Portimão

Despite the many high rise hotels, its fishing heritage is clearly visible in the Algarve’s second largest town; from roundabout sculptures to murals in the town centre, fishing and canning can be seen everywhere. Going to Portimão? Enjoy the Algarve recommends doing these things.

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2017

 

Explore the town

Some pedestrianised streets linked together try to make a town centre. Yes, the Igreja do Colégio and the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição are nice. However, Portimão is made for mass tourism and thus isn’t as pretty as the old town of Lagos, as lovely as Faro or as charming as Tavira.

 

Learn about fishing history

Visiting the Museu de Portimão is a must-do if you’re interested in the town’s fishing heritage. Housed in an old factory, it explains everything about canning and life in Portimão some decades ago, by means of films and live-sized models. Definitely check out the overhead conveyor belt system and the pretty old sardine cans. The museum offers a virtual underwater look at the Ocean Revival project site, where ships were sunken in order to create an artificial reef for divers.

Open: Tuesday 2.30-6pm, Wednesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Entry: €3 (free Saturdays 10am-2pm).

 

Stroll along the riverside esplanade

The palm tree-lined esplanade, aka the zona ribeirinha, offers a nice view of the Rio Arade and runs from the museum all the way to the bridge. The waterfront offers cafes, fun fair type activities, and restaurants, but it’s also just a nice place to go for a walk, feel the sea breeze and hear the seagulls. And to eat sardines, especially during the sardine festival – which is on this year from 2 to 6 August.

 

Go on a boat trip

An old pirate boat, a sailing ship, a motorboat, a traditional fishing boat, a solar-powered boat, a private chartered yacht or even a rowing boat. It’s all possible from Portimão. The boat trips on offer range from short rides along the Rio Arade to dolphin watching tours on the Atlantic Ocean and journeys all the way to the beautiful Benagil cave. Most depart from the Cais Vasco da Gama. Don’t have sea legs? Admire the yachts in Portimão’s marina or watch the powerboat racing during the next F1H2o championship.

 

Laze on the beach

Portimão’s most famous beach, Praia da Rocha, is quite a walk from town (about 2km), so better take the car or a bus. Praia da Rocha is almost a town of its own; it boasts a long stretch of sand filled with sunbeds and lounge clubs, as well as a promenade with bars, shops, restaurants and hotels. Truth is: it could be anywhere on Earth. But equally true: if you’re looking for sun, sea, & sand, then Praia da Rocha ticks all the boxes. Plus: it has some cool rock formations. Other beaches close to Portimão are Praia dos Três Castelos, Praia dos Careanos and Praia do Vau.

 

Look out from the Fortaleza Santa Catarina

At the eastern side of Praia da Rocha you’ll find the Fortaleza Santa Catarina. Originally built to protect both Silves and Vila Norte de Portimão (as it was formerly known) from Spanish pirates and Moors, now it doesn’t really have a function anymore. It is, however, a nice lookout over the marina and Praia da Rocha. Small, but worth to visit for a bit of authenticity in the beach resort town. Climb on to the top for a better view.

 

Shop ‘til you drop at Aqua Portimão

With 120 shops divided over three levels, this partly covered shopping centre is good for when it rains. Or when you’re bored. Or when you need some clothes/shoes/mobile phones/groceries. If you’re in Portimão around the 11th of November and want to shop, check out the chestnut fair; this Feira de São Martinho doesn’t only offer various fairground rides and chestnut sellers, but also lots of market stalls.

Opening times of Aqua Portimão: 9am-11pm (9am to midnight in summer and weekends)

 

Jump out a plane

If you’re looking for thrills and aren’t afraid of heights, you might want to try skydiving. Parachuting flights leave from Portimão airport, which is a small airport with a single short asphalt runway and a cafeteria, situated in Montes de Alvor. Want to know why on earth people would want to jump out a plane for fun? We’ve asked skydiving instructor Ian ‘Milko’ Hodgkinson – read his answer here.

Picture below courtesy of Skydive Algarve

 

Go karting

Speed freak? Watch one of the races that are held at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, which is located about 20km northwest of Portimão. Or pretend you’re an F1 driver and step on the gas yourself at the Autódromo’s off-road park, racing school or karting track. Enjoy the Algarve got into a go-kart and tried breaking the speed record. (We failed at that). Read more about the time we tried karting here.

 

Have a BBQ at the Sítio das Fontes

The Parque Municipal do Sítio das Fontes in Estômbar, as this park is officially called, is lovely. It’s also touristy in the middle of summer, but in a different way from Portimão: here, Portuguese families have BBQs while their kids impress each other by making crazy jumps in the river. This popular picnic place also has a play area for children and some signposted nature walks. Do check out the ever-changing photo exhibition in the main building. At the time of visiting, Tim Motion’s black & white pictures of (mainly) 1960s Algarve were displayed (they’ll be there until 16 September 2017).

 

Visit Silves

A Medieval castle, a Roman bridge and a museum dedicated to the town’s Arab heritage. Silves, located 15km northeast of Portimão, is full of history. It’s especially worth a visit when the yearly Medieval Festival is on (around the middle of August). From Portimão, go there by car or by boat along the Rio Arade. Want to stay a bit closer to Portimão? Check out the nearby villages of Ferragudo or Alvor instead.

 

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2017

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