Algarve Design Houses

Olhao, Vila Real & Sao Bras, Algarve, Portugal
Book from GBP Book from £183 per night

Algarve Design Houses

Olhao, Vila Real & Sao Bras, Algarve, Portugal

Beautifully restored houses (for 2-8) in three of the Algarve's loveliest towns, with courtyard pools, sunny terraces, chic rooms and a concierge on tap

Beautifully restored houses (for 2-8) in three of the Algarve's loveliest towns, with courtyard pools, sunny terraces, chic rooms and a concierge on tap

You've a choice of three locations for these stunningly transformed townhouses in the Algarve: the charismatic and lively coastal hub of Olhao, the laid-back border town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio (where the glistening Guadiana River spearates you from Spain), or the authentic market town of Sao Bras de Alportel, further inland. All three are equally lovely in their own way.

And the houses themselves are real eye-openers, too. Ranging from two to four bedrooms, all have ingenious, ultra-modern design which contrasts with – and complements – their historic roots (one was a fish warehouse, the other two were merchant’s houses). We were impressed by the collage of textures and colours: cream borders mark out geometric rooms, polished concrete floors gleam, and there's a nod to Moorish history in the arched windows and doors. Each house also has a little courtyard pool in shimmering turquoise (one is large enough for a proper swim; all are heated).

Owners Ludovic and Bert are a dream team: one a creative director with an eye for interiors, the other an Algarve aficionado and wine importer (you can sample their wares from the wine fridge in each house). Best of all is their unique concierge service: a “flying receptionist” will meet you on arrival, bring fresh bread each morning, and assist with anything from private chefs to massages. If you need recommendations for secluded sandy beaches, gentle walks in the hills, or the best subradar restaurants, just ask.


  • A winning combo of self-catering villas with add-on hotel services
  • The flexible set up – all bedrooms can be doubles or twins – makes them great for families
  • All three houses are steps from shops and eateries, and two have the sea in easy reach; perfect for a car-free holiday
  • Such a clever use of space, with rooms and terraces on different levels
  • Heated pools and a sunny climate year-round mean they also work well in shoulder or low seasons


  • Prices match the design and services, but are fair value when split across 4-8 people
  • Although kids are welcome, the houses have quite a sophisticated vibe – more suited to older children or, better still, groups of friends
  • Weekly rentals only (Saturday-Saturday)
  • We have yet to visit the Vila Real de Santo Antonio house (we absolutely loved everything about the other two houses!)

Best time to go

The best months are April/May for spring flowers and warm temperatures, and September/October for sunshine and warm sea. July and August can be uncomfortably hot (40C). Winter months are cold at night, and the wind can be chilly, but the sun still shines regularly; all houses have central heating.

Our top tips

You can’t come here and not try something from Bert’s wine collection. If you don’t fancy any in the fridge, ask the concierge to fetch one from the cellar for you.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Townhouses
  • 3 houses for 2-8
  • Self-catering; chef & concierge on tap
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Laundry Service
  • End-of-stay clean + 1 mid-week clean

Olhao House (2br)

Once a fish warehouse (armazèm), we found this elegant townhouse to be a great option for a family of 3-4, or a couple wanting extra space. It's set over two whitewashed storeys – high ceilings and arched windows allow the whole to feel airy. Its two kingsize bedrooms are on the top floor, each has an ensuite bathroom with walk-in shower, bathrobes and plenty of natural light.

On the floor below is the well-equipped, modern kitchen-diner, where we rustled up several seafood-focused meals, which has plenty of counter space, very attractive ceramics, and appliances including fridge, induction hob, oven, dishwasher, coffee machine and a washer-dryer, plus the requisite honesty bar filled with Bert's best Portuguese wines.

Custom-built arched glass doors lead onto the enclosed private patio and its heated plunge pool – a refreshing oasis in the hotter months. Spiral stairs ascend from the patio to a terrace overlooking the pool, then more steep steps lead onto the roof, which has shaded seating and an outdoor sink/bar area – perfect for sundowners – as well as long views across the town's rooftops to the Ria Formosa.

We were just two blocks from the waterfront here, in Olhao's pedestrianised zone. The nearest supermarket, which very conveniently has a bakery, is across the street, and there are many enticing restaurants and cafes within a 5-minute walk. Olhao itself is a charming coastal town with character, cobbled streets, and a renowned covered fish and vegetable market (best on Saturdays but amazing any day of the week). Take a boat trip through the Ria Formosa, walk along the salt pans, float/swim in the Mar Morto, browse the boutiques – as we did. For seaside fun, nearby Armona has a gorgeous beach, accessible via ferry from Olhao.

Vila Real House (3br)

Tucked among a jumble of townhouses in Vila Real de Santo Antonio, a pretty border town that straddles the Guadiana River and looks across to Spain, this former merchant's house has been completely transformed into a minimalist marvel, sleeping six in three ensuite bedrooms.

The layout centres around a sunny courtyard with citrus trees and a rectangular pool (the largest of the three houses). The architect’s signature perpendicular design flows throughout, and there are multiple roof terraces spread across different levels. Branching off the courtyard are the three large bedrooms and the lounge/kitchen. Tones are muted: grey cement worktops, dark wood panelling and walls painted brilliant white.

You’re right in the heart of Vila Real here, so there’s plenty on the doorstep. Discover the grand plaza, stroll along the waterfront promenade, or recline on the town’s stunning, white-sand beach. The surrounding Mata Nacional da Dunas Litorais pine forest has pretty cycle routes through it, or you can hop on a ferry and pop across the border to the Spanish town of Ayamonte, where there’s great tapas!


Sao Bras House (4br)

Located in the heart of pretty Sao Bras de Alportel, near the 16th-century cathedral, this gorgeous four-bedroom townhouse is the newest addition to the portfolio. Once a market warehouse, and like the others, it has an enclosed courtyard with a small pool (definitely 'plunge' sized), flanked by eye-catching striped seating. Gleaming white walls and potted palms add a Moorish note.

The house itself is on multiple levels linked by steep stairs and topped by a roof terrace. Interiors bear the same hallmarks – graceful lines (incorporating ancient arches and vaulted ceilings), clever use of light, creamy walls and a handpicked scattering of vintage and designer furniture. The double-height sitting room comes with a twin-aspect log-burner for off-season stays; while the kitchen has a marble-topped island with ceramic hob, the full range of goodies (including a wine fridge, of course), and reams of storage. There's a choice of two dining spaces, one of them in a lofty vault which is half-open to the patio.

All four bedrooms can be set up with kingsize double or twin beds, and have ensuite shower rooms. One is accessed en route to the roof terrace, so is more separate from the others; another is on the ground floor – we thought this flexibility useful when it comes to any size or shape of family and friends together. You get all-white walls, polished concrete floors, superb mattresses and a minimum of fuss. It's monastically calm, and you'll sleep like an angel.

The town of Sao Bras has a sleepy charm: whitewashed lanes decked with flowerpots, plenty of kerbside cafés and eateries, a few ceramic and craft boutiques, an episcopal palace, a costume museum, plus gentle hiking and biking trails nearby.


Children are very welcome in all three houses – all bedrooms can be set up as twins – but bear in mind the decor is minimalist, with designer furniture and white interiors. We think they are best for families with older children looking for a townhouse with shops, eateries and markets on your doorstep – The Olhao House was the perfect place for our family. There are beaches in easy reach if staying in Olhao and Vila Real. From Olhao, local boats ply to islets, great for getting out into nature too.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Olhao House suits a family of 3-4, with a heated plunge pool in the courtyard, and two bedrooms. Vila Real House suits a family of 5-6, with a bigger courtyard pool. Sao Bras House (four bedrooms) suits a larger family wanting more space, or two families travelling together; it has a heated plunge pool.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Heated swimming pool in Vila Real House
  • Heated plunge pool in Olhao & Sao Bras Houses

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Boat trips
  • Beaches
  • Ria Formosa National Park
  • Horse riding
  • Watersports
  • Fishing

Families Should Know:

None of the pools are fenced. Olhao and Sao Bras Houses have steep stairs (no stair gates) inside and out, and a roof terrace, so we don't recommend them for those with toddlers. All houses work well for families without a car, but parking is available at each.


  • Airport: 15-40 mins
  • Hospital: 15-30 mins
  • Supermarket: 1-5 mins
Kid Friendly:


The houses are in 3 different towns – Olhao, Vila Real de Santo Antonio & Sao Bras de Alportel – in the eastern part of the Algarve, away from the crowds. Olhao is on the coast, Vila Real is on an estuary (with a river beach), Sao Bras is further inland.

> See all houses on a map (new window)

By Air:
Fly to Faro airport, which is 16km from Olhao, 20km from Sao Bras and 60km from Vila Real.

From the Airport
Your flying receptionist can meet you at the airport on arrival. Most guests will hire a car from there, but if you don't drive you can request an airport transfer.

By Car:
If you want to hire a car see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.


  • Faro Airport 30.0 km FAR


  • Beach 9.0 km
  • Shops 5.0 km
  • Restaurant 5.0 km

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Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests


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