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Albufeira, Algarve Travel Guide

Albufeira Summary

Pros

  • Right in the middle of the Algarve, making it easy to explore the region
  • Well-preserved historic town center with charming cobblestone streets
  • Striking cliff-flanked beach sits right next to historic town center
  • Packed with anything a tourist could want -- from souvenir shops to bars
  • Hotels are reasonably priced for a European beach destination
  • Lively nightlife scene thanks to bars and nightclubs
  • Most restaurants cater to British and Irish tastes
  • Only 40 minutes from the Faro Airport by car

Cons

  • Despite Portuguese architecture and style, it feels entirely touristy
  • Nightlife can be rowdy in town center and along The Strip
  • Major bachelor and bachelorette party destination (pro for some)
  • Most area hotels are dated, worn, and tired

What It's Like

For many travelers, the scene in Albufeira -- the historic town that's the beating heart of the Algarve -- is the reason to visit this beach-blessed region. However, it's a very distinct type of traveler that will find Albufeira the right choice for their holiday. The town's whitewashed buildings are scenically clustered along cobblestone streets, painting the very picture of southern Portugal that many travelers are craving. During the day, life moves at a lazy pace, with tourists sipping drinks and tucking into their full English breakfasts around the town square. You'll spot British and Irish tourists of all ages milling about the narrow side streets, poring over souvenirs and Forca Portugal soccer gear, while down on the beach, sunseekers post up on rows of lounge chairs along the sand.

As you head out of town, the Albufeira region only gets more and more touristy, as water parks, shopping plazas, and restaurants friendly to British and Irish tastes line the side of the main road that cuts through the region. However, if you veer off of that main road, you're likely to stumble upon beaches that retain a bit of the natural beauty that made the Algarve famous in the first place. Praia da Oura is the most famous nearby option, and only takes 10 minutes to reach by car from the center of town. Many hotels are located on the cliffs high above this stunning slice of golden sand. A bit farther east is Praia Falesia, which stretches for several kilometers and includes a mix of quiet and busy areas.

Of course, while the sun shines bright during the day, it's the nighttime in Albufeira that gives this city its magnetism. The historic town center is packed with nightclubs, English pubs, and Irish bars, where the drinking scene generally starts early and goes quite late (until 4 AM, to be exact). If there aren't enough drinking options in the center of Albufeira, simply head to The Strip -- which is officially known as Avenida Dr. Francisco Sa Carneiro. Stick to the southern end of The Strip if you want to find the biggest selection of bars and clubs, replete with neighboring tattoo shops, fast food, and the like.

Where To Stay

To say that the hills around Albufeira are packed with hotels is a major understatement. In many ways, the region is almost exclusively a playground for travelers on vacation. That's different from towns like Lagos, to the west, which retains its local charm and vibe despite being wildly popular with tourists. And even though Albufeira is all about importing the comforts of the British and Irish Isles to the sunny Portuguese coast, you can find an array of accommodations around Albufeira. However, you'll need to determine whether you're here to party of relax before you scout your hotel options.

There aren't too many solid bets right in Albufeira's historic center, though a few are strategically placed to overlook Praia dos Pescadores. If you're staying in town, be prepared for relatively loud weekends. The same goes for travelers who opt for hotels on or near The Strip. For calmer alternatives, opt to stay just west of Albufeira's old town, where several hotels line the winding roads along the steep seaside cliffs. There are also a number of humble hotels and resorts to the south of Avenida Infante Dom Enrique, which puts you far enough away from The Strip to keep things calm. Farther inland, a number of no-frills holiday resort-style properties line the hills (think: self-catering apartments, utilitarian style, and kid-friendly outdoor spaces). 

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