Things to do in São Brás de Alportel - 1-day itinerary
São Brás de Alportel was the old cork centre of Portugal long before the
industry moved to the north of the country. You can still find plenty
of oak trees dotted along the landscape and some remaining factories,
though production is much quieter now.
The town borders the hills of
Serra do Caldeirão, offering incredible views of the Algarve coast from
its peak. Despite its incredible scenery, it welcomes very few visitors
compared to other towns in the region. Below are some of the best
things to do in São Brás de Alportel, including local festivals and day
Around São Brás de Alportel are several farms and rural estates. Some
offer unique experiences like beekeeping. You’ll get to see the
honeybees up close, learn how to create a honeycomb and speak with local
beekeepers about their daily routine. At the end of the tour, you’ll
often get a chance to sample some of that delicious honey.
In the heart of São Brás de Alportel is the parish church. The original
building is from the 15th century, but much of it was altered after the
1755 earthquake. Highlights include the Baroque baptistery and its
unique marble altarpiece. Behind the church, there's a trail leading to
an ancient Roman road known as Calçadinha Romana.
Around the 17th century, São Brás was the summer residence of the
Algarve bishops. Their Episcopal palace was located right here in this
garden. Only a few things remain from that original complex, like the
Baroque fountain. More recent additions include a bandstand and the
municipal swimming pools.
Continue your tour at the Algarve Costume Museum. The front of the
museum stands out with its iron gates and walls covered in tiles.
Inside, you'll find a variety of costumes used in the Algarve during the
19th and 20th centuries. The museum also features a set of religious
sculptures, an exhibit on cork, and a collection of old vehicles.
São Brás de Alportel is one of the last stops along the EN2, an old road
that crosses Portugal from north to south. This museum pays tribute to
this route and the people you’ll find along the way. You’ll learn more
about the tradition of limestone extraction and the cantoneiros, the
people who helped maintain the roads throughout the years.
After exploring the town centre, drive a few miles north towards the
Miradouro do Alto da Ameixeira, a viewpoint set along the hills of Serra
do Caldeirão. Standing here, you’ll see nothing but lush green valleys
ahead of you.
From the viewpoint, it’s only a few minutes to Parque da Fonte Férrea,
another hidden gem in São Brás de Alportel. Set amidst pine trees and
eucalyptus, this park is an ideal spot for a picnic. There’s a little
stream with stepping stones and several trails that take you across the
Faro: The capital of the Algarve, Faro, is only a 25-minute drive
from São Brás de Alportel. Spend some time exploring the old town,
stopping by the Faro Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace. On the way
there, you can pass through the town of Estoi, where you’ll find a Roman
Villa and a romantic 19th-century palace.
Olhão: Head a few miles south towards Olhão, one of the biggest fishing ports in the Algarve. Bordered by the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the town is the perfect jumping-off point to explore the islands of Culatra and Armona. Other highlights include the fish market and the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário.
Loulé: The main attraction in Loulé is the municipal market. Erected in 1908, the building stands out with its Neo-Arab features. Inside, you’ll find a variety of fresh produce stalls and traditional handicrafts. Other popular attractions include the medieval castle and the contemporary art galleries. The town really comes alive in February, during the carnival festivities.
São Brás de Alportel
offers a few family-friendly attractions. In the summer, you can take
advantage of the municipal pools located just behind Jardim da Verbena.
At the Costume Museum, kids can learn more about the clothes and culture
of the Algarve during the 19th and 20th centuries. Beyond the town
centre, you’ll find plenty of viewpoints and trails that take you across
the countryside. The Parque da Fonte Férrea, for instance, is the
starting point for three walking routes ranging from 2km to 10km.
The cuisine of São Brás
de Alportel is very much based on meat, such as chicken, lamb and
rabbit. Almonds, honey and figs are used for desserts, often paired with
traditional drinks like carob liqueur and medronho. Below are some of
the best places to eat in São Brás de Alportel:
Beira Serra: Just a
few miles east of the centre is this traditional restaurant
specialising in grilled meats. From Monday to Saturday, they offer a
lunch deal that includes drinks and dessert.
Ysconderijo: Located near the tourism centre, Ysconderijo is known for its eclectic menu, which mixes flavours and ingredients from all around the world. You can try a variety of dishes, from pad Thai to lamb chops.
Sabores do Campo: As the name suggests, this place focus on the flavours of the countryside. The daily lunch menu includes a mix of fish and meat dishes. Popular choices include the wild boar and the black pork loin.
Casal da Eira (4 stars): This
B&B sits on a quiet farm near São Brás de Alportel. It offers a
variety of rooms and a studio apartment that can take up to three
people. Other amenities include a shared living room, kitchen, terrace
and an outdoor pool. The surrounding countryside is ideal for a walk or
cycle, and many trails begin near the guesthouse.
Quinta dos Tesouros (4 stars): This charming rural estate offers spacious rooms and a vast garden with olive trees. Guests also have access to a swimming pool and a terrace with panoramic mountain views.
Hotel Rural Rocha da Gralheira (3 stars): Located near the Miradouro do Alto da Arroteia, this three-star hotel is an affordable alternative. It has several rooms, including options for families. There's also a pool and a restaurant on-site.
The best time to visit São
Brás de Alportel is between spring and summer. The town is pretty quiet
most of the year, but it comes alive during these seasons thanks to
local festivals like carnival and the Festa das Tochas Floridas (see
below). Temperatures can reach 30ºC in summer, but spring is slightly
cooler. It is the perfect time to hike the Serra do Caldeirão and enjoy a
picnic amid the countryside.
Festa das Tochas Floridas: This religious celebration takes place every year on Easter Sunday. During the event, the streets of São Brás are paved with flowers, balconies are decorated with colourful bedspreads, and people carry flower torches as part of a procession. The party takes place around Largo de São Sebastião and the parish church.