Top Picks in the Algarve

East Algarve

Faro_street
Faro’s Old Town

 

Faro

The most picturesque part of Faro, the Cidade Velha (Old Town) starts with a 18th-century gate leading to a charming area of cobbled streets and whitewashed houses. Easy to explore by foot, it has a stunning Sé (cathedral) built in 1251 with a Gothic tower looking out over red rooftops, the lagoon and the Atlantic -the best view in town. Igreja do Carmo (Carmo church) needs to be seen for its 18th-century Rococo architecture and the Chapel of Bones in the back.

Where to stay near the Old Town

Hotel Eva

Hotel Faro

 

Where to eat

Adega Nova – popular among locals, this adega (wine cellar) serves typical Portuguese dishes in a friendly and lively atmosphere; the area around it is not pretty, but it is safe.

A Taska – a typical and rustic place with a great tasting menu

Dois Irmaos – classic Algarvean cuisine

O Estamine – an island restaurant with great sea views and fresh fish

 

São Brás de Alportel

sao bras 2
Sao Bras was once the cork capital of Portugal

Small and quaint São Brás is worth visiting for its peace and tranquility,  and for its charming architecture.

Where to stay 

Hospedaria Sao Bras

Estalagem Sequeira

 

Where to eat

O Esconderijo

Avenida

Luis dos Frangos

Quatro a Mesa (tapas style)

 

Estói

Palacio de Estoi
Estoi Palace Hotel

Pretty and tranquil town on the hills behind Faro and with the best preserved Roman ruins in the Algarve: Millreu, a complex dating back to the 1st century and worth visiting for its impressive mosaics; it was probably home to a wealthy Roman patrician, judging by the remains of a nearby temple converted into a Christian basilica in the 5th century.

Where to stay

The Palácio de Estói (Estoi Palace) is a luxury hotel in a mansion built by a local nobleman and completed in 1909. A nice place to stay and explore the region, the Palace has also pretty gardens open to visit.

Where to eat

Galeria dos Sentidos

O Branquinho

Restaurant Palacio de Estoi

O Cerro

 

Cacela Velha

Cacela
Cacela Velha was not touched by mass tourism

This small fishing village is an old hamlet perched on a cliff overlooking the sea that has remained untouched by mass tourism. White houses around an 18th-century church give it a peaceful atmosphere like no other in the Algarve.

Where to stay

Where to eat

 

Tavira

terrace
Tavira’s architecture was influenced by the Moors

Tavira’s many charms attract big crowds year-round, specially in the summer; a good idea is to visit it off-season.  Go to the Moorish Castle in the old Arab quarter, for the best view in town, and to  church Santa Maria do Castelo, once the biggest mosque in the Algarve. For  swimming, there’s nearby offshore beach Ilha de Tavira (Tavira Island), reached by ferry.

Where to eat

Ponto de Encontro – typical Portuguese food, fresh fish and the best sole in almond around. Very reasonable prices

A Ver Tavira

Portas do Mar

Where to stay

Guesthouse Imperial Pensao

Calçada Guesthouse – bed and breakfast

Convento Tavira – luxury 4-star hotel

 

Central and West Algarve

IMG_1845
The magnificent beaches of Central Algarve

 

Albufeira

Probably the most popular destination in the Algarve, Albufeira is actually two towns: the old, charming and picturesque, and the new, with no hint of the traditional Algarve and full of touristy shops, karaoke bars and fast-food joints. Both get crowded in the summer; best time to visit is Spring or Fall, when the nearby scenic beaches of Praia da Falesia and Olhos d’Agua are almost deserted.

Where to stay

Hotel Vila Gale Cerro Alagoa

Vila Joya Boutique resort

Grande Real Santa Eulalia Resort & Hotel

 

Where to eat

A Tasquinha do Rossio for fresh fish

Evaristo Seafood for seafood and beach views

 

Shopping

Albufeira has high-quality Portuguese ceramics and porcelain, and LA Lojas is where the best variety is found.

In the summer try the stalls selling local handicrafts in the center of town, or the market with everything but food held on the first and third Tuesday of the month.

 

Carvoeiro

2048px-Carvoeiro_Portugal_February_2015_02

A favorite of English tourists, who come in the summer in great numbers, Carvoeiro is a pretty hilly town that retains some of the old Algarve charm and atmosphere. A scenic boardwalk overlooking the sea is a must for walkers and joggers; high-end restaurants and hotels can be found here.

Where to stay

Tivoli Carvoeiro Hotel

 

Where to eat

Boneca Bar Seafood – between rocks and caves, for seafood and cocktails

Hexagone – a stylish eatery for vegetarians as well as fish and meat lovers

 

Lagos

Lagos,_Portugal
Historic Lagos is one of the most pleasant towns in West Algarve

Lagos has all the advantages of other Algarvean towns, plus a good balance between old and modern. A well-preserved Moorish wall still encircles the old town, and the proximity of the most scenic beaches in the province brings lots of tourists, but even in the summer Lagos doesn’t feel as crowded as other places nearby.

 

Where to stay

Belavista da Luz Hotel

Tivoli Lagos

 

Where to eat

No Patio –

Vista Alegre –

Praia da Luz

Praia da Luz (2)
Praia da Luz is a favorite of the Portuguese families

Laid back and friendly, Praia da Luz is in the less crowded West Algarve and the beach is a wide stretch of sand.

Where to stay

Where to eat

 

Sagres

Sagres
Sagres was once thought to be the end of the world

The westernmost town in the Algarve – and in all Europe – in Sagres one breaths history everywhere. Open to visitation are the fort and the navigation school where the first navigators got the skills to cross the Atlantic. The beaches are great, too and the place is very relaxed.

Where to stay

Posada do Infante

 

Where to eat

O Telheiro do Infante

Pousada do Infante