Albufeira is undoubtedly one of the more touristy towns in the Algarve but that doesn’t mean it lacks charm or places of interest. On my many visits I’ve found loads of wonderful things to do in Albufeira to suit all ages and tastes, making it a popular base for many holiday-makers and longer-term residents.
As well as the historical, archaeological and architectural features in the old town and the beautiful beaches, there are a few art galleries and some quality crafts shops among the plethora of tackier souvenirs.
If you’re looking for tours, outdoor activities and excursions, these are plentiful, too. Read on to discover a wide range of things to do in Albufeira, although if you’re only interested in the hedonistic party scene on The Strip, you’re reading the wrong blog.
Related: Decide where to stay in Albufeira with the help of this guide
1. Albufeira beaches for everyone
Along the 30 kilometres of Albufeira coastline you’ll find a whole range of beaches to satisfy all needs.
The most accessible (and popular) beach if you’re based in the Old Town is Praia dos Pescadores. It’s a family-friendly beach where the sand is golden and the water welcoming. There are plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas for hire. A continuation of this, to the east, is Praia do Peneco (see #5 below.)
Praia da Oura, although usually frequented by the youngsters from The Strip, is a great place to enjoy the many water sports.
Praia dos Alemães is quieter with lovely clear water and to the west of Albufeira is Praia de São Rafael with its striking rock formations.
Further to the east of Albufeira is the renowned Praia de Falesia, backed by dramatic red sandstone cliffs.
Water-based activities from the beach
The coastline around Albufeira features intriguing caves that are ideal for kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboard. If you dont’ have a car, you may need to take a cab or Uber to the start point.
You can discover the stunning Portuguese coast on this 2-hour kayaking tour that starts from Praia do Castelo.
Or maybe test your balance with stand up paddle boarding (SUP) (beginners welcome) and explore the many beaches, coves, and inlets along the coast. This tour departs from Praia da Coelha.
If you want to polish up your surfing skills with an experienced instructor, this small group surf lesson should help you ride those waves with confidence.
For the really adventurous, this Parasailing Adventure on Albufeira’s Coastline should get the adrenaline pumping. Gaze down at the city of Albufeira from 80 metres high while feeling the wind rush through your hair!
2. Visit the famous Benagil caves
The amazing natural beauty of the nearby Benagil caves attracts thousands of visitors and it’s easy to see why. With sunlight streaming through the openings in the dome-like ceiling, golden sand and translucent water, it’s a sight not to be missed.
Because the cave can only be reached by sea there are many tours by boat, kayak and SUP tours on offer (swimming is NOT recommended). However, be choosy how you get there. Some catamarans have up to 80 people on board!
You can take a small group speedboat tour to the caves and do a bit of dolphin spotting. Or, after leaving Albufeira Marina by boat, change to a kayak or SUP to explore the caves in a more intimate way.
The chance to experience a beautiful evening sunset cruise to the caves, also leaving via the Marina, is one to consider.
Please note: As from 25th September 2023 kayaks and SUPs are not allowed inside the caves due to safety concerns. This is a temporary measure from the Maritime authority so please check with the tour operators before booking these tours.
3. Take to the water for some dolphin watching
The coast of Albufeira is the perfect place to spot these aquatic mammals so if you’re more interested in wildlife than rock formations, take a dedicated dolphin tour, which includes a visit to the Benagil Caves.
You’ll access the more isolated coastal areas and, because the Algarve is home to a diverse range of wildlife, you’ll get the chance to see many of the various species of marine life and birds along the way.
4. Explore Albufeira Old Town
Tourism in Albufeira can be split into two distinct areas; Areias de São João, known colloquially as The Strip, and the Old Town.
The Strip is party land, full of hen parties and people out for a good time, fuelled by alcohol. Don’t ask me about it because it’s not my scene but it’s easily avoided.
The Old Town is still quaint in parts, with picturesque cobblestone streets where you can wander, learn about the local history and browse for quality souvenirs, although there’s an awful lot of tat on offer so you’ll need to be discerning.
Tip: Save your legs and see the best of Albufeira on a private tuk tuk tour
Jardim Publico de Albufeira in Largo Enginheiro Duarte Pacheco is the old town’s leafy main square and the heart of everything; an attractive place to watch the world go by. It’s quite busy so if you want to find quieter streets, head towards Rua da Igreja Velha and surrounds.
There is a circular pedestrian route of just over 7 km, which gives you the opportunity to discover more about the Old Town.
It begins at the Tourism Office where you can pick up a brochure with all the necessary information to get the best out of the walk. Alternatively, if you want to reduce the distance walked, pick up a lealet from the Archaeological Museum and just follow the route around the heart of the historical centre.
If you’re lucky try and get on a guided walk. They’re on every Thursday morning at 10 am and you can register at the local Camara (council). For more info email [email protected].
5. Take the tunnel to the beach
There aren’t many towns where direct access to the beach is directly from a busy street in the town centre, through a short tunnel, but Albufeira is one of them. Built in 1935, the tunnel connects Rua 5 de Outubro with the sandy Praia do Peneco.
Expect to be entertained by buskers in the tunnel before you hit the sand.
Don’t worry if tunnels freak you out – there are other ways to access Albufeira beaches including an elevator at the far end of Praia do Peneco and escalators at Praia dos Pescadores.
6. See the monument to the fishing community
Praia dos Pescadores means Fishermen’s Beach, which is exactly what this was before tourism took over.
Just off the beach, you’ll find a sculpted monument dedicated to the families who earned their living from the sea, which offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of a bygone era.
7. Imagine the fish market at Cais Herculano
A few metres from the fishing monument is a covered area which was once a bustling fish market, Cais Herculano.
Nowadays, it’s surrounded by restaurants and has some benches where you can escape the sun for a while if needs be. When I visited, there was a temporary photographic exhibition in the space as well as more permanent sculptures.
8. Discover “A Different Algarve” photo exhibition
If you’re curious about life in the Algarve before it became a tourist hotspot, take a stroll along Esplanada Dr Frutoso da Silva.
Its white wall is home to an outdoor exhibition of black and white photgraphs taken by Artur Pastor, one of the best Portuguese photographers of the 20th century. His shots capture everyday scenes from the 1940s to 1970s, giving you a glimpse of times gone by.
8. Visit the Archaeological Museum
Not much of the ancient Albufeira escaped the 1755 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Portugal. If you want to get a sense of what the architecture was like, and understand quite how far back Albufeira’s history goes, the Municipal Archaeology Museum is well worth a visit.
The small but interesting collection takes you on a voyage from prehistory to the 17th century.
Praça da República, 1. Open daily from 9:30 to 5:30
9. See the remains of an Islamic home
In the square outside the museum, look out for a small excavation surrounded by a white barrier. This is part of an Islamic home, many of which still exist underneath Albufeira’s current buildings.
You can clearly see the hole in the ground that the occupants had carved out of the earth beneath their house in order to store precious commodities like food and water. This was common practice during the conflict between the Christian forces that eventually forced the resident Muslims to relinquish the territory. The origin of the name Abufeira is actually Arabic, “Al-buhera”, meaning “sea-castle”.
10. Check out some ancient doorways
The arched doorway on this small building on Rua Henrique Calado once led to the Old Inn (Antiga Albergue), which provided shelter and lodging to weary travellers. It’s one of the few buildings in Albufeira to have survived the 1755 earthquake.
The church of Saint Sebastion (Igreja de São Sebastião) is in a small square in old town Albufeira and boasts a beautiful stone doorway.
11. Admire contemporary art at Galeria Municipal João Bailote
João Bailote was a local born artist who was one of the best-selling painters in Portugal and abroad between the 1960s and 1980s. Because of his local celebrity the Municipal Gallery of Albufeira was renamed after him.
The gallery hosts a range of exhibitions throughout the year and is always worth checking out.
Rua do Município. Open Monday to Friday 9:30 to 12:30 and 1:30 to 5:30
12. Enjoy the views at Miradouro do Pau da Bandeira
Take in views over the old town including Praia dos Pescadores from this wonderful viewpoint. Thanks to the escalators you don’t have to wear yourself out walking up the hill. In the daytime you can take advantage of the shaded areas but at nightime, with Albufeira lit up, you get a lovely view.
Also a great spot for sunsets, too.
13. Hang out at Albufeira Marina
The marina is small in comparison to other marinas and noticeable because of the lego-like coloured buildings alongside it. As well as boats, you’ll find the usual hotels, restaurants, bars and a recreational and leisure centre.
You can save a little time by taking the tourist train or this tuk-tuk tour from the Old Town, otherwise it’s a bit of a walk.
It’s also where most boat trips start off from, like this 2.5 hr tour in search of dolphins and a visit to the Benagil Caves or this sunset cruise along the coast to the Benagil caves.
14. Study wildlife up close at Zoomarine
Albufeira’s Zoomarine complex is spread over 8 hectares and is the ideal place to watch presentations with dolphins, seals and sea lions, with tropical birds and birds of prey. Here you also find an amazing aquarium with sharks.
These kinds of places are not everyone’s cup-of-tea but they do a lot of conservation work and established the first Rehabilitation Centre for Marine Species in Portugal.
It’s very popular with families with kids, leading to long queues during the high season. You can purchase your entrance tickets in advance to save time.
Zoomarine opens from March 2023 until November 2023. For times check this calendar.
15. Find peace and quiet at Sant’Ana church
This 18th century church, (the original was destroyed, like so many buildings, in the 1755 earthquake), is dedicated to Saint Anne, the maternal grandmother of Jesus. It’s a tranquil place and, if it’s open, you can admire the Baroque altarpiece. Otherwise, just enjoy the views from the top of the steps.
16. Pay a visit to Albufeira’s homegrown saint
Cross the road from Sant’Ana church to see the bronze statue in memory of São Vicente of Albufeira in Largo Jacinto d’Ayet.
Born in Albufeira in 1590, Friar Vicente de Santo António began his overseas preaching endeavours in Mexico and ended up in Japan, where he was imprisoned, tortured and then burned to death, all the while proclaiming his faith in Christianity. Hence the cross in his hand, which he was apparently holding as the flames took his life.
17. See the latest exhibition at Galeria de Arte Pintor Samora Barros
You’ll find this contemporary art gallery in the historic centre of town, housed in a former power station. The attractive tiles and exterior motifs by the Portuguese painter Samora Barros add character to the building.
Temporary exhibitions are regularly rotated so check out what’s on during your visit.
Summer opening hours (July and August) are 3 pm to 8 pm and 9 pm to 11 pm (Closed on Sundays and holidays)
Winter hours are 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm. Entry is free.
18. Catch the Torre do Relógio at night
The Torre do Relógio is a clock tower in the heart of the old town on the corner of Rua José Bernadino Sousa and Praça da República. Dating from the Muslim era, the building was once part of the castle walls and defensive line.
In the centuries since then, it has also served as a jail. On the top of the tower is a crown of iron representing a belfry where a single bell is hung, added in the 20th century.
It’s a focal point when you’re in the old town and looks lovely when it’s illuminated at night.
19. Track down the castle walls
Very little remains of Albufeira Castle but there’s a small section of the walls visible near the former North Gate, which gives you an insight into the architecture of the period, and the former size of Albufeira.
These defensive walls protected the Arab population from Christian seiges for many years but eventually the castle and settlement was conquered in 1249/50 by King Afonso III.
20. Check out the quirky bar at Porta da Sant’Ana
Somewhat more attractive than the North Gate is Porta da Sant’Ana, which has a commemorative tile panel. This was originally the main entrance to Albufeira castle.
The main attraction these days is the quirky, shell-clad bar next to it, i.e. Portas da Villa Antiquity Bar. The owner has lovingly decorated this bar over the years with shells collected from the local beaches.
21. Find a quality Portuguese souvenir to take home
You’ll find an abundance of souvenir shops in Albufeira but take your time to track down the better quality ones if you want something that will last longer than your suntan.
If you’re looking for good quality cork products, try Surpresa Inadiável (Avenida 25 de Abril, 10). They have great collections by Portuguese designers and they also sell ceramics and cataplanas, among other things.
If you prefer leather goods then Kitanda at R. Alves Correia, 13, is the place to go.
Summer season opening hours: Mon-Fri 9:30 am-10 pm, Saturday 9:30 am-7 pm. Regular opening hours: Mon-Fri 9:30 am-7 pm, Saturday 9:30 am-1 pm
If you’re looking for memorable gifts to give to friends and family then check out these unique Portuguese souvenir ideas.
22. Make your very own souvenir
To make your time in Albufeira even more memorable, why not make your own unique souvenir? Try this Private Jewellery Workshop where you can learn some traditional silversmith techniques and create a piece of jewellery to take home with you.
There are several places of interest near Albufeira so don’t confine your explorations to the town and beaches.
23. Explore Albufeira by bike
I’m not a keen or experienced cyclist but I do appreciate the joys of electric bikes. They make the cliffs and hills of Albufeira easy to navigate and you can feel satisfied that you’re enjoying yourself and not harming the planet.
You can take this 30km e-bike tour that covers the town and beaches. There are also many shops in Albufeira providing independent bike rental, both electric and normal.
24. Discover the village and castle of Paderne
Just over 7 miles to the north of Albufeira is the village of Paderne, where you’ll find Castelo de Paderne or Paderne Castle. Constructed in the 13th century, the castle is believed to be one of the original castles that can be seen on the shield of the Portuguese national flag.
When I visited, the castle was only open Wednesdays and Sundays and is down a dirt track. This is fine if you’re walking (there’s a marked trail, the Rota do Castelo PR1 ABF), cycling or doing a countryside tuk tuk or quad bike tour but it’s not really worth the drive, especially in a rental car.
The village of Paderne is serene and not at all touristy. I was disappointed that the Museum of the Accordion was closed on the day I visited. On display are accordions, concertinas, photographs and all other accordion related material, most of which belong to Francisco Sabóia, who fulfilled his dream of sharing his passion and so built the museum.
Opening hours are Monday to Friday: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and closed for lunch from 1pm to 2pm. Weekends by appointment only. Tel: 289599508.
It was such a shame that Corte Real Gallery was also closed on my visit. The gallery is an old traditional farmhouse and each room has a special theme. The artists on display there are exceptional. Just take a look at these.
Gallery opening times are Thursday to Sunday 11.30 to 4.30pm. Tel: 961 528 679 or email: [email protected] to check before making the trip.
25. Spend time in nature at Salgados Nature Reserve
Lagoa dos Salgados is one of the most important freshwater wetlands in the Algarve and a marvellous place to explore. The wooden walkways and cycle areas give you access to this relatively small but rewarding lagoon.
You can take in wonderful panoramas on this segway tour and try to spot the variety of local wildlife on view.
If you’re patient (and / or lucky) you can catch sight of many rare birds. Enlist the help of an expert on this Bird Watching in Albufeira Lagoon tour, a program specifically designed for nature lovers and birdwatchers.
Or you could really get down to details on this 7 kilometre (4.3 miles) walking tour that explores the different ecosystems, and allows you to make your own little work of art with a local artist!
26. Taste local wine and traditional tapas
The rural regions of the Algarve produce good quality wines and, although it’s easy to pick up a bottle from the local supermarket or restaurant, it’s well worth the effort to go and actually see how and where the wines are produced.
There are many family-owned wineries that offer tours and tastings. This wine and tapas tour shows how a local winery works and you get to take off-road tracks to view some amazing landscapes, too.
27. Make some time for golf
The Algarve can quite rightly claim to be Europe’s number one golf destination and Albufeira has some excellent courses nearby. There’s the luxurious Pine Cliffs just a 15 minute drive away and Balaia and Salgados are both easily accessible.
For more information about where to play golf in the whole of the Algarve region, check out this guide by golf travel expert, Andy Waple.
28. Indulge your wild side at the Adventure Park
Adventurous souls can try high-rope courses and paintball at Parque Aventura, ideal if the family needs an opportunity to swing from tree to tree, cross monkey bridges or whizz down zip wires into vertical nets.
Opening hours are 2pm to 6pm daily. For tickets and information check out Parque Aventura website.
Events in Albufeira
To find out about the latest events, markets and what’s going on in Albufeira, check out this site.
Getting to Albufeira
If you’re flying into Portugal, it might be worth looking into Faro airport as there are direct flights from several international airports. It’s 46 km and a straightforward journey to Albufeira from there.
If you plan to explore the surrounding area, or take a road trip, without using any of the tours I mentioned above, I’d consider hiring a car from the airport, just to give you that extra flexibility and freedom. Discovercars or Rentalcars are great for finding the best deals for car hire.
Alternatively, take a private transfer from the airport to your accommodation in Albufeira.
For a budget transport option, Flixbus run a regular service. Albufeira’s train station is quite far out of town so you’d probably need a cab or bus to get to your lodgings.