The very first time I went to Portugal, I spent my time worrying that I wouldn’t be able to find things to do in Carvoeiro. After all, I love exploring but whenever you mention a trip to Portugal, you hear about how gorgeous Lisbon, Porto or Albufeira are. Little ol’ Carvoeiro? It’s not mentioned as much.
At a first glance you can understand why, because small towns are often overlooked for their city counterparts. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to do in Carvoeiro, or that it’s less of a place. It just means that it’s smaller, or that people haven’t heard of it as much. But sometimes smaller places make a refreshing change, for they so often have this air of calm about them which comes from the slower way of life. You can feel it in the way people walk, the way people shop and most definitely in the way that they eat. It almost feels like time passes slower because there’s less distractions and as a result each moment is savoured. At least that’s the impression I got.
But even though the town operates with a slow pace, that doesn’t make its visitors old. People of all ages pass through. From the children who frolic in the surf, to the bus full of senior citizens who unloaded from the bus right in front of us, with their camera straps around their necks, walking sticks in hand and faces full of broad smiles which appeared the moment the warm air hit them.
There are people of all ages, including an abundance of expats who moved there after visiting Carvoeiro once, then twice, then before they knew it they were living there. The owner of the bar Six Gin Palace was one of them. The bar is family owned after they fell in love with Carvoeiro and eventually they all moved over – one bye one, with the exception of the son, a mixologist from London who set the pace for the drinks menu, who flits back and forth between the two.
If you look closely at my stomach – you can see a bump. That’s not a baby. It’s food. Kinder Bueno Gelato and Pasteis de Nata specifically, if you were wondering—and I don’t regret a single mouthful.
Once upon a time Carvoeiro was a small, very much traditional, fishing village which survived on tuna; the catch of the day. The town is now increasingly popular and slightly less traditional, but even so the way of life is still there. From the smell of the freshly baked pastries to the sight of the local fisherman going out to sea in the evenings and early mornings to fish. The only difference is now it caters for the visitors in between that. For example; the fisherman who usually go out to sea in the mornings and evenings, now do so with trips to the sea caves for visitors in between.
But whilst Carvoeiro’s residents make use of the influx of visitors, the town itself hasn’t changed much. The beaches which once saw the naval battle between Portuguese Flotilla and the Turkish Corsair, now sees sunbathers and children running from the white horses as they crash onto the sand before disappearing back into the sea. The grocery stores which once saw locals picking up fresh produce for lunch that afternoon, still do. There’s just a handful of other people thrown in too, picking up the goods to stock their cupboards back at their self-catered villas.
There are various self-catered villas in Carvoeiro but it isn’t an area of high rise hotels or apartment blocks. Instead the villas are situate off the two roads which lead down into the town where they meet at a small square. There’s no parking, so walking is naturally encouraged. Which is understandable when you realise just how good this gelato shop is.
Though, to be honest, all of the food we had in Carvoeiro was good. We stayed in a self-catered villa and, because Uncle John’s one hell of a cook, we didn’t need to venture out often. Obviously I still did, because I truly believe that food is one of the best ways to get to know a place. Well, that and the local area, which is why I’ve put together the following, featuring all of the things to do in Carvoeiro.
Where To Eat In Carvoeiro:
Le Cro is a small restaurant, but the flavours are huge. I went here and ended up ordering almost the entire menu. I didn’t intend to, but it all smelt so delicious that I couldn’t resist. And then I ordered all of the deserts… Because yano, dessert is life. What’s not life though, is how much I struggled with the uphill walk back to the villa afterwards. That was just embarrassing. Anyways, make sure you contact them to reserve a table as it gets booked up incredibly quickly.
Ele and Ela
This is the first restaurant I ever ate in Carvoeiro and the recommendation came from Twitter. I couldn’t get a table the first night I wanted to, but I booked in for the following night and wasn’t disappointed. You can see my full write up here, but to summarise the food was delicious and whilst the service was slacking on the night I went, I’ve heard from many who have been there since then who have said they’ve stepped it up a notch.
Gelados and Companhia
I’ve spoken about this place in literally every post that I have ever written on Carvoeiro.
If that doesn’t tell you how much I love it, nothing will.
Order the Kinder Bueno gelato and the Lemon Sorbet.
Don’t go to the one over the street.
Go here. Trust me. I gained over 5 lbs on holiday here (you can see my food baby above) and I’m pretty sure I know where I gained each and every one of them from. If that doesn’t make me an authority on this then I don’t know what does.
I ended up in Oasis when all of the other places I wanted to go to were fully booked. It was one of those types of restaurants. The type that’s not your first choice, nor your second, but one that you end up enjoying anyway. Even though it wasn’t planned, Oasis has made my list of favourites and not just because they give you bread and hard cheese to start with (which is delicious). It’s because even though the food is simple fare; the atmosphere is lively, the staff are helpful and the bartenders make a mean cocktail. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to have more of a liquid meal…
The Best Places To Drink In Carvoeiro
Six Gin Palace
I found this place when I went to Le Cro to see if they were open for lunch. I was devastated because they were shut and I’d spent all day walking and dang did I want some lunch. Luckily, Six Gin Palace place was open next door so I sat inside and ordered a drink and some nibbles whilst I emailed Le Cro to book a table for that night. The food wasn’t anything to write home about, but the drink was delicious; fresh basil and ground pepper were mixed into gin with strawberries and honestly it was one of the most refreshing things I’ve had
Round Up Saloon
I never thought I’d find myself in a country and western themed karaoke bar enjoying myself. Yet here I am sat on my laptop typing away about how I ended up in a country and western themed karaoke bar enjoying myself. Go, have a few drinks and let the hits roll.
Things To Do In Carvoeiro:
Sunbathe On Carvoeiro’s Beaches
If you’re looking to soak up the sun, Carvoeiro has some beaches. Whether you want the boats, beds and booths which come from Carvoeiro’s popular main beach, or the peace and quiet that comes from a more secluded spot like Praia De Paraiso, Carvoeiro has something for you. The water’s cold though. My word is the water cold.
Explore Algar Seco
Algar Seco is essentially a playground for adults. Stairs, pools and caves built into the cliff edge make for some epic exploring.
Take A Boat Trip Through The Coastal Caves
This was one of the first things we did when we got to Carvoeiro because I was determined to see the Benagil Cave. The beach that’s inside a cave. I’m glad I did – the fisherman’s boats take you in and out of the algares; the little holes in the cliff where the sea has eaten away at it from underneath and it’s a beautiful way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Take A Day Trip To Ferragudo
If you think you’ve seen all of the things to do in Carvoeiro, and want to go a little further afield, but don’t want to drive because, ya’know, day drinking is ace (drink responsibly kids) and also, you’re on holiday— then take Carvoeiro’s land train over to Ferragudo. It takes you along the scenic route before dropping you off to explore for a couple of hours, and bringing you back again.
But even though those are my favourites, there’s also, the lighthouse near Cabo De Carvoeiro, two waterparks and the cliffs above Carvoeiro which are the remains of the walls of the Fort of Senhora da Conceição and date back to the 17th century!