Rest assured, there’s a whole lot more to the Algarve than just amazing surf spots, historically-fascinating Roman artefacts/remains, countless stunning beaches, the world’s largest sand sculpture event, an array of marine life, a staggering choice of menus and some of the best holiday nightlife in Europe. We mean, just who would find anything remotely interesting to do with their Portuguese holiday if these were the only options available to them, right? Anyway, let’s not dwell on the negatives (nor the bigger Algarve picture here and now), and instead focus our attentions on a very popular holiday destination called Portimao, specifically. Referred to by many as the ‘gateway’ to what’s considered to be up there amongst the Algarve’s finest beaches, the city of Portimao is geographically situated a mere stone’s throw from Praia da Rocha; which itself notably lords it up - from its impressive natural vantage point - over the azure waters of the Rio Arade. Are we painting a vivid enough canvas for you yet?
We hope so, as with one of our cheap holidays you could explore this vibrant city which is perched on a beautiful waterfront location, framed by a succession of welcoming cafes, inviting restaurants and enticing bars; all of which habitually attract tourists to this part of the city. In fact, it’s fair to say that Portimao comes into its own when visitors first acquaint themselves with the recognised old quarter, which is home to many of these aforementioned traveller-friendly establishments. Where at pretty much every turn you’re greeted by ancient architecture, almost secret backstreets and hidden alleyways; all adding to the history-observing ambience conjured up by this part of the city. And while legions of visitors are drawn to Portimao annually, seemingly magnetised by the sublime beaches, local seafood delicacies or indeed, the noted culture on offer, many more are taken in (and in numerous cases, return) courtesy of the clement weather readily discovered in this famous stretch of Portugal. All in all, the perfect get-away is forecast whenever you opt to explore all that Portimao holidays can entice you with.
Besides the obvious draws associated with the raft of popular tourist attractions which trip off the tongue and are broadly documented within this paragraph, let’s not forget that one of the predominant reasons why Portimao holidays tick thousands of British tourists’ get-away checklists year on year is simply because it can all but guarantee something that Bognor, Brighton and Bridlington, sadly, can’t. And that’s wall-to-wall sunshine and temperature which bring colour to your cheeks in a good way. With balmy temperatures acknowledged throughout the year, it’s the summer which understandably offers the hottest weather, with temperatures averaging around 30C. Yet the spring and autumn can easily throw up temperature of around 20C, while the winter still offers averages of 15C.
Not that Portimao stops providing an array of things to do and places to see should the sun refuse to put his hat on and come out to play. Steeped in a rich and diverse history as already hinted at, the city proffers much on a cultural front, chief amongst which (especially for any budding Indiana Jones’ out there) is the Museu de Portimao. It’s within its four walls where the Portimao holidaymaker will catch more than a glimpse of a host of treasures which envelop Roman relics and Islamic artefacts. And if it’s old stuff which floats your boat – and by that we don’t necessarily mean antiques shops – then we can always recommend the 14th Century Igreja Matriz gothic church, which is positioned in the city’s old quarter. It’s around there that visitors to Portimao will also get up all close and personal with an eclectic selection of craft emporiums; including manufacturers and purveyors of lace, jewellery and ceramic products. Naturally, if your normally preference of retail therapy is characterized by clothing shops, then the city amply caters for these tastes too; thanks to the pedestrianised Rue de Sao Jose and Rua Diogo Tome, and therein Portimao’s homage to more familiar high street shopping pursuits.
As you might expect, seafood dishes figure prominently on many a Portimao restaurant’s menu, and where better to sample the local fayre than from eateries located not more than a net’s cast from the place where the fish were originally caught. This part of the Algarve is noted by foodies for its eclectic mix of menus on offer, with a host of international specialities well starred, jostling alongside each other – as well as the traditional Portuguese plates - for the holidaymakers’ attentions. Think Brazilian, Italian, Dutch-Indonesian, Chinese and BBQ-orientated dishes and establishments, and you’ll be pretty close to the truth. But of course, with Portimao being situated where it is, the genuine cuisine of the Algarve is the main order of the day. Dominated by fish and seafood from the Atlantic Ocean (together with the agricultural produce of the fertile Barrocal area), elsewhere acquired culinary influences and tastes are gathered from Portugal's former colonies and the Moorish period of occupation. Oh, and let’s not forget that the country itself is acknowledged as being among the largest wine producing ones in the world. The neighbouring Alentejo region giving rise to a fine red, while other newly-crafted wines from the locale are quickly gaining a reputation over lunches and dinner tables.
The Alvor Boardwalk is one of the first things you should check out when enjoying a Portimao holiday, which comprises of a series of interconnected boardwalks (as the name implies) around the nearby Alvor beach, stretching as far as the local nature reserve and re-joining the city’s sea front. What’s more, it offers spectacular and uninterrupted vistas of the local coastal environs and will be relished by all the family. The Museu de Portimao celebrates the city’s heritage and is based in a former sardine factory, and primarily traces the history of Portimao’s proud seafood-sourcing past. Bringing things smack, bang up to date, it also focuses on the way the city is now embracing and encouraging both the protection and promotion of the area’s sealife. A little further afield you may wish to take a poke around the Benagil Caves (which are kinda self-explanatory), where tours are given, or explore the more religious delights of the churches Misericordia of Alvor and/or Divino Salvador. If perhaps you’re hoping for something a little more octane-fuelled, then why not check out the action at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve race circuit.
Action & Adventure
This part of the Algarve is also a magnet for fans of adventure too, be it rambling along the rugged local coastline indicative of the area, delving into the hidden caves of the Rio Arade as part of a dedicated boat tour, examining the unique rock formations and medieval fortresses which dot the region or – and if you’re slightly more adventurous/full throttle in your approach to European breaks – hurling yourself out of a plane and sky diving; which naturally affords you unbroken views of Portimao and the entire outlying postcode or three.
If there’s one thing (but trust us, they amount to more than double figures) which Portimao holidays represent to the avid tourist then it’s beaches. Lying a mere 3km from the city is Praia da Rocha beach, which is found in one of the most picturesque bays you could imagine and lined with a choice of bars and restaurants. A little closer to your holiday base, and Alvor beach offers a more convenient sandy alternative for those not wanting to venture too far. But that’s the thing you see. Unlike many resorts, Portimao is within easy striking distance of a selection of beaches; so you can get your fill of beach life whenever and indeed, wherever.
Praia da Rocha is the go-to place when you’re looking to party until you drop. Or at least, have blisters on your heels; thanks to its array of enticing nightclubs and bars. It’s also home to a casino, so you can release your inner James Bond around the craps table, if you convey a more sophisticated air. However Portimao can more than accommodate the nocturnal needs of holidaymakers wanting to let their hair down after an eventful day out and about. Here you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the marina life, where once again you can be the soul of the party. Or simply kick back with a relaxing meal and unwind in one of the numerous low-key bars which readily invite eating and dancing along with drinking pastimes; and all the time amid a stylish backdrop.
Couples experiencing the wonders of Portimao are literally spoilt for choice, especially if they’re more in the holiday market for total R & R. Look no further than the city’s various spa resorts, which offer what’s described as the ultimate in chi city living. Not far from the city centre, Quinta do Parchal is where a number of spa resorts are based, and where those fully absorbing themselves in a Portimao holiday can settle down for some peaceful pampering and hands-on tranquillity away from it all. Moreover, the comfort and gentle caressing is embraced while all the while taking in river views as seen from the stylish guest rooms. Unless you’d prefer to overlook the ocean that is, which is another option for couples booking into many of the city’s beach hotels which cast their shadows over the Alvor beach beneath.
The main city in Portugal’s Algarve region is a hotbed of cultural extremes; or rather the main thoroughfares and its nearby satellites are, once you start dipping your toes in the water, so to speak. From the remains of Moorish castles, cathedrals and seaside villages, to the Monchique (the Algarve mountains), the 18th Century small stronghold of Armaco-de-Pera and the fascinating Alcalar district (where the inquisitive traveller can see tombs which are said to date back over 5,000 years), Portimao holidays provide a range of cultural enlightenment from the get-go.