Vilar Formoso dates from the 12th. century, although in the 10th century people were already living in the area. It lays around 500 metres above sea-level and is surrounded by several Serras.
Vilar Formoso has a very good reachability, it lies next to the A25 (A62 in Spain) and has a trainstation from which you can go straight to Lisbon.
Before Portugal signed the Schengen agreement, Vilar Formoso was one of the busiest land gateways to Portugal. In these times of a physical frontier, there where huge queues of cars of which the passengers were waiting to stamp their passports. After a long car journey, seeing Portugal in front of them, anxiety increased more and more and people were hungry to be able to hug their family members again. There were just a few more kilometers to go, but sometimes these were the most tiring, because of those large queues in which people sometimes had to wait for hours to be able to ener their homecountry.
In Vilar Formoso there are several hotels and in the larger area around it there are many possibilities to stay on a camping, some of these campings and hotels are situated in the beautiful nature-reservations on the Portuguese ánd Spanish side of the border.
Because of it's function as the main entrance of Portugal by road, Vilar Formoso is a town where many people stay for a short while to have a meal and rest a bit, therefore it has several restaurants, bars and hotels. Same goes for the smaller town of Fuentes de Oñoro on the Spanish side of the border.
There are several shops of all kinds as well as supermarkets in Vilar Formoso and Fuentes de Oñoro and once every month there's a market where you can buy food, clothes, animals and much more.
Vilar Formoso has a medical centre, physiotherapist, farmacies, banks, lawyers etc., basically just about everything you could need.
The area produces many local products like honey, olive-oil, dried fruits, jams and marmalades, liquors, wines and pastry. There are several shops where you can buy these products and you'll find that restaurants are serving some of them too. If you like fish you should really try the local dish "Bacalhau à Fronteira da Paz", this dish goes with bread, cheese, peppers, onions and tomatoes and is served with slices of fried potato.
The train-station is known for it's beautiful design with colourful tiles on the outside. Next to that there is the Igreja Matriz de São João Baptista, the Capela Nossa Senhora da Paz, Capela do Santo Cristo da Cruz, Capela de Santa Bárbara, the calvary ánd the town has a museum about it's past and the region.
It has a sports complex with two heated swimming pools, a gym, 2 tennis-courts a first-aid post and a bar.
A river the "Ribeira dos Toirões" runs through the centre of the city from north-east to south-west and the "Ribeira Cõa" is close-by in the west with the beautiful "Praia Fluvial de Badamalos" (river beach) at 30 minutes away.
As for hiking, biking and nature-loving there's too much to do because of the geographical history of this area: Vilar Formoso is situated on a massif about 500 meters above sea-level, this massif is geographically the oldest part of the Iberian peninsula. After the formation several mountain-regions have been formed around it, that nowadays are biological reservations, of which we find the Serra da Estrela to the southwest, the Serra Marofa to the north and the Serra da Malcata to the south in Portuguese territory. In Spanish territory, the mountain ranges of Serra da Peña de Francia and Serra de Gata stand out. In the whole area are possibilities to stay in hotels and agglomerations of log-cabins, glass spheres and camper / camping spots as well as many hotels that use these biological reservations as a theme. They organise hiking days, build bird- and wildlife-spotting cabins in the middle of the natural surroundings where you can feel like you're the only one on earth. If you like bird spotting then in the surroundings of Vilar Formoso you're at the right spot, check out this website!
Next to all that the area is very rich in water, from large rivers to small creecks and lakes with beaches, often with a bar, café and/or restaurant.
Vilar Formoso itself has two combinated swimming pools and tennis courts.
Some of the smaller villages in the area are very old and are really worth a visit, Nave de Haver for example has an bull-fight arena which is also being used for car-races. Yearly the festa "Encerro St. António" is being held in Nave de Haver where a heard of bulls is being driven through the village by men on horses.
Lots of castles are to be visited in this area too like the Castelo Bom, the Castelo de Alfaiates, Castelo de Almeida, Castelo Melhor, Castelo Mendo, Castelo Rodrigo, Castelo de Pinhel, the Castelo de Sabugal and the Castelo de Vilar Maior.
Vilar Formoso itself has all kinds of shops, from tools and clothes / shoes to supermarkets (Intermarché) and Carrefour in Fuentes de Oñoro. The towns together basically have all one could need and there are many cafés and restaurants to have a drink or enjoy the typical Portuguese pastry "pastel de nata" with a cup of coffee in the morning.
For lunch there's no need to look somewhere else either and in the evening several cafés will be open until after midnight.
And then you can always go to the larger cities in the area like Sabugal and Guarda, which both are only 30 minutes away. Guarda is the main city of the district to which Vilar Formoso belongs (the concelho, being the layer in between, is Almeida). By the way: Guarda is a beautiful and very old city that deserves a visit when you are staying in (the area around) Vilar Formoso. Same with Sabugal: it has a cosy old centre with many shops, there are supermarkets and lots of cafés and restaurants, a castle that towers above the town which is completely restored and certainly worth a visit and at the south edge of Sabugal is a big lake with beaches and a café / restaurant as well. And last but not least: Vilar Formoso is only 30 minutes away from Ciudad Rodrigo in Spain and if you are willing to drive a bit further then you can go to the city of Salamanca in Spain which is 1 1/2 hours drive away and actually too big for only one day.
So get your planning right, because you will find that there's an abundance of things to do in Vilar Formoso and the larger area around it.