Pedestrian crossing in Portugal, Vila Real de Santo Antonio

Vila Real de Santo Antonio is the furthest eastern point of Portugal’s Algarve, and the border town with Spain. Many people just use it as a “jump off” point for a trip to Spain, but the town is actually well worth a visit in itself.

Vila Real de Santo Antonio has a very different feel to most other local towns, because it’s not a beach resort. If that’s what you’re after, you should head for neighbouring Montegordo instead. Vila Real has the feel of a working town, and one that constantly buzzes with activity due to constant presence of day-trippers from Spain.

Vila Real is a great place to shop, and the shopping district itself is distinctive, because it’s built based on a US-style grid system. This area of the town was designed in the style of downtown Lisbon, after both were destroyed following the huge earthquake of the 1700s.

Textiles are the big thing here, and every other shops seems to sell bargain-priced towels and bedding. However, there are also several kitchenware shops, a couple of inspiring delis, and a Christmas shop that opens all year round.

Once you’ve shopped until you’re ready to drop, you have the choice of two places to sit back and relax. The first is the main town square, where you can take a table outside one of the many cafes. Here you’ll find all sorts of seasonal events and markets taking place, with Christmas providing some particular highlights.

The other option is the riverfront, where you can soak up the sun with a view of the white Spanish architecture on the other side of the river.

The Algarve may be typically seen as a beach destination, and there are few better places to spend a week between sand and sea. But if you fancy a change of pace and something a bit different, Vila Real de Santo Antonio can provide it.