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What to Do and Where to Stay in Algarve
10 May. 2023
10 May. 2023
Located in the southernmost region of Portugal, Algarve boasts a rugged coastline, sandy beaches, picturesque whitewashed fishing villages on its coastline, and castles and fortified villages in the hinterland. This sun-drenched paradise is a popular holiday destination, attracting visitors with its Mediterranean climate, delicious cuisine, and vibrant nightlife. From strolls through the cobbled streets of Lagos, to hikes on the Via Algarviana, to lazing or surfing sessions on the coast… the Algarve has something to offer everyone. Discover Algarve with this Lartisien travel guide.
Located in the southern tip of Portugal, Ria Formosa is a system of barrier islands that leads to the sea. It contains 5 natural inlets and 1 artificial inlet that was created to allow for easier access to the port of Faro. Recognized as one of the 7 wonders of Portugal, the 23 296-hectare Ria Formosa lagoon is home to numerous white-sand beaches, little touristic villages, a 170 km2 natural area, and welcomes some 30,000 migratory birds during spring and autumn every year, making it a perfect spot for birdwatching enthusiasts.
Visitors can engage in various hiking and trekking trails within the lagoon area, with various spots to stop at for picnics or to take a dive in the waters. There’s also the option to charter a boat at the Ria Formosa Natural Park to tour the lagoon, rivers, and sea, to explore the surrounding fauna and flora.
Situated in Lagoa, Sand City Theme Park is 5 hectares of sand area where visitors can admire over 120 unique sand sculptures. Over 60 national and international artists have created sand sculptures of famous personalities such as superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, and Queen Elizabeth II, and impressive structures such as the Egyptian pyramids and Big Ben. Visitors can book a tour of the park by buggy. The park also has picnic areas, a spa and retail outlets (restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops).
Address: EN 125, Nº252A, Sítio dos, 8400-395 Lagoa
Monday to Friday – 10h to 19h
Saturday and Sunday – closed
A coastal city with views over the Atlantic Ocean, Albufeira is one of Portugal’s most popular seaside resorts and is also known for its effervescent nightlife. Besides the beaches and natural spots, Albufeira is divided into two distinct sections: the Old Town and Areias de São João, also known as The Strip.
The Old Town is where one can go to explore the rich history and culture of Albufeira, which goes back to Roman settlers who used the area for agriculture and commerce. Today, the Old Town is a popular landmark for its stunning architecture, which combines Moorish and traditional Mediterranean influences. Visitors can stroll along mosaicked streets, flanked by whitewashed buildings and stone facades to experience the rustic lifestyle of little corner cafés.
Albufeira Marina is a recent expansion of the town, with rows of colorful houses peering over the harbor filled with yachts and catamarans.
The Strip, on the other hand, is filled with open-air bars, restaurants, and even discotheques. Many of the places remain open till the early morning hours, earning it comparisons to Las Vegas, minus the tall skyscrapers.
Located in Faro, the administrative capital of the Algarve region, the Faro Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, listed as a National Monument of Portugal. The cathedral’s history is intertwined with that of Faro, as it first started as a basilica under Roman occupation, before being converted into a mosque under the Moorish era, before again being converted into a cathedral under the reign of D. Afonso III.
The interiors of the cathedral feature beautiful tile work, especially at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary. Inside, visitors will also find a stunning Baroque organ, placed next to the choir. The cathedral is also home to a museum, where visitors can find various eucharistic implements and ecclesiastical garments.
Address: Largo da Sé 11, 8000-138 Faro
Monday to Friday – 10h to 17h
Saturday – 09h30 to 13h
Sunday – closed
Located close to Faro and Rio Formosa, Olhão is a fishing port and tourist centre. As with most of the coastal villages, the cobblestone streets of Olhão lead to a pristine harbor and waterfront. Olhão has a typical Portuguese atmosphere, with a blend of Portuguese and neo-Arabic architecture, traditional fishermen’s houses, and a busy local fishing industry still. The Mercados de Olhão is a beautiful red-bricked marketplace where visitors can enjoy fresh, daily seafood while The Bairro dos Pescadores is where one can go to admire the traditional fishermen’s quarters of the city. Given the city’s long history as a fishing port and an economy that functions largely on seafood processing, Olhão hosts a major annual seafood festival in August, giving tourists the opportunity to sample the city’s traditional cuisine and live entertainment.
Located in the small fishing village of Benagil, on the southern coast of the Algarve, the Benagil Cave has become one of the most famous destinations in the region. The cave is famous for the size of the natural formation, with various openings facing the sea and a giant hole in its ceiling. Though not far from the beach, it is highly recommended not to swim to the sea caves because of the rapidly changing tide and strong currents. Therefore, visitors can book a trip on a boat or even book a paddleboard group tour.
Recognized by the UNESCO as the Portuguese representative city of the Mediterranean diet, Tavira is the ideal town for immersion in Portuguese culture. From its traditional architecture of whitewashed houses and terracotta roof tiles to impressive Moorish landmarks (including the Tavira Castle and the Roman bridge) to decorative churches, Tavira has managed to preserve a historical side of Portugal seldom seen elsewhere. Located along the gently flowing Gilao River, Tavira’s blend of Mediterranean and Moorish influences along its cobblestone streets lends a historic and rustic atmosphere to the town, making it a particularly enjoyable town to explore on foot.
Known for its Mediterranean cuisine, Tavira has a number of family-run restaurants and cafés where visitors can relish the authentic local cuisine.
The small fortified village of Cacela Velha sits on top of a hill and offers a fantastic view of the eastern lagoon of Ria Formosa, which once made it a port of call for the Greeks and Phoenician sailors. Cacela Velha has a mix of Arab and medieval architecture displayed through its residential areas and historic landmarks, such as the Renaissance-style Igreja Matriz de Cacela Velha, the only church in town, which was originally constructed in the 16th century. Just outside the Church, visitors can find the historic cistern and hand-operated water pump. The Fortress of Cacela Velha is also located next to the church, which was originally the site of a Moorish castle that protected the entrance of Ria Formosa. The fortress was rebuilt in 1770 after an earthquake in 1755 destroyed it.
Cacela Velha Beach is also one of the most popular in Algarve.
The Via Algarviana is a 300-kilometre long trail that stretches from Alcoutim to Cabo de São Vicente, and offers a unique way to explore the Algarve. The Via Algarviana has its origins in an ancient religious trail used by pilgrims on their way to the promontory of Sagres, where the relics of St Vincent were located. Today, one end of the hiking trail begins in the heart of the Algarve’s nature, on the banks of the Guadiana River. Along the way, hikers will encounter typical Portuguese villages such as Salir, Alte and São Bartolomeu de Messines. Halfway along the route, the Serra de Monchique offers breathtaking natural panoramas that can be admired from Picota or Fóia, the highest points in the region. Divided into 14 sections, each section ends with areas where users can find accommodation and refreshments.
The city of Lagos is one of the most visited cities in Portugal, offering tourist-friendly beaches, impressive natural vistas, and a slew of hip restaurants, bar, and hotels to be enjoyed. While its effervescent nightlife has made it a popular destination with people looking to have fun, the city is also rich in culture and history, being the historic center of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
The city’s eclectic architecture is best observed in the Old Town, where whitewashed buildings feature the traditional colored windows and doors, and azulejo-tiles façade. The town squares are also excellent to grasp the atmosphere of the place, with Rua da Porta de Portugal giving visitors a chance to admire the colorful houses of the neighbourhood. The Church of Santa Maria de Lagos is also a famous landmark. However, the Museu de Lagos is perhaps the most popular spot to visit. Attached to it is the Igreja de Santo Antonio, one of the main monuments of the city, known for its lavishly decorated interiors, featuring gilded carvings, impressive tilework, and paintings on the vault.
Located just half an hour from Lagos, the Sagres Fortress is a uniquely designed port, featuring only one wall that separates the large part of the cape, while the other three sides are protected by high 60-meter cliffs that serve as natural walls. The fortress was once used to protect the town from North African raiders. The place is popular for its history and for being the point where Prince Henry the Navigator, one of the most significant names in European maritime exploration, devised his expeditions, which would lead to Europe’s Age of Discovery (circa 15th to 17th century).
Address: Rua da Fortaleza 8650-360 Sagres
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 09h30 to 17h30
Located on the dramatic cliffs of the Cape of St Vincent, the Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente was constructed in 1520, on the site of a convent. After a long history of abandonment and rebuilding, the lighthouse was finally automated in 1982 and remodeled in 1990. Today, the lighthouse guards one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and is also one of the most powerful lighthouses in the world with its two 1 000 W lamps, which can be seen as far as 60 kilometers. Due to its popularity, the Lighthouse now includes a visitor center and a museum.
Address: Farol do Cabo de São Vicente, EN 268, 8650-370
Monday – closed
Tuesday to Sunday – 10h to 18h30
Casa Velha invites guests within a beautiful villa-style setting – including a stunning alfresco area surrounded by lush greenery – to enjoy a menu that complements French gastronomy with a unique Portuguese twist, expertly helmed by Chef Alipio Branco. The restaurant offers two menus, Epicure and Territory, best enjoyed as a group. The menu features such dishes as the Blue Lobster, the Zambujal Black Pork, a flavourful Matured “Bonito” Tuna, and for dessert, the Chocolate and Carob cake is a must-try.
Address: Rua Formosa, Estr. da Quinta do Lago, 8135-024 Almancil
Sunday and Monday – closed
Tuesday to Saturday – 19h to 22h
Born from his desire to reinvent the traditional flavours of Algarve, Top Chef finalist Chef Rui Sequeira returned to his homeland to open the first haute cuisine restaurant in Faro having worked in the kitchen of Serge Vieira in France. Imagined by Chef Rui and his wife, Cristina, Alameda brings guests into an intimate setting, where they can relish the exquisite dishes crafted by Chef Rui and his team. The menu reinterprets many local favorites, while also creating new dishes. The Skate Fish “Carbonara”, Jerusalem artichoke and oyster Beurre blanc are an absolute delight, while the Beef Wellington Alameda – one of the restaurant’s specialties – is flavorful and cooked to perfection.
Address: Rua da Policia da Seguranca Publica 10, 8000-151 Faro
Tuesday and Wedneday – closed
Monday, Thursday to Saturday – 19h to midnight
Sunday – 13h to 15h, 19h to midnight
Located in the beautiful setting of the Palmares Resort, the Michelin-starred Al Sud combines haute gastronomy and the breathtaking sights of the Bay of Lagos and Alvor Estuary. Helmed by Chef Louis Anjos, each dish is a work of art. The restaurant offers a single tasting menu – A Discovery – which celebrates the produce of the sea and the rich farmlands of the Algarve, with such items as Prawns from Algarve, and Iberian Pork.
Address: Campo de Golf de Palmares, 8600-250 Odiáxere
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday – dinner time (by reservation only)
Located in the historic center of Lagos, in a 250-year-old building, Dos Artistas has been a culinary reference in the city for the last 20 years. Celebrating cuisines from all around the world, featured in the Michelin guide, Dos Artistas invites guests to a colonial-style setting, either inside or outside on the terrace, to enjoy such dishes as the Pan seared escalópe of duck foie gras served with creamy manioc, fried banana, salty cashew and cinnamon jus and the Grilled monkfish and Black Tiger Prawn, served with jalapeño oil, sautéed bimis and oyster beurre blanc.
Address: R. Cândido dos Reis 68, 8600-681 Lagos
Sunday – closed
Monday to Saturday – 18h30 to 22h
Known as the Grande Dame of Algarve, Vila Vita Parc brings its guests right to the stunning beach of Armação de Pera, in the south of the region, where time seems to stand still.
Launched in 1992, Vila Vita Parc has a typical Portuguese architecture, set in 22 hectares of gardens. Renovated in 2015 by Archer Humphryes Architects, presents itself as a little village by the shore, with its white-washed buildings, azulejos mosaics adorning the common areas, and a stunning landscaped greenery that anchors the place in Algarve’s rich natural vistas.
Across its 203 rooms, suites and villas spread over the various buildings, guests are treated to accommodations that are spacious, and bright, featuring a contemporary coastal interior design.
White dominates the color palette, contrasting the wooden parquet and shades of blue used across the furniture, whether it is the cushions or the sofas, and even the artwork around the room.
One of the latest additions of Vila Vita Parc is the sensational Villa Azzurine. Secluded from the rest of the accommodation, and offering an unrivalled level of privacy, Villa Azzurine is a 1800-square-meter property with 6 bathrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a 22-seat dining room, a wine cellar, as well as a stunning reading room with views over the ocean. The Villa also boasts a rooftop terrace, a 25-meter outdoor pool with Jacuzzi, a 12-meter indoor heated pool, and a fully equipped gym with sauna and steam.
Guests staying at the Villa Azzurine benefit from the expertise of a dedicated team, complete with housekeeping and personal assistance. Guests can choose to enjoy breakfast at the Villa as well, instead of the many restaurants of the hotel. Once a week, guests can call upon a private chef, a private bartender, and a private sommelier, which is ideal for dinner parties. Additionally, residents can enjoy being chauffeured around the vicinity in the hotel’s Porsche Cayenne Dakar 84 limited edition.
The culinary experience at the Vila Vita Parc is an otherworldly experience. The hotel boasts 12 restaurants and 6 bars. Headlining this impressive collection is the Ocean Restaurant, with its seafood-centric menu and fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean. The 2-Michelin-starred menu designed by Executive Chef Hans Neuner treats guests to a fine dining menu within a décor of blue and gold, with Murano crystals and nautical-themed decorations to reflect the coastal scenery outdoors.
This year, the Ocean Restaurant features a brand new tasting menu by Executive Chef Neuner, the “Memories of Brazil”. Resulting from Chef Neuner and his team’s research trip to Brazil earlier this year, the new tasting menu is composed of 12 distinct moments that show the new influences of the ever-evolving Portuguese gastronomy. The “Memories of Brazil” follows last year’s Indian-themed menu, and is the fourth chapter of Chef Neuner’s culinary narrative for the Ocean Restaurant.
The Aladin Grill restaurant boasts a stunning Moorish décor, with striking blue columns and arches, and detailed mosaic works, where guests can relish freshly grilled seafood and meat. Meanwhile, Mizu Teppanyaki offers a multi-sensory culinary experience with a menu that celebrates sushi, teppanyaki, and sake. Adega Restaurant delights with live Portuguese guitarists and Fado singers to accompany a menu of traditional Portuguese dishes. The restaurant even boasts a beautiful terrace, which opens onto a swan lake.
Vila Vita Biergarten is a warm and convivial Bavarian-style outlet, perfect to enjoy homemade sausages and meat dishes, alongside a pint of authentic German beer. Atlantico Restaurant is an ode to the wonderful products of the Atlantic and seasonal vegetables while Bela Vita Bar & Brasserie brings the flavours of a Parisian bistro to Algarve.
By the pool, guests will come across the Whale Restaurant & Pool Lounge, spacious and flooded with light, with stunning views of the ocean, and accessible at any time of the day. The Whale Pool Lounge Bar, the Palm Bar, and the Delfim Bar are also located by the pool.
The Oasis Bar, the House Bar, and the Garden Bar offer three distinct settings to enjoy a wide array of excellent cocktails and snacks. However, the rooftop Manzar Terrace is the standout thanks to its 360-degree view of the resort and ocean with beautiful Moroccan-inspired décor.
Café Bica is a treat to those with a sweet tooth, where guests can pair an award-winning cup of Portuguese coffee, hot chocolate or tea, with freshly baked cakes and pastries.
Finally, Armação Beach Club, located 10 minutes from the resort and accessible by a shuttle, provides access to an additional 3 restaurants: the Greek-inspired Nana on the Beach, the chic beachfront Praia Dourada and Arte Nautica.
Vila Vita Spa by Sisley Paris is a haven of wellness and rejuvenation at the heart of the hotel. The award-winning state-of-the-art spa features a menu of massages and treatments that was influenced by the region’s sea caves and natural stones and informed by advanced scientific approaches. Across the spa’s 14 treatment rooms, guests can enjoy such treatments as the Golden Quartz Treatment which uses healing quartz crystals, or a traditional Thai Massage. The spa also delivers private yoga sessions, physiotherapy sessions, personal training, and beauty treatments.
The Spa also boasts a HYPOXI Studio, the first of its kind in Portugal, that’s designed to activate the body’s natural system to get rid of stubborn fat in targeted areas.
Guests also have access to a Health Club with EnerGym equipment, a Biosthétique Hair Spa Salon, the private Tremoços Beach, and 4 separate pools, including the adult-only infinity pool by the Clubhouse.
Finally, Vila Vita Parc offers a wide range of activities designed to help guests make the most of their stay and of the Algarve. Guests can partake in activities such as Wine tasting at the hotel’s impressive Wine Cellar, which is located 8 meters underground and houses over 11,000 wine bottles, Culinary Classes and Bar Masterclasses, a tour and lunch at the Local Fish Market, personalized shopping experiences, bike tours, access to golf facilities, and family activities such as water parks and interacting with the dolphins at the Zoomarine aquatic park, among others. The hotel offers the possibility to book a private yacht to discover the beautiful Algarve coast and its spectacular caves and rock formations.
Address: R. Anneliese Pohl, 8400-450 Porches, Portugal
Transfer: 45 minutes from Faro Airport
Opening season: All season
Lartisien offers a selection of luxury hotels in Algarve that are handpicked for their exceptional service, amenities, and guest experience. Get in touch with our guest experience team for more information about the hotels, a booking, or our immersion services.