21 Of The Best Things To Do In Portimão
Having immersed myself in Portimão for five years, this town has become a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Let me guide you through the gems it has to offer…
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Top Selections for Portimão Activities
Portimão, situated on the western coast of the Algarve, has evolved from a bustling fishing, canning, and boat building hub into a haven for tourists. While modern hotels and apartments adorn the beaches, the old town has managed to preserve its authentic charm, offering a unique contrast to the contemporary coastal developments.
Present-day Portimão is a harmonious blend of visitor-friendly amenities – including restaurants, accommodations, and various activities – complemented by a serene town center along the river. Here, locals gracefully navigate their daily routines, adding an authentic touch to the overall experience.
1. Embrace Tranquility in Portimão Old Town
Contrary to popular belief that Praia da Rocha defines Portimão, the old town lies approximately 3 kilometers inland.
If the vibrant beach atmosphere becomes overwhelming, a brief journey to Portimão old town unveils a delightful historic center, charming squares adorned with cafes and leafy trees, and a collection of intriguing churches.
2. Dive into History at Portimão Museum
In the 20th century, the backbone of Portimão’s economy was sardine canning, and the Portimão Museum provides a captivating glimpse into the lives of those who worked in this industry.
Housed in the original Feu Hermanos canning factory, the museum employs life-size models to illustrate the complete canning process. Virtually everyone in the community had a role, and you can even view the small beds where babies slept while their parents worked.
This well-conceived and engaging museum offers an immersive experience that is truly worth exploring.
Opening Hours: September 1st to July 31st – Tuesday 2:30 pm to 6 pm, Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm (Closed on Mondays and National Holidays). Free Entry: Sunday (10 am-2 pm).
August 1st to 31st – Tuesday 7:30 pm to 11 pm, Wednesday to Sunday 3 pm to 11 pm (Closed on Mondays and National Holidays). Free Entry: Sunday (3 pm – 7 pm).
Tickets (Regular): €3.
3. Wander Along the Ribeirinha
Indulging in a leisurely stroll along the Ribeirinha, a spacious pedestrianized walkway by the River Arade, is one of the most delightful experiences in Portimão. The area is adorned with charming calçada Portuguesa or Portuguese pavements, providing perfect spots to relax on benches, gaze at boats, and engage in some people-watching.
From this vantage point, you can admire the Ponte Velha, the old bridge connecting Portimão with the picturesque fishing villages of Ferragudo and Parchal.
4. Marvel at the Wonders of Benagil Caves
While in Portimão, the renowned Benagil caves beckon, and it would be a missed opportunity not to explore them. Prepare to be captivated by the mesmerizing natural rock formations and the scenic beaches that unfold along the way.
Embark on a Benagil Caves and Praia de Marinha Boat Tour to witness a fort, a castle, and the chance to swim at the exquisite Praia de Marinha.
If the boat tour restrictions hinder your desire to step onto the cave’s sandy shores, consider opting for a Kayak Tour of Benagil Caves. Begin on a catamaran and transition to a kayak for an immersive cave exploration with the option to set foot on the sand.
Important: From September 25th, 2023, kayaks and SUPs are temporarily prohibited from entering the cave due to safety concerns. Verify with tour operators for the latest updates. While kayaking inside the cave may be restricted, many tours still offer kayaking experiences outside the cave.
5. Experience Thrills at Algarve International Autodrome
For those craving speed, the internationally acclaimed Algarve International Autodrome is a must-visit. Witness events like the Portuguese Grand Prix or partake in karting, off-road buggies, and more. Whether it’s high-speed excitement or refining your driving skills, this racetrack has it all. Check the Autodromo website for additional information.
6. Discover the Coastline on Horseback
Indulge in the breathtaking views of the Algarvian coast from atop a horse. Embark on a one-hour horse riding tour to explore the picturesque beaches of Portimão. No prior experience is required, but there’s a weight limit of 90 kg to ensure the well-being of the horses.
7. Indulge at Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes
Immerse yourself in the inviting ambiance of Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes, a delightful open space surrounded by restaurants and cafes centered around a charming water feature. Named after the former President of the Republic, Manuel Teixeira Gomes, it commemorates his role in establishing Portimão as a city in the early 1920s.
For an exquisite treat, don’t miss the chance to savor a delectable cake at the nearby Café Ingles. Personally, I recommend the carob cake – it’s a chocolatey, rich, and utterly delightful indulgence!
8. Keep an Eye Out for Pirates at Fortaleza de Santa Catarina
Dating back to 1621, the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina, alongside the Fort of São João do Arade, stands guard at the entrance to the River Arade. Originally built to thwart pirates, the fort offers splendid views of the sea, Praia da Rocha beach, Portimão Marina, and the charming village of Ferragudo across the river.
9. Step Back in Time at Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar
Less than a 20-minute drive from Portimão lies the Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar, a fascinating collection of burial tombs discovered in the late 19th century. Dive into the past with artefacts offering insights into ancient life, complemented by an interactive interpretation center at the Portimão Museum.
10. Discover Portimão by Segway
Embark on a Segway tour for a delightful way to acquaint yourself with Portimão’s history, culture, and scenic landmarks with minimal effort.
This 90-minute Segway tour covers all the must-see spots, including the marina and fortress, ensuring you don’t miss any of Portimão’s charms.
11. Absorb the Vastness of Praia da Rocha
Just a brief 10-minute drive from Portimão old town, Praia da Rocha stands as one of the Algarve’s most beloved beaches. While Portimão offers tranquility, Praia da Rocha is a vibrant, tourism-centered hub attracting visitors from across the globe.
Despite its popularity, the expansive beach ensures you can usually find a spot to lay your towel or rent a sunbed. The surrounding striking rock formations and clear (albeit slightly chilly) waters add to its allure.
Whether you’re a family seeking sandy delights or a party-goer, Praia da Rocha accommodates all, with places like NoSoloAgua near the harbor catering to the high-season revelers.
12. Explore Igreja do Colégio
Nestled in Praça da República, the prominent white church is the former Jesuit College Church, dating back to the 1660s. Although significantly impacted by the 1755 earthquake, it was diligently restored and passed through various religious hands.
Diogo Gonçalves, a prosperous businessman with ties to the Orient, contributed to the church’s reconstruction after finding refuge in Portimão. In gratitude, his mausoleum now rests within the church.
Visit the church Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 12:30 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm.
13. Craft Your Own Textile Basketry Masterpiece
Experience the art of textile basketry with Maria Pratas at her Portimão atelier. In this 4-hour workshop, create a one-of-a-kind coil basket using natural textile fibers and wool. The small group setting ensures personalized guidance, and the price includes delightful regional appetizers such as “tiborna,” dried figs, and refreshing drinks.
Jardim 1 de Dezembro, a beloved garden among locals, offers a charming escape. Designed in the 1930s, the garden preserves its historical essence with benches adorned with decorative tiles depicting figures and episodes from Portugal’s history, crafted by Fábrica de Sacavém.
15. Dive into Shipwreck Exploration
Just a short distance from Portimão’s coast, a unique attraction awaits underwater enthusiasts. The Ocean Revival project involves intentionally sinking four retired Portuguese Navy vessels to create an underwater park for divers.
If you possess an advanced open water diver certificate, seize the opportunity to join local divers in exploring these captivating shipwrecks. Enhance your experience with a double-dive adventure. For those without advanced qualifications, alternative diving options are available.
16. Tee Off with Golf in Portimão
Golf enthusiasts in Portimão have a plethora of choices, with 12 nearby golf clubs offering diverse courses. Among them is the Morgado do Reguengo Golf Resort with side-by-side courses, and the scenic 18-hole Alto Golf located between Alvor and Praia da Rocha.
17. Explore Portimão Marina’s Vibrancy
Portimão Marina, deemed Portugal’s safest harbor, showcases mega-yachts of the affluent before their Mediterranean voyages. The marina, overlooked by the historical forts of Santa Catarina and São João, boasts eye-catching buildings painted in vibrant colors.
18. Admire Nossa Senhora da Conceição Church’s Doorway
Perched within the city’s ancient walls, the parish church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição witnessed reconstruction after the earthquake. Take note of the late-Gothic portal adorned with sculptures of musicians and women.
Visit the church Monday to Friday from 10 am to 12:30 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm. Saturdays from 5 pm to 7 pm. Sundays from 10:30 am to 1 pm and 5 pm to 7 pm.
19. Soar through the Skies
Thrill-seekers can embark on an exhilarating skydiving adventure along Portimão’s picturesque coast. Opt for a tandem-dive from 15,000 feet, enjoying breathtaking views before touching down on a pristine white sand beach.
20. Immerse Yourself in the Arts at TEMPO – Teatro Municipal de Portimão
For a dose of culture in Portimão, explore the municipal theatre housed in the historic Palacio Sarrea. Spanning five floors, the theatre features two auditoriums hosting a variety of theatrical and musical performances.
Getting to Portimão
Buses and trains, while slightly longer, offer manageable travel options. For example, Flixbus departs from Oriente train station in Lisbon, taking around 3.5 hours. Both bus and train stations are conveniently located just north of Portimão old town.