Portimão is a popular holiday destination that captures the true essence of the Algarve. The ultimate Portuguese beach life and cuisine are found in this port city that it is the second largest in the region. Renowned for the breathtaking Praia da Rocha beach, where you can find the beautiful first ever hotel of the Algarve: the Bela Vista Hotel. Visit the city’s award winning museum and learn about the history of the fish canning industry. Afterwards have a taste of the best chargrilled sardines of the world. Find out all the secret tips on Portimão.
Portimão – Highlights
Top attractions in Portimão:
• Beautiful beaches
• Historic buildings
• Vibrant area around Praia da Rocha
Portimão is the second biggest city of the Algarve (after Faro). The city has more than 45.000 inhabitants. Since Portimão is situated near the water and the Arade river, it is a port town, where fishing and trading are important. The sea was very important during the history of Portimão. The local economy was mostly based on trade, fishing and the fish processing industry. However, during the 19th century tourism became an important part of the local economy. The touristic area is mainly around the beach of Praia da Rocha. Apartments, hotels, resorts and commercial centers were built near the coast. Nowadays, Portimão is an attractive tourism destination and a major hub in the Algarve.
What to see
Portimão has a large shopping area where you can take an interesting walk and do your shopping. From the ‘Praça Teixeira Gomes’ near the river, walk to the Largo 1 de Dezembro.
Above the benches on the square Largo 1 de Dezembro, you can see glazed tiles, showing key events in Portuguese history.
At the northern side of this square there is an 18th century small palace called Palácio Sárrea Garfias. This palace belonged to a noble family and is now used as a theatre, called Teatro Municipal de Portimão.
In the centre of Portimão you can find the Parish church, also called Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição. The church is from the 15th century and has a gothic portal, which is all that remains of the original building, after it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. You can also see some works in gilt carved wood, which date back to the 18th century, after the earthquake.
Nearby you can also find the Jesuit´s college, a building of simple lines from the 17th century. This college has the largest church in the Algarve, which is decorated with gilt carved woodworks (18th century). Inside is also the tomb of the founder of the college, Diogo Gonçalves.
There is a museum in Portimão, called Museu de Portimao. It is housed in a former sardine canning factory and opened its doors in 2008. The museum has an interesting archaeological exhibition and shows the history of the fish canning industry in Portimão. You can experience the former production line of the sardine factory and will learn all about the historical importance of this industry for the city of Portimão.
Near Praia da Rocha, you can take the promenade on the cliff top, which leads to the Santa Catarina fortress (16th century). This fortress was built to defend the estuary of the Arade river. From the fortress you can enjoy a magnificent view.
Portimão is famous for its nice, sandy beaches with warm waters. One of the most well-known beaches of Portimão is Praia da Rocha (2 km south of Portimão), which was one of the first famous seaside resorts in the Algarve. Praia da Rocha is now one of the main tourist resorts and has a large beautiful beach, which is some kilometres long. In Praia da Rocha you find almost all water sports. There is a boulevard with a nice atmosphere, nice shops, a gambling casino, many discos and bars with live music. From Praia da Rocha you can take beautiful long walks of many kilometres to Praia do Vau, another supperb beach.
Aqua shopping mall
There is a relatively new shopping mall in the city, called Aqua Portimão. Parking is free and there is plenty of parking space. The shopping mall is quite modern and has a large variety of shops.
Algarve International Circuit
Car lovers can visit the race track of the Autódromo Internacional Algarve, also known as the Algarve International Circuit. This circuit is located just outside Portimão and was opened in 2008. The race track is about 4692 kilometres long. Although there are currently no Formula 1 races here, it is seen internationally as a circuit of great quality.
Finally you should not leave Portimão without sitting at one of the many inexpensive restaurants along the harbor. Portimão is also known as the sardine capital of the Algarve. There are many good sardine restaurants in the city, with a great view over the water. Here you can enjoy the delicious grilled sardines, fresh bread, a salad and local red wine. But if you would like to eat other types of food or have your meal in a better kind of atmosphere, there are plenty of good restaurants.
Alvor is an old fishing village situated at the beautiful estuary of the Rio de Alvor, now a protected area. Archeological finds of a Neolitic settlement with vestiges of a subsequent Roman occupations is evidence of the long history of Alvor. During the Arabian occupation, the important village of Alvor was conquered by the Cruzaders in 1189. The village fell again to the Arabs in 1191 and was reconquered by the Portuguese in 1250. Nowadays, Alvor still is a typical fishing village where you can see the normal fishing activities.
Well worth a visit is the Parish church of Alvor with a beautiful portal in the Manueline style. This is the typical architecture from the time of the Great Discoveries (16th century), which is considered to be the most beautiful in the Algarve. From the same period there are also the columns which support the three naves as well as the arch of the main chapel. The altarpiece is Baroque (18th century) and the walls are decorated with glazed tiles (18th century).
There are several beaches in the Alvor area, with beautiful rock formations (like Praia dos Três Irmãos) to long and large sandy beaches (like Praia de Alvor). All water sports are available, as well as luxury hotels, villas and apartments.
Roman ruins of Abicada
Together with Milreu and Vilamoura, the Roman ruins of Abicada belongs to the most important archeological sites from the Roman period in the Algarve. It was a large Roman villa with beautiful mosaics, surrounded by farm land.
Neolitic settlement of Alcalar
The Neolitic settlement of Alcalar is a necropolis that consists of a set of twelve megalithic tombs from 2000/1600 BC. It is located near Portimão.
Portimão is based in Western Algarve Portugal. It is 70 kilometers and it takes a 54 minutes drive from Faro Airport.
During thousands of years Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Vikings and Crusaders sailed along the river from the estuary up to Silves in order to settle, to trade or to conquer. Nowadays it is possible to follow this historical route by boat and admire the beautiful nature and natural grottos with stalactites and stalagmites. It is an unforgettable trip which is possible only at high tide. We also recommend an unforgettable boat trip along the coast. Portimão offers a large choice of leisure cruises along the coast and big game fishing. It is simply the best to see and admire the Algarve coast.
From Portimão you can take a cruise up the Arade river to Silves. This is a beautiful cruise and is sure to make a lasting impression.