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The Algarve, in Portugal, is the top tourist destination in the country and one of the most visited areas in the whole of Europe. It consists of a number of cities and towns ranging from coastal locations and resorts to quiet lakeside villages. Whether you are looking to unwind and enjoy the nightlife or are seeking a peaceful and relaxing getaway, the Algarve provides the perfect opportunity for a second home. Those with a passion for history and culture will be especially attracted to the following cities and towns:

Albufeira
Albufeira Twilight (1141502768)
Before tourism arrived in the town in the 1960s, Albufeira was just a small and relatively unknown fishing village. Although the area is now built up with modern amenities, it still retains its former characteristics in the Old Town, where cobbled streets wind through the hills and locals dwell in traditional one-storey homes. The village of Paderne is also near Albufeira, where you can visit the Church of Nossa Senhora da Esperança, which features several examples of Renaissance architecture, and the remains of the Castle of Paderne.

Guia
Guia may have gained its name after the Virgin Mary appeared before the people of the hamlet. The town is now home to three churches including the Church of São Sebastião, which was built in the 17th century and features mural paintings from this period, as well as the Old Tower, constructed in the 16th century to defend the coast from Moorish attacks.

Armação de Pêra
Armação de Pêra began as a fishing port but today is a collection of small communities combined into a popular town. Most of the history of the area is preserved in the Old Village and through the 17th century fort that lies on the beach across from which are some of the most attractive properties in the area.

Silves
Cidade de Silves
There are few places in the Algarve with more history than Silves, which features an archaeological museum, preserved sections of the original town wall, Silves Castle, and the Santa Misericórdia Church, built between 1727 and 1728. Silves has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era and was named the capital of the Algarve in the 11th century. Today, its historic roots are captured in cobbled streets and picturesque homes decorated with ornate chimneys.

Almancil
Almancil is home to one of the few churches to have survived the 1755 earthquake without damage. Inside, you can see traditional Portuguese white and blue ceramic glazed tiles that depict the life of São Lourenço, for whom the church is named. The town also retains is roots in the pottery industry through many locally produced pieces available for sale.

Lagos
Now a beautiful and popular tourist part of the Algarve, Lagos was once home to an important slave market, which provides this city with a deep, yet dark, history. Lagos held the first slave market in Europe, which opened in 1444, and slaves were imported from North Africa to be sold in the old customs house, now an art gallery. Even before this time, Lagos was an central port town and remains so today. Other features of historical interest in Lagos include remains of the city walls, built in the 16th century, and Ponta da Bandeira fort, from the 17th century. The city is also home to the Church of São João Baptista, the oldest church in the Algarve, which was built in 1174.

This article was written by Jim Stanton of Meravista.com. Meravista are the fastest way to find property in the Algarve. As local residents they have got to know the area quite well and know all the most interesting cities in the region. Jim has travelled across Europe and many other parts of the world, including several lengthy stints living in Asia and South America, but has found himself drawn time and time again to Portugal, becoming an expert on the culture and history of the country, especially the Algarve region. He now splits his time between the UK and Portugal.

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