As a holiday destination, ALBUFEIRA, like Quarteira, is the sort of place
you like or hate. An amazing number of people from all age groups like
it. Retired couples feel just as at home here as raving teenagers and
families with young children.
Albufeira is spread out rather than high-rise. The town itself consists
of "old" and "new" sections which merge seamlessly
into an extensive holiday-land suburbia, spreading off back east along
the coast to Balaia, Olhos d'Agua and Falesia, and west to São Rafael,
Galé and the links golf course at Salgados. The whole area, greater
Albufeira you could call it, is the most tourist-intensive place in
Portugal. It has very little to do with the real Portugal, or with the
real planet earth for that matter, but people come here in droves and
have the time of their lives.
started out at least 2,000 years ago as a small, fortified town which
the Romans called Baltrum. Eight centuries later the Moors renamed it
Al-Buhera. The Moors turned it into a prosperous port trading with North
Africa. The Knights of Santiago led the Christian re-conquest of the
town in 1250, but without its trade links Albufeira fell upon hard times
and they lasted for hundreds of years.
suffered a succession of devastating earthquakes - in 1719, 1722 and
worst of all in 1755 when the town was not only devastated by a series
of earth tremors, but swamped by tidal waves. In 1833 it was first besieged
then burnt to the ground during a Portuguese civil war. Prosperity only
returned to Albufeira with the tourist boom that started in the late
1970's and gathered momentum in the 1980's. Tourism, pure and simple,
is what it's now all about.
of the old charm is still there, and it is to be found in the labyrinth
of narrow streets, lined with whitewashed houses, apartments, cafes
and shops, which lead down the hillside to a central square, Largo Eng.
Duarte Pacheco. The square is a good place to sit and watch the world
go by. Nearby, next to the tourist information office, a tunnel at the
end of a pedestrian-only mall leads on to the town's main beach.
Another section of this long beach is equally easily accessible from
the streets leading off the other end of the square. There the beach
is known as Fisherman's Beach and it's shared without a shred of self-consciousness
by topless sun-bathers and sun-hardened men of the sea far too busy
mending their nets to notice the bare boobs bobbing about their boats
on the sand.
Albufeira, centred on Areias de São João, is on the east side. Its most
famous thoroughfare is affectionately known as The Strip. It stretches
from the looming edifice of the Montechoro Hotel, past scores
of cafes, restaurants and bars, all the way down to a big busy beach
called Praia da Oura. The Strip and nearby streets are a hive of activity
from mid-morning, when cheap English breakfasts are served to help with
the hangovers caused by imbibing well into the wee hours the night before.
is an abundance of all sorts of accommodation in Albufeira and the broad
area around it, and that includes both good hotels and a good campsite,
but without advance booking you may find it difficult to get your head
down anywhere in summer. Incidentally, the campsite has a huge open-air
restaurant and bar where hundreds of people enjoy live music every night
during the summer.
See the official
Albufeira council site for more information (Portuguese