most exciting place to visit, it still holds its own charm with a Hollywood-esque promenade down to the waterfront and an old town full of character.

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I plan on doing a full piece on the accommodation we rested in at a later date, but the hotel we stayed in called Hotel Jardim certainly had its charm.  Located at the bottom of the main promenade it had prime access to old town and the water.

One thing that we quickly learned on our trip was that it was good to take recommendations from locals because most of the time, they were right!

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From the outside, Restaurante O Garfo didn’t look like much. A simple white exterior with nothing major to talk about, it was the inside that brought it to life. The tiny restaurant managed to fit 20 people and it almost felt like you were in someone’s house waiting for the feast.

Food at Viana do Castelo

The cheese starter was covered in olive oil and oregano and we savoured each bite. The prawns were coated in garlic and the fish we ate was fresh from the sea. It was simple, cheap, homely food and we loved it.

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The next day we hopped back on the train headed to Vigo (which turned out to be a bit daunting as they don’t make train announcements in English!)

Crossing the border into Spain, our tickets were checked twice and we made the conscious switch from practicing our Portuguese to Spanish. Vigo was where we were officially to start walking from and we arrived to a band playing music in one of the squares; perfect to ease us into Sunday morning.

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The city, like many we found on our Camino journey, also had an old town area that was lined with cobbled streets but because it was a Sunday, we found it almost deserted. It was a strange feeling, too quiet and lacked the buzz of Porto.

We planned to stay two days there to prepare for the first 22km to Redondela and also to meet up with my friend Diana who I met in India!

Vigo has the third biggest port in the world which also provides a lot of the city’s employment, but it seemed also to be dominated by an industrial vibe.

As the sun set on Vigo for the first night, we admittedly missed the busy sounds of Portugal with our fingers crossed that the next day would be better.

General tips for Viana and Vigo:

  • In Viana do Castelo make sure that you confirm that things are open or not. We spent ages looking for the very poorly signposted Funicular de Santa Luzia to discover that it was broken down. Unfortunately, no one told us this and we wasted an hour.
  • Take recommendations and do look at Trip Advisor. We had an unpleasant experience in Vigo for dinner at Rias Gallegas because we didn’t do enough research and everywhere we wanted to go was closed on a Sunday.
  • Looking for places to eat? As recommended by my friend Diana, try places like A Regueifa, Lume de Carozo, or Rias baixas 2.
  • If we were to arrive in Vigo or any place in Spain we would try and visit during the week or Saturday. Apart from the band who played for an hour, the city was incredibly dead.
  • We stayed at the Hotel Puerta del Sol. More on that in a later piece but if you are staying in Vigo we’d highly recommend it. Great location next to the main shopping areas and old town.

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Una-Minh

Hello! Úna-Minh is a journalist, social media consultant and virtual assistant who loves (you guessed it) TRAVEL. She also feels a bit strange writing in the third person so she'll stop that now. You can find out more about me and my Mammy in the about section of this blog!

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10 Comments

  1. I’ve been to Lisbon and it’s such a vibrant city. Vigo looks less busy and much more authentic. I really would love to visit.

  2. We’ve never been to Viana or Vigo, only to Porto and Irun. We’ve been thinking about road tripping through Spain for some time now, and maybe also do a part of Northern Portugal, so we’ll definitely consider visiting these cities too. Thank you for sharing your adventure, and the beautiful photos!

  3. I’m looking forward to following your Camino adventure. It is on my bucket list of experiences to have. But first, I want to visit Portugal and was planning on Lisbon. Thanks for sharing about Vigo. Wasn’t familiar with it, but will add it to the list of places to visit when I finally get to Portugal. Enjoy your travels!

  4. This place looks stunning. Your photos are drool worthy

  5. This sounds perfect. I would love to visit myself.

  6. Viana do Castelo looks so pretty! It definitely looks and sounds like it has a quiet rustic charm that I love about Portugal (and Spain!). The first time we went to Spain we were caught out on Sundays and public holidays – everything was closed and the cities were practically shut down! Thanks for the restaurant recommendations; the food looks delicious with simple flavours and fresh produce! My mouth is salivating over the cheese plate!

  7. These two places Viana and Vigo really looks quite interesting; different and less touristy. The Souls chapel is beautiful and the worlds third largest port is what i would definitely love to explore. Your dish seems yummy. Nice pictures.

  8. Vianna looks so pretty and rustic! The food looks delish too. Would love to surely explore this charming place of Spain! Loved your pics, especially the cobbled streets.

  9. Viana and Vigo looks awesome and interesting. I was not aware of these place but now after reading would love to visit it once. Photos are great too 🙂

  10. Crossing borders is so much fun. It is a different kind of joy that airplane journeys don’t give you! This is such a vibrant area. Love the food! OMG. The cheese looks amazing! And also the architecture of Souls church! I d love to visit it someday!

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