Located in the most touristy region in Portugal, the city of Portimão is one of the favourite places for thousands of people to spend their holidays. Come with me and discover the things to do in Portimão, one of the most beautiful locations in Algarve.
With a perfect location in western Algarve, the place where Portimão is now located was populated several centuries ago, by the time of the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.
Portimão never stood out however, from the beginning of the 20th century onwards, it started gaining momentum due to the importance of cannery industry in local and national economy.
Nevertheless, the downfall of this industry decades later led Portimão to adapt and tourism was its way out, becoming one of the perfect destinations for people visiting Algarve. More and more people wanted to discover the things to do in Portimão, its beautiful beaches, its wonderful gastronomy and much more.
Before I continue, I’d like to show you this short video shot by André Inácio so that you discover some of Portimão’s points of interest:
Things to do in Portimão
Even though Portimão beaches are the main reason for people to come to this city, the truth is that there are so many other things to do in Portimão that you’ll be amazed.
To begin with, we suggest you park your car in the street Rua 28 de Maio, right in front of the beautiful Arade river.
Next, if you’re facing the river, turn right and proceed through the riverfront for some metres until you get to your first destination: the beautiful Portimão Museum.
This museum was designed as part of an extraordinary project of renovation of an old cannery that dated back to the end of the 19th century. So, in 2008, this museum was born with the objective of raising awareness of this city’s culture and history, very much connected to cannery industry and maritime activities.
After discovering this museum, stroll along the riverfront (going back from where you came) and enjoy the river and palm trees all the way until you get to the square Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes; cross the square and enter the street Rua 5 de Outubro where you can visit the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição.
This church was built in the 15th century but most of its structure was damaged at the time of the major earthquake of 1755 that reached this area and many others in Portugal. Meanwhile, the church was restored and, because of that, you can visit this place and admire its original Gothic portal and its beautiful interior.
Next, continue your stroll until you get to the square Praça da República. There, you’ll find one of the most beautiful buildings in Portimão – the Jesuits Church and College.
Built in the end of the 17th century, this building had the important help of the nobleman D. Diogo Gonçalves that left in his will all of his wealth to the Society of Jesus. To show their appreciation, the Jesuits commissioned a mausoleum so that the nobleman could be admired in the church’s main-chapel.
Characterised by its symmetry and beautiful interior, the church and the college were almost left to ruins by the major earthquake of 1755 that destroyed part of the vaults and facade. After that, Marquês de Pombal (Portuguese Secretary of State) banned the Society of Jesus from Portugal leaving their estate to the Crown.
Years later, the church and the college were donated to the University of Coimbra because the college had a background in teaching Theology and Literature. From the 19th century onwards, this educational institution was occupied by the city hall and by the Third Order of Saint Francis.
To finish your visit to this part of Portimão, you can return to your car using the same route or else you can explore and admire some more streets of this beautiful city.
After getting to your car, drive for some kilometres along the riverfront until you get to the river mouth of Arade river where you’ll find the Fortress of Santa Catarina, a visit you must include on your list of things to do in Portimão.
Built during the Philippine Dynasty, this fortress was designed to watch over and protect, along with the Castle of São João do Arade, the river mouth.
From the Fortress of Santa Catarina you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy one of the most beautiful views over Rocha beach, the river, Ferragudo (on the other side of the river) and, of course, over the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the things to do in Portimão is definitely a visit to the beautiful fishing village of Ferragudo, located opposite to the city and overlooking it.
The most interesting part of this village is its riverfront and the already mentioned Castle of São João do Arade, built in the end of the 15th century.
Unlike many other buildings in Portimão and surrounding area, this castle wasn’t destroyed nor damaged by the earthquake of 1755 because it was built on solid rock.
Since this castle is now private property, the best way to admire it is by going to Angrinha beach or Grande beach; from there, you’ll have the opportunity to admire Portimão and, if that’s the case, the beautiful sunset.
After admiring the view over Portimão, don’t hesitate to spend some time exploring this village’s typical streets with a past related to the sea but now more into tourism.
When planning your visit to the Algarve and thinking of things to do in Portimão and surrounding area, make sure you have time to visit the beautiful town of Alvor.
Located just 6 km west of Portimão, this town shares with its visitors its historical, cultural and natural wealth.
Under Muslim rule for a long time, it was just after the 13th century that this place definitely became part of the Portuguese nation. It is because of that Arabic influence that you’ll find some architectural elements from that period.
You should begin your visit to this town in the Main Church of Alvor, built in the beginning of the 16th century and considered by many people as the landmark of Manueline style in the Algarve.
Here, you can admire the amazing Manueline entrance decorated with elements depicting fauna and flora, religion and others. Inside, you can admire the wonderful glazed-tile panels from the 18th century and statues in six altars, carved in gilded wood.
Next, make a stroll through the streets of the centre of Alvor and explore every corner of this beautiful place.
Take the opportunity to get to know the small but charming Misericórdia Church in the street Rua 25 de Abril and, if you really want to feel some of Alvor’s authenticity, visit the municipal market located in the street Rua Dom João II.
But Alvor is much more than its historical and cultural wealth – you should also take the opportunity to enjoy the nature surrounding this beautiful town.
Go down to the street Rua da Ribeira and admire the river Ria de Alvor, the small paradise of this town. Here, we suggest you go on a 5 km stroll through the wooden walkway (the biggest walkway in Algarve) connecting the Ria to the Três Irmãos beach.
Along this walkway you can admire the dunes, the beautiful Alvor beach and the fauna and flora located on the water and shores of Alvor estuary – this should be on your list of things to do in Portimão and surrounding area.
Tours in Alvor
I took the opportunity of being in Alvor and decided to try one of the most enjoyable activities one can do in Algarve: a boat tour to discover the beautiful Ria de Alvor, admire Lagos in a different perspective and discover its wonderful cliffs (in Ponta da Piedade) and its beaches, of which one was considered one of the most beautiful in the world!
To do this boat tour, I’ve chosen Trigana Boat Trips, located in the square Largo da Ribeira (facing the roundabout).
The tour began in Ria de Alvor where I had the opportunity to admire the estuary and take some beautiful photos of Alvor. Next, we entered Atlantic Ocean’s waters and headed to Lagos to admire its wonders.
The part that I most enjoyed was after seeing Lagos waterfront. Admiring Dona Ana and Camilo beaches from the cliffs is a magical moment but to see these places up close is an experience to remember!
One of the things I liked was the fact that the boat changed during the tour. In the beginning, it was a motorboat but then it changed into a sailing boat.
In short, I loved doing this 2h30 boat tour, leaving from Alvor. I’m always apprehensive in relation to these touristy activities but, once again, I was amazed by the beautiful landscape and seascape and by the wonderful staff (it’s obvious they love what they do).
As I’ve mentioned before, Portimão beaches are one of the main reasons why people visit this region. Next, discover some of the most beautiful and relaxing beaches that are the delight of kids as well as adults.
Of the things to do in Portimão, you don’t want to miss one of the most famous and beautiful beaches in the country – Rocha beach.
This beach has a huge stretch of sand and is located close to the already mentioned Fortress of Santa Catarina, which is also an access point and a viewpoint. From here, you can admire the beauty of Arade river, Rocha beach stretch of sand and, of course, the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Apart from having the possibility of sunbathing and going for a swim in the calm and warm waters of the Atlantic, you can also enjoy the sports facilities and play basketball, volleyball or football.
But it isn’t only during the day that Rocha beach and its surrounding area are crowded: at night, you can go to one of the bars at that location and have a drink or even take the opportunity to go to Hotel Algarve Casino and test your luck at the tables or in one of the 355 slot machines.
Três Castelos beach
More intimate and with a small tunnel carved out of the rocks, Três Castelos beach is side by side with Rocha beach and it also has its charm and that’s why thousands of people choose it as one of the best beaches in Portimão. You can also get to this beach by climbing down the steps in the cliffs.
Before climbing down to the golden sand beach, take the opportunity to go to Três Castelos viewpoint where you can enjoy wonderful views over the sea, the beautiful rock formations and Rocha and Três Castelos beaches.
Sheltered by the beautiful bluffs and rock formations, Careanos beach is one of the most idyllic beaches and a place you can’t miss when you visit Portimão.
Take the opportunity to spend some time at this beach and enjoy all of its natural beauty: the calm and crystal clear waters, the imposing reddish cliffs and much more. You should also take some time to relax a little, sunbathe and go for a swim.
Further apart from the previous beaches, Alvor beach is another place to consider when choosing the things to do in Portimão.
As I already mentioned before, this beach has a long stretch of sand and, due to the quality of its water and facilities, it has won several prizes.
Another decisive factor for this beach to be one of the most visited beaches in Portimão (and surrounding area) is its long walkway that allows people to go for a stroll or run before relaxing at the beach.
This walkway also allows easy access to several points of this beach and it contributes to the preservation of the existing dunes. You should also take the opportunity to admire the beautiful Alvor estuary that, with its calm waters, is a safe haven for several shellfish, fish and bird species – definitely a stop to include on your list of things to do in Portimão.
Apart from these beaches, there are other beaches in Portimão and surrounding area that are as beautiful, such as Vau beach, Alemão beach, João de Arens beach and Três Irmãos beach.
Some of these beaches have difficult access because of their steep descent through the cliffs but you can get to some of them by boat or through other beaches, during low tide. The important thing is that you be careful and make the most out of these paradises.
Where to eat in Portimão and Alvor
One of the things to do in Portimão is trying the local and regional gastronomy. Surely you’ll want to stay away from shopping centres when you visit the city and, as such, you’ll want to discover some of the best restaurants to have lunch and dinner.
I’ve chosen restaurants in Portimão and Alvor based on their location, reviews and rating.
Discover below some of my suggestions and learn more by clicking the links to TripAdvisor. These restaurants serve delicious regional dishes, but not only, at affordable prices – try the best fish, meat and seafood!
Where to sleep in Portimão
Surely, when you visit Portimão, you’ll want to stay at a hotel with the best amenities, location, price, hospitality, among others. Next, discover some of my suggestions.
Clube Praia Mar Apartamentos Turísticos*** 8.2/10 (affiliate link)
Located just a few metres from some of the best beaches in Portimão, Clube Praia Mar is a great option for people who want to enjoy their holidays in the Algarve. Here, you’ll be able to admire the beautiful views over the city or the beaches.
If you book an apartment at this hotel, know that you can have lunch or dinner at its restaurant where you can try some of the regional delicacies and Portuguese specialities.
Hotel da Rocha**** 9/10 (affiliate link)
Hotel da Rocha is at a privileged location, right beside Rocha beach. The contemporary design of the suites is one of the characteristics that stand out at this four-star hotel; you can also enjoy the marvellous views over the beach.
You’ll have free Wi-Fi access in all areas and a reception available 24/7. To relax, you can go for a swim in the outdoor pool or have a refreshing drink at the bar – definitely a place to consider when you make your list of things to do in Portimão!
As you can see, there are many things to do in Portimão and, when you visit it, surely you’ll enjoy every single moment.
Discover the historic centre of Portimão, cross Arade river and admire the beautiful fishing village of Ferragudo, explore the town of Alvor and enjoy all of its historical wealth.
But these locations are much more than their history! Enjoy the natural beauty, sunbathe and go for a swim in the crystal clear waters of Rocha, Angrinha or Alvor beaches and go for a stroll on the biggest walkway in the Algarve.
Are you going to visit Portimão? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal.Thank you!