Guide to the Best Things to Do In Portimao

Last Updated on 19/04/2024 by secretmoona

Planning a trip to the Algarve and considering adding Portimão to your itinerary? Continue reading to find out the best things to do in Portimao.

Overview of Portimao Marine, Portugal

Located between the Alvor Estuary and the Arade River, Portimão is one of the most touristic cities in the Algarve and Portugal. The western city attracts lots of tourists yearly thanks to its natural wonders. The town played a significant role in the fishing industry (sardines fishing and processing) and shipbuilding until the early 20th century. Now, most of the old industries have been replaced by tourism. More and more people want to visit Portimão and get to know its gastronomy and the famous sandy beaches of Portimão. With so many unmissable places and countless activities, Portimão is an ideal holiday destination. 

Facade covered in Murals - Portimao

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase through one of those links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Whatever your preferences, you can admire the beauty of the city’s cultural and historical buildings, relax by the beach, eat delicious Portuguese food or participate in many activities.

This guide includes a list of must-see places, must-do activities in Portimao and tips on the best places to eat and sleep.

Things to do in Portimao

Portimao is a city with many cultural and natural wonders. You can spend days in the city without ever getting bored: museums, stunning beaches, and green spaces are some things you can do in Portimão. Below are the best things to do in Portimão.

Things to do in Portimao - Hit the beaches

Hit the beaches

Portugal and the Algarve are best known for their beautiful beaches. Portimão is no exception to the rule. All beaches are public; however, some will have more complicated access than others. Here are some of the city’s magnificent beaches. The more secluded beaches can only be accessed at low tide and either by boat or kayak. If you visit any of them, carefully consider your safety first!

Praia da Rocha

Praia Da Rocha - What to do in Portugal
Praia Da Rocha

Among the top things to do in Potimão, visiting Praia da Rocha is at the top. Considered one of the most beautiful and very popular by default, Praia da Rocha is worth a visit. Even so, the beach is so big that you will not have difficulty finding a spot to lay your beach towel or rent a sunbed. Praia da Rocha is the main beach in Portimão, surrounded by cliffs and covered in soft golden sand. The gentle waters of the Atlantic Ocean are perfect for swimming, and there are enough waves to practise watersports such as surfing or diving. If you visit when the water is not suitable for swimming, you can stroll along the large beach, enjoy the stunning views or play beach volleyball or football. There are many things you can do in Praia da Rocha. In the evening, the restaurants and bars on Tomás Cabreira Avenue and by the Portimão Marina will keep you entertained. 

Praia dos Coreanos 

Sheltered by beautiful cliffs and rock formations, Praia dos Coreanos is a more intimate beach than the previous ones. Like all the beaches, it is not to be missed when visiting Portimão. Spend time on this beach to appreciate this natural beauty, like the calm and crystal clear waters and the towering cliffs in reddish tones. Take the opportunity to relax a bit, sunbathe and swim.

Praia dos Três Castelos

Just located close to Praia da Rocha is the Praia dos Três Castelos. Much smaller than its neighbour, the beach is a locals’ favourite. The beach benefits from clean, clean and calm waters. Praia dos Três Castelos is a more intimate place to lay down your towel and sunbathe.

Praia dos Três Castelos is easily accessible from Praia da Rocha by taking the passage carved into the rock or via the cliffs. Both ways are excellent: one allows you to walk by the water, and the other gives you a perfect vantage point. From the top of the cliffs, you can admire the views over the ocean, the rock formations and both beaches. It is also a fantastic spot for sunset viewing. 

Praia do Vau

Even if you are not in the city centre of Portimão, you can enjoy its many activities. Moreover, the Praia do Vau is one of the best beaches in the city. It is a typical beach of the Algarve region, with many restaurants and bars. You can enjoy tasty meals and fresh fish. It is sheltered between cliffs, and the sea is calm. It is, therefore, an excellent place if you want to rest. That’s not all! It also offers many animations.

Visit the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina

The Fortress of Santa Catarina de Ribamar is a mediaeval fort located near Praia da Rocha. Along with the castle of São João do Arade, the fort kept watch over the mouth of the river Arade and defended Portimão from Spanish and Moorish invaders. Nowadays, there isn’t much to see except a cafeteria inside the fortress courtyard and the beautiful vistas. You can enjoy one of the best views of Praia da Rocha, the river, the town of Ferragudo (across the river), and the Atlantic Ocean.

The fort has been rebuilt, so little of its architectural authenticity remains. You can access the fort via the Avenue Tomas Cabreira or the staircase from the Marina. 

Discover the Portimão Marina

The Marina de Portimão is one of the must-see places in Portimao. Surrounded by one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and colourful buildings, the Marina is a perfect place to spend time. The Marina is not only about boats and sailing. There are plenty of things to do and see. All come looking for something different. Home to Nosolo Agua Club, an exclusive swimming pool, great bars and restaurants, shops and luxury apartments, all facing the sea. The Marina has become a perfect place for a great night out in the evening.

Visit the Museu de Portimão

One of the must-do things to do in Portimão is to get to know the city’s history. By visiting the Museum of Portimão, you will learn about Portimão’s past: from the fishing industry to sardine canning to the archaeological collections in the Algarve and shipbuilding. 

Life size model at Museum of Portimao

Opened in 2008 in Feu Hermanos, an original sardine canning factory, the museum shows the canning process from beginning to end through life-size models. You can also see Islamic artefacts and a movie depicting what the town was like. 

This award-winning museum should definitely be on your list of places to visit. Entry to the museum €3, and free admission on Sundays. It is open daily except for Mondays and national holidays. 

Take a stroll in the Zona Ribeirinha de Portimão

Zona Ribeirinha de Portimão

Wondering where to take a nice afternoon walk in Portimão? Walk on Avenida de la Ribeirinha, located near the historic centre. This long and magnificent pedestrianised walkway has a long row of palm trees, enough to immerse you in a beautiful exotic atmosphere. It could be compared to the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice. Like the Promenade, the Ribeirinha runs along the banks of the Arade River. The benches along the Promenade invite you to relax and unwind while looking at the River Arade. This is a must for anyone wanting to discover the modern side of the city of Portimão. 

Visit the Mercado Municipal de Portimão

Visit the town’s market, the Mercado Municipal, to experience the locals’ daily life. There are better things to do in Portimão than wander the covered market, see the different stalls, and discover the local food and products. 

Saturdays are usually the busiest days with the most variety of vendors. However, no matter the day of your visit, there will be fruits, vegetables, fish (as a seaside town, the fish and seafood selection is incredible) and other products on sale. You can taste some tasty Portuguese delicacies and purchase souvenirs to take home.

Explore the Old Town Portimão

Wandering the streets of Old Town Portimão is among the top things you could do in Portimao. Spending time by the beach area is great, but exploring the city and soaking in the atmosphere is an unmissable experience. Spend the afternoon strolling from street to street and shop to shop. The roads of Portimão are paved with unique patterns laid out in cobblestones. The buildings have different paintings, and some are covered in typical Portuguese tiles. During your stroll, you will come across atypical squares like Largo Da Mó or Casa Manuel Teixeira Gomes, the birthplace of the former president of Portugal. Do not miss Jardim 1° de Dezembro. This lovely garden is perfect for relaxing or people-watching while sipping a drink from the nearby snack bar. 

Visit the Igreja do Colégio

One of the top things to do in Portimão is to admire the beautiful architecture. Located on Praça da República, the Igreja do Colégio dos Jesuítas is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Built in the 17th century thanks to the wealthy merchant Diogo Gonçalves after he managed to find refuge in the port of Portimao during a storm. To thank him, they built the mausoleum to welcome him. You can see his tomb in the main chapel of the church. 

The interior decoration of the baroque church in Portimao is quite simple as it follows Jesuit beliefs. Surprisingly, the church survived the earthquake that hit Portimão in 1755, although parts of the vaults and facade were severely affected. After the Company of Jesuits were expelled from the country, the church was transferred to the University of Coimbra and the order of Camillus de Lellis. 

Nossa Senhora da Conceição, Things to do in Portimao Algarve
Igreja Matriz

Nossa Senhora da Conceição

While exploring the streets of the old town, you will for sure pass by this whitewashed church. Nossa Senhora da Conceição is considered the main church in Portimão. Like many religious buildings in the city, the Matriz church was severely damaged during the earthquake that shook Portimão in 1755. The building has three naves and is decorated with gilding and sculptures in the Baroque style. Although it has retained many of its 14th-century characteristics, most of the rest of the building dates back to the 17th century.

Explore the caves

One of the most incredible features of this part of the Algarve is the presence of small natural caves and beautiful rock formations. The Algarve coastline is full of sea caves and secluded beaches. Portimão is the place to discover these fantastic sea caves. Among them is the famous Benagil Cave, Algar de Benagil. This place should be added to your list of things to do in Portimão. 

Benagil sea cave - Portimao Algarve
Benagil Cave

The best way to see the cave is by booking a boat tour, which lasts about 2.5 hours, or joining a group paddle boarding or kayak tour. Most boat tours combine visiting the sea caves with a trip to observe the dolphins. However, since these creatures are wild animals, you are only sometimes guaranteed to see any. 

Be aware that boats cannot enter the cave, so if you wish to enter the cave and step onto the sand, you must either rent a kayak, paddleboard or swim. Swimming is only recommended for experienced swimmers because currents can be strong, especially around the edge of the caves. 

Venture out and explore the Algarve Region

While in Portimão, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a day trip to explore other charming towns in the Algarve. A good motorway system means you can be on the extreme side of the Algarve in less than an hour by car. Visiting the towns of Tavira, Sagres, Olhão, Silves, Albufeira or Monchique should be on your itinerary. If you are more into history and culture, you should travel to Alvor, located just 6km from Portimao. This beautiful town was under Muslim control for a while, and while exploring, you see their influence in the town’s architecture. The city also benefits from 5km of wooden walkways connecting the Ria de Alvor to the Praia do Alvor. Nature lovers will love Lagos and the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a wetland stretching over 60km. 

Where to stay in Portimão?

As a seaside resort town, Portimão has plenty of accommodation options. Here’s a selection of more options available via Booking.com

Tivoli Marina Portimão 4*

Tivoli Marina Portimão is a four-star resort next to the Marina de Portimão and Praia da Rocha. The hotel complex, consisting of studios and holiday apartments, is ideal for couples, groups of friends and families. Divided into three wings, the hotel offers a marina view to all the apartments. There are three pools, including one for children. Praia da Rocha beach is within walking distance.

Book your stay at Tivoli Marina Portimao.

Jupiter Marina Algarve 4*

Jupiter Marina Algarve - Where to stay in Portimao

Located near the Museu de Portimão, the Jupiter Marina Hotel is a stylish adult-only hotel. The hotel has an indoor and an outdoor infinity pool, a spa facility, and all the other facilities you would find in this type of hotel. The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to the beach and free bike hire. Jupiter Marina Algarve is a good choice for couples. 

Book your stay at Jupiter Marina Hotel.

Hotel da Rocha 4*

Hotel da Rocha - where to stay in Portimao Algarve

Hotel da Rocha has direct access to Praia da Rocha beach. The four-star hotel offers modern rooms with balconies, each offering spectacular beach views. All rooms have kitchenettes ideal for those who wish to cook their meals. There’s also a lovely outdoor swimming pool. 

Book your stay at RR Hotel da Rocha.

Bela Vista Hotel & Spa – Relais & Chateaux 5* 

Bela Vista Hotel & Spa - Relais & Chateaux - where to stay in Portimao Algarve

The Bela Vista Hotel & Spa is a stunning five-star boutique hotel overlooking the ocean with direct access to Praia da Rocha. Housed in a former 19th-century family house, Bela Vista Hotel & Spa is the perfect choice for a relaxing stay. Direct access to the beach means walking from the hotel to the golden sand. Alternatively, you have an on-site swimming pool and spa facility. 

Book your stay at Bela Vista Hotel & Spa.

Where to eat in Portimão

What to eat in Portimao - sardines

When you’re on vacation, it’s normal to want to get a taste of the local cuisine. Portimão has a great list of good restaurants, and being the capital of sardines, this fish will be on most menus. Whether you like eating fish or not, Portimão will have just the restaurant for you. Check out TripAdvisor for the best restaurant reviews or reserve a table at your favourite restaurant.

Sunset Pizzeria

Pizza Margherita from Sunset Pizzeria, a restaurant at Tivoli Marina Portimão

One of the restaurants at Tivoli Marina Portimão, Sunset Pizzeria, is an excellent choice if you want something different from the local cuisine. Their pizzas are the best, and so is the service.

Maria do Mar

The lovely Maria do Mar restaurant offers traditional dishes. Its concept is interesting, as it specialises in canned fish in different varieties (sardines, mackerel, and tuna). The fish is served on a bed of salad with bread. Located in the city centre, it is worth visiting after a visit to the Museum of Portimão and learning about the fish canning history.

Faina

Cod pasteis from Faina, Portimao Algarve
Cod pasteis from Faina, Portimao Algarve

Faina is located near the Museum of Portimão. Everything here is good, from the food to the service and the atmosphere. The restaurant offers Italian-style food with a Portuguese flair. It is the ideal place for dinner, with a nice view over the riverbanks.

Casa da Tocha

Casa da Tocha is a traditional, and full-of-character restaurant in the old town of Portmão. The menu is extensive, including tapas, fish, and meat. This traditional Portuguese restaurant has excellent food and a comprehensive wine list. 

Useful Information

When to visit Portimão

The mild climate is one of the strengths of Portimão. The city benefits from 300 sunny days a year and has a hot Mediterranean climate with dry summer. Summer is the season when tourism is the most intense. In August, the Sardine Festival attracts a large audience. April, May, September and October are perfect for appreciating the mild and pleasant temperatures. 

Where is Portimão?

Portimão is located on the Algarve’s western side, at the Arade River’s mouth. It’s one of the largest towns on the coast; surrounded by gorgeous beaches and easy transport links to other destinations in the Algarve, Portimão is a great place to visit in Portugal.

Getting to and around Portimão

Portimão is the second-biggest city in the Algarve, so you will be fine getting there whether you are coming from Lisbon or Faro. The nearest airport is located in Faro, where you can take the train to Portimão. Train times and prices are on CP—Comboios de Portugal’s website

How to get to Portimão from Faro?

When travelling from Faro airport to Portimão, you will have several options. The fastest way is by car, only about 55 minutes. If you want to rent a car, DiscoverCars provide good options and value for money. You can also travel by bus (aerobus 56 and 57), which costs about €13 (click here for details and link to timetables). However, the train journey from Faro to Portimão takes 1h 26 min and costs between €6 and €16. Finally, Uber and Bolt are also available and cost cheaper than taxis. 

How to get to Portimão from Lisbon?

Portimão is a reasonable distance from Lisbon, about 183 km away. It takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes to drive. As well as travelling by car, you can also travel by bus or train to Portimão. It is worth noting that there are no direct trains between Portimão and Lisbon. Journeys by train roughly take about 4 hours with a change at Faro station. On the other hand, buses seem faster, easier and take around 3h15 mins. The bus and the train station are located in the northern part of the city. 

Getting around Portimão

If you want to visit the surroundings, the car remains the most practical means of transport. You will find rental vehicles when landing in Faro or other Portuguese cities. Otherwise, buses, including the local “vai e vem”, connect within and around Portimão. Traffic is difficult in the old town with its narrow streets. Bolt and Uber cars are pretty cheap in the Algarve, so they are an excellent alternative, especially for small groups.

Like it, Pin it!

Posted by

Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

7 thoughts on “Guide to the Best Things to Do In Portimao

  1. I haven’t heard of Portimao before but it looks absolutely gorgeous! Portugal in general is such a wonderful country I’m hoping to go back soon 🙂

  2. We did a one day port stop in Portimao and then did not make it back when we stayed on the Algarve coast. We certainly missed some of those great beaches. We wanted to do the Benagil Caves. Good to know there are options from Portimao.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.