One thing I love about dining in Portugal is how each city, town and village offers something new. Same ingredients, a whole new world of food. I recently visited Viana do Castelo for the annual Romaria de Nossa Senhora d’Agonia festival, but I have to say I was as excited about the hearty Minho food and vinho verde as I was about the beautiful clothing and events.
Look out for the seafood
Located in the far north-west of Portugal, Viana do Castelo is a pretty and historic city with a long seafaring history and rich fishing industry adding to its food scene. While you think it would be all about fresh fish here, Viana actually has deep links to the cod fishing industry so you’ll find fantastic salted cod dishes such as bacalhau à Minhota and bacalhau à Gomes de Sá at seemingly every restaurant. There are also regional takes on arroz de polvo à moda do Minho (local style octopus rice) and other fish dishes.
And hearty Minho meats
Rojões (fried pork), papas de sarrabulho (savoury meat porridge), and arroz de cabidela (chicken blood rice) all originate from the far north, so you’ll likely see these Minho dishes popping up on menus in Viana do Castelo too. Also look for cabrito assado (roast kid), and arroz de pato (duck rice). If you’re keen to learn more about Minho cuisine, Oh My Cod has a great write-up.
Always order ‘green wine’
Whatever restaurant you choose to eat at in Viana do Castelo, be sure to order a glass, jug or bottle of vinho verde, the refreshing and zesty wine from the north. The vinho verde region produces both light and refreshing white wines and reds, and at restaurants you’ll notice menus offer either verde or maduro wine – meaning “green” or “mature”.
The slightly effervescent white vinho verde is much loved and commonly found across Portugal. But vinho verde tinto is less universally loved and mostly only found in the north. This rich, fresh and juicy red stains the glass a ruby tone and I love it for two reasons. First, the young and tart reds are often served slightly chilled and are super different to the rich, mature red wines in the rest of the country. And second, in Minho you’ll traditionally drink vinho verde tinto from a small ceramic bowl called a malga. This small ceramic bowl is usually white, showing off the sticky ruby colour.
Want to learn more about vinho verde? This great vinho verde guide dives into the long history.
Read next: 15 best things to do in Viana do Castelo
Where to eat in Viana do Castelo
Casa Primavera – Taberna Soares – € / €€
For lunch in Viana do Castelo I can’t recommend Taberna Soares more. This is a perfect Minho tasca with two plates of the day, hand-painted wine jars, and a bustling local vibe. The day I visited I could choose from carne estufada or pescada frita as the €10 “pratos do dia”, but there’s also a full menu if they don’t take your fancy. I ordered the pescada, which arrived with a generous portion of perfectly fried fish, rice, and beans with an insanely delicious vinaigrette. I love that they serve the vinho verde da casa (house wine) in the traditional hand-painted vases, and if you order red you’ll get the cups to match.
For sobremesas (desserts) the pão de ló (half-baked sponge cake) called itself “o melhor do mundo” (best in the world), so naturally I had to find out and I’m happy to report it wasn’t oversold. The square slice of this rich, sweet and eggy sponge cake was awesome.
When I asked my slightly salty waiter for advice on where to go for dinner in Viana, he suggested I return here. After all, it’s the best.
O Manel – €€
For great value dining in an upmarket setting, go to O Manel. You’ll want to make a reservation at this traditional Portuguese restaurant, which serves a wide range of dishes and has a friendly host. I ordered the house-style bacalhau (salted cod), which arrived fried with house-sliced potato discs and sweet sliced onions. It was maybe the best cod dish I’ve eaten in recent memory, and sadly I only made it through half – even with my massive appetite.
Tasquinha da Linda – €€ / €€€
At the port in an old fishing warehouse, this upmarket seafood restaurant makes the most of what comes from the sea. Take a seat and, if you’re lucky, watch the fishermen at work as you sip ice-cold white wine and take your pick from the catch of the day. Tasquinha da Linda is one of ~the spots~ to dine, especially for seafood, in Viana do Castelo.
Tasquinha da Trincheira – €
At the opposite end of the price scale, this little tasca surprised me. At Tasquinha da Trincheira a sweet local family serves extraordinarily cheap meals at lunch and dinner. Don’t expect anything fancy, just home-style cooking and a handful of choices. It offers a “pilgrim menu” but you don’t have to be walking the Caminho de Santiago to take advantage of this deal. I believe I paid €9 for a delicious vegetable soup, drink and plate of the day.
Pattaya Thai – €/€€
As an (admittedly snobby) Australian, I never thought I’d be recommending a Thai restaurant — the only Thai restaurant — in a small, regional city in Portugal. But here we are. I was feeling slightly unwell one morning so I was craving the comfort only noodles can provide. With great reviews and an €8 lunch menu, I felt the need to try it. Pattaya Thai was genuinely really good! I ordered the pad see ew, a favourite of mine and dish of the day, and the flavours were spot on.
Manuel Natário – €
A doughnut with a cult following, that’s Manuel Natário. Each day at 11.30am and 4.30pm piping hot bolas de berlim arrive hot at the counters of this small vintage bakery. I think it’s one of my favourite sweets shops or bakeries in Portugal. You can go inside and sit in the stunning retro interiors, which would have been top class at the time.
On my final day I slipped into the café (a separate door!) at around 6.30pm and received one of the last hot doughnuts to my table. Sure, how good could it be, I thought. Really. Bloody. Good. The hot bola de berlim is dusted in cinnamon sugar, something I’ve not seen elsewhere in Portugal, and the egg custard filling has a more natural tone than most of those you can buy on the beach.
But Manuel Natário is also more than doughnuts. This full-service bakery has super friendly staff and strong Portuguese-style coffee. I enjoyed breakfast here twice. Ham and cheese wedged in bread or pastry is a common breakfast in Portugal, and here they have a meat slicer to cut the ham fresh each day, and they slice the cheese by hand. Order it in bread or as the locals do — in a sweet brioche croissant that also has the egg custard filling.
Read next: 15 best things to do in Viana do Castelo
Other places to eat in Viana do Castelo
I try to keep it real here and only write in-depth about the places I’ve personally visited myself. I wish I could have eaten at every restaurant in Viana do Castelo, but I only have one stomach and a limited food budget. Rather than waste my food research, here are my notes with other spots you could try.
Places to eat in Viana do Castelo downtown
- O Marquês – a tasca with four places on offer each day, written on the chalkboard
- O Vasco – traditional restaurant with bacalhau, local dishes
- O Viana Praça – upmarket restaurant in the main square
- O Tabernão – popular local spot for petiscos in the Fisherman’s Quarter
- Tasquinha da Praça – sweet looking traditional restaurant near the waterfront
- Casa de Pasto Maria de Perre – classic looking spot for hearty Minho food
- Maraberto Docas – super chic spot for seafood dinner
- ZUCA Bar e Petiscos – Brazilian snacks and vibes
- Maria Petisca – modern petiscos spot
Places to eat in the wider Viana do Castelo region
- Louro – chic spot with a Michelin Bib Gourmand
- O Tasco Regional – Minho tasca south of Viana
- O Cabeçudo – meat-heavy restaurant
- Tasca Zé da Ferreira – Minho tasca north of Viana
Is Viana do Castelo worth a visit?
Absolutely! It’s one of the prettiest and unique towns in Portugal. Discover more than a dozen things to do in Viana do Castelo with my travel guide.
That’s my list of the best places to eat and drink in Viana do Castelo. Leave a comment with your favourite spot, or if you try any of these places!