Portimão is one of the larger cities in the Algarve, Portugal. What are the most beautiful sights and the best things to do in Portimão? Read all about it now!
Portimão: an introduction
Portimão is one of the largest cities in the Algarve in Portugal, it’s the second largest after Faro. Portimão is mostly known for the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, where the Portuguese Grand Prix was held in 2020 and 2021.
Is Portimão worth visiting? Absolutely! The city used to be the center for fishing and shipbuilding, now it is mainly a resort town and a tourist destination. In contrast to Albufeira, for example, Portimão feels more like a city where you are among the locals.
There’s always something to do in Portimão. You can learn about Portuguese culture in the historic city center, visit the gorgeous beaches and go for a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters or spend some money in one of the shopping centers.
Its central location on the Algarve coast makes it a perfect place for a vacation in the Algarve. There are not only a lot of fun things to do in Portimão, but it’s also in a great location for amazing day trips.
The best things to do in Portimão
What to do in Portimão? These are the best places to visit and the best things to do in Portimão Portugal.
Praia da Rocha
The largest and one of the most popular beaches in Portimão is Praia da Rocha beach. 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. This historic building 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 there’s only one beach bar here which is closed in winter months. It is surrounded by high cliffs and this makes it a stunning sight. 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. Did you know that Portimão is famous for its sardines? You’ll learn all about it in this museum!
Find the storks
There are many storks in the Algarve, and you probably see lots of them as well in Portimão. There are plenty of places to spot them, they built a nest on almost every high building or tower. I even saw a storks nest on a crane in a harbor! Every time that I went for a run on the Ribeirinha, I saw at least ten of these majestic birds. Last time I counted 14 storks in less than 30 minutes. How many can you find?
Igreja do Colégio
One of the most remarkable 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 look 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.
Praça 1º de Maio
Praça 1º de Maio is one of the largest squares in Portimão. It’s decorated with artwork, and a large fountain, and there are many benches to sit on. On the west side of the square, you’ll see Portimão City hall, a beautiful historic building.
Portimao street art
Portugal has many colorful cities and Portimão is definitely one of them. That’s why you can see a lot of colorful murals in Portimão. You really have to look for them, but you can spot several around Praça 1º de Maio. One of the most striking is Grafiti Mural da Seleção by João Samina. This is a mural with the faces of some of the most important Portuguese football players.
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.
Tip: There are quite a lot of mosquitoes here, so bring insect repellent.
Boat trip to the Benagil caves
There are many boat trips you can take from Portimão. One of the best boat trips is the one to the Benagil caves. You can only visit these caves by boat and the caves are not far from Portimão, which makes it one of the best Portimão attractions.
The easiest way to get there 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
As I said before, due to the central location of Portimão, it’s a great location to use as a base for a vacation in the Algarve. There are many other beautiful places to discover in the area! Here are some tips for day trips from Portimão.
A few kilometers west of Portimão is the fishing village of Alvor. It’s a really cute village to check out, with narrow streets that are amazing to explore. For me personally, though, the best thing about Alvar is the endless beach: Praia de Alvor. This is one of the best beaches in the Algarve. Along the beach, there are several wooden boardwalks through the dunes, which makes it a great place to go hiking.
I can also recommend the walk over the Passadiços de Alvor. This beautiful trail through a nature reserve mainly involves wooden boardwalks and bridges. It’s a great hike that takes about an hour.
I’ve spent about seven months in Lagos in the last three years, 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.
Read more about Lagos:
Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Near Portimão you will find one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Algarve: 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 hike 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.
Read more: The best things to do in Sagres, Portugal
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 town center is a feast for the eyes.
Read more: Fun things to do in Albufeira, Portugal
Silves is the oldest town in the Algarve and is a great fun place to explore. When you arrive, the first thing you’ll see is the castle ruin and the cathedral, which are located on a hill. They are surrounded by a maze of narrow streets full of beautiful, typically Portuguese houses. A wonderful place to explore.
Read more: Silves, the oldest city in the Algarve
Tip! The Arade River runs from Silves to Portimão, so you can visit Silves from Portimão on a boat trip.
Monchique is located about 25 kilometers north of Portimão. This is one of the cutest places in the Algarve. It’s a historic town with beautiful narrow streets and many of the houses still have the typical Portuguese tiles, the azulejos. There’s a ruin of a 15th-century monastery overlooking the town and there are several fun hiking trails. Right next to Monchique is the Foía, the highest mountain in the Algarve.
To visit most of these places it is useful to have a rental car, but Lagos and Silves are easily accessible by train from Portimão.
Where to stay in Portimão
Do you fancy a vacation in Portimão and are you looking for a great place to stay? These are some of the best hotels and apartments in Portimão.
- Hotel da Rocha (4⭐) – Luxury hotel in a great location overlooking Praia da Rocha.
- Tivoli Marina Portimao (4⭐) – Well-equipped studios and apartments in the Marina de Portimão.
- Bela Vista Hotel & Spa – Relais & Chateaux (5⭐) – Looking for some luxury? This is a beautifully decorated hotel overlooking Praia da Rocha.
Would you like to see more options? Check Booking.com for prices and availability.
How do you get to Portimão?
Portimão is located in the Algarve, in the southwest of Portugal. How do you get to Portimão?
Fly to the Algarve
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 WayAway to find the best deals for plane tickets.
In addition, you can also choose to fly to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. From there you can travel to Portimão by train or bus. Traveling by bus is your fastest option. The bus ride takes about 3.5 hours. Check Busbud for tickets and prices.
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 as low as €10 per day. Check Discover Cars and Rental Cars to find the best deal on rental cars in the Algarve.
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 at all, for example, a train ticket from Faro to Portimão costs € 6.15).
Check the website of Comboios de Portugal for train times and prices and on the Algarve bus for bus times. Please note that the latter is an unofficial website, but I’ve found it to be very accurate and complete.
More useful tips for a trip to Portimão
Don’t forget this before booking your trip to the Algarve:
💊Travel insurance: Personally, I think that travel insurance is a necessary component of any trip if you want to be calm in every unexpected event during your trip. Before you book, check Insubuy. This is currently the largest provider of visitor insurance. You will definitely find the most appropriate insurance plan that suits your trip!
🎡Tours & activities: the Algarve is a great place for tours and activities, there are hundreds of fun things to do in the south of Portugal! Check Get Your Guide and Viator to find the best tours and activities in the Algarve.
Want to read more about Portugal and the Algarve?
These were my tips and an overview of the best things to do in Portimão. Would you like to read more about the Algarve? Check out these travel guides:
Experience Portugal (Lonely Planet)
I’ve stayed about seven months in the Algarve these past few years. That’s why you can read a lot about Portugal and the Algarve on this website. You might like to read these articles as well:
- What to do in the Algarve? 26 tips!
- The most beautiful places in Aljezur
- The top things to do in Lisbon
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This article was published in February 2021. Last update: December 2022 with more tips!
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