Albufeira is divided into three main areas -- the Old Town, Oura (“The Strip”) and the new town. The tourist centers are the Old Town and Oura, while the new town has a few hotels and the bus station but little else to attract visitors.
The Old Town
Like all of Algarve, Albufeira was almost entirely destroyed in a major earthquake in 1755. For this reason, practically nothing predates the 18th century. Its castle is gone and its churches are post-earthquake reconstructions. However, the narrow cobblestone streets retain the layout of the old fishing village. They’re now lined with outdoor cafés and restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels (especially the pedestrianized Rua Cândido dos Reis), and are quite lively in the summer. It’s an inviting place for a stroll, and where you can spend a few hours exploring the quiet alleys and crowded squares. Rua da Igreja Velha is the most picturesque street, while Largo Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco is the main square. Rua 5 de Outubro, whose southern end is pedestrianized, is home to the tourist office and has a small tunnel leading to the big central beach. That beach is one long stretch of sand, but divided into four sections -- by the tunnel is Praia do Túnel (literally “Tunnel Beach” but also known as Praia do Peneco), then to the east is Praia dos Pescadores (“Fishermen’s Beach”), Praia do Inatel and Praia dos Alemães. Behind Praia dos Pescadores, on Largo Cais Herculano, are several places to eat and drink.
For a view over the beach and the town, head to a viewpoint called Miradouro do Pau da Bandeira, above the eastern side of Praia dos Pescadores (if you’re coming from the beach, take the escalator to the top).
To the west is the marina, faced by modern multicolored buildings. Many boat tours depart from here.
To the east of the Old Town is Avenida Sá Carneiro, an avenue known as “The Strip.” Lined with neon-lit bars, restaurants and clubs, it’s the heart of Albufeira’s nightlife and what brings many young travelers to town. Gaudy and glitzy, it’s like a mini-Las Vegas, so hence the name. About a 5-minute walk from there (down Rua Ramalho Ortigão) is the very popular Oura Beach.
In the summer, the parties (many of them of Brits celebrating hen and stag parties) last until morning, and there can be excessive drinking on the streets. If that’s not your scene, this area is best avoided, but you will want to pass by during the day, as the beach is quite pleasant.
Monuments and Tourist Attractions in Albufeira
The Clock Tower
One of Albufeira’s main landmarks is a simple clock tower. Located on Rua José Bernardino de Sousa, above Peneco Beach in the Old Town, it was built over the old castle’s wall, which was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. Its distinctive iron crown over the bell was added in the 1800s, and is lit up at night.
Rua José Bernardino de Sousa
A small archaeological museum faces the clock tower, in the old Town Hall building. It tells the story of Albufeira through artifacts dating back to prehistoric times, to the Roman, Visigothic and Moorish occupations, to the modern age. Highlights include menhirs, a complete Neolithic vase from 5000 BC, a Roman mosaic, Visigothic pottery and a Moorish silo, and there’s still space for temporary exhibitions.
Praça da República
Church of Our Lady of Conception
Where a mosque once stood, Albufeira’s Christian conquerors built a church. It was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, so this neoclassical temple was erected in its place, with an imposing belltower behind it. It’s usually closed, but opens for religious services.
Travessa da Igreja Matriz
Church of St. Sebastian
Featuring a small dome and a baroque portal, this church dates from the post-1755-earthquake reconstruction of Albufeira. It also preserves some features from the 15th century, and the interior is now a tiny museum showing the sacred art salvaged from the town’s churches destroyed in the earthquake.
Praça Miguel Bombarda
Standing on a hill and facing the sea, this church is Albufeira’s second to be dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus. The first one stood closer to the waterfront, but when the 1755 earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed it, it was decided that it should be rebuilt on higher ground. Inside, it has a fine example of gilded woodwork, but you have to be lucky to pass by on the rare hours when the church is open to see it.
Rua Miguel Bombarda
Water Parks by Albufeira
If you’re traveling with the kids, you might want to spend a day at one of the water parks by Albufeira. With their slides, pools and entertainment, they’re a fun alternative to the beach:
Located about 20 minutes northwest of Albufeira, this was once said to be Europe’s biggest open-air water park. It offers fun for the whole family, with water slides of different shapes, a huge swimming pool and even an artificial “surf beach.”
Located by Quarteira, or 30 minutes from Albufeira, this water park has a “watercoaster,” a wave pool, a “tropical pool,” and all kinds of fun rides for people of all ages. It’s connected to a hotel, which you may book here: Aquashow Park Hotel
Slide and Splash
About a 30-minute drive from Albufeira, outside the town of Lagoa, you find different opportunities for adrenaline rushes in the water. As the name suggests, the park has all kinds of water slides. Open since 1986, it’s constantly updated with new attractions every season.
Part zoo, part funfair, this theme park mixes dolphins, seals, sea lions, alligators and exotic birds with water slides, swimming pools and even a beach. The animals are well taken care of, and the park promotes rescues and the conservation of ocean life. It’s about 20 minutes north from the center of Albufeira, and can be reached by buses 51 and 57, operated by Vamus.
In addition to the water parks, there are a number of places to go by Albufeira that are alternatives to the beach. If you like historical sights, head to the capital of Algarve (Faro) and to the ancient capital of the region, Silves. To further explore the coast, head west to Lagos and Sagres, the southwestern edge of Europe once known as “the end of the world.” To Faro, Silves and Lagos you can go by public transportation, but for Sagres you need a car. For complete details, see the guide to taking day trips from Albufeira.