Welcome to Albufeira, the heart of the Algarve. Although your flights will land in Faro, the region’s actual capital, you’ll head to Albufeira smartish. Why? There’s no beach in Faro, and the Algarve is all about the beaches.
The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost coastal region. Over recent years the region has faced increased tourist development to cater for the hundreds of thousands of mostly British, French and German tourists that head here year-round. Expect spotless blue skies and miles and miles of Blue Flag beaches. Albufeira is the ideal base for your Algarve holidays as it lies in the centre of the region, with the city of Portimao and the tip of Sagres to the west, and Faro, Tavira and Olhao to the east.
Albufeira is an interesting blend between the old and new. Its busy strip is renowned for its summer hedonism. Cheap drinks, cheap food and cheap accommodation mean Albufeira is a real favourite with young party makers. There are many self-catering apartments here – sort of like Benidorm – which you can snap up for amazingly cheap prices on a last-minute deal. At the same time, Albufeira has a pleasant old town. There are a handful of authentic Portuguese restaurants serving good seafood. During the quieter seasons, you’ll find a number of bars and cafes where you might spy one or two locals sipping coffee.
Don’t forget about the beaches. The Algarve has plenty and there are some stunning beaches right on Albufeira’s doorstep. The two closest are Praia dos Pescadores and Praia da Oura. Don’t worry. We’ll get into those.
Albufeira centre, getting your bearings
You’ve landed in Faro. Albufeira is 21 miles away. We recommend a private transfer. Why?
Unfortunately, although the Algarve is increasingly becoming one of the hottest beach destinations in Europe, the transport infrastructure at Faro hasn’t quite caught up with the rapid growth. Don’t just grab a taxi at the airport, as these will cost upwards of 70 euro. The best way to guarantee a better price to cover the distance between Faro airport and Albufeira is to hire a private transfer before you travel. It is possible to get a train or bus from Faro, but this will include getting a taxi from the airport to the bus station or train station, and then another taxi when you reach Albufeira, as the stations are far from the tourist centre.
Now you’re in Albufeira head to your apartment or hotel and drop off your suitcases. It’s time to head into town and get your bearings. There are a number of supermarkets on the outskirts of the main tourist centre of Albufeira where you can pick up holiday essentials. If you’re rolling all-inclusive, then here’s when you’ll settle down by the pool. If you prefer the beach, it’s time to find out what the Algarve is all about. You get a lot for your money on the Algarve, making it one of our top cheap holiday destinations.
Top 3 Beaches in Albufeira
There are 25 beaches in the Albufeira region alone. We’re not kidding. Twenty. Five. We can’t possibly list them all here, so here are some of our favourites. You don’t have to check all these out on your first day, but we recommend settling down on at least one of them to start your holiday on the right foot.
1. Praia dos Pescadores (Fishermen’s Beach)
Once upon a time, Albufeira was a bustling fishing village. Although many remnants of this former industry have vanished, Fishermen’s Beach still holds its original name. This is the main beach in Albufeira and subsequently the busiest. During the summer this beach is absolutely heaving with tourists. Due to the fact it’s not far from the centre of Albufeira, here’s where you’ll find people taking a mid-afternoon sunbathe between meals or drinks.
You’ll find plenty of facilities on this beach, including a toilet, sunbeds and lifeguards. It is a Blue Flag beach after all.
2. Praia da Oura
Located to the east of Albufeira, this is the beach closest to the new centre of Albufeira. Located within walking distance of the Areias de São João main strip area, this beach is also busy during the summer. With calm seas, low tides and fine sands, it’s no surprise why so many tourists pick this as their spot for afternoon’s lounging. Praia da Oura is technically also its own resort area with a host of apartments and hotels to choose from. Although the beach attracts generally a younger crowd of revellers, the surrounding areas and facilities are very suitable for families. If you are here with a group of mates, then the bars and clubs usually start picking up after 11 pm and are open until the early hours of the morning.
This is also a Blue Flag beach – like many on the Algarve – so expect sunbeds, a lifeguard and toilet facilities.
3. Falesia Beach
This is probably our favourite beach in the immediate Albufeira area. Falesia Beach is enormous., around 4 miles long. It stretches from Vilamoura in the west all the way along to Albufeira. A beach of many traits, there’s something here for everyone. Closer to Vilamoura you’ll find that the area is very popular with families, both locals and tourists. This is because the water is calm and shallow, and during the right tide, you can walk quite far into the sea. As you walk closer to Albufeira you’ll see clubs and bars open right next to the beach, and this end is more popular with younger people. Regularly voted one of the best beaches in Portugal, and voted into the top 20 beaches in Europe, you’ll have to visit Falesia Beach.
Exploring Albufeira, heading out into the Algarve
Top 3 places to visit on a day trip out of Albufeira
If you’re using TripAdvisor to plan your trip around the Algarve then you’ll see that most of the highest ranked ‘Things to Do’ are all beaches. This is no surprise, really. The Algarve is rapidly becoming one of the most popular beach holiday destinations in Europe. The only recent contender that even comes close to the breadth of beaches on offer in the Algarve is Croatia, but that’s a destination for another time.
The second day of your Albufeira holiday could be spent exploring the old town or heading down to the beach again. Local attractions include Zoomarine Algarve, which is situated just east of Albufeira in Guia area. Just head down the N125 west towards Lagos and Portimao, you can’t miss the signs for Zoomarine Algarve. You’ll also pass the Algarve Shopping Mall, the largest in the area.
Otherwise, the next step is to get out and explore the Algarve. If you’re travelling by rental car then you’re in luck, as getting around the Algarve is made simple by brand new roads that cross the entire length of the region, east to west. The larger highway comes with a small charge per mile, programmed automatically into a black box in your rental vehicle, but the smaller roads are just as useful. As a Day Two trip, we recommend Tavira.
Tavira is what the Algarve once was. A sleepy fishing village with the Moorish culture deep in its roots. Pretty cobbled streets and plazas have formed naturally around the Gilao River which runs through the centre of town.
Just like anywhere else on the Algarve, this resort’s pull rests in the allure of its beaches, and Tavira is close to some of the finest on the Algarve. The Ilha de Tavira offers some of the most pristine beaches in the Algarve, as they come under the protection of the large and beautiful Ria Formosa Nature Park. To reach the beaches of the Ilha de Tavira you’ll have to catch a ferry, either from just outside of town or from the central river dock. Even during the quieter months, these ferries can get extremely busy, so it’s best to get there early and leave before the manic rush to catch the last ferries.
To find out more about Tavira, visit our Tavira holidays page.
Praia da Rocha
If Tavira is the old school Algarve, Praia da Rocha firmly represents the new Algarve. Easily one of the liveliest resorts along this coastline, Praia da Rocha is about two things: a simple beach holiday and plenty of good food and drinks.
Located at the foot of Portimao, which is the inland city over 2 miles from Praia da Rocha, this resort is separate from the city and you want to make sure you book into the coastal resort if you want to be close to the beach.
There is plenty to do for families, couples and friends on a holiday to Praia da Rocha. The beach is magnificent, one of the best and most popular in the Algarve, and the main strip has plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes.
Find out more on our Praia da Rocha holidays page.
Carvoeiro is the perfect Algarve resort to visit on a day-trip. Its town centre is sleepy and sunny during the day, with the tourist train trundling up and down the hills and the beaches lapped at by calm, emerald seas. The main square is right next to the beach and is lined with restaurants and bars. There’s an excellent bakery where you can gobble up delicious Portuguese custard tarts, and the nearby rock formations at Algar Seco are definitely worth a visit.
An evening out in Carvoeiro is ideal for a family or a relaxed evening with friends. During the summer the main square is populated with artists and musicians, plying their trade for the tourists.