Trips to Lisbon can be awesome, but trips out of Lisbon can be even better. Some of the best are those that, a) Don’t require a car, and, b) allow for some almost-rad but still relatively low-key outdoor activities. One such trip is to Viseu and the Ecopista do Dão.
Viseu is about three hours north of Lisbon and there are dozens of direct buses from Sete Rios in Lisbon to the center of Viseu every day, for around €16. Not a bad deal to get you out of the city. Admittedly, the bus does take between 3 hours 45 and 4 hours, but that’s still not bad.
Once there, you won’t be short of places to stay, although it’s best to book in advance. Viseu has plenty of fancy hotels and, of course, there’s the ever-present Airbnb, which has a range of rooms and apartments across the city.
Viseu is a town in which to wander, with little streets and old arches galore. It also has an inordinate amount of baby shops and ice cream parlours (with waffles and crepes, to boot), so you may find yourself stopping frequently for little tasty treats.
There are a wealth of restaurants to choose from across the price range, but we went to two so we’ll talk about them.
First, Maria Xica, which quite possibly has the most impressive entrance-to-restaurant size ratio I have ever seen. You can literally walk past this place if you aren’t careful, but once you go in it stretches across multiple floors and a terrace. The food and wine are excellent and in the afternoon it is quite enough for an intimate lunch. The price point is perhaps a little higher than some other options, but every bite is worth it and they offer — wait for it — more than one vegetarian option. And the people there are super friendly.
If you fancy Italian, then go to Inprovviso. In fact, even if you don’t fancy Italian, you should go to Inprovviso because it is fantastic. Our first attempt to go here was thwarted by them being fully booked, so we left, made a reservation for another day, and came back to enjoy spectacular fresh pizza and perfectly local wine. Also, whatever you may feel like at the time, get a dessert, you won’t be disappointed.
We were lucky enough to visit on a weekend when there was a “vegan fest” being held in the town center, as well as, somewhat ironically, an army display just down the street, but there is sure to be plenty happening throughout the year so check out the events before you book your trip.
An Unexpected Gem
There are not a lot of “attractions” in Viseu, and much of the trip here can be spent simply rambling about, which is great. There is, however, one out-of-the way museum that’s the only one of its kind in the entire world — the Quartz Museum!
Now, this may sound as dull as a rock, but it is in fact really well put together. With a range of interactive exhibits explaining the science of quartz from the macro to the molecules, it is a brilliant educational option for families with kids. And after finishing inside, there is a pleasant walk around the old mine and up the hill, where you can find quartz scattered across the ground. Word of warning: the museum is in Portuguese, so be prepared to falar.
The Ecopista do Dão
Are all the restaurants and ice cream shops getting to you? Burn it off with a 50-km bike ride! This the reason we went to Viseu, and the reason you should go too. The Ecopista do Dão was once a railway, but in 1988 it was closed and has since been tarmacked and repurposed into a beautiful bike path.
For those of you, like us, who aren’t lugging bikes about the country, there is a great tour operator called Abelenda Bike Rental, which offers bikes and transport from one end of the Ecopista Do Dão to the other for €25, as well as a wealth of information about spots to stop along the route. A fantastic offer at a fantastic price, and very hard to beat when looking for things to do in Viseu.
Thinking about cycling in Lisbon? Check out our guide here.