Vila Real de Santo António is a wonder of 18th-century urban planning. Almost destroyed by the infamous earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 1755, it was none other than prime minister Marquis of Pombal who gave orders for this village to be rebuilt using the anti-seismic Neoclassical style as part of the Enlightenment movement. Designed in a Pombaline orthogonal grid, it was set to become the most modern city in the country and the flourishing economic centre of the Algarve in the 18th century.
The centre of Vila Real de Santo António was inspired by downtown Lisbon, with the geometric design of its streets and the radial patterns of the beautiful Portuguese cobbled stone pavement on the main square, which houses the city hall and the mother church. A total of 190 buildings remain from the city’s foundation period, with some of them still showcasing their original appearance and featuring traditional and beautiful ironwork balconies. The streets, as stiff and straight as soldiers on parade, lead off from a wide open square. The façades of the houses repeat the balanced forms of a sober and restrained architectural style: expressions of the 18th-century Enlightenment of which Vila Real de Santo António is a perfect example.