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.