The council is divided into two distinct areas: most of it is granitic, with large tracts of pinewoods and where maize is the predominant crop; the southeast zone, however, has slaty soil and belongs to the Douro Demarcated Region. Here the vineyards predominate.

The city was created through a royal charter granted by King Dinis, who founded a town here intended to be the administrative centre of a vast circumscription. The region, however, has been inhabited since very remote times. And the Romanisation left here a perennial monument: the RupestrianSanctuary of Panóias, a place of worship for the native peoples which the Romans adopted and transformed.Vila Real possesses other monuments which are well worth a visit: the Cathedral, the House of Mateus and the New Chapel, the stone pillory and a group of mediaevel buildings including of the House of Diogo Cão and adjoining buildings. It has numerous buildings of noble proportions, many of which bearing armorial insignia. But best of all is a stroll through the streets of the historical zone, enjoying the harmonious groups of façades which reveal, here and there, delightful details.

Vila Real has plenty of reasons to delight the gourmet and wine connaisseur. One dish in its gastronomy stands out, "tripas com molhos" (tripe with sauces), a unique specialty, and "pastéis de toucinho-do-céu" (tartlet filled with egg yolks and sugar). The wine list – magnificent.The black clay pottery of Bisalhães and the linenware from Agarez are some of the articles of interest produced by the local handicrafts industry.

Cultural events are frequent and highly visible, in particular certain regularevents such as the Music Courses and Festivals organised by the House of Mateus, the Luso-Galaic Caricature Show and the Academic Week. Vila Real also springs to life in June during the City Celebrations where two events stand out: Saint Antonio’s Fair and Saint Peter’s Fair, also called the Fair of the "Pucarinhos" (Small Pots), dedicated to the region’s handicrafts. During the same month, there is a solemn religious event that should be mentioned due to its pomp and participation: the Corpus Dei Procession, a clear reminiscence of the mediaeval Corpus Christi.