The Algarve

We’ve compiled the best of the best in The Algarve - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Castelo de Silves

    With high red walls that overshadow the little whitewashed houses below, this polygonal sandstone fortress was built between the 8th and 13th centuries and survived untouched until the Christian sieges. You can walk around inside the remaining walls or clamber about the crenellated battlements, taking in bird's-eye views of Silves and the surrounding hills. Its gardens are watched over by a statue of King Dom Sancho I, and its capacious water cistern is now a gallery space devoted to temporary exhibitions.

    Rua do Castelo, Silves, Faro, 8300-117, Portugal
    282 440 837

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2.70 or €7 with the museum
  • 2. Farol de São Vicente

    The views from outside this lighthouse are remarkable, and the beacon is said to have the strongest reflectors in Europe—they cast a beam 96 km (60 miles) out to sea. Turquoise water whips across the base of the rust-color cliffs below; the fortress at Sagres is visible to the east; and in the distance lies the immense Atlantic. There's a small museum and café on-site if you want to linger.

    End of N268, Cabo São Vicente, Faro, 8650, Portugal
    282 624 606

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.
  • 3. Fortaleza de Sagres

    The views from the Sagres Fortress, an enormous run of defensive walls high above the crashing waves, are spectacular. Its massive walls and battlements make it popular with kids. The importance of this area dates to as early as the 4th century BC, when Mediterranean seafarers found it to be the last sheltered port before the wild winds of the Atlantic. In the late 8th century, according to local religious tradition, the mortal remains of the 4th-century martyr of Zaragoza, St. Vincent, washed up here. This led to a Vincentine cult that attracted pilgrims until the destruction of the sanctuary in the mid-12th century. The fortress was rebuilt in the 17th century, and although some historians have claimed that it was the site for Prince Henry's famous navigation school, it's more likely that Henry built his school at Cabo São Vicente. But this doesn't detract from the powerful atmosphere. Certainly the Venta da Rosa ("Rose of the Winds," a sundial-like stone whose purpose is still unknown) dates to Prince Henry's period. The small chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graça is of the same age.

    Sagres, Faro, 8650-360, Portugal
    282 620 140

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3
  • 4. Igreja de Santo António

    This early-18th-century baroque building is Lagos's most extraordinary structure. Its interior is a riot of gilt extravagance made possible by the import of gold from Brazil. Dozens of cherubs and angels clamber over the walls, among fancifully carved woodwork and azulejos. In an annexe is the Museu Municipal Dr. José Formosinho, with a range of 18th-century artworks and archaeological findings.

    Rua General Alberto Silveira, Lagos, Faro, 8600-594, Portugal
    282 762 301

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, includes entry to the museum, Closed Mon.
  • 5. Ilha de Tavira

    Directly offshore and extending west for some 11 km (7 miles) is the Ilha de Tavira, a long sandbar with several pleasant beaches. Ferries costing €2.20 round-trip run to the island every half hour in July and August and every hour May through June and September through mid-October. The island has been awarded a Blue Flag, indicating quality and cleanliness. Several good restaurants and bars are also on the island. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; nudists; sunrise; sunset.

    Tavira, Faro, Portugal
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  • 6. Largo da Fábrica Velha

    Four local street artists turned the dilapidated walls of this former factory into an outdoor art gallery of gorgeous black-and-white murals that depict local fishing traditions. In many cases, the artists worked from period photos, and some locals say they can recognize their parents in the scenes.

    Rua da Fábrica Velha, Olhão, Faro, 8700-338, Portugal
  • 7. Monte da Casteleja

    The motto at this family-run winery—one of the only Algarvian vineyards to produce organic wines—is "think global, drink local." Guided tours and wine-tasting sessions are available by appointment, with a minimum of two people.

    Lagos, Faro, 8600-317, Portugal
    282 798 408

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sat. and Sun.
  • 8. Praia da Marinha

    At this dreamy beach, crystal clear waters lap against the impressive rock formations. Dramatic coves and caves in orange limestone make for a striking backdrop for snorkeling and sunbathing. Although it’s located in prime tourist territory, the relatively challenging descent means it’s less visited than other beaches in the region. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee). Best for: snorkeling; sunset.

    Estada da Marinha, Lagoa, Faro, 8400-407, Portugal
  • 9. Praia da Rocha

    Among the country's most photographed beaches, Praia da Rocha is also one of the most popular, drawing a constant stream of visitors from around the world. Dramatic cliffs provide the backdrop for a wide, golden expanse of sand. Many water sports are available, and there's a long pier to stroll on. Several bars and restaurants can be found along the beach, all jutting off a wooden boardwalk that stretches down the strand. More can be found further east towards the marina. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers (at the marina); toilets; water sports. Best for: surfing; swimming; walking.

    Av. Tomas Cabreira, Praia da Rocha, Faro, 8500-808, Portugal
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  • 10. Praia de Dona Ana

    This beautiful beach has calm, turquoise waters that are perfect for snorkeling and cave-studded cliffs that can be visited on boat tours. You can reach Praia de Dona Ana by car or on an enjoyable 30-minute walk along a cliff top. This small beach can get packed, especially when the tide comes in and the sand disappears. Parking is difficult and the steep steps down to the sand can be trying, but it's worth the effort to visit what has been voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards. Best for: snorkeling.

    1 km (½ mile) south of Lagos city center, Lagos, Faro, 8600, Portugal
  • 11. Sé Catedral de Faro

    This stunning cathedral, flanked by cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and fragrant orange trees, is one of Faro's most beautiful monuments. Having survived earthquakes and fires since its construction in 1251, the Sé retains a Gothic tower but is mostly of interest for the 17th- and 18th-century azulejos that fill its interior. On one side of the nave is a red chinoiserie organ, dating to 1751. Best of all, however, is the view from the top of the church tower (up some very steep stairs), looking out over Cidade Velha rooftops and across the lagoon.

    Largo da Sé, Faro, Faro, 8000-138, Portugal
    289 806 632

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3.50 for cathedral, tower, and museum
  • 12. Única-Adega Cooperativa de Lagoa

    The Algarve's final of four cooperative wineries is a piece of living, working history. The Única-Adega Cooperativa do Algarve is a great place for a tour and tasting session. At any time during normal working hours you can pop in to the office to sample the wine and buy a bottle or two. Part of the building has been converted into an art gallery featuring national and international artists.

    Estrada Nacional 125, Lagoa, Faro, 8400-901, Portugal
    282 342 181

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sat. and Sun.
  • 13. Adega do Cantor

    The "Winery of the Singer," about 10 km (6 miles) west of Albufeira, is now as well known for its wines as it is for its famous owner, British pop legend Cliff Richard. The estate has bottled some seriously strong contenders on the international wine scene, and several of the Adega's Vida Nova wines have gone on to win coveted awards. Reservations are required for tours and tastings.

    Quinta do Miradouro, Albufeira, Faro, 8200-443, Portugal
    289 572 666

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Wine tastings €10 per person. Vineyard tours €20 per person, Closed weekends.
  • 14. Arco da Vila

    Beyond this 19th-century gate lies Faro's pretty Cidade Velha (Old Town) with its cobbled streets and whitewashed houses. At the top is a niche sheltering a white-marble statue of St. Thomas Aquinas, plus storks that nest here permanently.

    Rua do Municipio, Faro, Faro, 8000-398, Portugal
  • 15. Associação Cultural Re-Criativa

    Inside a handsome 19th-century building that was rescued by a group of local artists, this cutural center has lively art openings, interesting concerts, and a sociable small-town bar.

    Av. da Repúblia 14, Olhão, Faro, 8700-310, Portugal
    910 513 614

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.
  • 16. Caldas de Monchique

    Monchique's natural springs are renowned for healing waters that bubble out of the ground to create a paradise microclimate where it's believed by locals that "anything" will grow. The small chapel of the community of Caldas de Monchique is where many go for a blessing or to pray in thanks for the health of those who drink its waters. The thermal spa at Villa Termal Caldas de Monchique Spa Resort here has the healing waters as well as treatments.

    Monchique, Faro, 8550-232, Portugal
  • 17. Casino Vilamoura

    Open until the early hours of the morning, Casino Vilamoura is a big part of Vilamoura's nightlife scene. Here you'll find two restaurants, a dance club, and the usual selection of table games, as well as more than 500 slot machines. Dress is smart-casual, and you must be 18 to enter.

    Praça Casino Vilamoura, Quarteira, Faro, 8126-908, Portugal
    289 310 000
  • 18. Castelo de Loulé

    Once a Moorish stronghold, Loulé has preserved the ruins of the medieval castle, which was enlarged in 1268 after the site had been occupied and fortified since Neolithic times. There's an archaeology museum on-site to explore, too.

    Rua Dom Paio Peres Correia 17, Loulé, Faro, 8100-564, Portugal
    289 400 600

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2, Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 19. Castelo dos Governadores

    It was from the Manueline window of this palace that the young king Dom Sebastião is said to have addressed his troops before setting off on his crusade of 1578. The palace is long gone, though the section of wall with the famous window remains and can be seen in the northwest corner of the Praça do Infante. The crusade was one of Portugal's greatest-ever disasters, with the king and some 8,000 soldiers killed in Morocco at Alcácer-Quibir. (Dom Sebastião is further remembered by a much-maligned, modernistic statue that stands in Praça Gil Eanes.)

    Praça do Infante, Lagos, Faro, 8600-563, Portugal
  • 20. Castelo e Muralhas de Tavira

    From the battlemented walls of the ruined 13th-century castle you can look down over Tavira's many church spires and across the river delta to the sea.

    Largo Abu-Otmane, Tavira, Faro, 8800-312, Portugal

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