Portimão is a thriving cosmopolitan city that has become one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Algarve. In addition to excellent beaches, easy access to golf courses and a full spectrum of amenities and entertainment, Portimão has the beauty of the Alvor estuary to offer. It is a place where the fun-loving visitor, eager to discover the nightlife and entertainment of the city will be as content as the nature-loving visitor who wishes to spend days gazing at the migratory birds in the beautiful, undisturbed landscape of the protected Alvor Ria.
Spectacular beaches have transformed Portimão into the welcoming, vibrant city that it is today. Beaches of fine, golden sands framed by sculptured cliffs form the natural landscape of this coastline, providing endless sun-drenched days and a host of water sports. Sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, diving and deep-sea fishing facilities complement the boat trips that explore the natural grottoes and tunnels or that sail up the Arade river as far as the historical town of Silves.
To the east of Portimão lie the peaceful waters, marshlands and sand dunes of the protected Alvor estuary, providing a sanctuary for dozens of species of migrating birds and a serene atmosphere of natural beauty that can best be admired by boat. In addition to the wildlife, the Ria provides a wonderful opportunity to observe the techniques of the local workers as they calmly pursue their livelihoods of salt-gathering, shellfish and fish farming in the estuary’s waters.
After a day in the sun, the city of Portimão offers plenty of entertainment and things to do. The quayside restaurants are perfect for a taste of the local snack, meaty sardines served on homemade bread, or a fuller meal consisting of the local soups, followed by a bean and whelk stew, clam rice or fried cuttlefish. The traditional sweets and desserts, the ‘morgados’, ‘bolas de ovo’ (egg balls) and ‘figos cheios’ (stuffed figs) are all based on the region’s local produce, figs and almonds. The waterfront area is ideal for leisurely strolls and the exclusive boat club boasts a fabulous restaurant overlooking the harbour.
There is plenty of shopping to be had in Portimão, whether in the narrow streets of the old town for a flavour of some of the local handicraft, in the modern shopping centre or in the Portimão Retail Park, on the outskirts of the city. A browse through the old town shops is infinitely more picturesque and ideal for acquiring the local wicker products, lace and embroidery, earthenware and copper utensils. The trendy boutiques of the Praia da Rocha area are also very popular for those holiday ‘essentials’.
As with most cities and towns along the Algarve coastline, the destructive effects of the 1755 earthquake left little evidence of Portimão’s former splendour. All that remains of the original 15th church of Our Lady of the Conception is the gothic doorway, a gargoyle and buttresses, the remainder having been rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries. The austere Jesuit College’s mix of architectural styles is also due to successive repairs over the centuries but it houses the largest church in the Algarve and also merits a visit. Many interesting historical sites bearing testimony to the presence of the Algarve’s former inhabitants can be found further afield. The Abicada archeological site contains remains of 1st and 4th century Roman villas, there is an important Neolithic/Chalcolithic burial ground in Alcalar and the Moorish architecture of the Marabout chapels of St. John and St. Peter in Alvor evoke the holy sites where Moslems buried their religious ascetics, the marabouts.
Keen golfers have several courses at their disposal including the Alto Golf Country Club, the Morgado and the famous Penina Championship courses.
In Portimão you will never be at a loss for anything to do. If the sun and beaches don’t suffice, plenty of entertainment awaits around the corner.