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Best things to do in Portimão, the Algarve Portugal

Portimão is the second largest city on the Algarve coast and is a popular tourist destination. With beautiful beaches, nice restaurants, several beachfront resorts, and other tourist facilities it is a good base for an Algarve beach holiday. Located about halfway between Lagos and Albufeira on the estuary of the Arade River, the town is easy to reach by bus or train and not too far from the Faro airport.

Not really a very aesthetically pleasing area, but this functional city has some great areas to visit.  Portimão is known for its modern high-rise buildings and amazing beaches. The city also has an authentic Old Town, a nice riverside area, a marina, a boardwalk, and a big shopping mall. We often drive to Portimão from our home in Lagos for services in the bigger town. 

Should I Visit Portimão?

With spectacular beaches, stunning limestone cliffs, and authentic Portuguese towns, the Algarve is one of the best places to visit in Europe for a beach holiday. Portimão is a nice town with good facilities and a central location, but it is not one of the beautiful, authentic little towns the Algarve is known for. The city is often described as ugly and rundown with many derelict buildings  The beautiful beach area is far from the town center with plenty of modern hi-rise buildings on the beachfront. With the Aqua Portimão Shopping Centre and big stores like Decathlon and Leroy Merlin, this commercial center is a good place to go shopping.

aqua mall portimao tower view from across the road
The Aqua Mall in Portimao is one of the best shopping locations in this part of Portugal.

The main beach area near Portimão, Praia da Rocha, is beautiful, modern, and thriving. A very touristy area with many hotels, Praia da Rocha is located 3 km from the center of Portimão. This is a vibrant, modern area with exciting nightlife, if you prefer a more cultural experience, I would consider staying in Lagos. The central location of Portimão makes it a great place for a boat trip to Benagil Caves, visiting Algarve towns like Lagos or Carvoeiro, or seeing the Algarve’s best beaches, such as Praia da Marinha. 

Is Portimão a Good Place to Live?

Many expats like Portimão since it is a small functional city with all the necessary facilities a city would have without the craziness of a big city like Lisbon. In the Algarve small towns are very quiet in the off-season, but in Portimão there is still a lot of life throughout the year. The city has gorgeous beaches. You can walk in Portimão, but it is not as pedestrian-friendly as the smaller towns, it is a long walk between different areas. Uber is a cheap and easy way to get around. 

little girl walking through the narrow streets of Portimao old town
Walking around in the maze of little streets between Portimao Old Town and the waterfront of the Ribeirinha.

Popular Tours in Portimao

Best Tourist Areas in Portimão

The most popular areas for tourists to visit in Portimão are the beachfront at Praia da Rocha, Portimão Ribeirinha a charming riverside esplanade close to the city center, the Old Town, and the shopping area around the Aqua Portimão Shopping Mall. It is a 5 km drive (10 to 15 minutes) from Praia da Rocha to the Aqua shopping mall. This will take about an hour to walk, it is not a very nice walk. Walking from the Old Town to the Aqua Mall will take about 15 minutes.

Visit the Beach!

Go to Praia da Rocha – this is the waterfront area for Portimão. The spectacular Praia da Rocha Beach (translates into Rock Beach) is a 1.5 km long white, sandy beach. The beautiful stretch of sand is backed by the yellow and red sandstone cliffs the Algarve is famous for and by streets packed with bars, restaurants, and hotels. This massive beach with excellent facilities is kept very clean and received Blue flag status for meeting cleanliness and safety standards. There are lifeguards on duty in the bathing season. Sunshades, parasols, loungers, and some watersport equipment are available for rental on the beach. 

playground on Praia da Rocha
The playground on Praia da Rocha is fantastic if you have children.

Walk the long wooden boardwalk following the beach for a nice, easy walk next to the beach. There are several nice restaurants right on the boardwalk where you can get something to eat or drink.

 Admire the stunning beach from the viewpoints. There are some excellent viewpoints above the beach. Três Castelos Viewpoint (viewpoint of the Three Castles) located above the beach’s western end offers great views of the area. 

The playground on the beach is one of the best things in Praia da Rocha if you have children.

This is a nice beach for surfing with boards for rental and lessons available in the marina. 

surfboard rental at Praia da Rocha
Surfing is very popular at Praia da Rocha and board rentals and lessons are available close to the beach just outside the marina.

Praia do Vau – this is one of the most popular beaches in Portimao and is located about 2km from Praia da Rocha (3 km from the town center). The soft golden sand is backed by yellow/orange cliffs typical of the Algarve. The beach is smaller than Praia da Rocha and does not get as busy. It is quiet here in the off-season, but during summer the smaller beach can get very busy. 

Praia do Alemão – On the west side of Praia do Vau you will find Praia do Alemão, there is a rock formation separating these two beaches.  This beach has some nice rock structures and rock pools that are nice for children to play in at low tide. 

Walk on Avenue Tomás Cabreira

Tomás Cabreira Boulevard is a 1.5 km long pedestrian-friendly street running above the beach. This limited-traffic area is the perfect place for walking. Lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants this vibrant street has a real holiday feeling in summer months. Filled with restaurants Avenue Tomás Cabreira is a great spot to get something to eat. With many bars and clubs, this area turns into a party zone at night. 

Tomás Cabreira Boulevard pedestrian street
Pedestrian only part of Tomás Cabreira Boulevard at Praia da Rocha in Portimao.

Enjoy the Views from Fortaleza de Santa Catarina

The Fort of Santa Catarina is located on the cliffs on the eastern side of the beach and was built in 1621 to protect the city of Portimão against Spanish pirates. The fort offers great views of the beach and cliffs. 

Wander in the Marina de Portimão

The Portimão Marina is located on the western side of Portimão between Praia da Rocha and the fishing village Ferragudo, right next to the beach of Ponta da Rocha. This important tourist port is a deep harbor designed to host large yachts up to 50 meters and boats can easily drive around in this spacious port. Several superyachts can dock here and are something special to see. There are restaurants and bars nearby at Praia da Rocha. Driving to the marina from the center of Portimão is well-marked. The NH Marina Portimao Resort is the colorful resort in the marina overlooking the ocean and Portimão Marina

yachts in Portimão Marina
he Portimão Marina located next to Praia da Rocha.

The Portimão Museum

Housed in a former 19th-century fish cannery, is located on the river waterfront and is a great place to explore local history. The museum displays the history of the area starting when humans first started to inhabit the area about 5,000 years ago until modern times. It’s surprising, but the display on sardine canning is really interesting. It shows the main industries through time, canning, shipbuilding, and fishing before the tourism boom. Upstairs is an art exhibit.

Explore the Portimão Old Town (City Center)

The city center has several nice squares and churches. This part of the city is filled with the authentic cobblestone streets Portugal is known for. There are several nice coffee shops and restaurants in the Old Town area. This is not a charming old town area like you would find in Lagos, Luz, or Salema, but like the rest of the city ´functional´ is a fitting description. Located close to the Ribeirinha, this is a nice area to stroll around. This is a good area to visit with children with plenty to explore. 

The Jesuit College located at Alameda da Praça da República.
The Jesuit College located at Alameda da Praça da República is one of the most famous buildings in Portimão.

Alameda da Praça da República

This pleasant space in the middle of town hosts one of the most important religious buildings in Portimão, The Jesuit College (Colégio dos Jesuítas). The original structure was built in the late 17th century this is one of the most famous buildings in the city. Construction of the school started in 1660, and the church was opened for worship in 1707. The 1755 earthquake caused major damage but the building was beautifully restored over the years and is important in the history of Portugal. It is considered one of the main works of Portuguese architecture of the 17th century.  Just around the corner is the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, the parish church of Portimão. On this square is a nice playground for kids, Parque Infantil da Almeda, that gets very busy over weekends. This is a great spot to visit with small children. There is a paid parking area at the square and a free parking area just down the road, a couple of minutes’ walk away.

Sit Down in Jardim 1º de Dezembro

Jardim 1º de Dezembro is a charming square and garden located between Praça da Républica and Ribeirinha. The garden has several commemorative benches each decorated with tiles painted to illustrate special events from Portuguese history. There are tables with umbrellas and several stands selling things making this a nice place to sit down. 

Walk along the Waterfront at the Zona Ribeirinha

The Avenida de la Ribeirinha is a fantastic promenade running alongside the river Arade in Portimao. This beautiful pedestrian walkway has a long row of palm trees with benches to sit and watch the river and boats. This walkway is built mainly from traditional Portuguese cobblestone pavement, known as “calçada portuguesa”, this is beautiful but not the best walking surface and not great for skateboards, strollers, or anything else with small wheels. There is a smooth path running next to the river making this great for using strollers or riding with other vehicles. 

The Avenida de la Ribeirinha running alongside the river Arade in Portimao
The Avenida de la Ribeirinha has a very nice, smooth path running next to the river making this great for using strollers or riding with other vehicles.

Praça 1º de Maio

Praça 1º de Maio is one of the largest squares in Portimão. The square hosts a large fountain, and plenty of benches to sit on. The Portimão City Hall is a nice old building located next to the square.

Dive in Ocean Revival Park

If you are a Scuba diver Ocean Revival Park near Portimao is a fascinating site to visit! This amazing artificial reef was created by sinking four decommissioned Portuguese Navy War Ships 3 nautical miles from Portimao. The ships lie at a depth of 30m to 35m with the shallowest part coming up to 15m, allowing divers of varying experience levels to explore this dive site. Constructed especially for diving this is an enjoyable site to visit. 

Book a double tank dive Dive at Ocean Revival Park Portimao

Daytrips from Portimão

The location in the center of the Algarve makes the location perfect to do a variety of day trips. Go to Benagil and see the famous Benagil Cave. Visit Carvoeiro Beach where you can do a variety of of boat tours and watersports or visit the bars and restaurants overlooking the beach. The town Carvoeiro is famous for its extraordinary rock formations of Algar Seco. Marinha Beach is rated as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in Europe and one of the 100 best in the world, definitely a great day trip from Portimao. Visit the charming Old Town of Lagos and go and admire the spectacular natural beauty of the cliffs at Ponta Piedade. Lagos is cheap and easy to reach by rail from the Portimao train station, the train stops right next to the Lagos Marina. Get wet at Slide and Splash, our favorite water park, your kids will love this!

Benagil Cave eye of the cave from below
Benagil Cave is a great boat tour from Portimão.

Best Places to Stay in Portimão


Mid Range


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