The border town of VILA REAL DE SANTO ANTÓNIO is one of the more architecturally interesting towns in the Algarve. The original settlement was demolished by a tidal wave following the earthquake of 1755 and the current town was rebuilt on a grid plan by the Marquês de Pombal, using the same plans he had already pioneered in the Baixa quarter of Lisbon. Remarkably, the whole project only took five months.
The central grid built by Pombal radiates out from the handsome square that bears his name, ringed by orange trees and low, white buildings, a couple of which are pleasant outdoor cafés. On the north side of the square is Rua Teófilo Braga, the pedestrianized main drag that leads inland from the riverfront Avenida da República. The former market building along here has been reborn as the Centro Cultural António Aleixo, an innovative space used for temporary exhibits and occasionally films. The surrounding streets have a certain low-key charm, bristling with linen shops, electrical retailers and grocers, and the riverside gardens offer fine views across to the splash of white that is Ayamonte in Spain. The town used to be the main crossing point into Spain; its importance has declined since the opening of a road bridge over the Rio Guadiana, 4km to the north, but it’s well worth taking a boat trip from here up the river.Read More