But did you know there might be a hidden gem just round the corner from your hotel in Albufeira, Vilamoura or Lagos? So to make sure you don’t miss those under-the-radar, beauty spots or shopping bargains. We’ve researched the top 5 places many tourists overlook.
Get Lost in Albufeira’s Old Town
Unlike Villamoura, Albuferia was an established town long before British holidaymakers arrived. With its vibrant nightlife, trendy bars and sunkissed beaches, it’s easy to overlook the small Old Town, south west from ‘The Strip’ and many of the hotels.
To find the Old Town, look for the imposing clock tower. You can’t miss it! The tower is part of a 19th century building but it’s actually much older than that, being a remaining feature of a Moorish castle. It still chimes on the hour, which is always useful if you lose track time sipping al fresco cocktails.
The parish church dates from the 18th century. OK it might not compete with Braga’s 11th century cathedral but prepared to be amazed by its stunning decor, designed by local artist Samora Barros. This wasn’t the first church built in Albufeira, an earlier one of the same site was destroyed by an earthquake. And there’ll be further opportunities to see work by Samora Barros at the Art Gallery.
Top tip: If someone you’re travelling with isn’t into art then compromise by visiting The Monument of The Fishermen. There’s options to sit down and relax with a cold beer nearby. While admirers of crafts can take a closer look at sculptures of the fishermen - one is even accompanied by his little pooch.
Spectacular Sunsets on Praia da Gale
Getting that Instagrammable picture of a beach sunset can be difficult on the busy shores of Albufeira. Just 15 minutes’ drive away is Praia da Gale, where the ingredients of fine sand, rocks and fewer people make it the perfect place for getting that shot for your social feed. There is a restaurant overlooking the beach, but be prepared to pay a premium to dine here at sunset.
Top tip: To save money, climb one of the rocks to get that postcard perfect snap, and then eat down the road, or back at your hotel.
Discover Authentic Loule
Loule is displayed on maps and signposts but most people drive past without visiting. Should you visit? Well there’s more to see than just the attractive market hall, that comes up in just about every Google image search. But perhaps it’s a good place to start your exploration.
This cream and red building, designed by Alfredo Campos in the eclectic revivalist style of Arab-Neo, will be celebrating its 115th birthday in 2023. During the morning and early afternoon, enter through the main gates to see merchants selling a wide selection of local fresh food and crafts. As the sun moves to the west, the focus moves to the wide selection of places to eat.
Looking for your next photo opportunity after visiting the market? Then, head for the sculpture in the middle of Largo Gago Coutinho roundabout. Designed by Dutch sculptor Jits Bakker, it’s a tribute to the people of the Algarve, symbolising happiness, friendship and life.
To explore further wander down the maze of cobbled streets in the Cidade Velha area. Here you’ll see traditional craftsman’s houses, a castle and a museum. The gothic church incorporates a tower that was originally a minaret from a Moorish era mosque, the only remaining one in Portugal.
If you emerge from the magnificent maze of streets at the Amuados Gardens you might choose to sit down with a cold drink and relax, while admiring the stunning vantage point under the shade of a palm tree.
Overall, Loule is a world away from the resort towns. Here you'll see Portuguese people going about their daily lives, rather than hundreds of British tourists.
Top tip: You can easily see the main points of interest in half a day so it’s a good idea to include Loule in your itinerary, however long you’re on holiday in the Algarve.
Shop at The Designer Outlet Mall
The shopping centre in Albufeira is full of international chains like H&M, Zara, Toys R Us and even a C&A - yes, the chain that disappeared from UK high streets in 2001 still exists in Portugal. But if you’re searching for bargains from big name brands, you should head to the Designer Outlet Mall, right next to Junction 13 of the A22. If your flight home is late in the evening, it’s easy to pop in on your way to the airport. Or maybe you’ll visit after spending a morning in Loule.
Here, brands like Levi’s, Puma, Rockport, Adidas and many more have their own stores. There’s a number of bargains to be found, with some items on sale for ⅓ of the RRP.
Top tip: In the event that you buy too many items to fit in your suitcase, you can always buy a backpack or larger case, so that you have enough space for all your new pucrhases.
Peaceful Praia da Luz
Just 6km from Lagos sits the small town of Praia da Luz. So if you’re looking to stay somewhere smaller and quieter which isn’t too far from a larger resort, this might be the place for you. Planning to visit in the Easter break? The sandy beach is generally peaceful but you may have to share the sand with some friendly dogs. There’s a wide selection of bars and restaurants on the boulevard, where you will also see numerous canines being taken for a walk - dogs really are the best friends of Praia da Luz residents!
Top tip: Chill out with a strawberry & ginger cocktail on a terrace, while admiring stunning views of the beach and rocky cliffs.
Wherever you choose to stay on your Algarve trip you won’t have trouble finding some lesser-known places nearby. While these are our top 5 hidden gems of the Algarve, there's so much more waiting to be discovered. Found a beauty spot we haven't listed? Share it with us by tagging @thomascook on Instagram or @thomascooktourism on Facebook
About the author
Edmund Myerscough loves exploring new destinations. His favourite holiday, so far, was a trip to the Balkans that included Dubrovnik, Mostar and Kotor.