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The city name goes back to the end of the Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages where its name is derived from the Roman term "viso", which means a good view. This was in accordance with the place where the original settlement was formed in Roman times, that was its highest point.

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Viseu is both a city and a municipality. It is surrounded by vineyards, orchards and pine-forests, the charming country town of Viseu has been a northern crossroads since the time of the Romans, who chose its site for a military camp, the largest yet to be discovered in Portugal. The town also keeps remains of the Gothic walls and the ancient doors of the 15th-16th centuries.


Viseu has a statue of Viriathus, the Lusitanian's leader who fought the invading Romans for the freedom of Lusitania, made by the Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure (1862–1947).


Viseu is also famous for its wine making - Dão wine, local handicrafts which include black pottery, bobbin lace, embroidery, and copper and wrought iron articles. Viseu has undergone a considerable economic growth, especially in the areas of telecommunications, industry, trade and education.

Monuments to go and see are the Grão Vasco Museum, with important and rare collection of paintings by Vasco Fernandes (1475-1540) and several outstanding sculptures. The 13th-century Sé Cathedral, located at the highest point of the town. With it's elegant and simple gothic interior featuring a two floored cloister and fine glazed azulejo tiles, the sacristy has one of the finest ceilings in Portugal.


Approx 22 km north-west of Viseu lies São Pedro do Sul, which has been a popular spa resort since Roman times.