Rich in history, St Barbara de Nexe is a quiet village built on the site of a Bronze Age hill fort with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and down to the coast. The central point of the village is the 400 year old white-walled church which can be found on the main street. Here and at nearby Estoi, the villagers still make traditional baskets and hats from plaited palm leaves. St Barbara de Nexe has a number of good restaurants, cafes and bars for those looking for a relaxed holiday.
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With such a large coastline it’s no surprise the Algarve is a great place for all kinds of fish and seafood, with restaurants commonly serving fresh sardines, bream, cod, monkfish and tuna. Another famous dish of the Algarve is chicken piri-piri great for a relaxed atmosphere! Most dishes will be served with served with boiled potatoes and vegetables or salad.
St Barbara de Nexe has a number of good restaurants, cafes and bars for those looking for a relaxed holiday, Those seeking a more lively evening are not far from the resort centre of Faro.
Rio Formosa Nature Reserve
The 170 square kilometres of saltwater lagoons, islands and marshes of the Ria Formosa estuary is a breathtakingly beautiful area, teeming with migrating birds, dozens of species of fish and unique flora and fauna. Only half an hour’s drive away, the reserve’s easily accessible pathways and boardwalks make this a fabulous place for walking, cycling and birdwatching and there are numerous guided boat trips on offer. You can even hire a kayak and paddle your way around the canals and lagoons. Viewing points and bird hides are strategically placed to make the most of the views and to spot rare birds in their natural habitat. You could spend several days here but be sure to include at least one visit during your stay.
It may be best known for its international airport but the city of Faro is well worth a visit. Its charming old town is located to the east of Faro marina. The city’s Se Cathedral, quite unassuming on the outside, is surprisingly ornate inside, with gilded carving, traditional azulejos (tiles) and impressive works of art, and you can get a wonderful view of the city by climbing the steps up the cathedral tower. A mainly pedestrianised shopping area consists of dozens of cobbled streets and squares with plenty of cafés and restaurants. For a little retail therapy head to the Forum Algarve shopping mall on the main EN125 road from the Faro airport area; it has a wonderful choice of stores built around an open air square.
With more churches than hotels, the unspoilt riverside town of Tavira is one of the Algarve’s best kept secrets, exuding authentic Portuguese charm. History abounds in its colourful architectural details, with decorative features from Renaissance to Baroque, Moorish to Gothic. The fishing port is a hive of activity and it’s a wonderful place to wander around at leisure. Pop into the former water tower that’s been turned into a camara obscura, reflecting a fascinating 360° tour of the town on a horizontal screen.
Now quite a cosmopolitan market town, nearby Loulé retains plenty of its historical roots. The ancient walls of its medieval castle still dominate, with the winding cobbled streets of the old town now bursting with cafés, bars, restaurants and shops. There are some beautiful old churches here and the daily market is particularly worth a visit for its array of fresh produce, crafts, basket weaving and copper goods.
Milreu Roman Ruins
A short drive south from the nearby village of Estoi on the Faro road you’ll find one of Portugal’s most important archaological sites, the ruins of a grand Roman villa dating from the 1st century AD. Beautifully excavated, the villa’s luxurious origins are clear, with a central courtyard surrounded by columns, a series of rooms dedicated to bathing and even underground heating. Large sections of intricate fish mosaics are still intact and there is evidence of the villa’s later use as a church and then a Muslim burial site. The ruins are well worth a visit for anyone with a fascination for Roman history.
Church, Santa Barbara de Nexe
A truly historic village, Santa Barbara de Nexe is built on the site of a bronze-age hill fort subsequently used by the Phoenicians and the Romans. The local landmark nowadays is the charming 400-year-old whitewashed church, understandably the focus of many artists’ paintings with its strikingly tall bell tower dominating the countryside. It’s well worth a peek inside to admire the various architectural and decorative styles used through the centuries, including examples of the area’s famous azulejos (tiles) depicting historical and religious scenes. You’ll find 16th century renaissance art alongside 17th century statues and 18th century carvings and a beautiful triumphal arch with a panel above depicting Saint Barbara being crowned by angels.
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