Travel

Discover the main beaches and cities in the Algarve

top view of the Valo do Olival beach in Armação de Pera a beautiful place to visit in the Algarve

Located in the south of Portugal, the Algarve is a very well-known region for hosting the best beaches in the Mediterranean. There you will find several fishing villages, delicious restaurants, stunning hotels and cliffs that offer a unique view of the Portuguese coast.

With so many possibilities, we have brought a selection of the best cities to visit in Algarve and thus help you to plan your trip around the southern region of Portugal.

The best cities and beaches to visit in the Algarve

A map with pin markers showing the main cities in the Algarve

Aljezur

Located in the Vicentine Coast Natural Park, the city of Aljezur is known for being a surfers paradise. Those who are passionate about nature will feel at home in this small town.

The city of Aljezur has a charm that mixes the traditional Algarve with all the relaxing vibe of the northwest region. It is also a great choice for anyone looking for traditional dishes of Portuguese cuisine with a great variety of fresh local fish.

Tip: Be sure to try the region’s sweet potato, a vegetable with IGP (protected geographical indication) that even has its own festival.

In Aljezur, you have the possibility to stay in charming guesthouses or choose among beautiful houses by the sea located in the villages of the region. By the way, due to its northernmost location on the Algarve coast, you can still enjoy a hint of Alentejo culture.

A perfect place for nature lovers, and families with children.

beach in Aljezur in the algarve with the view from the hill
Arrifana beach – Aljezur | © Anibal Martel

Albufeira

If you are looking for fun and excitement, you will love Albufeira! Considered one of the most lively cities in the Algarve.

The city of Albufeira is in the middle of the south coast and is always full of people looking for a more active lifestyle, so if you want peace, Albufeira may not be the best option.

In cuisine, there are options for all tastes, there you can find super sophisticated restaurants, charming cafes, and even the traditional chicken huts.

This region has a large immigrant community, so it is quite common to find establishments aimed at the international public.

As for accommodation, choose between traditional hotels or the beautiful and cosy regional guesthouses.

Without a doubt, a great option for couples or singles looking for a lot of fun!

beach in albufeira in the algarve with the view of the hill and white houses
Peneco beach – Albufeira | © Leandro Franca

Portimão

Here is one of the most important fishing grounds and ports in the country. Visit the Convent of the Jesuits, the Mother Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and the Museum of Portimão which holds different archaeological collections and marine discoveries.

Among the beaches, be sure to stroll around the Marina and visit Praia da Rocha, which is considered one of the most beautiful in Portugal.

Try to visit Ferragudo, a friendly fishing village that is close to Portimão and belongs to the city of Lagoa.

Portimão Marina with the ocean on the background
Portimão Marina | © Americo Lopes

Alvor

Located in the city of Portimão, in the heart of the Algarve, Alvor is a friendly village, ideal for those looking for a peaceful and relaxing holiday.

With few attractions and monuments, Alvor is an extremely charming village, very traditional with a familiar air, all with an unforgettable sunrise and sunset.

The Church of Divino Salvador is a place worth visiting, in addition to being an emblematic monument of the village, it has one of the best views of the region through its tower.

view of the village of Alvor in the Algarve with fishermen's boats and traditional houses
Alvor | © Pley

Silves

Silves is one of the oldest cities in Portugal, and given this fact, it is already easy to imagine that it houses important tourist spots for the country’s history.

Among them is the Castle of Silves, one of the most important spots in the city. The castle was built by the Moors at the beginning of the 8th century, and today it is one of the most preserved castles in the Algarve.

Very close to the castle is the Sé de Silves Cathedral, which was built between the 13th and 18th centuries.

Silves is a historic city, so it is a must-see for anyone looking for this type of experience on a trip.

external view of the Silves Castles in the Algarve south region of Portugal
Castle of Silves | © lingbeek

Armação de Pêra 

The region of Armação de Pêra belongs to the municipality of Silves but is only 15 km from Albufeira and has stunning beaches. There you will have attractions for all tastes and pockets, and it’s a great option for those looking for a more peaceful place, beautiful gardens and cafes overlooking the sea.

But, for those who cannot resist a good movement, check out the beach Valo do Olival, located right next door, in the Porches neighbourhood.

top view of the Valo do Olival beach in Armação de Pera one of the best cities to visit in the Algarve Portugal
Vale do Olival beach | © wiesdie

Castro Marim

One thing that draws the most attention in the village of Castro Marim is the wealth of historical and cultural heritage, in addition to, of course, its outstanding gastronomy and unique craftsmanship.

When visiting the centre of the village, you will see some historic buildings, white houses with super preserved chimneys.

This village, which belongs to the district of Faro, sits on a hill overlooking the Guadiana River, the Sapal de Castro Marim Nature Reserve and Vila Real de Santo António.

Reaching the highest point is the Castle of Castro Marim, which along with other fortifications formed one of the strongest defences in the kingdom of Portugal.

The village of Castro Marim is also known for its salt flats, Sal and Flor de Sal de Castro Marim are products of Protected Designation of Origin (DOP). There is a whole range of experiences with salt in the region, ranging from visits to the salt flats to discover the artisanal extraction of salt, bike tours around the region to spas that include therapeutic salt treatments.

This is an ideal village for those who enjoy trips rich in culture and a lot of history. 

a view of the salt flats with the castle of Castro Marim on the back in the region of Algarve
Castro Marim Salt flats | © inaquim

Faro

Faro is the capital of the Algarve and is home to Portugal’s third-largest gateway, its airport lays behind only Lisbon and Porto.

The city is a good example that the Algarve is much more than beaches. In addition to an architecture that blends the traditional with the modern, one of the most iconic places in the city is the Chapel of Bones, made with human bones, located in the Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo.

Another place you can’t miss is Ilha Deserta (Desert Island), also known as Ilha da Barreta. It is a nature reserve, with a giant sand border. If you want to escape the crowds, this is definitely a great getaway.

Lagos

Being a small city, it is possible to visit Lagos in a few days.

With an air of tradition mixed with a hipster feel. The city has become a prominent destination in Portugal, mainly for the community of digital nomads who have chosen it as a hub in the south of Portugal.

In addition to the beaches, which are the symbol of the Algarve, Lagos offers other entertainment options, such as Marina de Lagos, a good place to visit and have lunch.

Going to Lagos Municipal Market, you will be very close to the Historic Center, where you will find:

  • Governors’ Castle
  • Square Infante D. Henrique
  • Arch of São Gonçalo
  • Ponta da Bandeira Fort

Among the beaches, Dona Ana is one of the most beautiful in this region and considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in Portugal. There is also Praia da Luz, good for those looking for a more reserved place.

view of Ponta da Bandeira Fort in Lagos in southern Portugal
Fort of Ponta da Bandeira – Lagos | © PIKSEL

Loulé

Loulé is old and incredibly attractive. This is where the Moorish Castle is, which today is the Municipal Museum.

Very close to the castle is the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of the Conception), built in the 17th century.

As a university city, it has a youthful energy that is even more alive during the carnivals, and the Festival Med, a music festival that takes place at the end of June.

In July, the city hosts the International Jazz Festival of Loulé, where musicians from different countries play in the convent and castle with lots of entertainment!

For the more religious, there is also the celebration of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Our Lady of Piety), one of the most important in the Algarve. 

the external facade of municipal market in Loulé, Algarve
Loulé Market| © donstock

Vilamoura

Located in the municipality of Loulé, Vilamoura is one of the most hectic regions in the Algarve, after all, it offers several leisure options: beach, clubs and historical tours.

The urban beach is one that offers the best structure for tourists and runs from the port to Quarteira. If you enjoy playing sports, you will like the Vilamoura complex, there you can practice from golf to water sports.

There, as well as other locations in the Algarve, you can also enjoy the casino, who knows luck is in your favour?!

Vilamoura Marina with several boats and buildings in the background
Vilamoura Marina | © Jacek_Sopotnicki

Monchique

The village of Monchique is located in a mountainous region, known for its thermal waters that are said to have healing powers.

In the Historic Center, you will see houses with traditional local architecture, with white walls and typical chimneys.

It is also worth visiting the Mother Church of Monchique, dating from the 16th century in Manueline style. Inside there is a museum that has a collection of artefacts used in different celebrations over time.

The village also offers a good range of handmade products, in addition to several typical products, such as Medronho do Algarve IGP, a brandy made with Medronho fruit.

view of Serra do Monchique
Serra de Monchique | © urf

Olhão

Olhão is a city that stands out for a large number of preserved houses of Moorish architecture, guaranteeing great cultural tours. As a fishing port, you have plenty of gastronomic options to explore.

It is also worth visiting the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, the Municipal Museum, the Olhão Market and the Marina that houses the fishermen’s boats.

In terms of beaches, the best ones are Fuseta, Barril, Barreta and Farol.

Olhão is a calm, super relaxing and beautiful city!

city ​​of Olhão in Algarve seen from the top
Olhão | © EunikaSopotnicka

Sagres

Belonging to the municipality of Vila do Bispo and considered one of the most beautiful villages in the Algarve, Sagres is undoubtedly a region to include in any Algarve itinerary. Calm and off the tourist route, Sagres’ landscapes will provide you with unique moments.

The Sagres Fortress had a strong role in the naval history of Portugal. There you will be able to understand a lot of the region’s history, from its destruction, until its reconstruction. The Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça, located inside the Fortress, houses two tombs of its former commanders.

At São Vicente Cape, you can enjoy the view of the ships that pass to North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea, in addition to the village lighthouse, built around 1846.

Hills and beach of Sagres one of the cities in the Algarve
Sagres | © nikename

Tavira

Tavira is a place of narrow streets and very traditional white houses, to enjoy and stroll calmly.

Everything you have to know is on the banks of the Gilão River to the Roman bridge dating from the 17th century.

The Castle of Tavira is much older than it looks and its construction started long before the Moors. After the Christian reconquest in the 12th century, the Castle of Tavira underwent several works, improvements and renovations. A castle that presents the purest medieval style also has a garden inside its walls.

If you want a panoramic view of the region, climb the walls and see Tavira in full.

Small, cosy and welcoming, this is Tavira.

Roman Bridge in the city of Tavira, Algarve south of Portugal
Roman Bridge – Tavira | © tilialucida

Whether travelling in couples, alone, with family or with friends, the cities of the Algarve offer attractions that appeal to all tastes and ages.

Read more: What to do in Lisbon: 10 ideas for your trip

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