Tour in Portimão to explore, at your own pace, the most interesting places in the city and surroundings with suggestions on what to eat.
What you will see on the tour in PORTIMÃO
Portimão is very popular for its restaurants, bars and nightlife, as well as the excellent beaches and Marina. Also known for the famous road and rail bridges over the Arade River and for its Riverside. In addition to the importance of the tourist industry, it should be noted that the city is also a relevant fishing center.
Here passed through Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs who used the Arade River as a safe haven and a mean of access to the interior of the Algarve. In the 15th century the city wall was built, followed by the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina (fortress) and the Fortaleza de São João (fortress) on the other side of the river. These were intended to provide protection against pirates. Portimão increased in size, becoming in the nineteenth century an important center of fishing and canning industry. In the twentieth century, tourism strengthens the expansion of the city.
Portimão is a great place to taste the regional cuisine. The proximity of the sea allows you to enjoy local delicacies such as clams and grilled sardines, which has in August an event dedicated to it (Sardine Festival). Regional confectionery is also delicious, using Algarve products such as dried fruits, figs and carob. So you have a lot to experience in this tour in Portimão!
- Walking time (estimated): 3 hours (20 minutes in linear path)
- Course Length: 1.2 miles (2 km)
Map of TOUR in PORTIMÃO
The numbers (#) on the Map and Text identify places to visit.
walking tour in PORTIMão
=> The tour in Portimão starts at Largo 1º de Dezembro.
Largo 1º de Dezembro
(1) In Largo 1º de Dezembro (square) you will find a fountain surrounded by trees and benches lined with tiles that tell the history of Portugal. Then, on the stone staircase, notice the two Art Nouveau lamps, with stylized female figures. At the top of it you will find the Tourism Office and the TEMPO – Portimão Municipal Theater.
tempo – Portimão Municipal Theater
The former Sárrea Gárfias Palace, of neoclassical style with baroque details, hosts the TEMPO – Portimão Municipal Theater (TEMPO – Teatro Municipal de Portimão). In fact, it is a space dedicated to shows, seminars, gatherings and other artistic and cultural events. On the right hand side of TEMPO admire another beautiful yellow building with large glass windows.
=> Take the left towards Rua Diogo Tomé (street). In numbers 1-5, you can see through the shop window, part of the City Wall. There you will see two arches: the largest arch for people and the lowest arch for animals.
=> Then, pass the Praça da República (you’ll be back) and reach Rua Bispo Dom F. Coutinho, where the Main Church is located. This place has two interesting old houses on the right side, one of them has a sign affixed with the words “Muralhas da Vila. Postigo da Igreja“ (Town Walls. Church Shutter).
(2) The 16th-century Main Church (Igreja Matriz or Nossa Senhora da Conceição) has a beautiful Gothic portico and a baroque bell tower. However, in the interior there are three 17th and 18th century tiled naves, with ‘masseira’ (tray shape) ceilings and a gilded altar.
=> Turn to Praça da República or Alameda da República (square), which in the middle has a large yellow and white building, which is the former Jesuit School.
(3) The building of the 17th century Jesuit School (Colégio dos Jesuítas), with its large Baroque-inspired façade, was later a court, a hospital and a prison. The building has 3 separate sections, the largest is the Church, of a single nave, decorated with gilded carvings, with an internal courtyard. In its wings, on the right side is the Parish Council of Portimão, which has a peculiar door (reused from another location). On the left side, immediately after there is the Diogo Gonçalves Museum, which displays numerous paintings by Portuguese painters.
=> Continue in Praça da República, through Avenida São João de Deus and you will find the Municipal Market of Portimão. In fact, it is a large market where there are a wide variety of fresh products such as fruits, vegetables, fish, shellfish, meat and cheese. Most of them come from local producers and fishermen. Make sure you take the opportunity to taste different types of food!
=> Let’s now turn in the middle of Praça da República to Rua Vasco da Gama, which is a pedestrian street with several shops. Go down to the Rua Direita and turn right.
(4) At Rua Direita street you will find at 61 the famous “A Casa da Isabel” tea room where you can taste regional Algarve sweets, snack or have a tea. This house has a traditional tiled façade, just like others you will find in the streets of Portimão. Next, at No. 89 you have the “Maria do Mar” Snack, where you can buy Portuguese canned fish or have a nice meal based on the products sold there.
=> Further ahead turn left to Rua João da Cruz and at its end turn left again to Rua do Pé da Cruz, arriving at Praça 1º de Maio, where the Paços do Concelho is located.
(5) The City Hall (Paços do Concelho) of Portimão is housed in the beautiful two-storeys Palacio Bívar. It’s a18th-century neoclassical building with baroque details.
=> Continue along Rua da Pé da Cruz and turn left onto Rua Júdice Biker, where there are the oldest pastry shops in Portimão, such as Pastelaria Arade. In number 1, there is Casa Manuel Teixeira Gomes, where this former President of the Republic was born and lived (from 1923 to 1925). In the permanent exhibition you can learn more about this illustrious man from Portimão and in the temporary exhibitions know more about the culture of the city.
=> In this tour in Portimão, go straight ahead (along Rua Serpa Pinto) and you’ll reach Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes (square).
Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes
(6) In Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes square there is a lake with water jets in the middle, with a monument dedicated to the former President of the Republic. In this square there are several ice cream shops, pastry shops, cafes and restaurants with regional food.
=> Nearby you have the Jardim Visconde Bívar (garden) by the Arade River. You are now in the Riverside area!
(7) It was in the Riverside Area that the boats used to land catches. That’s why, you can still see the Antiga Lota (former auction) building, with its white neo-arabic façade. Nearby, is where the boats used to transport people and goods to the other bank of the Arade River. Whereas today, it is a place where you can find several grilled fish restaurants.
=> In this tour in Portimão, follow along the Arade River until you reach Vasco da Gama Pier, where you can visit the Portimão Museum. Across the river you can see the fishing port.
(8) The Portimão Museum (Museu de Portimão) is a highlight of the city visit for all the family! It is located next to the Leisure Dock in one of the old fish canning factories (Fábrica de Conservas de Sardinha Feu, of the late 19th century). In this internationally awarded modern museum, you will discover details about the archaeological, industrial, nautical and underwater heritage of Portimão.
The permanent exhibitions highlight the relationship with the Arade River and the Atlantic Ocean, especially the importance of the canning and fishing industries. So you can see equipment used in canning and, outside, see a curious system of transporting fish from boats to the factory.
Also interesting is the “fundo das águas” (bottom waters) show, where you can pay a visit to the factory’s old cistern to see the artificial reef (Portimão “Ocean Revival”). This is unique in the world, comprising 4 sunken ships of the Portuguese navy.
The museum has temporary exhibitions, an educational workshop, a documentation center and a historical archive, which can be consulted. Here you also have a cafeteria with terrace and a great view of the calm waters of the Arade River.
=> Continuing along the river, passing the Leisure Dock and arriving at the San Francisco Convent.
San Francisco Convent
(9) The 16th-century San Francisco Convent (Convento de São Francisco) with church, cloister and outbuildings is privately owned (no visitors) and is in ruins.
=> You have reached the end of the self-guided walking tour in Portimão.
=> If you have energy left, continue to Portimão Marina, passing by Portimão Cruise Terminal.
Located on the Arade River estuary, the internationally prestigious Portimão Marina, is one of the most beautiful in the Algarve. Portimão Marina has deep waters which allow the entry of large size vessels. Situated next to a luxury condominium, it offers support facilities, shops and a much appreciated ocean pool.
It’s a very nice place to be and visit, where you can not only see the beautiful yachts, but also enjoy the animation and food on the terraces. Take advantage of the end of the day to watch the sunset, with a great view of Forte de São João (fortress) on the other river bank.
Portimão Cruise Terminal
Between the Dock and Marina is the Portimão Cruise Terminal, which is the only one in the Algarve. Thousands of tourists arrive at this Terminal, part of them on cruise routes that cross the Mediterranean Sea. These come especially to know the beautiful city of Portimão and the famous Praia da Rocha (beach).
What To See And Do Near Portimão?
Praia da rocha
Praia da Rocha is one of the best beaches in the Algarve and in Europe. Its reputation results, on the one hand, of its great natural beauty, with its extensive sandy beach (1.2 miles, 2 Km) of fine golden sands and a sea of blue waters. On the other hand, the lively night activity. This beach has good support structures, many restaurants and bars with terraces, which bring a vibrant entertainment to the area.
It is located between the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina (fortress) and the rock formation of the Três Castelos Viewpoint. A little bit further, we highlight the Portimão Casino and the Hotel Bela Vista. The latter, housed in a small palace, was the first hotel to open in the Algarve in 1934. Interestingly he welcomed spies and exiles during World War II.
Fortaleza de Santa Catarina
The Fortaleza de Santa Catarina (or Santa Catarina de Ribamar Fort) situated on the east dominates Praia da Rocha. In the 17th century, it was built to protect Portimão and Silves against invaders from the sea. This fortress has an excellent viewpoint, with a stunning view of the beach, the Portimão Marina and the mouth of the Arade River.
Praia dos Três Castelos and Praia do Vau
To the west of Praia da Rocha there is a tunnel under the rock formation that allows access to the Praia dos Três Castelos. Soon after, you will reach Praia do Amado (not to be confused with the one in Aljezur), Praia dos Careanos, Praia do Vau and Praia do Barranco das Canas.
Above the tunnel, at the top of the imposing rock formation, of great natural beauty, there is the Miradouro (viewpoint) dos Três Castelos. From there you can admire the beautiful beaches around, the turquoise sea and the jagged, reddish or golden cliffs.
Location: Praia da Rocha (1.8 miles, 3 km, 7 min from the center of Portimão)
Praia do ALVOR
The famous beach Praia do Alvor, surrounded by dunes of the Ria de Alvor estuary, has no rock formations and cliffs. Since it is a comfortable place with support services, it is perfect to rest and enjoy the crystal clear sea. Alvor is a typical whitewashed fishing village with cobbled streets and a small 18th-century church with Manueline portico with floral motifs.
In the center of the village you have the Castelo (castle) do Alvor, of Arab origin, from the 8th century, which has a children’s playground inside, much appreciated by the younger ones.
Passadiço do Alvor
Not to be missed is the Passadiço do Alvor, one of the most beautiful in Portugal! It is a wooden structure, flat and with several kilometers, which goes from Praia dos Três Irmãos, passes Praia do Alvor and ends at Ria de Alvor. This structure invites to a family walk. Here you can enjoy nature, take good photos by the sea, the ria and the Serra de Monchique in the background, or enjoy jogging or cycling. Remember that this is one of the most important wetlands in the Algarve. Thus, it is the wild habitat of numerous animals (birds, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians and mammals).
Location: Alvor Beach (4.3 miles, 7 km, 15 min from the centre of Portimão)
Next to the riverside area or at Portimão Marina you can take a boat for a ride. You can choose to go up the Arade River to Silves or visit the sea caves, such as the spectacular Benagil caves.
Autódromo Internacional do Algarve and Kartódromo International Algarve
Near from Portimão is the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, which is a world-class race track. Here were the famous motorsports races “le Mans Series” and motorcycling races “Superbike World Championships”. Opposite you will find the lively Kartódromo Internacional do Algarve, with a great karting track, to have fun with family and friends!
Location: Sítio do Escampadinho, Mexilhoeira Grande (10.7 miles, 17 km, 25 min from the centre of Portimão)
Silves, next to the Arade River, is a monumental city, which was the capital of the Arab kingdom, with an imposing reddish castle. Also noteworthy in this city is the Cathedral and a gothic cross (called Cruz de Portugal).
Location: Silves (9.9 miles, 16 km, 25 min from the centre of Portimão)
EXPLORE THE Serra de MONCHIque
The Serra de Monchique brings green and freshness to those who visit this region. Caldas de Monchique Spa has a SPA and treatments for rheumatism, respiratory and digestive systems are available.
Location: Termas de Monchique (12.4 miles, 20 km, 25 min from the centre of Portimão)
How to get to Portimão?
From Faro: A22 (Portimão) => Exit 5 Portimão / Monchique (43.5 miles, 70 Km, 0h55m)
From Lisbon: A2 (Algarve) => A22 (Portimão) => Exit 5 Portimão / Monchique (174 miles, 280 Km, 2h45m)
From Lisbon: Gare do Oriente Station => Portimão Station (3h30m, RENEX operator: Timetables)
From Faro: Faro Station => Portimão Station (1h15m, CP operator: Timetables)
Where to Eat in Portimão? (restaurants)
Portimão is very popular, especially in the summer, for grilled fish, with a peak in August at the Sardine Festival. Several restaurants serve grilled sardines, with boiled potatoes and Algarve salad. Not to mention other good regional dishes, such as fish soups, fish stews, rice or seafood bean stew. To complement lunch or dinner we suggest a good white or red wine. In addition, the confectionery uses the products of the region, such as almonds, dried figs and carob (good substitute for cocoa). Of these, we highlight the sweets Dom Rodrigos and Morgados.
Restaurant Meco is located along the Arade River between the road bridge and the railway bridge. Here we ordered a menu of 6 grilled sardines, 6 boiled shrimps, boiled potatoes and tomato and lettuce salad, with bread, olives and white wine. In the end we had coffee without dessert (only after summer). The menu was more than adequate and cost 9.5 euros per person!
Location: Cais Pedro Álvares Cabral (pier), Portimão
SardinE FESTIVAL (AUGUST)
The Portimão Sardine Festival (Festival da Sardinha de Portimão) is one of the main gastronomic events of the Algarve, which takes place in August. The juicy grilled sardines, served on traditional bread or on the plate with Algarve salad (with peppers) attracts countless visitors to Portimão!
By then, you can taste the famous sardines in “two areas” of the city. In the Festival grounds, located on the waterfront, where local communities grill sardines on charcoal grills and serve them on bread or on the plate with boiled potatoes. Or, also in restaurants that serve this gastronomic icon. If you don’t like sardines, you can always try other regional dishes and snacks available.
The Sardine Festival also features good music (local, national and international), handicrafts, traditional sweets, playful activities and lots of entertainment for all ages. The day before the official opening will take place a historical reconstitution of the land of the sardines.
Date: 7-11 August, 2019
Location: Riverside (Arade River), Portimão
Another good option is to visit the nearby city of Lagos.
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