When you think of Albufeira Portugal the tourist capital of the Algarve, you first think of its golden beaches and pulsating nightlife. These features attract droves of holidaymakers from all over Europe, particularly during the summer months when you can’t swing a lilo without banging into another tourist. Coming under the municipal area of Faro, Albufeira covers an area of approximately 140 km², with more than 40,000 resident inhabitants including a whopping 4,000 foreigners who have chosen to live here. But how has Albufeira earned so much popularity and yet retained its traditions? Read on to find out why, this week, we heart Albufeira Portugal…
The history of Albufeira
Back in Roman times, bustling Albufeira was called Baltum, up until in the 8th century when the Moors who occupied the town renamed it Al-Buhera – The Castle on the Sea. Today, vestiges of aqueducts, roads and Roman bridges can be still be seen in Paderne and Guia. Much later, in the middle of the 19th century, the fishing industry did much to revive the economy of the town, soon becoming the principal means of income for the region. Tourism only began to flourish from the ‘60s onwards, providing a new breath of air for the locals, leading to the town becoming a city in 1986. Thanks to an ever-growing tourist industry, Albufeira has become one of the most desired holiday destinations in Europe.
Best beaches in Albufeira
Albufeira beaches are the most popular in the Algarve, yet with more than twenty golden, sandy beaches to choose from, many of which are blue flagged, they never get too overcrowded. The most well-known is Fisherman’s Beach, where many of the Algarve’s summer parties are held. Despite this, the beach has managed to retain its traditional appearance, of which the fishing industry is still very much a part – expect to see colourful Algarve fishing boats dancing on the waves both day and night. Falésia Beach, a huge length of fine golden sand running from Albufeira to Vilamoura, is another great spot, particularly if you’re bringing the kids as its blue flagged. Similarly, Olhos d’ Agua or “eyes of the water” as it translates to, is a safe beach that’s very popular with tourists due to its myriad resort places to eat and drink along the beach. It gets its name from the freshwater springs underneath the sands, which can sometimes be seen to bubble up at low tide. Praia do Túnel, is situated at the front of the old Albufeira town. It is a magnificent wide stretch of golden sand, embraced by soft golden-red cliffs and boasting striking rock formations in the water. Access is through a ‘tunnel’ in the cliffs under a hotel just past the tourist office with a few steps down to the beach – hence its name.
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What to see in Albueria
Albufeira’s old town centre has a charming traditional feel. White-washed houses and narrow, cobbled streets lined with cafés and boutiques lead to a picturesque central square. In the square, you will find yourself surrounded by bars and restaurants where you can taste some of the local fish-based gastronomy. The historic centre exposes Albufeira’s Arab past through its impressive architecture. The charming, meandering streets are narrow and the jasmine-scented air makes walking through the neighbourhood a pleasure. You can walk to the Castillo del Mar from here – the ‘castle by the sea‘ – a fortress built by the Arabs as a significant point of defence. Culture enthusiasts will enjoy discovering the rich heritage of Albufeira, particularly if they visit the Museum of Archaeology. The museum showcases fascinating artefacts from the pre-historic, Roman, Muslim, medieval and modern periods. The Church of São Sebastião on Praça Miguel Bombarda has an impressive Manueline doorway that provides an excellent photo opportunity. From there, Rua 5 de Outubro leads through a tunnel to the Fisherman’s beach, where you can see Albufeira’s colourful fishing boats surfing the waves. One of the best attractions in Albufeira is the Zoomarine Aquarium, where visitors can watch animal shows and even have a chance to swim with dolphins. Go-carting and horse-riding are also popular activities.
Where to party in Albufeira
And if you’re looking for some late night revelry, there’s plenty of it in fun-loving, lively Albufeira. The Strip is the place to head to – a succession of booming bars, restaurants and clubs – and the hub of Albufeira’s nightlife scene. The owners of the bars and restaurants are frequently expats, who make you feel at home straight away and enjoy nothing more than a good natter. For adult holidays there are happy hours, strip clubs and late night partying on balmy summers evening. And the best bit? Drinks are seriously cheap.
What to eat in Albufeira
In the foreground of Albuferia’s dining scene is its fishing industry. Traditional Algarve dishes include the famous Cataplana, a seafood and shellfish dish, and grilled sardines. Tuna, sea bream, monkfish, horse mackerel or alimados, squid and many other delicacies are prepared mostly in stews, ragouts or grilled, or boiled – any of which is sure to be excellent. You won’t find fresher fish than here. Desserts are another strong point; cakes are mostly made from dried fruits, and other titbits are made from almonds, figs and carob beans. There is an ice-cream of carob, the Dom Rodrigo, and we recommend you try the Almond Liqueur, Alfarroba (carob) liqueur and Medronho.
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