Visiting southern Portugal and wondering which towns to visit in Algarve? In this guide, we highlight some of the most beautiful cities and towns to see in the Algarve region, including our personal tips and info for your visit.
Most tourists come to the Algarve for its beaches and the beautiful coastal scenery. These are indeed the main highlights of the region that make it worth a trip even from the other side of the world…
However, in addition to the natural landmarks and the best beaches of Algarve, the region has a rich history too. So there are quite a few interesting cities and towns in Algarve that are worth a visit as well.
Good to know: In this article, you can find a small selection of the most interesting towns in Algarve that, in our opinion, are worth visiting the most. If, however, you are looking for the best towns to live in Algarve or the best towns to buy a second home, then you may want to look into other options as well… But if you are mostly interested in sightseeing, these are the most beautiful towns that we recommend checking out.
For each of the must-see towns in the Algarve, we also include our experience-based tips and recommendations for the best places to see and things to do. We also added lots of photos which will give you a better idea of what to expect.
At the bottom of this article, you’ll also find a map indicating all the places mentioned in this guide, as well as some additional recommendations for some of the nicest smaller towns to visit in Algarve if you already saw all the ‘musts’.
These are the nicest towns to see in Algarve:
Lagos is probably the most beautiful town in Algarve, so if you only have the time to visit one place from this list, don’t look any further.
The old town of Lagos is very picturesque and cozy, with lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants. There are some historic sights and a few interesting museums as well. In addition, Lagos has some beautiful beaches and spectacular coastlines, some within very short walking distance from the city center.
What to see and do: The must-see is Lagos old town with its old city walls, a fortress, and a labyrinth of narrow streets and charming town squares. If you are interested in historic landmarks, check out the chapel of Igreja de Santo António (part of Lagos Museum) and the Slavery Route Museum. It’s also nice to simply walk around the waterfront area and/or the Marina.
For a more local atmosphere, head to Lagos municipal market or join a food tour and get to know some authentic regional dishes.
For the best natural scenery, Ponta da Piedade is a must-see in Lagos. Plus, you really should try to visit at least one or two of the most beautiful beaches. As a minimum, we recommend visiting Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo, both near Ponta da Piedade. Closer to the town center, check out Praia dos Estudantes, which is Instagram-famous for its Roman bridge.
TIP: Don’t miss the chance to see the beautiful coastline of Ponta da Piedade from the water! You can either opt for a boat trip or a kayak tour to Ponta da Piedade. It’s one of the best things to do in Lagos, definitely in the warm season.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Lagos
Some practical information for visiting Lagos
Getting there: Located in the western Algarve, about 1 hour drive from Faro, Lagos also has good public transport connections. Whether you are road-tripping in the Algarve by car, or are traveling by train or by bus, it’s very simple to get to Lagos from most major towns in the Algarve, but also from Lisbon.
Getting around: Lagos town itself is best visited on foot. You can take a car, rent a bike, or call a taxi/Uber for the places that are located a bit further away.
How much time do you need: Lagos is not big, so you can see everything in the town center in 1-3 hours. However, we recommend planning a full day for the town and its beautiful surroundings.
Where to stay: There are lots of hotels and accommodations in Lagos for all types of travelers and budgets. Tivoli Lagos is one of the most popular hotels in the center. Carvi Beach Hotel is located near the best beaches.
LEARN MORE: Best Areas to Stay in Lagos
Built around its medieval center and with rich historic and cultural heritage, Tavira is one of the most interesting cities to visit in Algarve. Located on the eastern side of the region, close to the Spanish border, it feels a million miles away from the busiest beach resorts of the western Algarve.
Tavira is also known for a more authentic atmosphere than most other popular towns in the Algarve. So if you are interested in history, Moorish heritage, or are simply looking to experience the more local side of the region, then don’t miss Tavira.
What to see and do: There are quite a few landmarks, churches, and museums in Tavira. Must-sees include the remains of a Moorish fort ‘Castelo’ and the so-called Roman Bridge which was built in the 13th and rebuilt in the 17th centuries (so not really Roman times…).
Also, don’t miss the Igreja da Misericordia. This little Catholic church has a really impressive portal made of 18th-century azulejo tiles. The scenes represent the works of mercy according to Catholic tradition. We also really enjoyed a visit to Camera Obscura, located in an old water tower of Tavira.
You can see a traditional Fado performance in Tavira, and it’s much better than just attending a Fado evening at local restaurants where you often can’t hear the music through all the talking. So if you would like to experience Fado in the Algarve, Tavira is a good place to be.
In addition to the old town, it’s well worth visiting the beaches near Tavira as well. These are flat, white-sand beaches, totally different than the ones in the Western Algarve. The most popular is the beach on the nearby island Ilha de Tavira, which can be reached by boat from the city center. Alternatively, check out Praia do Barril nearby.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Tavira
Some practical information for visiting Tavira
Getting there: Tavira is located about 35 minutes drive east of Faro. There is also a direct train connection between the two towns, or you can take a bus. There are also guided tours that can bring you to Tavira from other coastal towns in the Algarve.
Getting around: Tavira city center is not too big and can be visited on foot. You can also opt for a tourist train or book a tuk-tuk for an introductory tour of the city, which is probably a better option if you don’t want to walk. You’ll need to take a ferry or a water taxi to get to Ilha de Tavira, and a car/taxi if you want to visit Praia do Barril. The beach itself is accessible by a little tourist train or 15 minutes walk from the parking.
How much time do you need: You can easily see Tavira’s old town in about 2-3 hours; count half a day if you also visit the main churches and museums, and have lunch. You’ll need about half a day for a visit to the beaches. All in all, we recommend planning at least one full day for a visit to Tavira.
The liveliest seaside resort in the Algarve, Albufeira is sometimes also called the tourism capital of Portugal. Indeed, the town has a lot to offer to all types of travelers, no matter your age or interests.
While many people mistakenly think that the city only attracts young people who come here to swim, dance, and party, Albufeira has a lot more to offer than it may look at first sight.
Just like most cities in Algarve, Albufeira has some Moorish heritage with white-washed buildings and a cozy old town. But what makes Albufeira really special is its unique setting, with part of the old town located high on the cliffs overlooking long sandy beaches. Plus, on the outskirts of town, you also find some of the most beautiful rocky coastlines and pretty little beaches that make the Algarve famous.
Together with Lagos, Albufeira is one of our personal favorites of all Algarve towns. Mainly because it has a bit of everything: history, old charm, stunning beaches, amazing restaurants, and so much to do. Albufeira is a bit like a rough diamond. Yes, it has some sharper edges, but if you take the time to explore deeper, it will definitely surprise you! We especially love Albufeira in the lower season (but this counts for pretty much all towns in the Algarve).
What to see and do: Albufeira’s old town is a must-see, just like the cozy old fishermen’s area and the colorful Marina. There are also a couple of historic landmarks and even a small archeology museum.
But the best things to do in Albufeira are related to its beaches. Some of the nicest of them are Praia de São Rafael, Praia dos Arrifes, and Praia Falésia, to mention just a few. You could walk here for hours!
Albufeira is also a great place for all kinds of water sports and fun activities, such as kayaking or parasailing, Benagil Cave and dolphin-watching boat trips, etc. Last but not least, you will find so many good restaurants in Albufeira, for all tastes and budgets, including one of the top 50 restaurants in the world…
As already said, Albufeira is also known for its lively nightlife. So if you are interested in dancing and singing until the early hours, you will find that here as well (mostly in the summer).
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Albufeira
Some practical information for visiting Albufeira
Getting there: Albufeira is located about 45 minutes drive west of Faro; 2- 2.5 hours drive from Lisbon. There is no railway station in the town itself, but there are buses and you will find lots of private companies offering transfers and tours to/from all over the region.
Getting around: Albufeira is quite big and stretched out, plus, it’s hilly. If you just stay in the old town and the main beaches, everything is close by and very walkable. For places further away, a taxi/Uber is best (and very affordable).
There is also a tourist train in Albufeira and even a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus for places that are located further from the town center. Tuk-tuk tours are also very popular and offer a great introduction for first-time visitors. We did such a tour the first time when we visited – really fun and allows you to see a lot in a short time.
How much time do you need: You can see the old town center of Albufeira in an hour or two. But if you also want to visit a few of the best beaches in Albufeira, go to the Marina, and have lunch or a cocktail (with an amazing view!), you can easily spend a day in Albufeira. If you are here for a longer vacation, you can easily fill a week or two and never get bored.
Where to stay: There are so many great places to stay in Albufeira and so much depends on your interests and budget. My personal favorite is NAU Sao Rafael Atlantico. In the old town and right on the beach, check out Hotel Sol e Mar Albufeira (adults-only). With kids, you can’t go wrong with Alfagar Village.
LEARN MORE: Best Areas to Stay in Albufeira
Olhão is a smaller town located in the eastern Algarve, between Faro and Tavira. It has a lovely old town, a relaxed – and more authentic – atmosphere, and fewer tourists than the main hotspots.
With its picturesque, narrow streets, and white-washed buildings with typical Algarvian chimneys, Olhao might look Moorish, but the town is actually much more recent. It was established in the 18th century by fishermen and has remained a lively fishing town for a long time.
Nowadays, the town is expanding with new apartment buildings rising along the beautifully manicured waterfront promenade. But you can still find some of the authentic charm in Olhao that many other towns in Algarve lack in the high season…
What to see and do: Olhão’s old town is absolutely not to be missed. Be sure to also check out the market and the waterfront promenade.
One of the musts here is taking a boat trip to Ria Formosa Natural Park and visiting at least one of the islands there. The main islands to see are Ilha Farol, Culatra, Armona, and Deserta Islands You can take a taxi boat to just one island or opt for a tour that brings you to several of them.
Some practical information for visiting Olhão
Getting there: Olhão is located 15-20 minutes drive east of Faro; or just 12 minutes by train. It’s also easy to get here by car, and there are quite a few tours that can bring you to Olhao from other towns in the Algarve. Probably the best option is this highly-rated day tour which includes Olhao, Tavira, and Faro in its itinerary.
Getting around: The town center is small so you can walk everywhere. You’ll need a boat to visit the islands of Ria Formosa.
How much time do you need: 1-2 hours are plenty for Olhao’s old town and market. You’ll need additional 3-6 hours for the islands.
Where to stay: Real Marina Hotel & Spa on the Marina has a perfect location for sightseeing or a longer vacation in Olhão. Pure Formosa Concept Hotel offers amazing value in the heart of the old town.
In the Moorish times, Silves was the capital of the Algarve which was said to have rivaled Lisbon in its beauty. Nowadays, not much is left of the old city except for the castle.
Still, Silves is one of the best towns to visit in the Algarve, not just because of its historic significance, but simply because it’s a really nice place with a great atmosphere. Silves is located inland, surrounded by orange tree orchards, and has a totally different vibe than the coastal towns. It’s just a short drive away from the bustling Algarve coast, yet feels like a completely different world.
What to see and do: The main landmark of Silves is its Castelo. Rising high above the white city, this red sand castle has been beautifully restored and can be visited inside. Inside the courtyard, you can see an interesting underground water reservoir, but the main reason to visit is to walk on the castle walls and enjoy the views of the city and surroundings.
The Cathedral (Sé) is also not to be missed, just as the Archeological Museum. The cozy town square Praça do Município is also a must-see. Here you will find a tourist information center and also a couple of restaurants.
Some practical information for visiting Silves
Getting there: The best way to get to Silves is by car or with an organized tour.
Getting around: Silves is small and hilly. The only way to visit is on foot, but everything is located very close by.
How much time do you need: 1-2 hours are enough for the main landmarks in Silves. Count half a day if you also stay here for lunch or visit a winery nearby.
Where to stay: You really don’t have to stay in Silves in order to visit here. But if you are road-tripping in the Algarve and are looking for a place to stay outside the busiest seaside resorts, Silves can be a nice place for a night or two. Mosaiko 5 Suites is the best-rated hotel in town. Hotel Colina Dos Mouros overlooking the town from a distance is the most popular option.
Not widely known to international travelers visiting Algarve for the first time, Loulé is a locals’ favorite. This is one of the best places to visit in Algarve if you are looking to experience a more authentic Portuguese town.
Loulé is a very picturesque town with colorful buildings and streets with typical Portuguese pavements calçada portuguesa where small flat stones are laid in all kinds of different patterns. You will find these all over Portugal, including many of the Algarve towns mentioned in this guide.
It’s a charming town and the atmosphere is great. However, gift shops and tourists are starting to find their way here too, especially in the summer.
Good to know: Loulé is famous for its Carnival celebrations. So if you happen to be in Algarve in February, come over and join the fun.
What to see and do: The best thing to do in Loulé is simply to walk around its old town, exploring the little streets and squares in the area around the Town Hall. Don’t miss the Castelo de Loulé, which houses a small museum. If you are here in the morning, be sure to check out the covered municipal market as well.
If you are looking for something a bit different to do, check out TechSalt’s Rock-Salt Mine, just a bit outside the city center. It’s really interesting. Plus, a visit to these underground salt mines is also a great way to escape the summer heat for a few hours.
TIP: Nearby, you can visit Quinta da Tôr Winery where you get a guided tour of the winery and can taste some local wines. Just do yourself a favor and take a taxi to get there so that you can actually enjoy all the wines!
Some practical information for visiting Loulé
Getting there: Loulé is located inland, about half an hour’s drive from Faro or from Albufeira, and about 20 minutes from Vilamoura. It also has a direct train connection to Faro and the journey takes just 15 minutes.
Getting around: Loulé town center is very walkable and you can also walk to the salt mines in about 20 minutes from the center. You’ll need a car or a taxi for the winery visit.
How much time do you need: Plan at least half a day for a visit to Loulé.
Because of its location further from the sea and major tourist hotspots, but also good transport connections, Loule is a very nice budget-friendly town to stay in the Algarve.
And finally, no list of the best Algarve towns would be complete without mentioning the capital of the region, Faro. This is also the biggest city in the Algarve with a busy international airport.
The majority of tourists only know Faro as a gateway to the region and never see more of the city beyond its airport or the biggest shopping center of the Algarve, MAR Shopping, located on the outskirts of town… Because of this, the old town of Faro managed to maintain its charm and keep its authenticity. However, the city is also changing rapidly and gets quite busy in the summer.
What to see and do: The must-see is the old town of Faro, especially the part which is surrounded by old city walls. This is where you will find a few museums and the Cathedral (Sé). Be sure to climb the (not so tall) tower of the Cathedral for a nice view of the city and its surroundings.
The area around Faro Marina is also very nice, and there is usually a small (souvenir) market nearby. The city center is very cozy too, with lots of shops, restaurants, and picturesque little squares. There are a couple of churches and museums here too. Don’t miss the Bone Chapel (Capella dos Ossos) of Igreja do Carmo.
Just like in Olhao, one of the best things to do in Faro is take a boat trip to the nearby Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. There are lots of great tour options, from small private boats to bigger catamarans, or even kayak tours. Depending on the time that you have, you can just join a short sightseeing tour or spend a big part of the day exploring the islands.
TIP: The most popular option for sightseeing is this highly-rated 4-hour tour which includes stops at Ilha Farol and Ilha Deserta. We recently did this sunset boat trip from Faro and it made us fall in love with the area. Recommended!
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Faro
Some practical information for visiting Faro
Getting there: As already mentioned, Faro is the gateway to the Algarve, so you can get here by plane directly from many places all over Europe. The city also has good railway connections with the rest of the region, but also to Lisbon. The drive between Lisbon and Faro is about 2.5-3 hours; the train journey – 3.5 hours.
Getting around: Faro old town is best explored on foot. You’ll need to take a boat if you want to visit the Ria Formosa nature reserve.
How much time do you need: You’ll need a good half a day for the old town of Faro, and at least 3-4 hours for a boat trip to the islands or 1-2 hours for a shorter boat tour (which is highly recommended). So you can easily spend a day in Faro. Some people also choose to stay in Faro and use it as a base for sightseeing in the Algarve, in which case, you can easily fill a week or two here.
Good to know: Despite its coastal location, there is no beach in Faro town itself. So you’ll have to take a boat if you want to spend some time at the nearby beaches.
Where to stay: 3HB Faro is one of the nicest hotels in the old town. AP Eva Senses at the Marina has an excellent location for everything and is the most popular hotel in Faro. There are many other options too, including smaller guesthouses and B&Bs.
READ ALSO: Algarve Travel Tips
More towns to visit in Algarve
As already said, in order not to overwhelm you with too many options, we tried to limit this list of the best towns to visit in the Algarve to the ones that are worth your time the most.
There are many more towns in the region that are well worth a visit, often, not necessarily for the town itself, but rather for its surroundings.
So if you are looking for more ideas for places to see, here are some additional recommendations:
- Sagres town itself isn’t that interesting, but the area is an absolute must-see in the Algarve! This is where you’ll find the Cape of St. Vincent (Cabo de São Vicente), the southwesternmost point of mainland Portugal. Until the end of the 15th century, this place was believed to be the end of the world. Also the Cape of Sagres and its Fort are not to be missed. Here you can find our complete guide to the best places to see and things to do in Sagres.
- Carvoeiro is a pretty, little fishermen’s town located in the most beautiful stretch of the Algarve coastline. Don’t miss the stunning scenery and sea caves at Algar Seco.
- Portimão is one of the biggest cities in the region. With its high-rise buildings, it’s not that interesting from a tourist point of view but is a popular place with many expats and digital nomads living here. The must-see is Praia da Rocha, one of the most famous beaches in the Algarve.
- Ferragudo. This is a charming and very picturesque town, just across the bridge from Portimao. There are some nice beaches here too.
- Alvor. Although also very touristy, Alvor is a small town that kept the charm of the small fishermen’s village it once was. Most people come here for the beaches located to the south of town. Praia dos Três Irmãos is a must-see.
- Vilamoura. This manicured town is best known for its golf courses, casino, and large marina. It’s a typical tourist seaside resort with huge hotels lining the shoreline. Don’t miss Praia da Falésia, a 6km long beach between Vilamoura and Albufeira.
- Alte. While it’s just a small village, it’s well worth mentioning Alte as one of the nicest little towns to see in Algarve. With its natural springs and stunning street art, it’s very unique and absolutely charming. Take a look at our guide to visiting Alte for some pictures and information on what to expect.
READ ALSO: Most Beautiful Places to See in Algarve
To give you a better idea of where all these places are located, we created a map indicating all the best towns of the Algarve region mentioned in this article. Also the additional suggestions.
Most towns are quite small and since the distances are really not big in the Algarve, you can easily visit several places in a day. It really depends on your interests and whether you choose to do any additional activities such as a boat trip, or kayaking, for example.
How to use this map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.
So, this is our guide to some of the nicest cities and towns to see in the Algarve. I hope that it gives you a better idea of what to expect and inspires you to explore the region deeper, beyond its most popular beaches and tourist attractions.
Have a great trip!
More travel inspiration for the Algarve region:
- Most Beautiful Beaches in Algarve
- Where to Stay in Algarve
- Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
- How to Visit Benagil Cave & Is Benagil Cave Open?
- How to Visit Ponta da Piedade
- Nicest Places for Kayaking in Algarve (+Best Kayak Tours)
- Ponta da Piedade Kayak Tour
- For families:
- Seasonal guides:
TIP: If you are looking for more information for your trip, check out our Portugal travel guide. It contains an overview of all our articles about Portugal, including central Portugal, the Algarve, and also the main islands such as Madeira or Sao Miguel in the Azores.
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