The southern coastal region of Portugal is known as Algarve, and it is an established destination for all who wish to soak up a copious amount of sunshine in the country. Over time, this area has also drawn many from around the European continent and the world, specifically to Albufeira. The city of Albufeira has grown from being a fishing village in the Faro municipality to being a key vacation destination that can sometimes double its size.
Albufeira is home to a storied history, owing its name to the presence of the Arabs in the region before the Middle Ages and its infrastructure partially to the Roman Empire. This combined with an uptick in visitors stemming from the 1960s after a decline in manufacturing has helped Albufeira become a sparkling place to be.
1. Igreja Matriz
The “Mother Church” of Albufeira is also known as Our Lady of Conception. The church was first constructed in 1782, to replace the previous house of worship that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755. Since then, it has become the primary church in the city and draws hundreds of the faithful weekly. The Igreja Matriz also draws those curious about the 18th-century architecture, especially when it comes to the neoclassical baptismal chapel. There’s even a notable fresco painted by Albufeirense Samora Barros that decorates the church’s main altar.
Address: R. da Igreja Nova 183, 8200
Website: Igreja Matriz (in Portugese)
2. Hermitage of Our Lady of The Orada
This convent is a cornerstone of the religious architecture in Albufeira, dating back to when it was once one of the few developed structures around when the area was fairly deserted. It remains a sanctuary and place of worship along with its attached chapel for local fishermen who come here to pray for protection and miracles in a tradition dating back many years.
One outstanding feature is that the religious structure was built to sit on a straight line traveling up throughout the country to connect with a church dedicated to the Holy Virgin in Melgaco, a village in Northern Portugal. This connection makes the two religious sites the northern and southern extreme points of the country.
Hermitage of Our Lady of The Orada
Address: Vale da Orada - Praia da Baleeira 8200 Albufeira
3. Albufeira Archaeological Museum
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The Albufeira Archaeological Museum is the home of all preserved ancient structures and related antiquities. First opening in 1999, the museum holds relics from five different periods including the Roman era and the Islamic period. The Albufeira Archaeological Museum is a main element of the Portuguese Museum Network. It also holds artifacts from the surrounding areas that make up the entirety of Albufeira as well. It’s located within the city and not too far from the coast. Be advised that they are closed on Mondays.
Albufeira Archaeological Museum
Address: Praça da República 1, 8200-081
Website: Albufeira Archaeological Museum
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4. Castle of Paderne
Across the Quarteira River close to the village of Paderne lies the Castle of Paderne. This ancient structure in the hills is one of the seven castles that are emblazoned on the Portuguese flag and is a striking remnant of the Islamic presence from when they ruled on the Iberian peninsula.
It has been traced as far back as 1191. Since then it has featured heavily in the nation’s history as a fortification but also as a religious complex and home to noblemen. Visitors will be taken in by the castle’s reddish walls, and the unorthodox elements such as there are no corner towers as is customary with castles. This castle is just 13 km (8 mi) away from Albufeira which makes it a perfect day activity for history lovers.
Castle of Paderne
Address: R. da Torre Velha
Website: Castle of Paderne (in Portugese)
5. Ponte de Paderne
This bridge that spans the Quarteira River is not too far from the Castle of Paderne and it possesses its own storied significance. There hasn’t been a firm date of first construction found for the bridge but there is an inscription upon its façade that says 1711. Scholars feel that this could point to a year where it was remodeled. Those who go to see it will no doubt be amazed at its sturdiness. It’s also a sight to take in if one is visiting the castle just above it in the hills.
Ponte de Paderne
Website: Ponte de Paderne (in Portugese)
6. Pau de Bandeira Viewpoint
This is one of the best places in Albufeira to take in the sweeping view of the city and the surrounding area. Pau de Bandeira is an actual promenade built on a bluff overlooking the Barrio de Pescadores and an older section of the city. Visitors get access by taking an outdoor escalator up and down. Another feature to take into account is that there is a public square steps away from the escalator that is filled with taxis and tuk-tuks waiting to take you around Albufeira’s happening sights.
Pau de Bandeira Viewpoint
Address: R. Sacadura Cabral 23, 8200-176
7. The beaches of Albufeira
The beaches of Albufeira boast some of the sunniest vantage points to be found on this side of the Mediterranean. The first of these is the Praia de Pescadores (the Beach of The Fisherman). The name harkens back to when the fishermen of Albufeira dotted the sands to catch all of their wares before the new marina opened. Now it welcomes those looking to soak up the sun and is also home to festivals and concerts featuring local and international groups.
For those looking to snag some beach time with a little less of a crowd, the best spot is Santa Eulalia, which is a 15-minute drive eastward from Albufeira proper. This beach is highly prized by windsurfers and others who enjoy water skiing. Lastly, there’s Falesia Beach, which is flanked by high cliffs that have eroded over time to create Falesia for its entire 7-kilometer (4.3 mi) stretch. Falesia Beach lies just outside of the Aldeia das Açoteias, in Olhos d'Agua, which is accessible by car east of the center of Albufeira.
Praia dos Pescadores in Albufeira
Address: Rua Sacadura Cabral 23, Albufeira
8. Leaozinho Pirate Cruise (from USD 25.0)
Take a slow sail back into time by booking a trip on the Leaozinho, a restored clipper from the days when pirates freely roamed the Algarve coast on the run from various foreign navies. Travelers leave on the boat from Albufeira’s marina. They can opt for one of two cruises. The sightseeing cruise is three hours long, allowing the Leaozinho to wind its way along the coastline and in the process to see the various sights like the caves and the famed rock chapel called Senhora de Rocha.
The “Captain Hook” cruise is shorter and leaves later in the day, with a focus on letting tourists see the dolphins in the waters of Praia de Benagil. Both tours allow you to take a dip in the water, and there’s a stocked “Pirate Bar” aboard if one wants refreshments.
'Leaozinho' Pirate Ship Cruise from Albufeira
Duration: 2 hours
A last look at Albufeira
Whether you are aiming to steep yourself in the lengthy history via its religious places of worship, or you’re looking to dive right into the splendid outdoor lifestyle of Albufeira, there is no denying that you will be able to do so feeling a great sense of warmth. The city and its surrounding areas are a picturesque escape into a culture that reveres all of its influences and allows one to gain that understanding no matter what they do there.
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