Portimão, including the Praia da Rocha resort, is one of the most important cities in the south of Portugal. Situated in the western part of the coast of the Algarve, Portimão is the second largest city of the region and it is also known as the city where some of the best fish dishes are cooked in Portugal.
The first human presence in Portimão occurred in prehistoric times with traces of Neanderthals found in the area. Later evidence points to this area being used by Phoenicians and Carthaginians to supply their ships and trade with the rest of North Africa and the Mediterranean. However, only in the 15th century did Portimão become relevant in terms of population, after the Moors and the Romans had left the region, attracting thousands of visitors to the city for commerce. The original city walls and the Igreja Matriz church were built during this era of population boom. During the second half of the Discoveries era, Vila Nova de Portimão, as it was known at the time, developed at an overwhelming pace, growing beyond its walled perimeter. At the end of Marquês de Pombal’s mandate, the famous Portuguese prime-minister, the progress was enhanced by the development of the nut and canned fish industries, which resulted in the construction of much infrastructure to accommodate this industrial boom. Later during the Second World War, Portimão exported its canned fish to the whole world.
Nowadays the most important economic sector in Portimão is tourism. A vibrant marina, gorgeous beaches, a cosmopolitan community and a rich history make this a perfect place to spend vacations.
Where to stay?
Centre of the city – The centre of the city is filled with plenty of hotels, hostels or houses for rent. Staying in the centre will allow you to explore this typically southern Portuguese area. Walk through the narrow cobble streets and keep an eye out for the white houses with decorated chimneys, an Arabic inheritance from its Iberian occupation times.
Praia da Rocha – Praia da Rocha is one of the most emblematic beaches in the Algarve welcoming thousands of tourists every year. Due to its popularity the area around the beach is densely populated with accommodation options. With a vast amount of sand that expands for over 1km, the area of Praia da Rocha offers hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs. Its proximity to the ocean is also one of the reasons why this is such a sought out area for visitors.
Praia do Vau – The area of Praia do Vau is a very popular one for families. Hotels in this part of town allow for magnificent views over the ocean and have easy accesses to the beach. There are also villas for rent which are perfect for families looking to spend a stress-free vacation by the ocean.
Marina de Portimão – Surrounded by some of the most famous and ravishing beaches in Europe, Marina de Portimão is one of the most beautiful marinas in Portugal. The apartments and hotels located at the marina were built with the most innovative technologies in order to provide guests with all possible comforts.
Ferragudo – Ferragudo is a small area situated in front of Portimão on the other side of the Arade river. Able to compete in terms of splendour with the city of Portimão, but being considerably more discrete, Ferragudo constitutes an excellent alternative for people looking to spend a quiet and secluded holidays away from the business of the city centre.
Alvor – The small and charming village of Alvor located in the suburbs of Portimão is, like Ferragudo, a good, cheap and quieter alternative to the larger resort of Praia da Rocha. That said Alvor has lots do with a large range of restaurants and bars, as well as hotels and villas.
What are the beaches like in Portimão?
Praia da Rocha – Praia da Rocha is the preferred destination by those who visit the Algarve due to its warm and crystal clear sea waters. The vast amount of sand is perfect for some beach football or beach volleyball without anyone being disturbed. The two viewpoints close to the beach, the one at Fortaleza de Santa Catarina and the one of Miradouro dos Três Castelos, allow for breath-taking views especially during sunset.
Praia do Vau – Praia do Vau is the preferred destination for families with children due to its easy accesses and the safety of its currents and waves. The cliffs of this beach eroded by wind and tides over the years form shelters that provide shade during the hottest hours.
Praia da Marina – Praia da Marina is located at the Rio Arade. This is a beach of fresh water as it is bathed by the river and not by the sea. The yellow and dense sand is different from the sand found on the remaining beaches of Portimão. The many sun loungers set out on the beach invite you to a relaxing day watching the boats sail the river.
Praia de Alvor – Praia de Alvor, distinguished with the Gold Quality award, a prize that highlights the environmental quality of the beach as well as its infrastructure. The sandy beaches of Alvor allow the formation of calm water channels that serve as habitat for the numerous marine and bird species that exist in the Algarve.
Praia dos Três Castelos – Praia dos Três Castelos is dominated by warm colours which along with its rocky formations delight photography enthusiasts from around the world. From the top of its cliffs one has an absolutely wonderful view over the beaches of Portimão. Enjoy diving off the rocks and exploring the caves on the beach.
Praia do Alemão – Full of breath-taking beauty, this small beach of rocks and cliffs is a pearl in the paradisiacal region of the Algarve. It is also from this beach that begins the footpath “Varandas sobre o Mar” that runs along the top of the cliffs of some beaches of Portimão, offering tremendously enchanting views.
Which beaches near to Portimão have a Blue Flag?
All beaches in Portimão have a Blue Flag and lifeguards and, as you can see from the map below, there are plenty of other beaches located close to Portimão with a Blue Flag.
Blue Flag means that the beach has been assessed based on environmental standards, water quality and beach cleanliness, and also on important facilities including toilets and lifeguards.
In the Algarve, lifeguards usually work from July 1st to September 30.
What is there to do in Portimão?
Portimão is a city that offers an extensive array of distractions such as spending a day at the beach, visiting the Municipal Theatre of Portimão, learning more about the history and culture of Portimão, or trying out activities such as skydiving, surfing, kite surfing, golfing, boat trips, among many others.
Igreja Matriz de Portimão – The Matriz de Portimão church was erected in the 15th century inside the city walls. Partly destroyed following the 1755 earthquake that devastated several Portuguese coastal cities, the church was renovated in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is possible to glimpse influences of the monument that served as inspiration for its construction, Mosteiro da Batalha, the most important Portuguese monument at the time, in the late-Gothic portal of the entrance where you can identify sculptures of musicians and women. As a result of the various phases of reconstruction, the church mixes various artistic styles such as the Baroque, the Rococo and the Manueline.
Igreja do Colégio dos Jesuítas – The Colégio dos Jesuítas church was built at the end of the 17th century by order of the will of Diogo Gonçalves, now buried in the main chapel, as a thank you for having found a safe harbour in Portimão during a storm at sea. The simplicity of the architecture and interior decoration contrasts with the lively yellowish exteriors of the large building.
Museu de Portimão – This informative museum about the history and evolution of Portimão’s society is located in the centenary Feu Hermanos fish canning factory, a fact that can be verified by inscription on the lateral wall of the building. Museu de Portimão uses some of the most innovative techniques to provide its visitors with a unique and above all educational experience.
Megalithic Monument of Alcalar – Near Portimão is the place of Alcalar which is of enormous importance due to the prehistoric community that settled there about 5000 years ago. Then came a small village with dwellings defended by walls and trenches and near which a group of megalithic tombs was built. The different forms of construction illustrate the varied relations that the inhabitants of the village had with death, with tombs for collective graves and others especially destined to the tribe’s chiefs or their relatives. As a complement to the visit to the megalithic monuments of Alcalar it is suggested to pay a visit to Museu de Portimão.
Forte de Santa Catarina – This fort was built during the Philippine dynasty, the dark period of Portuguese history during which Portugal lost its independence due to an unfortunate combination of factors such as the premature death of the heir to the throne, a Catholic king forbidden to have children and the legitimacy of a relative who was the king of Spain. Built to protect the bar of Rio Arade and the village, the fort was occupied in the twentieth century by the Maritime Police and the tax authorities, and is currently open to visitors.
Casino – The Casino of Portimão is a great place to enjoy a fun and different night. Try your luck at the gaming tables or enjoy a magnificent dinner with silver service while watching one of the many live shows on offer.
Beach Soccer – Portimão is a city which places a lot of importance to sports. In fact, the municipality subsidises several facilities for sports such as football, tennis, basketball and cycling, among others, and has even been part of a stage of the famous Lisbon-Dakar Rally. One of the sports that attracts people to Portimão is beach soccer. Every year the city hosts the Mundialito de Futebol de Praia, a competition organized by Beach Soccer Worldwide, FIFA’s partner, in which the best teams from all over the world compete. The same venue also hosts the Portuguese Stage of the European Beach Soccer League. Definitely check them out if you happen to be in Portimão during these events. It will certainly be worth it.
What is the best time of the year to visit Portimão?
Summer – Summer is undoubtedly the time tourists prefer to visit Portimão. Sunny days, a clean and cloudless sky, and breath-taking beaches offer the perfect dream vacation. Cafes, bars, nightclubs and water parks are open for longer than usual to welcome visitors. Visiting Portimão during the summer is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a unique climate in this corner of Europe.
Winter – Winter is the low season for tourism in the Algarve, which makes prices cheaper. Despite an increase in the number of tourists during these colder months, winter is the perfect time to visit Portimão away from the tourist hordes. The weather in Portimão is always a safe refuge to welcome those who want to escape the negative temperatures and snowstorms of the rest of Europe.
Autumn / Spring – The warm and mild climate that is felt in these seasons is already very close to the summer heat, which, together with the few tourists that visit the region at this time, makes for a good opportunity to discover Portimão and to stroll along the seaside.
What is the weather like in Portimão?
Portimão has a warm and temperate climate.
The average annual temperature is 17.2ºC. The hottest month of the year is August with an average temperature of 23.4ºC and the coldest month is January with an average temperature of 12.0ºC.
July is the driest month of the year with the amount of precipitation being close to 1 mm and January is the month with the most amount of rain with 79 mm of precipitation.
The following graph shows the monthly average temperatures and the monthly rainfall average for 2017.
What are the best places to eat in Portimão?
Restaurante Mar e Sol – Located in the area of Praia da Rocha, this magnificent restaurant opened its doors in 1976. With a focus on regional products, especially the fish that is bought every morning at the Portimão Municipal Market, Restaurante Mar e Sol offers a divine gastronomic experience combined with a view of the sea.
Dona Barca – With open doors since 1980, the grill of restaurant Dona Barca is run by old fishermen with long years of experience in preparing the fish, which is why the fish in this famous restaurant is simply divine. Distinguished with numerous awards, the restaurant still maintains an informal and relaxed atmosphere.
Restaurante Casa Bica – Initially a fishermen’s tavern where the specialty was sardines roasted in charcoal, the restaurant still retains its original ties to the sea as well as the unique ability to always cook superb sardines. Situated right on the banks of Rio Arade, Restaurante Casa Bica offers a wonderful view over the river while enjoying a delicious meal.
What are the best places to go out at night in Portimão?
Families – The ideal places for families wanting to go out at night in Portimão are Marina de Portimão and the Praia da Rocha area where you can find several cafes and bars with a relaxed atmosphere and spaces for children.
Couples – The romantic nightlife of Portimão lies in places such as Diagonal Bar, Café Aliança in Alvor or Fábrica Velha. The area of Praia da Rocha itself has a certain charm at night during a walk on the wooden walkway under the stars.
Groups of friends – Portimão’s nightlife is world-famous, attracting DJs from around the world to play in the city’s bars and nightclubs as well as tourists looking to have fun. Spots such as NoSolo Agua or Bacchus Bar or even the area of Praia da Rocha full of bars organize huge parties which are ideal for a fun night out with friends.
How far is Portimão from?
Faro’s Airport – 70 km (aproxx. 1 hour drive)
Albufeira – 35 km (aproxx. 35 min drive)
Lagos – 30 km (aproxx. 30 drive)
Sagres – 60 km (aproxx. 1 hour drive)
Vilamoura – 55 km (aproxx. 50 min drive)
Tavira – 95 km (aproxx. 1 hour drive)
Lisbon – 280 km (aproxx. 2hr45 drive)
Seville – 250 km (aproxx. 2hr40 drive)
Spanish border – 115 km (aproxx. 1hr10 drive)
All distances have been rounded up.
Where are the bus and train stations?
The bus station in Portimão is located at Rua Projectada à Caldeira do Moinho 20, Portimão.
Portimão also has a train station which is placed at the following address: Largo Gil Eanes, 8500-536 Portimão.
Portimão also has a vast and extensive public network of buses that cover most of the city.
How much does a taxi from Faro’s Airport to Portmão cost?
The price of a 4-person taxi or uber from Faro’s Airport to Portimão is usually around 55€ each way (110€ return).
If it is a private taxi or a van the price will tend to be higher, however, depending on the number of people it carries it might end up being cheaper per person.
Please note that if the trip takes place during the night, the price will be higher because a special night rate is charged.
In case you are alone or just two people it might be cheaper to take a taxi from the airport to Faro’s train station (around 10€), take a train from Faro’s train station to Portimão’s train station (around 10€) and then if you need a taxi from the station to your address (around 10€). This whole trip would be around 30€.