This Algarve-Coast whitewashed town sums up everything that’s best about a holiday in Portugal. Calm waters, golden sands, endless seafood restaurants and fine walks. If you want action, you’ve got it in adventure parks and nightlife strips. If you need peace, you can easily find a patch of beach with your name on it. Read on for the best things to see and do in Albufeira, Portugal.
Praia de São Rafael
© McPHOTO / Alamy Stock Photo
Golden sand, caramel-coloured cliffs, rock stacks and a seafood restaurant right on the strand – secluded São Rafael beach is where the Portuguese go to swim and bronze. Like anywhere in the Algarve, it’s crowded in high summer – but arrive before 10am, and you can set up your own parasol (away from the pay-as-you-use sun lounger area). When it gets too hot, the restaurant serves good grilled fish and big jugs of passion fruit sangria.
With blinking neon signs, pumping music and a kaleidoscope of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, the main nightlife street in Albufeira looks like a low-rise, bonsai Las Vegas. It’s not a spot for a quiet night out – this is the Algarve’s party central, buzzing with twentysomething travellers who spill out of happy-hour bars like Albertu’s and Mambo and squeeze into thumping Club Heaven to dance until dawn to international DJ-driven sounds.
Praia da Falésia
© Marcin Kosciolek / Alamy Stock Photo
In need of a cobweb-clearing morning-after beach walk? Stretching for more than 5km (3mi) between the Olhos de Água suburb and Vilamoura Marina, Falésia is the longest strand in Albufeira. It faces west, so the best time to visit is late afternoon as the sun sinks golden over the sea. It takes around two hours to walk the entire beach, stopping off for beer or petiscos (Portuguese tapas) at one of the handful of beach bars along the way.
Jardim Público de Albufeira
Tourist-thronged Albufeira was once a sleepy fishing community, and you’ll feel its roots in this cafe-lined square with its terracotta roofs, shaded by palms, in the heart of the Old Town. It’s a great place to people-watch prior to a stroll through cobbled streets with whitewashed cottages and old Moorish arches. Stop for a coffee or a seafood lunch at a traditional restaurant such as Três Coroas, which has dreamy sea views from the open-air terrace.
Igreja de São Sebastião
© Stimmungsbilder / Alamy Stock Photo
When Albufeira was a fishing village, this modest whitewashed 18th-century church was the heart of the community. Admire the rococo doorway, framed with carved foliage patterns, and the baroque altarpiece with its exquisitely worked statues of Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Sebastian and Saint Dominic. Pass by the adjacent Museum of Sacred Art to see 17th-century chalices and statues of saints, recovered from abandoned churches in the region.
Praia dos Pescadores
The main beach in Albufeira is a 2.5km-long (1.5mi) half-moon-shaped stretch, washed by the gentle sea directly before the town. It’s one of the most popular urban beaches in Portugal. It’s close to a whole variety of hotels and restaurants, with endless golden sand, calm waves and brilliant dawns and sunsets. Winding stairs and escalators take you from the cobbled Old Town right down to the shore, lined for its entire length by parasols, sun loungers and little beach bars.
© AA World Travel Library / Alamy Stock Photo
The dolphin shows leave some visitors feeling a little uncomfortable, but the biggest water-based theme park in Portugal has lots more to offer: long water slides, swimming pools for teens and toddlers, an aquarium with sharks and rays, a birds-of-prey show (with huge eagles and owls) as well as ponds with roseate spoonbills, pelicans and storks. There’s a Ferris wheel with swoony views, an artificial beach with plenty of sun-lounging space and even a small cinema.
Zip lines, canopy walkways, rope bridges and paintball – you can enjoy them all at this adventure park in Olhos de Água, just east of Albufeira. The park is divided into a series of courses – of varying degrees of difficulty. The easiest are suitable for pre-teens; the more difficult ones are a challenge even for adults, involving a jump between trees, which feels scary even though you’re firmly secured with ropes. Instructors are on hand to coach and coax.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Nina Santos.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, why not book into one of the best hotels in Albufeira? If you want to take advantage of the beach, we also know all of the best beach hotels in this coastal town. For more inspiration for your visit, check out the best restaurants for a true taste of the Algarve.