Vila Real de Santo Antonio - Portugal

Vila Real de Santo Antonio is situated at the eastern end of the Algarve, bordered by the River Guadiana to the east. It is one of the largest seaside resorts in the Algarve but also boasts an old town centre. To appreciate the harmony of Vila Real de Santo António's ordered layout, there is no substitute for walking through its streets. The best place to start is the Praça Marquês de Pombal at the heart of the town, where the stone pavement radiates out from the obelisk erected in 1776. This square contains three of the town's most important 18th century buildings: the 18th century church, the town hall and the former guardhouse. After that it is worth walking around a few of the blocks, which were built by private individuals, but which stick to the same unifying architectural formula. The route ends with the line of façades of Avenida da República, which is delimited by two towers and contains the former customs house, with its broad gateway and triangular pediment. You can also visit Faro from here. Nearby, you will fin the Manuel Cabanas Museum, gardens on the banks of the Guadiana and across the river, the Spanish town Ayamonte. The area is noted for the diversity of its natural habitats, with its broad river estuary and salt-marshes to the north and east and the protected area of pinewoods formed by the Mata Nacional das Dunas Litorais while the town of Cacela Velha to the west marks the eastern boundary of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Sardine and tuna fishing off the Algarve coast turned Vila Real into an important fish canning centre throughout almost the whole of the 20th century. At the same time, as a port, Vila Real de Santo António witnessed a great deal of traffic through the boats that transported the ores extracted from the mines of São Domingos. Later, in the 1960s, the bay of Monte Gordo, with its immense sandy beach and safe, warm waters, began to attract huge numbers of tourists and became one of the largest seaside resorts in the Algarve.