Part of the joy of living in Portugal is discovering the diversity between each region. Last week we left Algarve behind for a few days and ventured to a region rich with culture and character – The Alentejo. With the majority of the region heavily relying on agriculture, livestock and forestry it is here you will find many authentic towns showcasing real Portugal . Having previously visited Vila Nova de Milfontes we wanted to experience a smaller, more traditional town on the coast and Porto Covo ticked all our boxes.
Porto Covo, although a popular tourist destination during the summer months, is still very much a fishing village with traditional architecture and a local feel. Located almost halfway between Lisbon and Faro it is around a two hour drive from either airport.
Praça Marques de Pombal (town centre) is a picturesque square of neatly painted cafes and restaurants with blue facades and a traditional church. You will find the majority of restaurants, bars and shops here along with Rua Vasco da Gama. The main square is an ideal spot so spend a few hours chatting with friends, drinking cold beers and soaking up the sun in one of the pretty corner cafes.
One of the most inviting aspects of Porto Covo (translated as Port of the fishing nets) is its string of coves and beaches that stretch almost as far as SInes. Even if you only have a short time in the area go for a stroll along at least some of the stunning coastal path.
There are many secluded spots to be found along the coast here but if you do go searching for the nooks and crannies make sure you know if the tide is on its way in or out so you don’t get caught out. We walked from the 3.5km from the harbour to Praia do Burrinho and back again which gave us plenty of time to pick our favourite beaches (Praia do Serra Aguia and Praia da Samoqueira). If walking is not your thing and you are coming by car or camper there are dedicated parking spots above most of the larger beaches.
SEAFOOD AND EAT IT
If seafood is your thing you’re going to love it here. We only had two days and nights to sample restaurants so we followed our usual rule (eat where the locals eat) and were handsomely rewarded with traditional, tasty food on all occasions.
For a fresh seafood lunch stop off at O Pescador on R. Vasca da Gama. Choose your fresh fish from the counter and it will be served to you perfectly cooked with a delicious bbq taste. Or eat like a local and indulge in a typical dish such as Polvo (Octopus). Wash it down with a cheap (€3.50 a litre) yet tasty jug of white wine and pat yourself on the back for choosing so wisely.
For a cosy and traditional affair head to Restaurante O Torreão located on the main square and sit inside. If we could give you only one suggestion it would be the mussels – they are huge! The dessert list here is as long as your arm and a slab of cheesecake will set you back only €2.70 so get stuck in!
There are lots of places to choose from when it comes to food but if you have a few nights in Porto Covo I would definitely recommend choosing a local spot for at least one of them. A few other restaurants we have added to our bucket list for next time should you want to try something different…. Zé Inácio, Restaurant Miramar and Marquês.
Portuguese coffee will never be my favourite, It is far too bitter for me personally. However of there is one thing the Portuguese are extremely good at its sweet treats. I mean the greatest tart in the world has to be a pastel de nata right? Whether its clever pastry technique, local ingredients (almonds, oranges, figs – yum!) or a whole load of sugar there is nothing that livens up my coffee moments in Portugal than one of the countries sweet treats. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered the Pastel Marquês at the cafe Gelataria Marquês. – a perfect combination of almond, orange, egg, sugar and pumpkin. This pastel is a speciality of Porto Covo and a must while you are in town.
Porto Covo, like most towns with a tourist influx during the summer, has the usual array of souvenir shops where you can buy pretty ceramics, sardine ornaments and retro postcards. This particular shop (opposite restaurant O Pescador) caught my eye so I wandered in and found a cave of eclectic array of home wears from ceramics jugs to bamboo mirrors to metal roosters. If you’re the type of person who likes to take a reminder of their travels home with them (like me) then check out a few of the shops on the R Vasco da Gama. There is also a few gorgeous clothing boutiques full to the brim with beautiful holiday pieces. My favourite was Hipiie Chic who stocks the most stunning summer dresses.
WHERE TO STAY
We decided to camp for our recent trip to Porto Covo and stayed in the central campsite Camping Porto Covo. The campsite offered plenty of space, a pool (summer), bar and bbq area and is just a 5 minute stroll from the centre.
There are also lots of options on booking.com
Money in Europe
The majority of hotels, shops and restaurants in the bigger cities accept card but some smaller places only accept cash or non-foreign cards. Always carry some cash with you. ATM’s are easy to find all over the town. Unless you already have a Euro currency bank account I highly recommend getting a Wise Card. This will allow you to hold and exchange multiple currencies at the best possible rate. There is no charge for withdrawing or using your card to pay. I’ve been living in Portugal since 2016 and I use Wise as my primary bank card here despite also having a Portuguese bank account. I’ve also used Wise to pay and withdraw money in Spain and Italy.
Top tip: Avoid Multi Currency machines such as ‘Euronet’ (usually set up outside souvenir shops etc) as they charge you 3 or 4 euro to withdraw. Look for ‘Multibanco’ machines to withdraw money. More info here…
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Since moving to Algarve almost 3 years ago we have been exploring Portugal. Looking for some more inspirational destinations in Portugal. Have a peek at our travel guides and start planning your Portugal itinerary.