Last updated: 03/30/2023
Discover Portimão, a city located in the Algarve region, in the south of Portugal, full of natural beauty, golden sand beaches and beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean!
THE CITY OF PORTIMÃO
Portimão is a city with just under 50,000 inhabitants that was formerly known as Vila Nova de Portimão. In 1924, it was incorporated as a city and started to be called just Portimão. The city was founded on the right bank of the river Arade, and facing the sea, it is located in a region whose geography and physical characteristics justify a maritime economy. In the past, the city was a fishing and shipbuilding center and, over time, it ended up developing as an important tourist center due to its beautiful beaches. The municipality of Portimão is divided into 3 parishes: Alvor, Mexilhoeira Grande and Portimão.
A LITTLE OF HISTORY…
The area in which Portimão is located has been inhabited since prehistoric times by the Cinetes, who lived in the Algarve for many centuries. In the Alcalar area there are several vestiges of Neolithic funerary sites and you can even visit one of them, in the Alcalar Megalithic Monuments Reception and Interpretation Center. The mouth of the Arade River became a small trading port for the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. The Carthaginians founded two settlements in the mid-6th century BC, known by their Roman names Portus Magonis and Portus Hannibalis. Portus Magonis it was the nucleus of present-day Portimão. The evident traces of the Roman occupation are located near Figueira, in the Ruins of Quinta da Abicada. In the 5th century, the Algarve was inhabited by the Visigoths until the Moorish invasion. The region was only reconquered by the Christians in 1249.
In Portimão, much of the trade was carried out by sea. Transport across the Arade River was done by boat and until the construction of the bridge and the road, 400 years later, this was the only way to cross the river. In 1453, D. Afonso V authorized the founding of a new village, which became the urbanized center of Portimão and in 1476, the king donated the village to his financial inspector, D. Gonçalo Vaz de Castelo Branco, remaining in the family until the 17th century. XVII. In the port of Portimão, local products such as figs, olives, olive oil, wine and fish were regularly exported, while other products from the African and Brazilian colonies, such as slaves and sugar, arrived in Portuguese territory. But, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the pace of growth slowed down considerably and with the decrease in trade, many inhabitants left the city.
With the 1755 earthquake, followed by a tsunami, much of the city was destroyed, including the walls. In the 19th century, a fishing industry reinvigorated the city, transforming it into one of the most important fishing and packing centers in the Algarve, until the 20th century, when a recession took its toll on the city. At the end of the 20th century, the city was increasingly consolidating itself as a tourist center.
WHEN TO VISIT PORTIMÃO
Portimão has a hot summer Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters moderated by the Atlantic Ocean. Along with other municipalities in the Algarve, Portimão is very sunny most of the year. The average temperature is around 16°C in winter and 21°C in summer. The best time to visit the region is from may to september, due to pleasant temperatures and less rainfall. To help organize your trip, check out some events that take place in Portimão throughout the year:
- Sardine Festival: Usually performed in first week of august over five days. The idea is to celebrate one of the most famous Portuguese specialties, sardines. In addition to gastronomic options, the festival also features music and entertainment.
- Festival Live and Loud Fest: Musical event with bands that has free admission. Happens during the August.
- Mexilhoeira Grande Youth Festival: This festival that takes place in beginning of September It consists of two days of great entertainment and parties with musical bands.
- BeActive Beach Games: Event that occurs at Praia da Rocha in Month of September with sports activities that include beach volleyball, beach soccer, frisbee, beach tennis and beach handball.
- Algarve Classic Festival: The Algarve Motorsports Park is the venue for this classic car festival in end of october. The event brings together more than 300 teams and around 500 drivers and includes not only races, but also a parade of racing cars, vintage and classic cars.
- Saint Martin Fair: This is the oldest popular event in Portimão, starting in 1662. The fair takes place in first week of november, to celebrate Saint Martin's Day, celebrated on November 11th. The festival brings together food products (including roasted chestnuts, popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, and other snacks), tableware, toys, jewelry, footwear, textiles and plastic items.
HOW TO GET AND GET AROUND PORTIMÃO
Of course, having a car in Lagos has many facilities, but the biggest difficulty is finding places to park, especially in high season. And Lagos is a excellent option for those who want to get to know the Algarve and don't want to go by car, as many beaches are within walking distance of the city center.
- CAR: We were doing a tour from north to south in Portugal when we visited the city for the first time and, therefore, we rent a car to travel around the country, which made it much easier for us to move to more distant areas.
- BUS (BUS): If you don't want to rent a car, you can go to Lagos de bus for the Express Network. The trip from Sete Rios Bus Station, close to Lisbon Zoo, to the Portimão Bus Station. There are other bus options from East Bus Terminal, in Parque das Nações. We recommend that you simulate days and times on Google Maps and look on the official websites to see the options. Travel time is generally between 3h15 and 3h30, and tickets start at €4.99 one way.
- TRAIN (TRAIN): Another option is to go by train (called “comboio” in Portugal). However, you will probably have to make at least one train change to get to Portimão station. In addition, the ticket is much more expensive. Schedules and information can be found on the official website of the Trains from Portugal.
- TRANSFER: If you only want transport, but not participate in guided tours, a good option is a private transfer from Lisbon to the Algarve for up to 6 people. see an option in this link.
- TOURS & EXCURSIONS: There are options for private and group tours departing from Lisbon to the Algarve region. Some interesting options:
WHAT TO DO IN PORTIMÃO
The region of Portimão is full of natural beauties, beautiful beaches and interesting attractions. To facilitate your planning to get to know the area, we put all the tips mentioned in this post on the interactive map below. To the main beaches of Portimao can be found in orange and the main sights and historical of the city are in blue. Furthermore, suggestions for restaurants and shopping areas are indicated in red, hosting tips can be found in dark gray and train stations and other tips are in black. Then, check out details about each of the attractions and tips for getting to know the city of Portimão.
>> PORTIMÃO BEACHES
most beautiful beaches
1. ALVOR BEACH & ALVOR CASTLE
Praia de Alvor, is located in the bay of Lagos, inserted in the peninsula that extends for more than 2.2 km to the east of the Ria de Alvor, an area rich in both fauna and flora. This beach has an excellent infrastructure, with many hotels, bathrooms, showers, restaurants, as well as areas for sailing, windsurfing, and other water sports. A little further from the sea, is the Alvor Castle (Address: Tv. do Castelo, 2500-003 Portimão, Portugal), an extremely important military structure with a rectangular plan installed on top of a 5-meter hill. The castle walls can still be seen and are made up of many irregularly shaped blocks.
2. TORRALTA BEACH
Next to Praia de Alvor is Praia da Torralda, a very pleasant beach with transparent waters and fine golden sand very close to the village of Alvor. The infrastructure is very good so that visitors can spend an extremely pleasant day. The beach has restrooms, a first aid station, a nautical center and many hotels and restaurants in the vicinity.
3. TRÊS IRMÃOS BEACH
Praia dos Três Irmãos is one of the most beautiful beaches in Portimão. It is famous for its impressive rock formations and the many hidden caves that can be explored, as well as stunning sunsets. The beach is marked by a series of small coves surrounded by ochre-coloured limestone cliffs. With soft sand and almost transparent waters (great for snorkeling), Praia dos Três Irmãos has an excellent infrastructure with parking, umbrella and sunbed rental, showers, bars/restaurants. The name of the beach is due to the fact that it has three rocks characteristic of the beach, which look like “three brothers”. As it is quite popular with tourists, as well as families with children, especially in the summer, a tip is to arrive early in the morning to guarantee your space on the sand.
4. PRAIA DA PRAINHA
Praia da Prainha is a small cove hidden between the cliffs and eroded rocks of great beauty, including some caves and recesses. It is an interesting and popular beach for surfing and windsurfing. To go down to the beach you have to use a carved stone staircase or an elevator that belongs to a bar/restaurant that is there (only for customers) or even through a tunnel that connects to Praia dos Três Irmãos. The beach has good infrastructure with bathrooms, restaurants and a first-aid post, but finding parking spaces can be a bit challenging.
5. CARVALHO VALENTIM BEACH
This beach has a small strip of sand that practically disappears during high tide. Take care when swimming at this beach as there are underwater rocks on virtually the entire beach. Access must be done by boat or by the escarpment. how is more hard to get to her, is usually quiet and is sought after by nudists.
6. JOÃO DE ARENS BEACH
This small beach is located between the cliffs and its name honors a shepherd who lived in the area. It is well isolated and hard access, a good option for those who like isolation and practice nudism. The ways to get to the beach are by boat, going down the cliff or, in case the tide is not high, there is access through Praia do Alemão. It does not have infrastructure, so take with you what you intend to consume.
7. PRAIA DO BOIÃO
This beach is made up of three small areas of sand that can be accessed when the tide is low, or by boat. Like the previous beaches, the difficult access makes practitioners nudism look for this beach. The water here is very clear, which makes swimming in the sea a refreshing experience. The beach is very beautiful and dotted with rock formations, making it a great place for those who enjoy snorkeling. If you need to eat something, you'll have to go to one of the nearby beaches, as there are no bars and/or restaurants here.
8. PRAIA DO GERÃO
Praia do Alemão (also called Barranco das Canas) is named after the fact that the first house built here belonged to a German family. It is a typical beach of the Algarve region, surrounded by cliffs in yellowish and orange tones and crystalline greenish waters, very clean and calm. With a good stretch of sand, at the west end of the beach there are several rock formations and caves that offer a multitude of places to explore. To the west of Praia do Alemão you can see the rock formations of João de Arens. These rock formations shelter from the wind and protect the beach from big waves. The beach also has a good infrastructure with bathrooms, lifeguards and rental of umbrellas and sunbeds during the summer. Watch out for the cliffs as they can be unstable. Be careful when going down to the beach.
9. PRAIA DO VAU
Praia do Vau is located west of Praia do Alemão. The beaches are located in the same bay and are separated by a large rock formation. It is surrounded by impressive red cliffs, offering visitors to this beach a spectacular view. The cliffs also block some of the wind, making the beach somewhat sheltered. An easy way to recognize Praia do Vau is by the huge rock that stands alone on the beach. There is a smaller stone next to it.
The sand at Praia do Vau is fine and golden, just like most other nearby beaches. The strip of sand is wide and the beach tends to be very crowded only in the summer, when the tide is high. The sea here is clean, relatively calm and great for swimming, but the water temperature can be a bit chilly. This beach has several natural stone pools, which are usually enjoyed by children. The water in these pools can get much warmer than sea water temperature. There are also some hidden coves that are great for children. Praia do Vau and the surrounding beaches are great for a long walk east to Praia da Rocha, especially during low tide.
10. BEACH OF CAREANS
Praia dos Careanos is a beautiful beach that displays a mixture of colors with golden sands, rocks in red tones and blue-green waters. In the sand there are numerous caves and rocky entrances, and to the west, there is a huge cave and a rock with a natural arch that resembles a small fortress. In this area, there are rocks immersed next to the water line. Access to the beach at Praia dos Careanos is via a steep staircase. The beach has good infrastructure with parking, lifeguards, first aid station, restaurants and umbrellas.
11. PRAIA DO AMADO
Between Praia dos Careanos and Praia do Amado, it is possible to follow a trail along the top, offering the possibility of seeing beautiful rocky landscapes of this part of the coast, even with an area with gardens. Praia do Amado is a relatively large beach, with a length of about 1 km, it is surrounded by beautiful cliffs in yellowish and reddish tones and extends along several bays. The beach is formed by an extensive strip of sand. Access to the area is via steep stairs surrounded by dense vegetation. In addition to being popular with families, it is also frequented by surfers, especially in winter when the waves are bigger. There are even surf schools around the beach. But, you have to be extra careful with the rocks when surfing. The surfing conditions are so good that sometimes international surfing tournaments are held on this beach.
12. TRÊS CASTELOS BEACH & VIEWPOINT
Praia dos Três Castelos is an extensive beach with a wide strip of sand. With large yellowish cliffs in the surroundings, it is known for its isolated rock formations in the sea. In some places on the beach, close to the cliffs, it is even possible to see green areas covered by undergrowth. The name of this beach comes from the three largest rocks in the water, which characterize the beach. With its golden sands and calm waters, it is connected to Praia da Rocha by a passage carved into the rocks. Great for bathing in the sea and sun, during low tide you can find some natural pools, great for the kids. The beach infrastructure is very good, with bathrooms, bar/restaurant, lifeguards, first aid area, among others. Praia dos Três Castelos is limited to the east by Praia da Rocha. There is a large cliff that separates the two beaches. At the top of this cliff is the viewpoint of Três Castelos.
13. PRAIA DA ROCHA
This beach of almost 2 km of sand decorated by rock formations that rise from the bottom of the sea and limestone cliffs in yellowish and orange tones, is surrounded by tall buildings, bars, restaurants and even a famous casino, located in the Hotel Algarve Casino. The name is due to the presence of rocks between the sand and the sea. Historically, Praia da Rocha was a fishing village, but since 1980 the city has engaged with tourism and everything has changed. The beach is next to the Fortress of Santa Catarina, built in 1691, with the aim of protecting the mouth of the River Arade and which provides a panoramic view of the sea. Access to the beach is via approximately 30 steep steps from Avenida Tomas Cabreira. The beach is also known for its strong waves and is therefore very popular with surfers. It is common to practice various water sports on the beach as well, which has an excellent infrastructure with umbrellas and lifeguards. It is also a popular place to watch the sunset over the cliffs.
14. PORTIMÃO MARINA BEACH
At the mouth of the River Arade is Praia da Marina de Portimão. The beach waters are very calm, as it is located so close to the river. The beach's strip of sand is reduced in size, due to the presence of a 700-meter-long pier. Access to the beach is via a trail (you can walk or ride a bike) that runs along the entire marina of Portimão. The beach has a great infrastructure with sun loungers and umbrellas, showers, lifeguards, toilets, parking, bars and restaurants.
Close to the beach, it is Portimão marina, which gives its name to the beach. Built in the river inlet, it has the capacity to house up to 620 large vessels. On the other side of the marina, you can see the Angrinha beach it's the Castle of Sao Joao de Arade, also known as Castelo de Ferragudo, a military monument in the village of Ferragudo (in the municipality of Lagoa and not Portimão) built in 1520.
>> ATTRACTIONS IN PORTIMÃO
15. FORTRESS OF SANTA CATARINA
The Fortress of Santa Catarina is a military building built in 1633 at the end of Praia da Rocha, next to the mouth of the River Arade. Throughout its history, the monument was practically completely modified, mainly its interior with a single floor and trapezoidal plan, but preserving its main façade. Access to the fortress is via Largo da Fortaleza and Avenida Tomás Cabreira via a staircase in the cliffs. Its privileged location provides the opportunity to admire beautiful views of the city of Portimão and the waters, as a viewpoint was installed where the batteries were facing the ocean. With the increasing importance of tourism in the Algarve, the fortress underwent a series of renovations. Until 1946, the fort was used as a post by the Fiscal Guard and as a residence for the families of these guards. Previously, it had already been used by the Maritime Police and the Port of Portimão. From 1960, renovations were carried out to give the place a more tourist character, converting areas to house a bar, a restaurant and a Café.
- Address: Av. Tomás Cabreira 4, 8500-802 Portimao, Portugal
- Schedules: 24 hours a day
- Entrance: free
16. PORTIMÃO MUSEUM
Located between the Ruins of the Convent of San Francisco it's the Vasco da Gama Pier, the Museu de Portimão, founded in 2008, is housed in a building that housed an old fish canning factory next to the Arade River. The museum seeks to travel back in time through exhibitions that take visitors on a journey through the origins and most important moments in the industrial and maritime history of the city involving fishing and the sardine industry. Besides the permanent exhibition “Portimão, Territory and Identity”, the museum has temporary exhibitions, and also has an auditorium. Start the tour by watching a film made in 1946 that explains every step of the process, from contorted sardines to carefully packaged cans ready for export. The museum also has a very interesting archaeological exhibition that shows the evolution of human occupation in Portimão from the Neolithic period, through the Roman and Islamic occupations.
- Address: Rua D. Carlos I Zona Ribeirinha, 8500-607 Portimão, Portugal
- Schedules: from September to July: Tuesday from 2:30 pm to 6 pm | from wednesday to sunday from 10am to 6pm | closed on mondays
- August: Tuesday from 7:30 pm to 11 pm | from Wednesday to Sunday from 15:00 to 23:00
- Entrance: 3€
Casa Manuel Teixeira Gomes is a 17th-century building where the Portuguese writer and former president Manuel Teixeira Gomes was born. Located practically in front of the beautiful and flowery December 1st garden, in 2009, the house was converted into a museum that has a biographical exhibition room, a documentation center and a virtual center, in addition to being a cultural and artistic space that hosts music recitals, plays and varied exhibitions of painting and photography. The entrance is made through an iron gate that leads to a central courtyard. Some of the highlights are in the right wing of the building, where there are stained glass windows at the top of the entrance door and the kitchen, where you can still see the stone washbasin and the traditional fireplace.
- Address: R. Júdice Biker 1, 8500-001 Portimão, Portugal
- Schedules: daily from 10 am to 6 pm
- Entrance: free
18. PORTIMÃO CITY HALL (PALÁCIO BÍVAR)
Built at the end of the 18th century in a neoclassical style with Baroque details, the Bívar Palace is one of the most important historic buildings in Portimão. This palace belonged to the influential Bívar family and is currently where the Town Hall of Portimão (City Hall of Portimão) operates. The building has two floors, rectangular in plan, with a straight facade with window frames and mansards (windows on the roofs).
- Address: Praça 1.º de Maio, 8500-543 Portimão, Portugal
- Schedules: Monday to Friday from 9 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm
- Entrance: free
Built in the 15th century, the Mother Church of Portimão, also called the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, was located inside the old walls that surrounded the city. Although it was built in Gothic style, the strong earthquake of 1755 meant that it needed to undergo a major renovation. Currently, different architectural styles coexist, such as Baroque, Rococo and Manueline. On the façade, there is a medieval portal that has similarities to the one found in the Monastery of Batalha, in addition to a golden pediment from the late 18th century. It consists of three naves separated by columns, in addition to four chapels on the sides. Inside, the chancel is decorated with altarpieces of the Blessed Sacrament and also has images of Nossa Senhora das Almas do Purgatório, São Pedro and São Gonçalo de Lagos.
- Address: Rua da Igreja, 8500-597 Portimão, Portugal
- Schedules: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 12:30 pm and from 3 pm to 6:30 pm | Saturday from 5 pm to 7 pm | Sunday from 8:00 am to 9:30 am, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
- Entrance: free
20. CHURCH OF THE JESUIT COLLEGE
Located in the important Praça da República is the Igreja do Colégio dos Jesuítas, built at the end of the 17th century, around 1660, at the request of the nobleman Diogo Gonçalves, who is buried in a mausoleum in the chancel of the church, which has baroque altarpieces in gilded carving made between 1717 and 1719. The interior of the temple is in the form of a Latin cross and has a single nave, which is covered by a vault. Surrounding the upper part of the church are tribunes with walnut balustrades. In the chancel, the wooden images of St. Francis and St. Ignatius of Loyola from the 18th century are still visible. In the side chapel of the Gospel there is a 16th century stone sculpture of the Virgin and Child. The small chapels that form part of the nave's walls are simple and undecorated.
- Address: Praça da República 25, 8500-594 Portimao, Portugal
- Schedules: Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
- Entrance: free
TOURS AND EXCURSIONS IN PORTIMÃO
WHERE TO EAT IN PORTIMÃO
The center of Portimão has many options of restaurants and bars for all tastes. Then, check out a selection of interesting food spots in the city.
- arugula (Mediterranean, European, healthy food)
- PurEssence Café (vegan restaurant with homemade food)
- The Luis (seafood, Mediterranean food) – located at Praia dos Três Irmãos
ON THE ROCHA BEACH
- Super Juice (juices, smoothies, salads, sandwiches, bowls)
- A Portuguesa (Portuguese food, vegetarian and vegan options)
- Safari – Restaurant & Bar (Afro-Asian and Portuguese food, vegetarian options)
- Hamburgueria & Bar – Pim Pam Pum (burger, vegetarian options)
- Ze's Salad (sandwiches, light meals, Algarve cuisine and seafood, vegetarian options)
IN THE CENTER OF PORTIMÃO
- Bio Café Grocery (organic restaurant, Cafe, European food, healthy)
- Whole Warehouse (healthy food store and vegan restaurant)
- Torch House (Mediterranean, European food, vegan options)
- Mint (vegetarian restaurant, organic coffee shop, rooftop terrace)
- Sonia's kitchen (Indian food, vegetarian and vegan dishes)
- Grandpa Casimiro Petiscos (Mediterranean, European, Portuguese food)
WHERE TO STAY IN PORTIMÃO
Below you will find a smart list of accommodation options in Portimao. Some options are close to the city center and the main beaches, but others are a little further away and are interesting for those who have a car and want more peace. Then check the selected options:
- Hotel Santa Catarina Algarve
- Hotel Alcaide
- Residencial Sol (guesthouse)
- club amaryllis (apartment hotel)
- hotel moonlight
- Turin Presidente Hotel
- Hotel da Rocha
- Jupiter Algarve Hotel
- Tivoli Marina Portimao
- Turim Estrela do Vau Hotel
- Interpass Vau Hotel Apartments
- Victor's Plaza (apartment hotel)
- Atlantic Ocean Apartments (apartment hotel)
- Jardim do Vau
- Jupiter Marina Hotel – Couples & SPA
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