The beauty of the north.jpg

The beauty of the north

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

In this travel feature, Paulo Silvestre takes readers on a guided tour of the best places to visit in Portugal. Paulo provides inside information and useful tips to assist you in planning relaxing trips and enjoyable days out. You’ll discover the best of Portugal and enjoy celebrating its unique culture! Paulo holds a degree in Media Studies and his hobbies include playing in a band.

Vila Real is the capital of Trás-os-Montes province in the North of Portugal and the birthplace of Diogo Cão (explorer who discovered the Congo River in 1482). This city is described by many as the most fantastic ‘country house’ in Portugal.

Built in 1745, Mateus Palace is considered an ideal example of baroque architecture, with an impressive façade made up of gorgeous pinnacles on the roof and an ornate balustrade stairway.

Behind it there is a charming garden, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe, with box hedges, statues, and a stunning cedar tunnel about 35 metres long.

Guided tours to the Mateus Palace’s interior are provided, beginning at the entrance hall, with its carved chestnut ceiling and 18th century furniture, leading into the Four Seasons Room which takes its name from its large 18th century paintings, and the Blue Room that features Chinese porcelain. The neighbouring Dining Room contains stunning Portuguese china and silver, and the Four Corners Room has Indo-Portuguese furniture.

The town’s cathedral (Sé Catedral), once part of a Dominican monastery, has a simple 15th century exterior. Going north, you find the town’s supreme church, the Baroque São Pedro Church, with a ceiling of carved and gilded wood and a chancel decorated with colourful tiles. It is also recommended to take a look at the beautiful baroque chapel Capela Nova, also known as Clérigos.

A stop at the tourism office is worth it if only to take a look at its Manueline windows.

Mateus Palace has an impressive façade.
Mateus Palace has an impressive façade.


Other places to visit are just a couple of kilometres near Vila Real city. The Santa Barbara Church in Boticas is a church based on the religious architecture concept and was formerly the parish church. The principal highlight is a wooden pelican that can be found in the sacristy. It has been said that the bird wounded its own breast to feed the baby birds with its blood. Also in Boticas, the medieval Little Stone Bridge is a romantic one with five bows. According to the myth, when the Moors were building it, they only worked at night because they were frightened of getting killed during the day. They kept on building the bridge only with small stones, and when they were almost finished they had to run away.

The highlights of the Igreja Matriz do Salvador, in Ribeira de Pena, are the baroque elements on the façade and the high altar with images of the Divine Saviour and S. Miguel Archangel. The well known Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco was married here when he was 16 years old. In Ribeira de Pena, you can also visit the splendorous Senra de Cima House/Palace. This monument is outstanding evidence of the civil architecture from the 18th century. This house is composed of a stone balcony, with high decorative elements.

Ribeira da Pena wire bridge.
Ribeira da Pena wire bridge.

Ribeira da Pena Wire Bridge (Ponte de Arame) crosses the Tâmega river, connecting Santo Aleixo d’Além Tâmega to Salvador. This is a place that fascinates those who visit the district. Two steel cables support the bridge and its entrances were made in granite. It was built to serve the populations of both sides of the river and until 1963, when the modern bridge on the EN312 was built, the only crossing point for those people.

With all of these astonishing places to visit, you can’t miss the exquisiteness of Vila Real city and province.

Discover it!

Paulo can be contacted by emailing [email protected]