Historical and cultural gems in the Algarve

church algarve

The Algarve is a treasure trove of historical and cultural gems. With routes taking you past Roman villas, Neolithic sites, Moor-influenced architecture and Christian structures, the visitor can enjoy a wide-ranging history lesson in one region alone.

The Al-Mutamid Route transverses the Algarve from Aljezur to Cortegana in Spain passing through many villages and towns along the Algarve, including the region’s old capital city of Silves. It also has another leg that begins in Lisbon and finishes in Seville, Spain.

This Portugal-Spain route bears the name of King Al-Mu’tamid who was born in Beja, Portugal, in 1040 and who became King of Seville in Spain, dying whilst in exile in Africa. He was known as the poet-king and was also a great lover of music.

Another route that may appeal is the Umayyad Route, focusing on the Omiade period which was the longest-lasting Muslim presence (8th to 13th century, thus encompassing King Al-Mu’tamid’s reign) in the Algarve and where the Arab name al-Gharbe (the west) originates. This, over time, changed to Algarve.

Passing through 14 towns, the route is of interest to those who enjoy flora, fauna and of course history. For further information on the route click here.

There are so many churches and chapels dotted along the Algarve, far too many to mention them all but those of note include Silves Cathedral that was built on the site of a former mosque, in Gothic style. Also, the parish church in Estombar, Igreja Matriz de São Tiago de Estombar, is worth a visit. The church was built in the 16th century with the façade being rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. Inside visitors can enjoy Baroque figurines together with other Baroque features including typical Portuguese tiles depicting Biblical scenes and of course the gold overlay ever present in Portuguese churches. Perhaps one of the most impressive churches on the Algarve is Igreja de Santo António in Lagos. With its gilded woodwork and beautiful intricately-drawn prints visitors can only admire the workmanship to create such a building. 

The Romans left their mark in Portugal and the Algarve is no exception. Cerro da Vila in Vilamoura is just one site and, after walking around the villa, baths etc the visitor can view the archaeological finds housed in the small adjacent museum. It seems that not just the Romans enjoyed that particular site, the Visigoths and Arabs also inhabited the area.

These are just a few ideas for things to do with a difference whilst visiting the Algarve. For some more ideas visit our Discover pages or the Algarve Tourism Board’s website.

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