The Algarve is the southern most region of Portugal.
I visited this region twice. The first time I booked a room in Faro. The second time I visited the Algarve it was for a meeting of a (ex) travel web site; Virtual Tourist. The base chosen was Albufeira. The meeting included a trip to Cabo San Vicente, Sagres (to see the fortress) and Silves.
Faro is the capital of the Algarve and the largest city in this region. It has a nice old core and some pleasant areas.
Vila Adentro is the old core of Faro. This large area is enclosed by walls. Here you can visit the cathedral, the monastery of Nossa S. ra da Assuncao, the Palacio Episcopal and many streets bordered by white buildings.
Inside Vila Adentro there are also some cafes and a shop where you can buy books, postcards and souvenirs.
The cathedral was built in the 13th century on the site of a mosque. It was largely damaged during the 1755 earthquake.
The Museu Municipal is housed inside the Monasterio de Nossa S. ra da Assuncao. This dates from the 16th century.
Here you can see various archaelogical finds. For instance here you can find a large Roman mosaic showing Oceanus, god of the sea. This museum also houses a collection of ancient paintings dated from the XVI to the XIX centuries. These were taken from several churches in the Algarve.
The monastery has a nice two storey cloister with a shrub maze at the center.
Unfortunately I didn' t find a restaurant where I had a very good lunch or dinner in Faro. Adega Nortenha was one of the best places to have dinner.
The restaurant is a very simple place and the food was good. At Adega Nortenha they serve various kinds of fish and meat dishes.
There is only a dining room here, but it can accomodate several people.
Gardy is a cafe-restaurant located in the modern area of Faro. It was founded in 1953.
At Gardy' s they have a large selections of pastries, cakes and ice creams. Here you can also have a menu of the day, several kinds of sandwiches and other things. I usualy wento to Gardy' s to have a ice cream.
This confectionery has two dining rooms if my memory serves me well. There is an ouside area there as well.
The only downside of this cafe is that they close it quite early in the evening.
Alte is a nice village in inland Algarve. It is some 35 kilometers far from Faro. It has lots of cafes and restaurants.
You can go to Alte by bus from Faro, but first you have to go to Loulè. Then you have to take another bus. Unfortunately in the summer there are few buses operating in the afternoon. So I' d recommend to vist Alte in the morning.
Estoi is a white village some 11 kilometers far from Faro. It is well known for its palace and for the Roman ruins of Milreu. Unfortunately when I visited Estoi the palace was closed for restoration (it will be turned into a parador). It was not permitted even to visit the gardens. The ruins of Milreu have various ruins of buildings, but there aren' t many mosaics.
Estoi has a nice main square with a church and a couple of cafes.
Tavira is a nice town divided in two areas by the river Gilao. This is crossed by three bridges. One of these is of Roman origin and was reconstructed in the 17th century. The town has lots of churches, cafes and shops.
I didn' t stay much in Tavira; perhaps three hours. Anyway I enjoyed its 13th castle. Its walls are well preserved and there is a nice garden inside. The castle has also some towers. I climbed to the top of most of these to enjoy the landscape over the town and some private gardens.
Albufeira is a cliffside town that once was a fishing village. Today it is a holidays resort with lots of beaches. It is situated 39 km far from Faro.
Its name comes from the Arabic "Al buhera" which means; castle on the sea.
I liked very much the old center in Albufeira with whitewashed houses and narrow streets. This town has a large main square with cafes, restaurants and a pedestrian street full of shops; rua 5 de Outubro. Here you also find the tourist office.
There are lots of restaurants in Albufeira.
Cantinho dos Estudiantes is a cafe - restaurant where I usually had breakfast and dinner. It was a convenient place for me because my room was nearby.
The menu here included pancakes, crepes, salads, hamburgers; American, English and French breakfasts.
I booked a room for five nights at Vila Emilia; in Albufeira. It was a simple twin room with bathroom en suite. It had a small fridge and a television. There was no wi fi.
Vila Emilia is practically a group of buildings used as rooms. The rooms at Vila Emilia are cleaned every day, except on sundays and festivities.
Outside the rooms there is a nice courtyard with several chairs and tables.
Note. You have to check in at Vila Branca hotel...https://vilabranca.com.pt/; then somebody will take you to your room. Vila Branca is some 150 meters far from Vila Emilia.
Vila Emilia is a bit uphill from the old town, but it is only fifteen minutes from there; by foot. There is a small supermarket and a cafe (Cantinho dos Estudiantes) nearby.
Fumos and Mitos is quite a large shop where you can find various things to buy. It is situated in the modern area of Albufeira.
Here they sell cigars, cigarettes and alcooholic drinks. At Fumos and Mitos there is a good choice of Porto wine bottles and other kinds of wines.
Other items you can buy at Fumos and Mitos are; postcards, stamps and books; I saw several very nice photo books over the Algarve here. Here they have candies and ice creams as well.
One of the reasons why people go to Albufeira; as in other places in the Algarve is to spend some time on the beaches. There are around 25 beaches in Albufeira and nearby.
Praia do Peneco (reachable through a tunnel) and Praia des Pescadores are the beaches closer to the city center. Other beaches are; Praia da Oura; at three kilometers from Albufeira. Praia Da Gala; at six kilometers from Albufeira old center and Praia de Santa Eulalia, which is around four kilometers from Albufeira.
The bus station in Albufeira is situated around a couple of kilometers from the old core.
Inside there are some shops where you can find magazines, newspapers and souvenirs. There is a cafe and other facilities as the toilettes and an ATM machines.
You can take a taxi or a bus (the "Giro" buses) to go the the center of Albufeira.
The Giro buses go from the bus station to several places in Albufeira and its neighbours. For instance you can take a bus to Santa Eulalia, Oura, Ferreira and also to the Albufeira train station. Most of these buses operate every 30 minutes. Tickets are sold by the driver.
Caldas de Monchique is a little spa town located in a narrow gorge some kilometers far from Portimao. It is known since the Roman times for its sulphurus waters. They are said to be good for rheumatism, respiratory and digestive problems.
Here there is a nice park which is part of a wood where there are paths, several stone chairs, tables and running water.
Caldas de Monchique has some cafes, restaurants and three or four hotels.
It is here that the famous mineral water gets bottled.
Silves is a beautiful town situated on a hill.
It was settled by Phoenicians; then it became a Roman city (Sibilis). From the 8th century it was names Xelb; it was a Moorish city.
Silves is overlooked by a very large castle. It was built between the 8th and the 13th centuries by the Arabs; probably on the site of a late Roman or Visigothic fortifications from the 4th - 5th centuries.
The castle once had walls that encircled the town. It has eleven towers. Inside there is a small museum, a cafe and a beautiful garden.
Silves has a cathedral; built in the 13th century on the site of a mosque. It was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and later reconstructed. I didn' t visit it, probably because it was closed around lunch time.
Cape Saint Vincent is the most south westernly point in Europe. It takes its name from Saint Vincent; a priest martyred by the Romans. Centuries ago it was thought as the end of the world. Here it is where Henry the Navigator is believed to have set up his school of navigation in the fifteen century.
I enjoyed much the high cliffs and the ocean when I visited Cape Saint Vincent.
At Cape Saint Vincent you can see a lighthouse built in1846. It is said it is one of the most powerful in Europe.
After your visit to this place you can head to the Fortaleza de Sagres. This fortress was originally built in the 15th century and rebuilt in 1793. It was restored in the mid 20th century. It is a very large fortress.
There is a nice church inside; the church of Nossa Senhora da Graca that dates from 1579. It replaced the original church of Dom Henrique of 1459.
I had a long stroll into the fortress not realizing my companions (Virtual Tourist members) were waiting for me on the bus. I was in the Algarve for a VT meeting that time I visited the fortress, Cabo San Vincente and Silves.
Cataplana is both the name of a dish and a pan.
It is shaped like two clam shells hinged at one end. Traditionally it was made of copper. It is thought it was introduced in the country by the Moors.
You can buy a cataplana in the Algarve. They are quite expensive.
Cataplana as food is a slow cooked stew of fish, seafood, chorizo (a kind of salami) and vegetables. Here the food is put inside raw and is let simmer after having clamped the saucepan.
In the Algarve you will surely notice the ornamental chimneys on the roof of the houses. There are not many information about these, but it is said that the builders use to ask the customers how many days they wanted their chimneys building last. So that they could calculate the cost of the chimney they were about to make that was based on the time that this would take to build.
These chimneys have cylindrical, prismatic, rectangular or square shapes. Some houses have four or five of them. Usually only one is functional.