Portimão is one of the larger cities in the Portuguese Algarve. What are the most beautiful sights and the best things to do in Portimão? You can read it in this article.
Portimão: an introduction
Portimão is one of the largest cities in the Algarve in Portugal (the second largest after Faro) and its central location makes it a perfect place for a vacation in the Algarve. The city used to be the center for fishing and shipbuilding, now it is mainly a tourist destination. In contrast to Albufeira, for example, Portimão feels more like a city where you are among the locals.
Portimão is also known to many people for the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, where the Portuguese Grand Prix was held in 2020.
How do you get to Portimão?
Portimão is located in the most southwestern part of Portugal (and mainland Europe) and is accessible by car or train. However, depending on where you’re traveling from, this can take a very long time. For example, if you travel to Portimão from The Netherlands by train, it will take about two full days. That’s why most people who visit the Algarve, arrive by plane.
The nearest major airport for a vacation in Portimão is Faro. You can fly from several countries in Europe to Faro directly, for example from the United Kingdom, France or The Netherlands. These are mainly budget airlines, so a plane ticket to Faro is usually not that expensive. Check Skyscanner for all options and prices.
I myself booked my ticket from The Netherlands to Faro with Transavia. They fly from various Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Eindhoven, and Rotterdam) to Faro. The advantage of booking directly with Transavia is that you can choose more (flexible) options and, for example, easily add luggage.
Rental car in the Algarve
From Faro Airport it is easiest to pick up a rental car and drive to Portimão. The journey takes about an hour (via a toll road). A rental car in the Algarve is usually not that expensive and you can rent a car for just € 5 per day (in low season).
Public transport in the Algarve
Portimão has a train station and a bus station and is easily accessible by public transport from all over the Algarve. It’s not expensive (a train ticket from Faro to Portimão to costs € 6.10), but the trains don’t go that often.
14 awesome things to do in Portimão
Great, you decided to go on vacation in the Algarve, but what to do in Portimão? These are some of the best sights in Portimão:
Praia da Rocha
The largest and most famous beach in Portimão is Praia da Rocha. Here you have a wooden boardwalk all the way along the length of the beach and along the trail, you will find many beach bars (some are even open in winter). This is the place to hang out at the beach for a day or have a drink on the terrace during the sunset.
Fortaleza de Santa Catarina
At the very end (or the beginning, it depends on how you look at it) of Praia da Rocha is an old fortress: Fortaleza de Santa Catarina. It is now mainly a viewpoint and from here you have a great view of the beach, but also of the very colorful Marina de Portimão.
Praia dos Três Castelos
Next to Praia da Rocha is another beautiful beach: Praia dos Três Castelos. Here it is a lot quieter than on Praia da Rocha and you only have 1 beach bar here (closed in winter). It is located right behind the high cliffs and is a picture to see. From here you can also get to Praia da Rocha via a tunnel and at low tide you can walk all the way to Praia do Alemão in the west.
Ribeirinha de Portimão
Ribeirinha is a long promenade along the Arade River. There are many benches between the palm trees, so it’s perfect to watch people and boats in the river. It’s also a great place to go for a (long) stroll. You will also find the Museu de Portimão on the Ribeirinha, where you can learn more about fishing (and especially that of sardines).
Igreja do Colégio
One of the most special and striking buildings in Portimão is the Igreja do Colégio on the Praça da Républica. The church was built in the seventeenth century. The church (like many other buildings in the Algarve) was largely destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. Since then it has been restored, but it is still unfinished.
Jardim 1º de Dezembro
Jardim 1º de Dezembro is a small square between Praça da Républica and Ribeirinha. At first sight it doesn’t seem that special, but if you look a little longer, the benches on the sides of the square stand out. Each bank has an image of Portuguese tiles and these images depict special events from Portuguese history.
Praia do Alemão & Praia do Vau
Praia do Vau and Praia do Alemão are two beaches at the very west of Portimão. They are connected to each other, you can easily walk from one to the other. The beaches are surrounded by high cliffs full of cacti and are beautiful to see. You can take a walk at the top through a small park full of cacti, from here you have a nice view of the beaches.
Hike to Ponta João de Arens
From Praia do Alemão you can hike on the trails over the cliffs to Ponta João de Arens. This looks like a kind of peninsula and from here you have a beautiful view of Portimão (see also the first photo in this article). Here you hike through the forest from one viewpoint to another. Do you like climbing? Then from here you can also go to Praia João de Arens, seen in the photo above.
Tip: There are quite a lot of mosquitoes here, so bring insect repellent.
Boat trip to the Benagil caves
During a vacation in the Algarve, a visit to the Benagil caves is a must. You can only visit these caves by boat and the caves are not far from Portimão. The easiest way is to take a boat tour to the Benagil caves from Portimão. You can book the tour through this website. The tour takes about 2.5 hours and you will see the beautiful cliffs along the way (from the water they are even more beautiful) and you will also visit other caves.
Fun day trips from Portimão
Of course, you don’t have to stay in Portimão all the time, there are many other beautiful places to discover in the area! How about for example:
Passadiços de Alvor
A few kilometers west of Portimão is the fishing village of Alvor. The village itself is worth a visit, but for hiking and nature lovers I can also recommend the walk over the Passadiços de Alvor. This is a beautiful trail through a nature reserve and mainly involves wooden boardwalks and bridges. It’s a great hike that takes about an hour.
During my stay in Portugal, I lived in Lagos for over 2.5 months and I absolutely love this city! It has a beautiful historic city center (with city walls from the sixteenth century) and there are several fortresses to admire. Ponta da Piedade (a viewpoint at the coastline) is perhaps the most beautiful place in the Algarve.
Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Near Portimão you will find one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Portugal: the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. The walk starts at Praia da Marinha (one of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve) and follows the coastline through seven valleys (mostly with a beach) to Praia de Carvoeiro. A beautiful walk along the most beautiful cliffs of the Algarve.
It is 12 kilometers to hike there and back, but of course, you can also hiker the 6-kilometer one-way trail and take a taxi or an Uber back to the starting point.
Cape St. Vincent & Sagres
If you drive an hour west from Portimão, you will arrive at the most southwestern point of mainland Europe: Cape St. Vincent. Visit the lighthouse and watch the waves crash against the rocks. A beautiful sight! The nearby Sagres is also worth a visit: beautiful beaches and lots of nice restaurants.
Not everyone is a fan of Albufeira because it is mainly known as a party destination full of nightclubs. I lived there for seven weeks and thought it was a really lovely place to stay! In the low season, it is wonderfully quiet. There are many beautiful beaches in Albufeira and the old center is a feast for the eyes.
To visit most of these places it is useful to have a rental car, but Lagos is easily accessible by train and bus from Portimão.
Where to stay in Portimão
Do you fancy a vacation in Portimão and are you looking for a great place to stay?
- DART Boutique Hostel – Good budget option, in the old town of Portimão.
- Hotel da Rocha – Luxury hotel in a great location overlooking Praia da Rocha.
- Tivoli Marina Portimao – Well-equipped studios and apartments in the Marina de Portimão.
Tip: have you never booked anything through Airbnb? Use this link to sign up and you will get a big discount on your first booking!
These were my tips and an overview of the best things to do in Portimão. Have you ever been on vacation in the Algarve?
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