Located on the traditional area named Trás-os-Montes (roughly translated as “behind the hills”), Vila Real is a small city crossed by the Corgo River and near Serra do Marão (Marão Hill). If you want to explore the Douro River and learn about the Port Wine, you should include Vila Real in your itinerary!
This city has some great points of interest and a beautiful patrimony, especially the religious architecture: visit the Misericórdia, São Brás and Bom Jesus do Hospital chapels; don’t miss the city’s Sé (dated from the 15th century) and check the São Pedro, Bom Jesus do Calvário and the Clérigos churches. During your visit, here are a few suggestions of other places to see that we have selected for you:
The Solar de Mateus (also known as Casa ou Palácio de Mateus) is one of the most important examples of Baroque architecture in Portugal! Built in the 18th century, its authorship is unknown but some people attribute it to Nicolau Nasoni – the Italian architect and painter responsible for the Clérigos Church and Tower, one of Porto’s most important monuments. This building has an amazing facade full of details and a beautiful garden, completed with statues and a lake. Nowadays the place is run by the Mateus family Foundation, who organizes cultural activities and takes care of a library and a museum.
The Casa de Diogo Cão is the house where Diogo Cão – a famous navigator that explored the African coast and discover the Zaire River – was born. This medieval house, located very near the City Hall and the Cathedral, has a stone facade and was built in the 15th century!
In terms of gastronomy, Vila Real is famous for different sausages, the “maronesa” meat – a local cattle breed – and the covilhetes, a small pie stuffed with “maronesa” veal. It is a sin to visit the city and not try this delicious and traditional recipe! As for the sweets, try the famous Ganchas de São Brás and the Pitos de Santa Luzia.
Vila Real is also a great place to stay if you want to see the beauties of Alvão Natural Park, a protected area with more than 7 acres full of mountains and river beaches. At this park you can find numerous rare animals – like the Iberian wolf and the golden eagle -, as well as numerous types of trees and plants. Here you can practice rafting or just relax in one of the traditional “xisto” villages.