Located in an area blessed by nature, next both to the Marão and Alvão Mountain Ranges, in the confluence of the Corgo and Cabril Rivers, Vila Real is one of the most important cities in the Trás-os-Montes (literally meaning “Behind the Hills”) province.
With human presence vestiges since the Palaeolithic Period, Vila Real was soon chosen by different people to live in, as one can confirm with the several archaeological testimonies, such as the Panóias Sanctuary, that attests the Roman presence in this area.
With the barbarian and Moorish invasions, Vila Real looses some of its population and importance, that later gained back during the Middle ages, for it is located in between essential northern roads. Also the creation of the Marqueses House on the 17th century had several noble families to move in.
Vila Real offers several highlights, such as the Misericórdia, the São Brás, or the Bom Jesus do Hospital Chapels, or even the Cathedral (in a late gothic architectural style, dating from 1424), or the São Pedro, Bom Jesus do Calvário or the Clérigos (Barroque style, projected by Nicolau Nasoni) Churches.
Nature also has an important role in this region, with stunning landscapes, gardens and parks, such as the Natural Park of the Alvão.
The culture, history and local heritage are present in the interesting Museum collections of the region, such as the Vila Real Archaeological Museum, the University Geology Museum or the Vila Real Ethnographic Museum.
Located at about 3km distance from Vila Real is the astonishing Baroque master piece: The Mateus Palace, with Romantic Gardens, more than worth the visit.
Vila Real is also famous for its handicraft and costumes. The Black Clay Products from Bisalhães, the Agarez linen embroideries, weaving and metal works are very famous and have passed intact through numerous generations.
Trás-os-Montes province is also quite famous for its delicious gastronomy which specialities include a wide range of soups; certified beef from locally raised Maronesa cattle; roast goat with pilaf rice; “tripas aos molhos” - stuffed tripe; and roast hock of pork, “bola de carne” - a loaf baked whilst stuffed with meat or other savouries, and of course the famous sausages and smoked ham. For sweets, pastries and desserts, usually concocted from apples, almonds, oranges, honey, caramel, and eggs, and the local speciality is candy canes (“ganchas“).
The wines from this region are famous worldwide: the wines of Trás-os-Montes and the Douro, the port wine and, of course, the famous Mateus Rosé.