The gardens are magnificent!!! Sculpted bushes, flowered plants, well taken care off trees, … so many things to see and say!! Ponds, birds, clean paths, …
The most famous part of the gardens is the tunnel that is composed of bushes – the bushes have grown so big that there is a huge (and dark) path underneath. Seen from the outside it is so well cut that almost looks like it was artificially made. But while crossing on the inside you will be able to see the roots and that it is so real, … amazing!!
Apart from the bushes tunnel, all the gardens that surround the house are very pleasant. I’ve read that the actual display of the gardens no longer reflect its original ones; the gardens you may see nowadays were conceived in 1930/1940. Amongst the flower beds you may see some stone sculptures, such as figures or sun watches.
We didn’t have the chance to visit the house inside as we didn’t book in advance and that day some pupils from local schools were visiting. So they didn’t allow more visitors inside as there is a limited number of visitors.
The house nowadays is inhabited by the descendents of its first owner, so only a part of it is “visitable”. Although we weren’t allowed on the inside, we had the chance to take a good look at it on the outside. It is no doubt a wonderful building, considered as one of the best of its kind in Portugal (Baroque style). Seen from the façade, the house is imposing not only due to its architecture and decoration but also because it reflects on the pond situated in front.
Apart from the house, there is also a chapel that may be visited.
This is a beautiful palace situated about 3km off Vila Real. It is considered as one of the best examples of civilian Baroque architecture in Portugal. It was built in the 18th century. It is possible to visit the house and/or the magnificent gardens. To visit the gardens the entrance fee is 3.5 euros per person (May 2004) and to visit both the house and the gardens the entrance fee is 6 euros (May 2004).
Behind the house and gardens there are the vineyards and the fruit trees. Casa de Mateus is famous for its delicious jams and it was on this palace/farm that the also famous rosé wine – Mateus Rosé – was initially produced.
The Church of São Domingos is a beautiful and interesting cathedral to visit. It was originally the church of the Dominican convent with the same name. Over the years it went through refurbishment and some new constructions, as was the case of the belfry added in the 18th century. In 1837 it burnt in a severe fire but it was rebuilt afterwards; in 1924 it was consecrated as the Se of Vila Real.
This Gothic church is situated in one of the main streets – Avenida Carvalho Araújo – which is large street that rises from the square I described on previous tips, and as most cathedrals in Portugal it is free of charge to visit.
Also on this same square we came across a beautiful manor house that seems to host some public service, although I didn’t find much info about it. As we visited on a Sunday it was closed and we could freely walk around and go up and down its main stairs.
On top of the main stairs there is a white marble piece on the wall, which is a tribute to the soldiers from this City and its surroundings who died in WWI.
Manor houses are quite frequent on the North of Portugal, and some of them are very well kept, being in same family over the centuries; some other host public services (Town Hall for instance), as is the case of this beautiful manor house.
Legend says that the Portuguese sailor who “discovered” the mouth of Zaire in the 15th century, and also explored the West coast of Africa, was born in this medieval granite house. His name was Diogo Cão and the house is nowadays, obviously, named after him.
The North of Portugal and this particular area was the birthplace of prominent figures in the Portuguese Discoveries over-seas as is the case of Diogo Cão, born in Vila Real and Fernão de Magalhães (internationally known as Magellan) born in Sabrosa, a nearby village.
This house is situated on the square I described on the previous tip.
While in city centre, you may start your stroll through Vila Real in this square - it is decorated with a modern composition made of stone and water. The water has different effects which vary in height and also in frequency; also the wholes from which the water appears keep changing.
As we were traveling with small children, this was obviously a great must see for them, who entertained themselves for a while, while we, the grown ups, sat on a nearby terrace enjoying the sunny day over some drinks.