About Albufeira, Portugal
Albufeira is a coastal city in the southern Algarve region of Portugal. It’s a former fishing village that has become a major holiday destination, with sandy beaches and a busy nightlife strip. Local fishermen now use the modern marina, a base for diving, dolphin-watching and boat trips, surrounded by candy-colored apartments, with a waterfront promenade.
With almost 10 million visitors per year, the Algarve is Portugal's most popular holiday destination. The beautiful sandy beaches are one of the major attractions. Add loads of sunshine, a rich culture, and activities for families, sports enthusiasts and nature lovers; this is the perfect destination for just about everyone. Algarve's mild climate has attracted interest from Northern Europeans who own their own property in the region.
Once a small fishing village, Albufeira has now developed to be a very touristic area. There is also a new modern marina, which offers a variety of boat trips along the Algarve coast. With lovely beaches, a few museums, and many bars, restaurants and clubs this is a preferred destination for those seeking sun, fun and relaxation.
There is an innumerable amount of beaches in Albufeira and all of the Algarve. With over 155km of shore line and about 75 blue flag beaches it is impossible to experience them all in one trip.
In Albufeira alone there are about 25 beaches. The main beaches near Old Town are Praia dos Pescadores and Praia do Penedo. Other noteworthy beaches along the entire coast are:
- Praia da Marinha near Carvoeiro is one of the most emblematic and beautiful beaches and holder of the "Golden Beach" award because of its outstanding natural qualities. - Dona Ana in Lagos is a picture perfect beach. - Ilha de Tavira in Tavira is ideal for sunbathers or aquatic sports. - Praia dos Barcos in Albufeira is quite popular with the decorative colorful fishing boats. - Praia da Rocha in Portimão is also long and very popular. - São Rafael in Albufeira is great for families with young kids with its shallow waters. The rock formations are spectacular. - Meia Praia in Lagos is one of Algarve's longest beaches. - Praia da Oura in Albufeira is a popular sandy beach flanked by yellow sandstone rocks. - Praia de Vale do Lobo is home to a luxurious resort and has calm waters. - Praia de Odeceixe in Odeceixe is a quiet and smaller sheltered beach.
Climate The Algarve has a Mediterranean sub-tropical climate with moderate rainfall and plenty of sun throughout the year. Summers are hot and sunny with a welcomed cooling breezes coming in from the Atlantic. July and August are the hottest months of the year. The maximum temperatures in the Algarve fluctuate between 15C in the winter and 31 C in the summer, with the temperature rarely falling below zero in the winter months. The Algarve receives most of its rainfall during the winter months, and rarely between June and September.
Faro Airport Airport Tax : none Distance from Airport : 45 kilometers Tourist Office : Tourist Information Rua 5 de Outubro 8200 Albufeira Tel. ++351 289-585279 Tourist Season : April to October Festivals & Events January - Festa das São Luís held in Querença February/March - Loulé Carnaval March/April - Festival de Gastronomia Serrana in Tavira April - Lagos Jazz Festival April - Feira de Mãe Soberana in Loulé Apri/June - Festival Internacional do Música do Algarve in Faro July - Silves Beer Festival July - Feira da Serra São Brás de Alportel's agricultural fair August – Olhão Seafood Festival August/September- Festival de Folclore do Algarve September - Dias Medievais em Castro Marim re-create Middle Ages daily life September - Circuito Hípico Internacional do Algarve horse riding annual competition October - Feira de Outubro Monchique is covered with stalls and exhibitions
Transportation Faro Airport is the international airport for the region. To get to other towns you can reach the Faro train station or bus terminals by taxi or take the bus located just outside the airport terminal and then take the train or bus to your destination. Cars can be hired at Faro Airport as well.
Trains are a great way to get around the Algarve. There are daily high speed trains between Faro and Lisbon. Local trains reach most towns and cities with the comprehensive network run by Rodoviara National. There are bus routes as well but they are less dependable. The Albufeira train station is 6 kilometers away from the resort area, to reach it take the city bus or a taxi.
There is a ferry service between Vila Real de Santo António and Ayamonte in Spain. Naviera Armas operates a ferry to Portimão from Madeira with a couple of departures per month.
A car is often the best way of seeing the Algarve. Cars can be hired at Faro Airport and in other towns and cities in the Algarve. The Algarve has a good network of roads in the more populated areas. Drive on the right, left is for passing only.
Activities & Sports
From East to west, the coast is one beach after another. Many offer rentals for aquatic sports like parasailing, jet-skiing, canoeing, and kayaking. The Alentejo Coast is ideal for surfing and diving. A few towns, like Vilamoura and Albufeira, have modern marinas that sometimes offer boat rentals.
If you are a golf lover then you have come to the right place: the Algarve has a network of over 30 courses doted throughout the region. Famous Algarve golf courses include Vale do Lobo, Palmares, Boavista, and Quinta da Ria.
The 2 local mountain ranges are a haven for hikers: there are around 30 hiking trails to explore.
A well known spa town is Caldas de Monchique.
Archaeology There are traces of Roman villas, baths and port activity all over the Algarve region. The most visited are:
Near Vilamoura, the Cerro da Vila site showcases the ruins of a Roman villa which contains two residences, baths, necropolis, dams, fish salting stations and Roman mosaics. This archeological finding dates back to the 1st century.
Miróbriga is an ancient Roman town located near the village of Santiago do Cacém. Archeology revealed that the town occupied the site of an ancient Iron Age settlement that existed since the 9th century B.C. The baths are among the best preserved in Portugal. Close by there is a bridge with a single semicircular arch, an Imperial temple and a temple dedicated to Venus. Between these two are the remains of an older temple dedicated to the local divinity. North of the forum are the ruins of the market and the inns. The only complete hippodrome known in Portugal is located here, further from the centre.
The Milreu Ruins are considered a national monument. They are the remains of a 3rd century luxurious Roman manor house. Later it was turned into a thriving farm, called now Casa Rural das Ruínas. Today, it houses the interpretive centre depicting Roman daily life in the Algarve. See the manor house, agricultural installations, a wine press, baths and a temple devoted to water activities.
Near Luz Beach visitors can see the Santa Luzia Roman Ruins. This site is not completely excavated and so far only the baths can be seen. The floors were once covered by beautiful mosaics. This was a fishing settlement with tanks for salting fish.
Attractions & Sights The tourist areas are divided into two main areas: the more relaxed Old Town and the Areias de São João, also known as The Strip, which is a nightlife oriented area, with many clubs and bars. The architecture of the town ranges from typically Algarvian narrow streets with pale white and sometimes tiled houses to very modern tourist developments.
The Albufeira Archaeological Museum exhibits a collection of artifacts relating to the history of the area covering prehistoric time; the Roman, Visigothic and Islamic periods, and the modern age. There are a few religious buildings worth visiting, like the Sant Ana's Church, Igreja Matriz, Church of So Sebastio and Misericordia Chapel. Praia dos Pescadores, in the Old Town, is the most famous attraction. Fishermen's boats are still pulled in every morning. The beach side is lined with restaurants and bars.
Great nearby family outings include Zoomarine, Aqualand and Krazy World.
Castelo de Paderne, one of seven on the national flag of Portugal, is a Moorish 12th century castle strategically built on the riverside of Quarteira, along the Roman road "Via Lusitanorum". Paderne's Ancient Roman Bridge still stands at the crossing point.
It is very easy to hop on the train and visit the nearby towns. The best ones are:
Faro and its historic center, called Cidade Velha, with cobblestone streets and 18th century Portuguese and Moorish-influenced architecture. The Faro Jewish Heritage Centre houses a museum and is home to the Jewish Cemetery, the only remaining vestige of the first post-Inquisition Jewish presence in Portugal. Check out the Capela dos Ossos in the Igreja do Carmo church. This is a chapel decorated with the skeletal remains of over 1,200 former monks.
In Lagos you'll find winding streets barely wide enough for small cars, quaint shops and wonderful restaurants. There is another Capela dos Ossos in the Igreja do Sao Sebastiano.
The road to Silves is narrow and winds through beautiful rural areas. When Silves was the Moorish capital of the Algarve, the red stone Silves Castle served as an administrative base for the rest of the Algarve. It is the best preserved Moorish castle in the country. Make sure to see also the 13th century Sé de Silves Cathedral, one of the Algarve’s few remaining gothic monuments, Santa Misericórdia Church, the Cross of Portugal, the Museu Arqueologico de Silves displaying artifacts of the town’s history, and the Cork Museum located inside the former cork factory called Fábrica Inglés.
In Tavira the 16th century Igreja da Misericórdia is often cited as one of the finest churches in town. A short way away stands the odd Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Livramento. Take a horse carriage ride, a boat tour or a walking tour.
Nightlife The Algarve is Nightclubs, cafes and snack bars are abundant in both Old Town as well as The Strip of Albufeira. The Montechoro section proves especially popular during the summer. Other Algarve towns with lively nightclubs are Vilamoura, Praia da Rocha, Quarteira, Lagos, Luz and Sagres.
If you feel like spending the night with lady Luck, there are 3 casinos at your disposal at this destination: Casino Algarve, Casino Monte Gordo and Casino Vilamoura.
Side Trips The picturesque town of Alcoutim has cobbled streets, small squares and a lovely paved promenade along the Guadiana river. Its 14th century castle now houses a small archeological museum. Explore the nearby excavations of the Roman villa of Montinho das Laranjeiras.
The Alentejo coast is a wonderful, less tamed, long stretch of sand ideal for surfing and diving. Check out Sines, Porto Covo, Milfontes, Almograve and Zambujeira do Mar. The country side is just stunning and the best way to see it is in a hot air balloon.
Beja is a city in the Alentejo region, just north of the Algarve. The best example of medieval architecture in Portugal is the 40 m high castle built in Beja by King Dom Diniz in the 13th century. The castle now houses a small military museum. The Visigothic Basilica of Santo Amaro is one of just four pre-Romanesque churches left in Portugal. Some parts date from the sixth century and the interior columns and capitals are carved with foliages and geometric designs from the seventh century. Today it houses a small archaeological museum with Visigothic art. The Church of Santa Maria was first a Visigothic temple in the 6th century and then a mosque during the Moorish occupation. The Rainha D. Leonor Regional Museum is located in the former 15th century Convent of Conceição. I t is an impressive building with a late-Gothic lattice-worked architrave running along the building, a Rococo chapel and cloisters totally covered in 16th century tiles. The convent has been classified as a national monument. The museum's collection includes Roman and Visigothic stones, as well as an important collection of Flemish, Spanish and Portuguese paintings from the 15th to the 18th centuries.
Evora is a bit further but worth the trip with an overnight stay. The historic center was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is very well preserved and still partially enclosed by medieval walls. Visitors can see monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple. Cathedral of Évora, mainly built between 1280 and 1340, it is one of the most important gothic monuments of Portugal. The cathedral has a notable main portal with statues of the Apostles (around 1335) and a beautiful nave and cloister. An unusual attraction is the Capela dos Ossos, Bone Chapel, which is totally ornamented with real human bones. This is one of several similar chapels in the Algarve. Visit each palace: Vasco da Gama, Counts of Basto and Dukes of Cadaval. The arched Água de Prata Aqueduct, built in the 16th century, stretches for 9 km. The end part of the aqueduct is remarkable with houses, shops and cafés built between the arches. Take a seat and relax in the main city square, the Praça do Giraldo.
About 10 km outside of Évora there is the Almendres Cromlech megalithic complex, the largest existing group of structured menhirs in the Iberian Peninsula. A little bit further away is the Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, home of the largest dolmen in the Iberian Peninsula.
Accommodation in the Algarve varies greatly depending where you stay. Hotels for most budgets and even high rise resorts are common in Albufeira, as are traditional guesthouses in the small towns and villages. There are many self catering options for rent like apartments, cottages and villas from private owners. Pousadas are luxury Portuguese accommodation in historic buildings like old Palaces, Castles and Monasteries.
Eating Out There are many restaurants to choose from in the Alrgarve, with many of them offering traditional Portuguese fare as well as a wide variety of fresh seafood and fish. Dishes involving different preparations of codfish are plentiful and grilled sardines are very popular.
Local culinary specialties are the cataplana, steamed seafood prepared in a two-part copper clamshell hinged contraption, and the caldeirada (fish stew). Chicken piri-piri is a roasted chicken seasoned with the spicy piri-piri sauce.
Menus are not always available for consultation: if that is the case ask what is available and make sure to get the price written down before ordering. Or you may see a list on the door with the "pratos do dia", dishes of the day.
Also it is common in Portugal for restaurants to automatically bring a selection of bread, butter, cheese, olives and other small bites to the table. These are not free and you will be charged for what you consume. Ask how much the cover charge is and have them take away what you do want to keep.
Shopping The Algarve is famous for its pottery and ceramics, particularly hand-painted pottery and azulejos (tiles). For working potteries/ceramics workshops the best known pottery centers are located in the towns of Almancil, Porches and Loulé. Portugal is also famous for its cork. Souvenir shops sell all kinds of cork products, from the usual coasters and placemats, right up to shoes, hats and handbags.
There are two main large shopping centers in the Algarve, the Guia Shopping Center near Albufeira and the Forum Algarve in Faro City. Albufeira’s main shopping areas are along Rua do 5 de Outubro and Praça Duarte de Pacheco. In Faro the shopping areas are on Rua Santo António or Rua Francisco Gomes. Most tows also have their fair share of souvenir shops and kiosks.