Portimão is the biggest town in the western Algarve and sits on the bank of the Arade river facing the little village of Ferragudo on the opposite bank. Portimão's atlantic beach of Praia da Rocha has, over the years, become a resort in it's own right with lots of hotels and apartments, restaurants and bars, discos and clubs and shops, which is why we have a separate 'Praia da Rocha page. See map of Portimao.
Portimão is a mix of late 19th, early 20th century buildings in the older part of the town, and high rise apartment blocks in various pastel shades of blue, pink and coral around it. The town centre is simply perfect for those who love to shop! It is jam packed full of shops, offering a wide choice of clothes, gifts, souvenirs, electrical goods and general household items. You’ll see brands you see at home, such as Mango for the ladies and plenty of traditional shops selling bargain leather goods, such as handbags and belts.
There are also plenty of bars, restaurants and café’s where you can sit for a bite to eat or a drink and watch the town carry on around you. To see the more relaxed side of Portimão, wander down to the river front, where the 'Manuel Bivar' gardens are, and have an ice-cream or a coffee at one of the cafe's along the front. You will also find Portimão's famous fish restaurants at the end of the waterfront near the bridge - just follow the aroma of sardines barbecuing!
The roads in and around Portimão are quite confusing and congested, especially if you end up in the narrow back streets where everyone parks on both sides of the road! There is plenty of car parking around the town, and there is a particularly large free car park on the waterfront which is very easy to find if you approach from Portimão marina end and follow the river. There is also a large underground paying carpark in the centre of Portimão (just follow the signs for 'centro' and you can't miss it!).
Portimão is fast becoming one of the best towns for shopping in the Algarve with lots of retail parks and shopping malls. Coming into Portimão from the west is a large Intermarché supermarket (chain), which opened in 2009, next door to which is an E.LeClerc supermarket. A short distance down the road is a retail park with amongst others a large Worten (electrical goods), Casa (everything for the home), Page 1 (fashion), C&A (clothes), Brinca (toyshop) and a supermarket. Nearby a 3 storey Shopping Mall complete with cinemas, food outlets and, of course, lots more shops, is being built.
On the main dual carriageway around the town heading towards Praia da Rocha is a large 'Continente' supermarket on the left hand side. Although not obvious from the outside there are also lots of other shops in the mall (shoes, clothes, accessories, electrical, sports goods etc) as well as a small food hall and cinema. There is yet another retail park on the N125 (just past the turning from Alvor coming from the west) which is home to another large Continente (previously a Carrefour), as well as Staples (office supplies), Radio Popular (electrical goods), Moviflor (furniture), Decathlon (sports gear) and Aki (garden equipment, DIY etc) amongst others.
As well as shopping, there are also a lot of Portimão events throughout the year to be enjoyed, like powerboat racing or jet-skiing on the river, fantastic fireworks and live music to celebrate the New Year, and various exhibitions and sports events at the Expo-Arade centre. The most popular place for events in Portimão has become the Autodromo do Algarve, the motor racing circuit for which Portimão (and the western Algarve) is now famous for!
Portimão Marina you simply have to see with your own eyes, because you’ll never have seen colours like it! Only a place in the Algarve could carry off ochre and terracotta! The marina is at the eastern end of Praia da Rocha at the entrance to the river and includes the Tivoli Arade and Nikki beach resort. There are shops as well as a selection of restaurants and bars to occupy your time!
The town itself is probably not where you would choose to stay, being very built up as you would expect. However there is an abundance of hotels and other accommodation both at Praia da Rocha and on the roads leading to it - all of which is within walking distance of the town centre. The area just to the west of Praia da Rocha, Praia do Vau, also has plenty of mostly low rise accommodation around the beach and still accessible to the town.
There are plenty of things to do in Portimão whatever your age - there are boat trips for fishing, trips to the caves, dolphin watching trips or a trip up the Arade river to Silves from the river front. There are several golf courses nearby and at Portimão municipal aerodrome near Alvor various pursuits like parachuting for the more adventurous! Lagos zoo is just a short distance away to the west and Zoomarine at Guia is just a short distance to the east - both great family days out - or for those that prefer to keep cool, then Slide and Splash Water Park at Lagoa is nearby as well.
Portimão - Algarve - Portugal
Portimão - History
It traces its origins back to a small trading port of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. Some historians have indicated that the place was originally the famous Portus Hannibalis named by the famous Carthaginian General, Hannibal Barca. During the following Moorish occupation they renamed the place “Burj Munt”. Located at the mouth of the River Arade it provides a natural harbour and has at times been known in its past as a home for smugglers and pirates. The river also provides the sea access to the up-river ancient city of Silves which was once the capital of the Algarve during the Moorish occupation. At this time the place was named Porcimunt but later in 1504 it was recognized as a town and granted the name “Vila Nova de Portimão” and became part of the possessions of the Castelo Branco family until the 17th Century. Much later it was commonly renamed as Portimão and was extensively developed in the 19th century to become one of the most important centres on the Algarve of the fishing and canning industry until the early 1980s when the recession drove the remaining factories out of business.
Portimão - Description
The town with some 35,000 inhabitants is essentially commercially orientated and was the main shopping town of the whole Algarve during the 1970s and 1980s. The town's church that is the last attractive building surviving in the town dates from 1476 but it under went many alterations as from 1717 onwards. The town council appears to have adopted a policy of demolishing architecturally interesting buildings in favour of modernization. Happily, it also has a very active cultural department and there are always different forms of events happening throughout the year. The Municipal Museum is housed in an old sardine canning factory and here regular exhibitions are held that cover art, history, and general culture, all of a local and national content. A boat Marina was recently opened adjoining Praia da Rocha and this adds the fascinating sight of the many boats at anchor and a further choice of bars and restaurants in which to pass the evening. When approaching the town from the direction of Faro there is a choice of two bridges to cross. The old one runs along past the harbour but we would recommend take the new bridge. It is so well balanced in design that it can be seriously considered among the most pleasing bridges to the eye built in Portugal in the 19th Century. On the river front near the square with the cafés many different boat tours and deep sea-fishing outings can be booked.
Portimão - Nearby Locations
In the Portimão area is Armação de Pera with a small 18th Century fortress and a popular location for tourists with its long sandy beach. The beach village of Alvor is another popular tourist location. Still maintaining its village character with its 16th Century Parish Church its narrow streets teem with life in the tourist season. The village of Carvoeiro is a small charming beach location that is now surrounded by comfortable self-catering villas. The tourist trade happily not yet overpowers the small delightful fishing village of Ferragudo, lying just across the river from Portimão. Slightly inland is Lagoa a small administrative town. Praia da Rocha and Praia de Vau are seriously devoted to offering tourist accommodation with the added attractions of good beaches and active nightlife. The inland city of Silves and its truly interesting historical background is worth a visit. Included in the many true stories are the battles between the Moors, the Crusaders, and the Portuguese. Unfortunately, the city was for the most part destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. The Moorish occupiers considered the city at the turn of the 11th Century as the centre of all true culture in the Iberian Peninsular.
Near to the town of Portimão are several sites of interest such as the Caves of Estombar, the mosaic floor of the Roman villa at Figueira, and at Alcalar the recently well restored burial tombs from the Dolman period (around 3.500 BC). Here, evidence of quite a large settlement of the 4th and 5th millennium BC which is undergoing investigation
Information courtesy of general internet research and algarveuncovered.com, portugal-info.net, tripadvisor.com, algarve-guides.com and many more sources
Villa Rentals in Portimao and holiday rentals in the Algarve Portugal in general are big business so you should expect to be treated with professionalism and with courtesy