VILA REAL sits on a high spur above the deep valley of the Rio Corgo, a tributary of the Douro. Founded and aptly named by Dom Dinis in 1289, “Royal Town” was once home to the largest concentration of nobility outside Lisbon, although today it has more of an industrial role, as well as being the home of the University of Trás-os-Montes. It’s the nearest base for visiting the Parque Natural do Alvão, while other local attractions include the ancient site at Panóias and the Casa de Mateus – the country house featured on the Mateus Rosé wine label. Despite its noble heritage, there’s little of architectural interest in town save the odd surviving mansion, but it’s a likeable place of broad avenues, sunny squares and old-town streets filled with a mix of day-to-day shops and craft stores – there’s also a local produce market at the Mercado Municipal (Mon–Fri). Look out, in particular, for local straw work as well as the distinctive pewter-grey earthenware crockery (olaria) made in the nearby village of Bisalhães.
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