São Brás de Alportel - Algarve - Portugal
Welcome to São Brás Uncovered! Your São Brás de Alportel holiday guide!
Welcome to São Brás Uncovered! Your guide to holidays in São Brás de Alportel, in central Algarve, Portugal. For tourist information about São Brás, its accommodation, restaurants, things to do, events, photos and in fact, everything you need to know about São Brás Uncovered!
About São Brás de Alportel
São Brás de Alportel, in common with much of the Algarve, was a settlement in Roman times and later inhabited by the Moors. It was the birthplace of Moorish poet Ibne Ammar in the 12th century.
It was also a popular retreat for the bishops of the Algarve - somewhere for them to escape from the heat of the city during the hot summer months and during the 17th century an Episcopal palace was built for their use.(This has seen several changes of use over the years and is no longer in use by the bishops.)
Originally the wealth of the town was from cork production - it was the biggest cork producing centre in Portugal - and in 1914 it was made a municipality due to the economic importance of the area. Unfortunately, over the years, the cork production industry has moved to the centre and north of Portugal, leaving São Brás more reliant on tourism and crafts.
São Brás de Alportel is a mix of old and new, with typical, low white Algarvean houses amongst the slightly dusty, grander merchant houses from its wealthy past. The area near the church is the older part of town and typically Algarvean with narrow, cobbled streets criss-crossing each other and small shops and cafes in between the houses. As you move further away from the church the streets widen and modern apartments take the place of the older white washed houses. There are lots of shops and supermarkets, banks, restaurants, cafes - everything you need in fact! A little further away again and streets of new villas and low rise apartments edge the town.
As it has expanded it seems to have lost any well-defined central area and is a little difficult to find your way around. There are a lot of one-way streets and the usual lack of signposting. The historical sights in the Algarve are signposted in brown, but it took us a few circuits of the town to get to the main church. It is worth finding, however, as the area around is very pretty and the view from outside the church of the surrounding countryside is lovely. The current church was rebuilt after 1755 on the site of, probably, a 15th century church and extended somewhat in the 19th century.
São Brás certainly seems to have survived its changing fortunes and recovered from the loss of its cork industry and is increasingly a popular place to live. With it's lovely countryside position at the foot of the hills and proximity to Faro it is easy to see why.
A little further on is the pretty village of Alportel, and just a short distance up the hill from Alportel, on the right hand side, is the entrance to Fonte Férrea picnic area. Follow the road down and there is quite a large parking area next to the Fonte. It is a beautiful valley of pines, eucalyptus and oleanders and a series of pools of crystal clear spring water. There are picnic tables and benches and plenty of space to walk in the shade of the trees, or take a dip in the pools to cool off!
If you fancy exploring a little further, carry on high up into the hills and see the little hamlet of Cova da Muda as you wind around the hillsides of cork and pine trees. It is worth the drive for the views and the total tranquillity of the hills.
Of course, São Brás is only a short distance from Faro, to the south, and Loulé to the west and both are worthy of a visit.
Faro often gets bypassed by visitors as just a landing point, but the city is lovely and has a rather compact central area near the marina making it easy to visit and get around. The historic centre ('cidade velha') with the Cathedral and Bishop's palace is just on the east side of the marina and the main centre for shops and restaurants is just to the north of it.
If you don't mind climbing a 'few' steps then do go up the bell tower at the Cathedral as there is a fantastic view across Faro and the Ria Formosa from the top and if you have time - take a trip to one of the ilha beaches by ferry. It takes about half an hour to leisurely chug through the channels of the Ria Formosa before arriving at your chosen 'desert island'! The pier for the ferries is around the corner from the marina, to the side of the historic centre.
Loulé is famous for it's Saturday market and it's Brazilian style carnival, but also has an interesting historic area with a 13/14th century castle. As well as the Saturday gypsy market it also has an excellent daily market in the new Arabian style market building - it is open every morning except Sunday.
São Brás de Alportel is an ideal place to stay if you want to explore the lovely countryside in the foothills of the Algarve. It's also not far to the coast if you want a day at the beach and there are some excellent golf courses within a short drive.