Loule 5 day tour - day 3, and today we visit Quarteira. This is day 6 of our Algarve tour. Quarteira’s fish market was the first place on my list for the day, but before rushing outside, I chose to relax at the hotel’s sauna and pamper myself with a spa treatment.
Feeling renewed, I got in the car and left for the market. The fish market in Quarteira is not as striking as the one in Loulé, but the fish is just as fresh. Some even say it’s where you’ll find the freshest fish in the country. The selection is quite diverse and many locals would rather come here than head to the supermarket to get their seafood fix. In the summer, the market becomes extra busy with Portuguese vacationers coming here to buy lunch after a morning on the beach. At the beginning, the fish was actually sold directly on the shore, but that ended when the market was founded around the 1980’s. Now, fishmongers present their fish in small stalls with narrow passages between them where buyers and sellers often struggle to get through without getting splashed by a bit of water.
Following the market, I went for a walk at Praia de Quarteira, an urban beach that stretches for nearly 2 kilometres. Alongside the beach, there is a large promenade with palm trees on one side and several bars and restaurants on the other. It was in one of these that I settled down at for lunch. Gaivota Beach Bar has been delighting its clientele with delicious fish and seafood since 1984. This, combined with its privileged seafront location makes it one of the best dining spots in Quarteira.
After lunch, I headed to the Family Golf Park in Vilamoura, one of the largest mini golf parks in Europe! It features two courses of 18 holes with a design inspired by ancient Rome. Additionally, there is a snack-bar offering homemade burgers and a games room for all ages.
Right next to the park stands the Roman Site of Cerro da Vila, an unlikely find in the bustling town of Vilamoura. The Algarve was one of the areas most populated by Romans in Portugal, partly due to its easy access to the sea which was a main trading route at the time. In this historic setting, you can see the ruins of an old Villa with public baths, a necropolis and several salt tanks. After the Romans came the Visigoths and the Moorish. Many of the relics of these civilisations can now be found at the Cerro da Vila Museum.
I strolled around the villa’s grounds on my own, admiring the black and white mosaic floors, some fully intact, others resembling an incomplete jigsaw with pieces missing. From here, I walked to the Vilamoura marina, the largest marina in Portugal with over 800 berths. The marina is surrounded by several shops, hotels, restaurants, a yacht club and incredible beaches that tend to get crowded during the height of summer.
A few steps away from the marina is the Casino Vilamoura, a place for nightlife entertainment, where people come to try their luck, attend a show or simply grab a drink at the bar. At night, the casino is lit up with red and green neon lights, a sight that is mirrored by the stunning colour reflections in the fountain ahead of the entrance.
After a few rounds on the slot machines, I drove to São Gabriel, an innovative restaurant set on the edge of Vale do Lobo. São Gabriel offers its visitors a taste of the sea, with most of its meals featuring fish from the region. The menu is inspired by traditional Portuguese dishes and served with a creative twist. Even choosing the wine is made easy thanks to the experienced in-house sommelier that is there to advise you. It’s the delicious flavours, the quiet setting and the amiable staff that have made this restaurant worthy of its Michelin star. From the appetizers to the scrumptious chocolate dessert, I savoured every bit of this fine meal and left wanting more. Having finished dinner, I went back to the hotel and started packing for the next day.