The story of Vila Real goes ways back to 1289AD after King Afonso III granted the town a royal warrant. In comparison to the surrounding sleepy agricultural landscape, Vila Real feels bustling and lively. Since 1986 the city has been home to the Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro University which has introduced a youthful vibe and investment to Vila Real. Here too is a convergence of major routes, both Porto and Lisbon are within easy reach and the major towns of the Trás-os-Montes are a few hours away.
The beating heart of the old town is the Avenida de Carvalho Araújo which runs from South to North. The avenue has recently undergone renovation to improve pedestrian access. It is along this boulevard you'll find Vila Real's main shops and eateries. The 19th-century town hall is at the Southern end, the house where the Portuguese explorer and sailor Diogo Cão Escudeiro was born and the Cathedral of Vila Real. In a side street opposite the cathedral, you'll find the city's pillory (Pelourinho), built in 1515, when Vila Real obtained a new charter, given by D. Manuel.
Towards the Northern end of the avenue is a large statue of Carvalho Araújo. He was a successful naval officer and republican politician before falling foul to a German U-Boat in 1918 whilst protecting cargo shipping during the Great War.
The gothic Dominican convent built in 1424 became a cathedral with the creation of the diocese of Vila Real in 1922. Construction and alterations took place throughout the 15th century, applying gothic architectural characteristics which still stand today. Most notably demonstrated in the archivolts above the main portal. Inside you'll find three staggered naves, a transept and rectangular chancel renovated in the 18th century. Following these works, the building started to display elements of baroque styles, such as the current main chapel, the bell tower (from 1742) and the large windows on the outer walls. Its stark interior is due to a devastating fire that destroyed most of the furnishings in 1837. The cathedral was classified as a National Monument in 1926.
Since its elevation to Cathedral status, it has undergone several modifications adding more contemporary elements, such as a set of stained glass windows by painter João Vieira, inspired by the "Gospel According to Saint John". Another modern addition is the symphonic organ, built in the 21st century and probably the most modern in the country. It has four keyboards, thirty-three stops and a total of 2,192 pipes.
Monday – Friday: 09h00 - 17h30, Weekends; Open for services | FREE
89 Avenida Carvalho Araújo, 5000-657, Vila Real District, Portugal | 41º 17' 46.7" N | 07º 44' 47.5" W
+351 259 323 448 | Website
This interesting Museum of Archeology and Numismatics of Vila Real (MANVR) has been exhibiting finds from digs located all over the region since it first opened its doors in 1997. The permanent exhibits are divided into two themed collections; Archaeological and Numismatic. Of special note is a selection of Neolithic stone engravings from the Alvão National Park. Amongst the vast collection of coins date from the Roman and Visigothic periods. The MANVR is housed in a beautiful 18th-century building, which has undergone several occupations over time.
Tuesday – Friday: 10h00 -– 12h30/14h30 – 18h30, Weekends: 14h30 – 18h30, Monday: CLOSED | FREE
Rua do Rossio 5000-620, Vila Real, Portugal | 41º 17' 51.5" N | 07º 44' 35.2" W | +351 259 320 340
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This magnificent 18th-century church also goes by the names Capela Nova, or Capela dos Clérigos and is created by the great Italian architect and artist Nicolau Nasoni. Born in Tuscany in 1691, Nasoni is credited and most renowned for his Baroque creations in Porto, most notably the Clérigos church and tower. Work started on the Igreja de São Paulo in 1639 on a prime location in central Vila Real. Nasoni's Italian heritage is evident in the design of the church's façade. Two pairs of Tuscan pillars flank the main decorative portal and topped by an oculus. Atop the curving gable are three sculptures representing Saint Peter and two archangels.
The interior is composed of a single nave with 18th-century azulejos depicting scenes from the Evangelists adorn the walls. There are also valuable retables of which the most impressive is the main altar. The main altar is a Renaissance-style woodcarving dating from the beginning of the 17th century.
6 Rua Dr. Roque da Silveira, 5000-635 Vila Real, Portugal
41º 17' 50.2" N | 07º 44' 40.9" W
A couple of miles (4km) east of Vila Real is the impressive country mansion of the Solar de Mateus. The Solar de Mateus gained fame when it appeared on the Mateus wine label. The wine has never been made here. The Casa de Mateus was built in the first half of the 18th century by António José Botelho Mourão, third Morgado de Mateus and is considered as a perfect example of Portuguese Baroque. It was built around 1740, and, although not confirmed, it is believed it was designed by the eminent Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni.
Still owned by the Mangualde family, descendants of its creator, the home is open to visitors and in which occasional music and poetry events are held. The Casa de Mateus today is a living museum that retains the original arrangements and functions of many of its rooms. Admire the elaborate wood ceilings in addition to valuable furniture, carpets, paintings, silverware and an interesting collection of porcelain. There is also a small museum exhibiting the relationship between the Mangualde family and Portuguese royalty. Although the house is often referred to as a palace, according to Portuguese law a building can only be so named if royalty had resided there.
Nonetheless, the true star of the estate is the grounds. The garden is full of ponds and box hedging typical of 18th-century horticulture. A spectacular conifer avenue, composed of trees 7.5 metres tall form an impressive tunnel about 50m long. The Lake, a mirror of water built in the 1950s, forms an extension to the architectural complex from which the façade is perfectly reflected. It is surrounded by a dense planting of chestnut trees and oaks planted in the 1970s. The sculpture by João Cutileiro, which has ‘slept’ in the Lake since 1981, blends with the reflection of the house.
In summer, special events are held on the grounds, such as classical concerts, seminars and even an annual literary award for Portuguese writers. In 1910 the estate was classified as a National Monument. Ticket prices vary depending on which tour itinerary you choose, see the link below for more information and to pre-book. Parking on-site is expensive. If you can find a parking spot in the village it could save you a tenner. Alternatively, you can take the bus from central Vila Real.
Line (Linha) 1 Lordelo – UTAD (University), catch the bus just outside the municipal market on the Rua Gonçalo Cristovão. The bus stops in Mateus village, a five minute stroll from the house. OUT–Timetable | IN–Timetable
From June – Sept. Daily: 09h00 – 12h00/ 14h00 – 19h30, Oct. & March – May Daily: 09h00 – 13h00/14h00 – 18h00,
Nov. – Feb. Daily: 09h00 – 13h00/14h00 – 17h00
Fundação da Casa de Mateus, Mateus, 5000-291, Vila Real, Portugal. | 41º 29' 76.9" N | 07º 71' 34.5" W
+351 259 323 121 | email@example.com | Website
Vila Real is the gateway to the Trás-os-Montes and a major transport hub. Since the closure of the Corgo train line traveling by coach to and from Vila Real is the main form of public transport. From Vila Real's coach station it's possible to take day trips to Amarante, Braga, Bragança, Chaves, Coimbra, Guimarães, Lamego, Porto, Peso da Régua and Viseu. Coach travel is relatively cheap, reliable and comfortable in Portugal. A handful of companies operate out of Vila Real with frequent buses leaving to all major destinations. The coach station is north east of the city centre close to the market.
Rua D. António Valente da Fonseca 5000-539 Vila Real, Portugal
41º 17' 58.5" N | 07º 45' 00.1" W | +351 259 340 710
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There are plenty of pre-roman monuments found in Iberia but non as macabre and mysterious as the relics found at Santuário Rupestre de Panóias. Eight kilometres (5 miles) southeast of Vila Real enclosed within a perimeter fence what at first glance looks like a collection of boulders was once the powerful settlement of Vila de Constantim de Panoyas. A pagan temple where animal sacrifice was practised. Channels cut into the rock can still be seen that were used to run off the blood. When the Romans arrived, they dedicated the temple to Serapis. This cult worshipped the lord of life and death had origins in Ptolemaic Egypt and gained popularity in the Roman world in the 1st century BC. Three coffin-shaped cavities were carved out of a large boulder. One can only imagine their purpose. The largest boulder has steps carved into the side which would have led up to the temple that sat on top. The site is accessed off a side road branching off the A24 highway. Entrance is free on Sunday Mornings.
Tuesday: 14h00 -– 17h00, Wednesday – Sunday: 09h00 – 12h30/14h00 – 17h00, Monday: CLOSED | €1.50
5000-751 Vale de Nogueiras, Portugal | 41º 16' 58.6" N | 07º 40' 56.7" W
O Palacete guest house is located in downtown Vila Real and offers free WiFi throughout the property. All rooms boast a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom. The guest house has family rooms. All guest rooms at the guest house feature air conditioning and a wardrobe.
Rua da Misericórdia 43 , 5000-653 Vila Real, Portugal.
41º 17' 45.1" N | 07º 44' 42.7" W
ffering garden views, Borralha Guest House in Vila Real comfortable accommodation, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a garden, a bar, a shared lounge and a terrace. Free WiFi is provided. All units come with a seating area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a private bathroom with a hairdryer and shower. A continental breakfast is available daily at the bed and breakfast. A car rental service is available at Borralha Guest House, while hiking and cycling can be enjoyed nearby.
Avenida do Regimento de Infantaria 13 Lugar da Borralha, SN, 5000-423 Vila Real, Portugal.
41º 18' 49.7" N | 07º 44' 07.1" W
Situated in the old city centre of Vila Real, Porta 116 offers accommodation with a patio or a balcony, free WiFi and flat-screen TV, as well as a terrace. A microwave, a fridge and oven are also available in the kitchen, as well as a kettle.
Rua Doutor Roque da Silveira Nº116, 5000-651 Vila Real, Portugal.
N 41º 17' 52.4" | W 07º 44' 34.6"
Situated inside a former railway depository Cais da Villa is a fine dinning experience with price tag to match. Seasonal local produce is prepared creatively, orchestrated by chef Daniel Gomes. There is also a large wine list containing great local Douro wines.
Monday – Thursday: 12h30 - 15h00/19h30 - 00h00, Friday – Saturday: 12h30 - 15h00/19h30 - 02h00, Sunday: 12h30 - 15h00
6 Rua Monsenhor Jerónimo do Amaral, 5000-570 Vila Real, Portugal.
N 41º 29' 34.3" | W 07º 73' 97.4"
+351 259 351 209
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This modest restaurant first opened it's doors in 2009 and serves it's customers traditional fair with a modern twist. Friendly and welcoming the staff are always at hand to make your dinning experience as enjoyable as possible, you're sure to have Bons Tempos. Fifty tables spread across two dinning halls and outside terrace. Prices are very reasonable and the list of local wines extensive.
Daily: 12h00 – 14h30/19h30 – 22h30
41 Rua de Santa Sofia, 5000-680 Vila Real, Portugal.
41º 17' 59.3" N | 07º 44' 44.9" W
+351 259 322 394
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A great little hang out and place to enjoy good tapas at a leisurely pace. The jovial atmosphere is aided by the friendly and welcoming staff. Service is relaxed and not rushed, Tralha Wine Tapas Bar is definitely not fast food, rather a savoured experience. Tasty deserts, good drinks menu and vegetarian options broadens the appeal of this place to everyone. Lunch menu changes with the seasons..
Daily: 00h00 – 23h00
Avenida de Almeida Lucena, Vila Real 5000-660 Portugal.
41º 18' 01.7" N | 07º 44' 28.8" W
+351 961 685 715
Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport Porto is 98.1km (61 mi) West of Vila Real Website
GET A GREAT DEAL ON FLIGHTS:
Just over an hours drive West off Porto, 60,3 miles (97km) via the the A4.
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Trains no longer run to Vila Real. The picturesque Linha do Corgo closed in 2009.