An Expat’s Guide to the Algarve

An Expat’s Guide to the Algarve
Portugal’s Algarve is packed with stunning beaches and pretty, white-walled towns and villages to explore.|©iStock/aletheia97

Maybe you’ve heard all of this hype about the southern coast of Portugalthe Algarve. Over 300 days of sunshine, spectacular beaches, golf, cliffs, dining, low cost of living, the list goes on and on. Is all of this hyperbole right out of real estate agents’ brochures?

It’s all true. I live here.

I love my storybook life in the Algarve. Want a sample? Here are some ideas to help you craft an unforgettable few days in my little piece of paradise.

First insider tip: Upon arrival, go to a newsstand or grocery store and pick up a newspaper. The Portugal Resident is my favorite. Check out the What’s On section for a list of fairs, festivals, markets, events, exhibitions, live music, and even worship services happening that week. From live jazz to farmer’s markets, you’ll find it all here.

Second insider tip: Attend a Casa Social Club monthly event while you’re in town. You can find them online at This is a wonderful way to talk to friendly expats who have lived in the Algarve for years. (Ask to sit next to Cecilia; she’s a riot.)

Albufeira: A Lively Atmosphere and Beautiful Beaches

Albuferia’s beaches draw visitors from across Europe and beyond.
Albuferia’s beaches draw visitors from across Europe and beyond.|©iStock/mtcurado

One of the liveliest cities in the central Algarve is Albuferia, a former fishing village, now a mecca for both tourists and expats from around the world. Because this is a popular vacation destination there is no shortage of things to do.

Enjoy one of the many water parks, play a round of golf, visit giant sand sculptures, explore nearby castles and forts, dine and people-watch to your heart's content, or chill out on the beach and do absolutely nothing.

You can take a Tuk Tuk tour of the city that includes highlights like the stunning beaches. Be sure to stop at the beach elevator, it’s a stunning view and there aren’t too many places in the world with an elevator on the beach itself.

Lagos: The Algarve’s Must-Visit Foodie Haven

Lagos, Portugal is an expat-favorite foodie destination on the Algarve.
Lagos, Portugal is an expat-favorite foodie destination on the Algarve.|©iStock/Aliaksandr Antanovich

Lagos is my favorite town in the Algarve—I live just outside it in a 4-bed villa on a golf course with stunning views.

It has everything on my own personal list of “must-haves.” It’s picturesque and right on the water, with a quaint old town with a plethora of charming restaurants… a beautiful beach and seafront promenade… and a marina with lots of charming restaurants, live music, and friendly expats who speak English.

It’s also an incredible destination for foodies. Here are my personal recommendations for every meal.


The must-try breakfast spot is Munich, right on the beachfront. Order their rolled French toast, and be sure to wear your expand-o waistband! You should also try Goj, in the Old Town, for a wide selection of fancy breakfasts.


Restaurante La Mena is a very traditional Portuguese eatery, near the Boa Vista golf course. They have a daily fixed-price three-course menu, that includes many choices. A great place to eat like a local!

A Choupana translates as “The Sucking Pig,” and yes, their pork is delicious. Their grilled chicken is also amazing. Find it on the main road east of Lagos.

In the Old Town, check out My Sushi for all you can eat sushi that’s both cheap and excellent. Try the tempura prawns—about ten plates of them. Or visit Casa do Prego for delicious tapas and sangria and a rooftop setting.

(Pro tip: If you go to lunch at noon, you’ll beat the rush, as most Portuguese and Europeans like to eat at 1 p.m. or later.)


O Camilo, just outside of Lagos proper, offers fabulous seafood in a cliffside setting. Go early so you don’t miss the daylight views.

There’s a wonderful Italian on the top floor of the marina called Portofuno, plus a British hangout nearby called Lazy Jack’s that serves good pub food to the tunes of frequent live jazz gigs.

A little farther out, Solar do Farelo is a wonderful Portuguese restaurant, about a 30-minute drive from Lagos. There’s a beautiful countryside view from the atrium, and a daily menu that’s really varied and delicious. It’s popular also because they have two giant wine barrels with all-you-can-drink self-fills.

One or Two Days of Beaches and Cliffs

Ponte Piedade, a gazillion steps, but worth it.
Ponte Piedade, a gazillion steps, but worth it.|©iStock/Zdenek Kajzr

The coastline of the Algarve is riddled with stunning cliff walks at the top of pristine beaches.

My absolute top recommendation is to get up early and beat the rush to Ponte Piedade in Lagos. Once there, head to the left of the lighthouse. Go down the gazillion steps to a stunning little grotto. You will sometimes find small boats there that will take you on a short excursion to the rock formations.

When you stagger up all those steps, head to the right of the lighthouse for an easy walk along the cliffs with breathtaking views.

Up for more natural beauty? Spend a day on the rugged west coast of Portugal, called Costa Vincentina—a surfer’s paradise. Set your GPS for the lovely beach of Praia do Amado, right on the west coast.

From there, head north up the little (and a little rocky) coastal road. When you see giant iron letters, pull over and walk out on the cliffs. After gorging yourself on the views, you’ll come to Praia da Bordeira. Hungry? Restaurante do Cabrita is about five minutes from Praia da Bordeira.

Still going strong? Find any little secluded spot to watch the sunset, or drive to Sagres and catch sunset at the westernmost point of Europe.

To round off, here’s a grab-bag of miscellaneous, but unforgettable, experiences.

The charming beach town of Praia da Luz and the Latitude restaurant there absolutely deserve a visit. The Church of Sao Lourenco in Almancil features traditional Portuguese tile scenes—I take all my visitors there. And finally, Capela de Ossos in Faro is where you can find the bones of many monks arranged in tasteful (less?) patterns. Certainly something you won’t forget.

Ate Breve—see you soon in the Algarve!