Great news for foodies looking for a property in the Algarve – Portugal’s only restaurant in the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list has climbed to 22nd place in the 2014 rankings, up from 37th in 2013.
The Michelin-star restaurant, called Vila Joya and part of a luxury spa and beach resort in Albufeira, is run by chef Dieter Koschina. Originally from Austria, Koschina honed his skills in leading establishments in Vienna and Germany before settling in his adopted country of Portugal more than two decades ago. This is the third year it has featured on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Overlooking the picturesque Atlantic coastline, the dining room at Vila Joya plays host to artfully arranged plates of guinea fowl stuffed with black truffles and artichokes, and roasted goose liver with tamarind and salted caramel. However, it’s the chef’s skill with local seafood that is most impressive. Stand-out dishes include ‘cataplana’ – a modern take on a traditional Portuguese stew with pork, cockles and lobster – and confit ‘bacalhau’ (salt cod) with beetroot coulis and yoghurt.
Vila Joya has also become a destination for international chefs, who attend its annual International Gourmet Festival. Top names, including Joan Roca, Björn Frantzén and Nuno Mendes, joined Koschina at last year’s event.
Homeowners planning a trip to their property in the Algarve should treat themselves to a meal at Vila Joya – just be quick to book though, as tables are highly sought after.
Just how at ease Brits are playing golf in the Algarve was highlighted at the weekend when England’s David Lynn came from six shots behind to snatch victory at the 2013 Portugal Masters.
This win is Lynn’s second European Tour title and puts him back in the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50, a week before his 40th birthday. The former US PGA Championship runner-up, whose only previous win in almost 400 events came in the KLM Open in 2004, charged into contention with five birdies in a front nine of 30 and, after a bogey at the tenth, picked up four further shots to set a clubhouse target that was never matched.
The tournament was played at the Oceanico Victoria course, which covers some 90 hectares and is the most recent golf course project of Arnold Palmer in Portugal. As one of the best and most sophisticated golf courses in Europe, every care has been taken to ensure the preservation of the wetlands and the typical vegetation of carob, olive and almond trees.
Owner of the course, Oceanico Golf is now the major player in Portugal´s distinguished golf tourism market, owning and operating one of Europe´s biggest portfolios of courses. It offers seven championship courses in the Algarve, including Vilamoura´s famous five, which are: Victoria (host of the Portugal Masters since 2007), Old Course, Pinhal, Laguna, Millennium, the newer Faldo Course near Silves, and the O´Connor Jnr. course at Amendoeira Golf Resort, which is complemented by a unique floodlit 9 hole par 3 Academy course.
Expats or second home-owners looking for somewhere special to keep their boat on the Algarve should head to the popular resort of Lagos, now that the marina there has become the only marina in Portugal to be awarded five stars by the highly regarded International Maritime Certification Institute (IMCI).
Lagos Marina joins only eight other marinas across the whole of Europe to have achieved a five-star rating under the IMCI’s Blue Star Marina programme, and two others on the Iberian Peninsula. To receive five stars, marinas are assessed on more than 100 criteria.
A decade old next year, Lagos Marina has already won the Euromarina Anchor Award, and has been awarded the European Blue Flag and The Yacht Association’s 5 Gold Anchors. It has a recommended sailing academy and club, a selection of shopping and leisure amenities and hosts events and exhibitions. The Marina Club resort also offers tourist accommodation, with a restaurant, bars and a spa available.
The Blue Star Marina programme was born out of the need for an international quality standard specifically for marinas. Its quality control standards were put in place to help both the boating tourists and marina operators. Independent non-profit association the International Marine Certification Institute (IMCI) owns the programme.
Lagos Marina is a prime real estate location, with a selection of waterside apartment developments to choose from. These include The Factory, a condominium development that blends the already existing factory structure with the implementation of new, modern apartment blocks.
Foreign tourists are flooding back to enjoy the Algarve’s pretty beaches, immaculate golf courses and welcoming resorts in numbers similar to those recorded before the economic downturn, according to recent statistics.
The Bank of Portugal confirmed in August that total revenue generated from tourism in Portugal between January and May this year reached €2.95 billion, representing an increase of 7.9 per cent compared to last year and similar to the figure for 2007.
Meanwhile, according to Portugal’s National Statistics Institute there was an 8.6 per cent increase in the number of overnight stays in tourist accommodation in June 2013 compared with the same month last year. The total number of stays in June 2013 was 4.4 million.
Non-residents accounted for 70 per cent of overnight stays in June, with British tourists forming the largest group of foreign nationals (27 per cent). That said, the highest year-on-year increase in overnight stays by nation during June was recorded by Ireland (+25.9 per cent), then France (+17.6 per cent) and Brazil (+10.9 per cent).
In line with the Bank of Portugal’s figures, tourist accommodation establishments accounted for €207.2 million in total revenue and €144.6 million in revenue from accommodation alone. These results corresponded to year-on-year increases of 10.7 per cent and 12.2 per cent, respectively. In the period January to June 2013, the trend revenue was equally positive, but at a lower rate, namely +4.9 per cent for total revenue and +6.9 per cent for accommodation only.
A new study on the quality of life which has been compiled by the University of Beira Interior shows Lisbon as being the top city, followed by Oporto and Albufeira.
The top 30 places in the study are dominated by municipalities in the Algarve, while towns and cities in northern Portugal account for most of the bottom 30 out of the 308 municipalities assessed in this report. The study is based on the indexes of social and economic development.
People living in Albufeira are not surprised it is ranked third in this study as considerable investments that have been made in homes for the young and elderly, in basic sanitation and urban cleanliness, and in education and culture. The city has invested a lot in public spaces such as museums and art galleries and the municipal library, and the county has enjoyed good economic development thanks to tourism.
Albufeira is on the south coast of Portugal and covers an area of around 140 km². It has a population of approximately 40,000 residents, including around 4,000 foreigners. Although the area is known for its tourism, it also has a rich history and culture. In addition its renowned for its excellent food, as one of the principal activities in the region is fishing.
There are no less than three golf courses in Albufeira, and the local council has made considerable efforts to promote sports. It’s also known for its lively nightlife, and for its entertainment. There are also numerous activities available for tourists and locals alike, making it easy to see why this municipality rates so highly for its quality of life.
According to golfholidays.com, who are one of the leading golf travel firms on the Internet, Portugal tops the list of places in which to enjoy the best golfing holiday experience, beating France into second place.
Apparently it achieves this accolade thanks to the excellent value and easy access offered, as well as the enormous choices of outstanding courses and accomodations. This probably won’t come as a surprise to many people, as golfing holidays in Portugal are often considered to be something of a tradition.
The Algarve is synonymous with great golf courses, especially as the region benefits from a temperate year-round climate that is perfect for the sport. This is something that has enticed buyers to the region for many years, as no matter where you buy a property, is unlikely to be far away from a world class golfing facility.
One of the most popular areas is in Vilamoura as there are no less than the 12 golf courses in the locality. Some properties are on the golf courses and offer access to numerous amenities, while others are situated nearby. These kinds of properties are always in demand for golfing holidays, and are usually very easy to rent out.
Although Portugal does have problems, the country is taking substantial steps to return to financial health, and there’s probably never been a better time to buy. The Algarve has excellent flight connections to the rest of Europe, and is close enough to the UK for long weekend breaks. It’s also perennially popular amongst those looking to escape the winter weather.