The town and municipal area of Albufeira come under the jurisdiction of the district of Faro in the province called the Algarve, on the south coast of Portugal. It covers an area of approximately 140 km² with more than 40.000 resident inhabitants including 4.000 foreigners who have chosen to live here.
We invite you to know a little of its history, its monuments, its churches, its people and their local customs.
A bit of history…
The place we know today as Albufeira is not just a “Capital of Tourism” in Portugal, It is also an area full of history, with vestiges of human occupation since the remote Neolithic and Bronze ages.
Contacts with Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians taught the inhabitants the alphabet, use of monetary currency, and how to conserve foodstuffs with use of salt. Initially occupied by the Romans, its original name was Baltum. The Romans were famous for their administrative skills and initiated intense agricultural, mining and commercial activities. There still remain vestiges of aqueducts, roads and bridges built by them.
Commerce with the North African coast led to a gradual influx of the Moors throughout the Algarve. The name of Albufeira comes from the Arab “Al-Buhera” which (means “Little lake/lagoon”) – this name could derive from the existence of a fortification built on the rocky outcrop that dominated the lagoon on the lower part of the town. The Arabs made great strides in the development of agriculture, introducing new cultivations, tools and techniques, such as ploughs, water wheels to raise water from underground wells and also were the first to use fertilizers.
The Christian conquest of the region began at the end of the 12th Century. After decades of conflict, a tight siege of the town by the Knights of the Order of Santiago, finally drove out the Moors in 1249, in the reign of King D. Afonso III. The town was awarded to the Military Order of Aviz and became part of the kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves. King D. Manuel I awarded Charter to the Town of Albufeira on the 20th of August 1504 (date of the municipal holiday) and from that day the town was governed according to the legislation in force for the rest of the country.
Of all the southern towns, Albufeira has been one of the most victimised by natural disasters. The earthquake of 1755 was the worst and most damaging, terminating in a tidal flood that destroyed most of the buildings, leaving few houses standing intact. Rebuilding was slow and it took decades for Albufeira to begin to recuperate from this enormous tragedy.
In the middle of the 19th Century, the fishing industry did much to revive the economy of the town. The export of fish and dried fruit were the principal means of income for the region. Tourism began to flourish from the 1960’s and gave a breath of fresh air to the local economy. As Albufeira grew, so it became a “city” in 1986 and continues to evolve and expand even into the present day. Thanks to an ever-growing tourist industry, it has become one of the most desired holiday destinations in Europe.
In order to cope with the growing needs of the Tourist industry, Albufeira was obliged to overflow its historical urban boundaries into the surrounding countryside in order to build the necessary quality accommodation and install the accompanying luxury services they require. Montechoro, Areias de São João and the famous Oura now became new centres of attraction for visitors. The recent completion of the Albufeira Marina has extended the town’s urban development from its eastern side over to Galé and Salgados in the west.
The borough of Albufeira receives a considerable percentage of the 5 million tourists who visit the Algarve annually. The frenetic summer season now extends into the rest of the year, for visitors of all ages and from all over the world.
Its extraordinary climate, with more than 3000 hours of sunshine per year, (see the weather page) and the friendly charm of its people persuade many foreigners to move residence to the region, either temporarily or permanently. We find more and more people select Albufeira as their favourite destination because of its multiple attractions, i.e. the lively and social nightlife, the beautiful beaches, varied water sports, golf courses, glorious countryside and the local cuisine.
Monuments and Landmarks of Albufeira
The city of Albufeira maintains a historical and cultural heritage that demonstrates the spirit and strength of a population that believes in the essential power of Faith. There are various physical proofs of this way of life to confirm this. We highlight below some of the points of interest not to be missed.
1Clock Tower (Torre do Relógio)
This is the “landmark” of the city. With an iron crown from which are suspended the hourly chimes, it has an excellent panoramic view over the city.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
2Bell Tower (Torre Sineira)
Built in 1869, it is part of the Parish Church Edifice and has a belfry with 8 bells.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
3Parish Church (Igreja Matriz)
Erected in the Neo-Classic architectural style in the 18th Century, it replaced an earlier church which was demolished in the earthquake of 1755. On the archway over the main door is a Cross of Aviz, symbol of the Religious/Military Order that administered Albufeira. Here we find, among others, a statue from the 18th Century of Our Lady of Conception – the patron saint of Albufeira.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
4Chapel of Mercy (Capela da Misericórdia)
This ancient Arab Mosque was transformed onto a chapel in 1499, with some Gothic architectural touches.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
5Church of St Ann (Igreja de Sant'Ana)
This temple was built in the 18th Century. The main nave has a wooden alter piece, possibly by the masters Francisco Xavier Guedelha and João Baptista.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
6Church of St Sebastian (Igreja de São Sebastião)
Built in the mid 18th Century, the exterior is adorned with a dome and two doors in the “Baroque” and “Manuelino” architectural styles.
Today it is a museum for Religious Artefacts and tiled panels and images dating from the 16th and 17th Centuries enhance its interior.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
Chapel of Our Lady of Orada
(Capela da N.ª Srª da Orada)
The original chapel dates from the 16th Century, but the present one was built in the second half of the 18th Century. It is to be found next to the Albufeira Marina. Every year, on the 13th, 14th and 15th of August, Albufeira celebrates the feast day of Nossa Senhora da Orada, with a procession by land and sea, during which a “Blessing of the Sea” takes place.
7St Ann's Gate (Porta de Santana)
This was one of the doors into the castle, giving access to a chapel with the same name. Formally the Town Hall, with probable Medieval origin, it was partially destroyed by the earthquake in 1755, but retains its coat of arms of the Azevedo Family, Lord Mayors of the Castle of Albufeira.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
8Statue of St. Vincent of Albufeira
(Estátua do Beato Vicente)
This monument is in the memory of Brother Vicente de Stº Antonio, who was born in 1590 in the town of Albufeira. Well educated and intelligent, he left Albufeira to continue his studies in the Capital (Lisbon). He dedicated his life to the church after the death of his parents, and his faith led him to pilgrim to the East, namely Japan. There he suffered persecution by non-believers in Christianity. He died on the 3rd of September 1632, whilst holding a crucifix and crying out “Live the Faith of Jesus Christ!” His Saint’s Day is celebrated every September.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
9Old Castle Wall
In the Rua Joaquim Pedro Samora is a small remainder of the wall, possibly where one of the castle wall towers once stood, which was probably the North gate or Beach gate.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
10Old Military Battery
This was probably built in the 16th Century on a part of the cliff top that reaches 41 metres high. The collapse of part of the cliff opened a subterranean cave, which was perfect for the storage of munitions.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
11Arch of the Old Church Street
Of Arab architecture, the arch reveals the existence in this street of an old Arab mosque, later transformed into a Christian church but destroyed in the 1755 earthquake.view on 360º Panorama VR Tour
12Municipal Museum of Archaelogy
On exhibit are items directly connected with the history of the city.
The Parishes of Albufeira Council
Aside from being a city and a parish, Albufeira county is made up of four other parishes,
Ferreiras is a hamlet 5 km to the north of Albufeira and was once occupied by the Romans. It was originally known as “Lagoas” (small lagoons) due to the formation of ponds in the rainy seasons. The name Ferreiras, by which it is known today, probably comes from the surname of an important family who lived in this locality in the mid 19th Century. There is a windmill at Almeijoafras, one of the last in the area, and water wheels, threshing floors and wine presses can also be found.
The parish of Guia is 6Km to the west of Albufeira, and also survives from Roman times. In ancient times it was known as Alfontes, which means “there by the springs”, but the origin of this is difficult to determine. However, traditional legend has it that where the chapel of Our Lady of Guia was erected, the Virgin Mary appeared to the local population. If this should be the case, then the name has some religious background.
Principal points of interest are the Parish Church and the chapels of Our Lady of Guia and St. Luís, where visitors can admire hand painted tiles and statuary, in the Baroque style, dating from the 17th and early 18th century. The religious feast days for Our Lady of Guia and St. Luís are in September.
These days Guia is famous all over the country for its “Guia Chicken”(Frango da Guia) , and annually, in August, the great “Feast of the Charcoal Grilled Chicken” is celebrated. The picturesque coastline of the region led to the construction of numerous holiday complexes, and on the border of the municipality with neighbouring Silves is the splendid Salgados golf
Olhos de Água
Olhos d’Agua is the last of the four parishes, and is 6Km to the east of Albufeira. A charming, small fishing village, it gained great historical note from the beginning of the 18th Century as it played an important part in the guarding and defence of Albufeira.
It’s name derived from the fresh water springs, which emerge from the sea and its sands. Due to the sudden “boom” in tourism in the 1970’s and 80’s, the parish has changed its economic structure and become one of the principal tourist zones in the borough of Albufeira. Its principal points of interest are the Torre da Medronheira (Old watching tower) and the Olheiros (sources of springs of fresh water). Various hotel complexes, holiday villages and a magnificent golf course are set In the Pine Forests of the borough and in Açoteias.
Paderne is 12 Km from Albufeira and set in the craggy, hilly interior of the Algarve. Poised on a range, named “Paderna”, this parish was conquered in 1189 by King D. Sancho I, but the Christian influence did not last long. A few years later, in 1191, a celebrated and much veneered Caliph re-conquered the area for the Moors. It was only in 1248 that Paderne again came under Christian rule. The feast day for Our Lady of Hope, Patron Saint of Paderne, is in October.
Nowadays Paderne town is the centre of the Parish, whose main activity is agriculture. Its principal historic monuments are Paderne Castle, with the Quarteira river flowing around it, the Parish Church, the chapels of Nossa Senhora do Pé da Cruz (Our Lady at the foot of the Cross), and Our Lady of Assumption (testament to the Baroque style), the water mill and the Castle Bridge. For those who appreciate nature, there are many beautiful walks to view the local flora and fauna down by the Quarteira River, and to refresh themselves at the Paderne Font (Spring).
Albufeira's Cultural Identity
The artisans’ work from Albufeira and the Algarve has survived through time and is still representative of the region today. Countless shops, stalls, and markets display typical local handicraft items, from hand painted tiles to typical Algarve chimneys and houses in miniature, mats made from corn husks, beaten copper utensils, rag dolls and rush mats.
There is always a piece of Albufeira to take back to remind visitors of their visit.
Gastronomy - The Art and Science of Good Eating
In the foreground of all eating pleasure in this region is the principal activity of fishing.
Traditional Algarve dishes include a variety of fish and shellfish, such as the famous Algarvean “Cataplana" and the delicious grilled sardines. Tuna, sea bream, monkfish, horse mackerel “alimados”, squid and many other delicacies are prepared in excellent stews, ragouts or grilled, or boiled. No one can resist a delicious selection of fish so fresh they seem to almost jump off the grill or refuse a first class shellfish rice.
Meat, although served less often, is also part of the gastronomic tradition. It is often prepared in conjunction with shellfish, making for an agreeable combination.
Deserts complete the menu, sweets such as cakes are mostly made from dried fruits, and other titbits are made from almonds, figs and carob beans. There is an ice cream of carob, the Dom Rodrigo and the ever-present oranges and sweet eggs. We recommend you try the Almond Liqueur, Alfarroba (Carob) liqueur and Medronho.
The welcoming atmosphere in Albufeira’s restaurants enforces the invitation to taste some of these delicacies. Every year many famous restaurants participate in Albufeira’s Gastronomy Festival.
Fairs and Markets
These are the customary means of blending religion with commerce while promoting a popular, festive atmosphere that attracts people of all ages and backgrounds.
The Municipal market in Caliços is full of local alimentary produce such as fish, vegetables, dried fruits and regional sweet confectionary. A good home cooked meal, for visitors or locals alike, could not have a better beginning than at this source of fresh and healthy produce.
The monthly Fairs and Markets are a famous attraction. Often of a religious origin, they are undoubtedly enhanced by the variety if typical products and general utensils on sale, and where stallholder stock everything from handicrafts to toys, mixed in with clothing and tools. The charismatic stallholders love the customer to haggle over the price, to the happy conclusion of a good deal for both parties.
Car Boot Sales are also much appreciated, and one takes place every month in the Largo 25 de Abril (in front of the Town Hall). Here can be found traditional or collectors items, many of them of quite ancient vintage.
Leisure Activities & Nightlife
Besides the obvious relaxing time on one of the many gorgeous beaches along its shores, Albufeira resort has gained a wide variety of recreation possibilities to offer to its visitors in terms of sport and leisure activities as well as entertainment.
Albufeira Council has been building a noticeable number of infrastructures aiming at promoting sport activity amongst its young inhabitants. Besides several football pitches, athletes can find an athletic track at the Municipal Stadium, a modern Municipal Pavillion, the famous cross country track in Açoteias, public swimming pools, Skatepark and several indoor multi-sports pavilions across the county.
Due to its central location, Albufeira is a great option for those players looking for the finest golf courses in the Algarve. There are 3 golf courses in Albufeira (Salgados Golf; PineCliffs Sheraton; Balaia Golf Village) and one Golf Academy but many more are of easy reach like the ones around Vilamoura.
Nature & Leisure Activities
Pedestrians walks, Bird Watching, Water Parks, a unique Sea life Amusement Park (Zoomarine), Jeep Safaris, Water Sports, Game fishing; Snorkeling and Diving, Paintball, Quad Biking, Spas or simply shopping are just a few example of how visitors can spend some enjoyable time in Albufeira.
Entertainments & Shows
Albufeira has become famous for its bet on grand shows inviting celebrities to perform life in front of large crowds. New Year’s Eve celebrations attract thousands consistently for the concerts held on the “Praia dos Pescadores” beach. Amazing fireworks displays regularly occur marking festivities and celebrations along the year.
During the summer months, the Old Town sees many different artists entertaining tourists and children. A diversified program of musicians, dancers, singers and folklore groups from different regions and countries is set up by the Municipality and available to the general public, freely mostly.
Naturally, Albufeira is also internationally famous for its nightlife. The two main areas where partying is the most lively are the “Street of Bars” in the Old Town and the “Strip” in Oura and Areias de S. João areas on the East side of the city. A wide choice of bars and clubs playing loudly the latest tunes welcome the younger groups throughout the night.
It is certain that each and every visitor will find his stay most enjoyable thanks to the vast available offers in Albufeira.