The origin of this town at the Spanish border was a small fishing port, probably dating back to the Phoenicians. After the earthquake in 1755 the town was designed and rebuilt by the Marquês de Pombal, an important Portuguese minister of the 18th Century, who also redesigned the centre of the City of Lisbon.
To the north of Vila Real a bridge across the river Guadiana has been built in 1997 connecting Seville in Spain with the Algarve. The popular beach resort of Monte Gordo offers the tourists kilometres of sea washed beach lined with pine forest.
Crossing the River Guadiana by ferryboat to visit the Spanish town of Ayamonte is a pleasant and relaxing experience. Upstream the small charming Portuguese town of Alcoutim is also worth wile being visited.