History of Albufeira: a brief summary
The history of Albufeira dates back to the Roman Empire. In Roman times, Albufeira the settlement was called Baltum. It had a port and was involved with commerce and agriculture. The Roman influence is still visible nowadays. You can see remains of Roman bridges in Paderne and Guia.
The Arabs occupied the town in the 8th century. They renamed it Al-Buhera, which means ‘Castle on the Sea’. During five centuries of Arabian rule, Al-Buhera had an intensive trade with North Africa. Together with Faro, it was one of the last Arabian strongholds to be conquered. Al-Buhera was finally conquered by the Portuguese forces of King Afonso III in 1249. The Moors fled to a cave called Gruta do Xorino, which still exists today.
The Christian conquest and the decadency of the trade led to the decline of the town. The town became a simple fishing village. The city stood on the cliffs above the beach, and was defended by a wall. You can still see some remains of this wall in Albufeira. Streets were narrow and all houses were white washed. This is still a characteristic of Albufeira’s old town.
King Manuel gave Albufeira a new charter in 1504, granting it the status of a town. This document ruled the collective life of Albufeira. It concerned the civil, penal and administrative law as well as taxes, trade and the economy of the town. In 1573, king Sebastian visited the fortress of Albufeira. The fortress had strong artillery and was able to defend the town. This was in a time when there were constant attacks from pirates coming from North Africa.
The earthquake of 1755 damaged a great part of Albufeira. A tsunami with 10 metre high waves followed the earthquake. Many buildings were destroyed and only a few buildings survived the disaster. A second disaster in the history of Albufeira happened in 1833. There was a civil war between liberals and absolutists. Albufeira had been one of the first towns in the Algarve to support the liberal ideals. During the civil war, Albufeira was attacked by the absolutist guerrillas. This resulted in the destruction of several buildings. Also, many inhabitants were executed. The guerrillas controlled the town for 4 years.
Modern history of Albufeira
Until the 1960´s, Albufeira was a small fishing village. The export of fish was a big part of the local economy. However, around the 1960’s things changed. Fishing declined and the town became a major tourism centre of the Algarve.
One of the main traditions still held in Albufeira is the festa em honra de Nossa Senhora da Orada. This festivity is held on the 15th August. It is a nautical tradition in which fishermen carry a statue of Our Lady on their boats along the coast.