Albufeira is Algarve’s beach haven. This is our Albufeira 2 day tour and day 9 of our tour of the Algarve in Portugal. Stretching 30 km along the coastline, the city has more than a handful of beaches, some are wide open with long stretches of sand, while others are nestled between rocky cliffs waiting to be discovered.
After another delicious breakfast at Quinta do Freixo, I left the mountains of Loulé behind and drove off towards the coastline of Albufeira.
Before I headed down to the seashore, I decided to learn more about the city’s culture. I started by visiting Galeria Pintor Samora Barros, an art gallery set right in the middle of Albufeira’s Old Town. The gallery is named after the painter Samora Barros who was born in Albufeira. The building itself is impressive, with its bright white walls, large glass windows, also framed in white and a tiled façade stating “Central Elétrica”, a reminder of the building’s past life as a power station.
After the gallery, I walked around the Old Town, passing through narrow cobbled streets dotted with shops, bars and restaurants suited for all tastes.
I ended up near Albufeira’s main church, easily recognisable by its tall bell tower that still chimes on the hour. This neoclassical church was built in the 18th century, replacing the original church destroyed during the 1755 earthquake. Inside, the decoration is very modest, compared to other churches around the Algarve. The main altar is adorned with a beautiful painting by Samora Barros, that stands behind the statue of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of the Conception), the city’s patron saint.
From here, I continued on to another church, Igreja de São Sebastião, which houses the Museum of Sacred Art in Albufeira. The museum gathers a series of religious items belonging to several churches from the region that survived the earthquake. The thing that most caught my eye, however, was the section with the handpainted tiles, particularly the colourful panel with Jesus and the angels.
Just around the corner from the church is the Archaeological Museum of Albufeira, showcasing the evolution of the city from prehistoric days to the modern ages. Beyond the permanent exhibition, the museum also has a space for temporary shows and a thematic library.
I left the museum and made my way to Cabana Fresca for lunch. Set on the edge of Praia dos Pescadores, the restaurant provides an incredible view over the ocean and a menu full of fish and seafood delicacies, as you would expect from its location. As a starter, I ordered Camarão à Pescador, a plate of fried prawns cooked with onion and garlic, followed by a delicious seafood rice and accompanied by a glass of white wine.
Instead of staying at another hotel, Iberian Escapes booked me into an apartment with a terrace and a sea view, very near the Old Town and the beach, the perfect place to relax after my busy morning. I settled down at the apartment for an hour before heading back outside to visit one of Albufeira’s most beautiful beaches, Praia de São Rafael.
Along this part of the Algarve coastline, Albufeira has an enormous range of beaches, Praia dos Pescadores (also known as Fisherman's beach) is the easiest one to reach because it’s located near the city centre, but there are many others spread along the Atlantic coast that are worthy of a visit. Out of all of them, I was recommended Praia de São Rafael. This small beach is surrounded by stunning orange cliffs and unique rock formations that have been shaped by the wind and the waves, two of them even have names “Ponte Pequena” (Small Bridge) and “Ninho das Andorinhas” (Swallow’s Nest). Most of these rock formations continue under the surface, making this a great spot for snorkelling. When the weather is nice you can also join a stand-up paddle tour and explore the caves and grottoes near the beach.
When I arrived, the beach was quiet, the bathing season was about to end and there were only a few people laying on the sand. I sat down at the café and relished the view while I waited for the menu. I had a quick snack and then got back to the city centre to have dinner at Dom Carlos. Considered one of the best restaurants in Albufeira, Dom Carlos is often packed with customers so it’s always good to book in advance. This charming restaurant is run by a family duo, Peter and Ana, who are clearly passionate about the food they serve. More than a meal, I was offered an exquisite gastronomic experience, with delicious dish after delicious dish, starting with the appetizers all the way to the dessert, a total of five courses.
Having finished dinner, I headed to Avenida Dr. Francisco Sá Carneiro, commonly known as The Strip, to get a feel of Albufeira’s nightlife. When the sun goes down, the neon lights brighten up The Strip, exposing its long trail of bars and nightclubs. In the midst of this colourful setting, I found the Blues Bar, and it was in this quiet pub drinking a beer that I ended my first night in Albufeira.
This is our Albufeira 2 day tour - day 2. Day 10 of our Algarve tour and today we are travelling from Albufeira up to Paderne. From a distance, Albufeira is a sea of whitewashed houses sitting on a hill, and there’s no better place to capture this than at the Miradouro Pau da Bandeira, a small viewpoint set right across from Praia dos Pescadores and only a few steps away from my apartment.
After packing my bags, I went for a walk down there and took some pictures. The plan was to drive over to Paderne, a small village at the northern end of Albufeira, but first, I needed some breakfast.
I passed by the Marina of Albufeira and stopped at Café Gazetto, one of the many waterfront cafés in the area. While the Marina of Albufeira is much smaller than the one in Vilamoura it does have something very unique about it, blocks of pretty pastel-coloured buildings in shades of pink, yellow and blue, a sight that I couldn’t help adding to my photo collection.
Following breakfast, I got back on the road towards Paderne. On the way, I visited Algarve Shopping, an outdoor shopping centre in Guia with more than a hundred shops, a food court and a cinema. Unlike most shiny shopping centres, Algarve Shopping evokes the region’s architecture with its blue and white façades and also through its logo, representing a stork, a bird that you can frequently spot throughout the Algarve. I strolled around the centre for a few hours and bought a couple of things. When I returned to the car it was already past noon so I decided to do a quick detour for lunch at O Teodósio.
The town of Guia is famous for its chicken, locally known as “Frango da Guia”, so I couldn’t leave without trying one! O Teodósio must be doing something right because they have been serving this local speciality since 1982. The restaurant is ranked among the best in the region so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. There are only two things the staff will ask you once you sit down: if you want chicken with or without piri piri and what are you having to drink. I ordered mine with piri piri and asked for a beer. A few minutes later, my beer arrived and soon after three metal dishes were placed on the table. One with the chicken, the other with a large portion of fries and finally one with a tomato and onion salad dressed in vinegar and olive oil, a very typical salad in the Algarve. I dived right in, starting, of course, with the chicken and it tasted as good as it looked. The skin was crunchy, the piri piri sauce was on point and the chicken itself was cooked to perfection, I dare say it was one of the best chickens I’ve ever eaten.
Having crossed that off my list, I was ready to continue my journey. About 20 minutes after leaving the restaurant, I arrived at Azenha do Castelo, an old watermill in the village of Paderne. I parked the car and started walking towards the Castle of Paderne. I crossed an old medieval bridge and climbed up a hill until I finally reached it. The castle is actually one of the seven castles represented on the Portuguese national flag. It was built in the 12th century when the Algarve was occupied by the Moors and later conquered by the Portuguese in 1248. Today, only a few things remain from this ancient fortification, its surrounding ochre walls and a ruined church, dating back to the 16th century.
I walked back to the car and drove to the Côrte-Real Art Gallery, one of Albufeira’s hidden gems. Set in an old farmhouse surrounded by majestic green fields, the gallery presents a collection of contemporary artwork from both national and international artists. They also sell hand-painted ceramics and locally sourced olive oil. Outside, there is a nice patio where you can take a break and enjoy a cup of coffee.
From the gallery, I went straight to Entrecolinas, my hotel for the night. The hotel is a quiet sanctuary in the heart of Algarve’s countryside. All bedrooms have a view of the nearby mountains and there is also a swimming pool, where you can freshen up on a hot summer day.
For dinner, I headed into town and ate at Veneza. The first thing I noticed when I got there was the wall of wines. There are thousands and thousands of bottles stacked on the wooden shelves of the restaurant waiting to be poured into a glass, including bottles of Port wine, Madeira wine and even a great selection of whisky. Luckily for me, the choice was made easy when I asked the waiter to suggest a bottle to go with my order - pork loin with clams. He came back with a bottle of red wine which was gone by the time I got to dessert, a delicious carob tart and my farewell to Albufeira, as I’m heading to Silves tomorrow morning.