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Pocket Guide: Algarve

The Algarve is renowned for its year-round good weather, beautiful beaches, excellent golf resorts and hotels, friendly neighbourhoods and great seafood. Who’d have guessed that it’s easily one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

Almost 10 million holidaymakers book a hotel in the Algarve each year to make the most of its golden sands and clear blue waters. But it’s not all about sun, sea and sand; there are plenty of cultural attractions around these parts too.

Faro is the capital city of the Algarve and has a population of around 50,000 people. It also has some of the finest architecture in the country, which shows both Moorish and traditional Portuguese influences. It’s also a great spot for shopping, selling everything from local crafts at the Largo do Mercado to top brand fashion at The Forum Algarve.

Although Faro is the capital, it’s the other cities such as Lagos, Albufeira, Vilamoura, Portimao, Carvoeiro and Tavira that prove to be the Algarve’s most popular holiday destinations; their proximity to the coast provide great views over the ocean, opportunities to lounge on the beach, as well as city culture.

The History of the Algarve

An Algarve hotel is a top idea for history buffs and you’ll find the influence of many a legendary civilisation in the region. The Romans conquered the area in 2nd Century BC and you’ll find traces of their presence all over. Archaeological digs have revealed Roman ruins, which can be visited in Lagos, while Roman bath complexes have also discovered near Vilamoura and Praia da Luz.

In the 5th century the Visigoths took control of the Algarve, which lasted until the beginning of the Moorish conquest in 711. The Moorish influence can be seen in such ornate architecture as Paderne Castle.

In the mid-12th century, the Christian crusaders conquered the region from the Moors. In the 13th Century, King Afonso III of Portugal was crowned the King of Portugal and the Algarve. Portuguese kings continued to use this title until the proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910. In 1755, the Lisbon earthquake did extensive damage to the area; the accompanying tsunami destroying many coastal towns and villages. The region went through extensive rebuilding afterwards, meaning you’ll find plenty of beautiful baroque 18th Century architecture that still stands today.

Visit Stunning Landmarks

The Algarve’s biggest attraction is its coastline, famous for its clear blue waters lined by majestic limestone caves. Beaches like Praia da Rocha, Praia da Luz, Carvoeiro, Martinhal and Tavira Island all prove popular with holidaymakers looking for a little rest and relaxation.

The Algarve region is also known for the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a great hiking spot with unique flora and fauna. Other notable landmarks that are worthy of a visit include the Cape St. Vincent, the historical centre of Lagos and Albufeira, old town of Faro (Sé Cathedral), Silves Castle and the Alvor boardwalk.

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

The Algarve is a foodie’s paradise – especially the seafood lovers. The region’s most popular dishes include such dishes as fresh sardines, tuna steaks, octopus, squid, monkfish, clams, oysters and prawns. Get yourself some grilled sardines with potatoes, vegetables or salad, or try some Conquilhas: small clams usually cooked in a traditional Portuguese Cataplana pot with tomatoes, wine, garlic and herbs. Both are very popular in the Algarve. You can also find some tasty meat dishes, such as feijoada and spicy piri-piri chicken.

There are countless top quality restaurants, bars and nightlife spots all over the Algarve, including some beautiful beachside establishments that offer tasty views along with the gorgeous food.

Shop ‘til You Drop

There are plenty of places to enjoy shopping. Notable are the Municipal Market of Albufeira, Portimão and Lagos, which is great for local food and souvenirs – perfect for the self-catering crowd. There are also shopping centres like Forum Algarve in Faro, or Algarve Shopping, in Guia for the serious shoppers amongst you.

Visit the Algarve and see why this sunny holiday destination is one of the most popular in Europe.

Portugal is a great location for a bit of sun, sea and sand. If you like beach hotels in Algarve then you're sure to love our cheap beach hotels in Madeira or our Albufeira beach hotels. Book with Expedia and find out why.