Albufeira - a great place to holiday!
- blue sky and sand...
Albufeira must be one of the most famous places in Portugal, never mind the Algarve...
I'd never before stayed there, only visited to recline on a nearby beach, so it was with a hint of trepidation that I approached
our September 2004 vacation. It turned out, I'm happy to report, to have been unnecessary worry.
The town has received more than its fair share of bad press, due mainly to
a misconception about 'tourism' and one tiny part of the town.
In reality, there are two Albufeiras; the old town that served as a fishing port and the new areas that grew up around that original part.
Of course, the money that tourism has brought has meant that Albufeira's importance has grown, and it's now the hub of a sizeable administrative area (although part of the greater district of Faro).
It's probably been around since pre-historic times, but the Romans knew it as Baltum, and the Moors renamed it Al Buhera (which apparently means sea-castle).
Like many places in the Algarve, it's lived through 'interesting times'.
Long before the seismic events brought about by football (soccer) hooliganism during the recent Euro 2004 competition, Albufeira was suffering damage from real earthquakes (most recently in 1755,
you'll be relieved to hear). But even before and after that, there were sieges and reconquests which left the town in ruins.
In fact, I read recently that the upsurge of tourism over the last 30-40 years has been responsible for rescuing the place from virtual poverty.
Of course, the tourism is the result of its abundance of great beaches, which as you'll
learn, tends to endear a place to yours truly.
Albufeira is pretty much in the centre of the Algarve coastline, yet the transfer by coach from Faro airport
takes less than one hour, so you might not need to
hire a car.
This is a marathon page, so if you'd rather skip to a subject that appeals, just click any of the links below:
Other Points of Interest
Or, if you have Albufeira Impressions of your
own to share, please go here.
Latest item is the announcement that the
official season in Albufeira will in future extend
from 18 May to 20 October. That means the beaches
will be guarded and security will remain in place,
to offer a safer beach experience in this Algarve
hot-spot. Of course, there is lots to enjoy even
out of season, if you're not magnetically drawn to
the beach. And of course you don't have to go in
the water, in season or out. Sprawling under a
parasol with your vacation reading does not
require a lifeguard, does it?
Albufeira has a really efficient Giro
(circulatory) bus service, with three circuits covering the whole of the centre and the outskirts, and plenty of paragems (bus stops).
You can just hop on and off wherever the fancy
The three Giro 'lines' are:
This covers the Albufeira's Municipal area, north as far as the Camping park at Vale Paraiso, out west to Cerro da Aguia, south west including the marina, then back to the Old Town.
Serves from the Old Town out east to Montechoro and Santa Eulália, going anti-clockwise.
Shares most of its route with the Azul service, but travels in a clockwise direction.
A 3- Euro ticket (roughly £2.50 or $4.00) would get you unlimited travel on any of the Giro routes for a whole day.
(And I believe you can travel even more cheaply if
you buy a 7-day ticket.)
also offers a tourist road train, known as Turistrem.
The route starts down near Fisherman's Beach in the Old Town, with stops at the Câmara Municipal, and 'The Strip'.
Some of the route's roads are a bit bumpy and in poor repair, and the carriage's suspension
is a bit unforgiving on a vacationing rear-end,
but you can always take along a cushion, now I've
And now, let's get down to what there is to enjoy in and around Albufeira. There's a great deal to tell, so I'll start with my own specialist field of interest...
Starting from west and going eastward, and all within easy reach, you can choose from Praia de Baleerira (west of the new marina), the old town's two beaches, Praia do Peneco and Praia dos Pescadores (Fishermen's Beach), which I've also heard called Praia dos Barcos. Then there's Praia do Inatel, Praia dos Alamães, Praia das Areias de São João, Praia dos Aveiros and Praia da Oura.
That lot span only 5 kilometres (a little over 3 miles)! And there are even more beaches that are easily accessible from Albufeira. A few miles to the west are Praia da Gale and Praia do São Rafael. While a short distance eastward, you can choose from Praia do Olhos de Agua and Praia da Falésia.
Some of these beaches are among my current favourites.
You can see the up-to-date listing on my Favourite Beaches page.
And then, of course, as with everywhere in Portugal, there are ...
Albufeira has a good crop of them, in varying states of use and repair. Whether or not you're religious, they offer an insight into what makes the locals tick, I find. They have certainly poured a lot of time, effort and money into their places of worship over the ages.
Igreja (Parish Church)
In the Rua da Igreja Nova, this 18th century building replaced the Igreja destroyed during the 1755 earthquake that devastated much of Albufeira.
It contains a painting by local artist Samora Barros, (who was featured at the Municipal gallery during our stay). It forms a background for Albufeira's patron saint, Our Lady of the Conception.
That's the Igreja's bell tower behind me (I was sitting facing the Sant'Ana church - they're that close!)
Another 18th century church, standing in the Largo Jacinto dAyet. Main objects of interest are the altar piece representing Our Lady of Pain and a wooden sculpture of the Crucifixion. The name is sometimes denoted as 'Santana', like that of the rock group.
Converted from the remains of a Moorish mosque as the chapel for Albufeira's Governor, it is found in Rua Henrique Calado. It was partly rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, using a Gothic style.
S. Sebastião Church
Located in the Praça Miguel Bombarda, this was also built during the mid-18th century.
Bits of it are - allegedly - a mix of Manueline and Baroque styles (which is lost on me, but looks interesting anyway). Inside are various wooden images of saints and a carved stone image allegedly from the former chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade.
Nossa Senhora da Orada Chapel
The original chapel was 16th century, while this building was latter 18th century. The tombs outside include that of an Albufeira local, Francisco Correia dAtaide Cabrita, who fought as a commander in the civil war of 1833.
Other Points of Interest:
This is in the old town, and displays items salvaged from the ruins of past buildings. We even photographed some, before the desk lady (I don't think she was the curator) asked us to desist.
I don't know why they do that. It's not as though flash photography is going to harm crumbling bits of stonework, surely. (Some of you archaeological experts out there might care to drop me an e-mail if that's incorrect - I'm always happy to learn).
The best way to visit it is to walk up the Rua da Bateria from the pedestrianised area, until you reach the corner with Rua Henrique Calado. You'll find the Museum in the small square there. And the bonus is, you'll have great sea views for much of your walk.
One of the three castle doorways, it provided access to the original chapel of SantAna which was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, to be replaced by the existing chapel.
S. Vicente de Albufeira
The monument to this local friar stands in the Largo Jacinto dAyet. He undertook a mission to convert the Japanese to Christianity, was imprisoned and tortured, but refused to recant his faith and so was burned at the stake in 1632.
The Bell Tower
Constructed on top of the parish church in 1869, this tower has a 28-metre high stairway leading up to 8 bells (so don't be up there when they ring them!)
Former Town Hall
Just off the main square, Largo Eng. Duarte Pacheco, this was damaged by the 1755 earthquake and a subsequent fire. Over the main doorway is the family coat of arms of a Governor of Albufeira Castle.
There's not much left of it, what with the earthquakes and sieges it's undergone, but you can get an idea of what it must have been like to live in a fortified area under constant threat of attack or invasion. This was the last Moorish stronghold to fall during the reconquest of Portugal, and was only taken when Faro (the other major centre of resistance) fell, and Albufeira's situation became untenable.
What's left of the fortifications can be seen at Rua Joaquim Pedro Samora, where this tower guarded the north gateway.
The Clock Tower
Visible from just about anywhere that your view isn't blocked by an apartment building, the clock tower is a one-off. In a country where unusual skylines are the norm, this is in a class of its own, easily mistaken for the top of some strange church. I believe that it is regarded as Alufeira's symbol and is illuminated during the town's many festivals.
Assumed to be 16th century, this compartment was exposed by cliff erosion. It can be viewed from the wall of the Rua da Bateria.
Arch of the Travessa da Igreja Velha
An impressive bit of Arab architecture with an open drain that runs down the middle of the street. The church for which it's named disappeared during the 1755 earthquake.
Located right next to the Câmara Municipal, the gallery is not large, but holds regular exhibitions. When we visited, there was a display of paintings by local artist Samora Barros and a man with the wonderful surname of Sousa é Motta. Nev was unimpressed with Senhor Barros, but thought that Sousa é Motta's portraits in oils were top-notch.
Albufeira's Fisherman's beach
can now host large concerts on the recently-paved
They're big on free live entertainment in
Albufeira, especially in the Old Town Square,
known as Largo Eng. Duarte Pacheco.
It's been extensively refurbished since the picture
above was taken during our 2004 Albufeira
Free entertainment includes sideshows such as the 'statue' artistes who hold poses for long periods, only breaking off to 'give a twirl' to those who put money into their offerings hat.
You're also likely to encounter puppet show to music, a South American pipe band, and
a mime artist or two.
We always enjoy observing the portrait artists, most of them pretty talented, who
will do group or individual portraits on the spot. They work in difficult conditions, since friends and family of the sitter always get restless and try to disturb proceedings, which doesn't do much for the artist's concentration.
This is something we were told we would love or hate. Actually, we did neither.
It is a north-to-south road just up from Praia da Oura, and it is lined with tourist-trap bars and shops. Most have some form of music blaring forth, which makes for a bit of a cacophony. And many of the shops are selling the same sort of things, but I know nothing about commercial practice, so maybe that makes sense.
One thing that puzzles me is the number of 'Irish bars'. Albufeira didn't seem to have that many Irish residents (or Irish tourists, come to that).
If you don't like the local brews and fancy a Guinness, Boddingtons and Murphy's beers and the occasional chap singing 'Oirish' laments,
with big-screen TVs showing English Premiership or International football matches,
then you know where to look!
If The Strip doesn't sound like your thing, just avoid
it; there's lots more to see and do in Albufeira.
Perhaps it was my 'vacation mode' but I find
there's a definite buzz about it, and most of the people you'll see are enjoying themselves well enough. Also,
it contains many shops and businesses that hand out free maps of the town, which are extremely handy (and more informative than anything we gleaned at the Old Town's tourist information office).
One of my favourite landmarks is the 'cursed by
the Almighty' bench above Fisherman's beach (see
vacation page for my 2004 pic). It's been
renovated and whitewashed, and the new graffiti on
the wall/backrest aren't half as intriguing - but
it still offers a fabulous view and some welcome
Finding your way around if you're driving...
The 4 Roundabouts
These are all on the Avenida dos Descobrimentos, the main east-west road that bisects greater Albufeira, and each features some-thing large and eye-catching. Some might think they are less than breathtaking in their beauty, but when you're driving around town for the first time, they make it hard to get lost!
From west to east, they feature: dolphins, watches (pictured here), worms and a 'globe' fountain.
I soon learned that if I got to the dolphins, I was approaching or leaving the Albufeira Marina. When I could see the watches, I wasn't far from the Câmara Municipal (Town Hall). At the worms, I was nearing The Strip, and the globe fountain meant I was near the bullring (perish the thought).
All in all, an easy way to remember how to get around, while you're still learning.
Easily distinguished from the hillside approach road by its
pastel-shaded 'Legoland' layout, the Albufeira marina is
relatively new and the apartments sell like the proverbial 'hot
cakes', so I'm told!
Even if you don't have a boat, it's a nice
place to visit (by bus, car or even on foot if
it's not too hot to walk from town).
There's a supervised area for kids' entertainment
as well as cafes and shops to explore.
time I've scoffed down home-made sandwich lunch near the harbour entrance (Porto de Abrigo), where the breezes
take the sting out of the midday heat.
You will not be stuck for a choice of restaurants in Albufeira! Whether you're in the old town or elsewhere, the number of places to eat is simply staggering.
As usual, we struggle to find places that served good vegetarian
meals, but most visitors are better served.
Either down near the beach, or up on the hill
of the old town, there are restaurants and cafes
aplenty that offer good food and interesting
surroundings, many with great views.
(The 2006/2007 municipal works pedestrianised
much of the area around Fisherman's
Beach, which has made walking there safer, but
removed yet more of the traditional character of
Old Albufeira. That's progress for you, and if you
don't like it, just keep to the uphill eating
choices, where the sea breezes are welcome on hot
Unless you book a holiday that provides 'full board', eating out all the time can prove very expensive, so
here's some advice about food shopping in
For some (charming) reason, Portugal has small shops that are
mini-markets, medium shops that are supermarkets, and supermarkets that are hipermercados (hypermarkets). So long as you appreciate these exaggerations, you'll not go far wrong.
For most needs and a reasonable choice, this chain seems to have outlets of various sizes just about everywhere you might visit. A great choice for fresh bread and croissants if you share my taste in holiday breakfasts.
(Update: the Credit Crunch seems to have
troubled this business enough to force the sale of
many of its outlets, but I believe that most in
Albufeira have been spared the chop).
This 'hypermarket' chain offers the most choice, in my opinion. The store in Albufeira (quite close to the Câmara Municipal) is no exception and stocks good value wines, fresh produce and local breads, plus some recognizable brands of cereals and stuff.
Of course, you should be on the lookout for some of the smaller outlets that also give good value.
I'm never averse to a 2-for-1 deal on local wines.
Unless you're adventurous, Portuguese red wines
are a better bet than the white, but why not take
a chance when you're on vacation, right?
The Albufeira weather is usually kind to
visitors, and it isn't as affected by biting
insects as many other places, but if you sit still
in the evening, you should have applied some
anti-bug salve to your bare lower extremities,
just as a precaution.
While exploring around Albufeira, don't be
surprised if you're propositioned by numerous
cheerful and cheeky young folk who are paid to promote time-share schemes.
They offer scratch cards that almost always
offer you 'prizes', so long as you agree to visit
a resort premises to take a look around and endure
a sales pitch.
You can guess the deal; they walk you around the complex, show you the facilities and the high standard of the apartments, then try to get you to sign up for one week a year...
Unless you're in the market for what they're
offering, just enjoy the free drinks and the
inspection of the facilities, then decline the
offer and ask for your 'prize' to be
it's a free dinner on the complex, don't worry,
just enjoy the night out. Small recompense for
subjecting yourself to a few hours of unsubtle sales
I'm sure if you try Albufeira yourself, you'll find it equally enjoyable. If you can't afford an
villa, just make sure your apartment in Albufeira is in (or near) the
impressive Old Town.
sun at Clube Praia d'Oura
So, that's about it for this page.
If you want to read an account of our 2004
Albufeira vacation, then here it is.
Better still, if you've been to
Albufeira and have experiences to share, just use
the form below and tell everyone about it!
What Do You Remember About Albufeira?
Great vacation or something to avoid? Share it!
What Other Visitors Have Said
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