I visited Albufeira in the Algarve twice, but I still don’t like this popular destination in the south of Portugal. The first time was when I was eighteen, and I was the perfect target for The Strip in the new part of the city. In my thirties with a baby, I visited Albufeira Old Town, but it also failed to charm me.
Despite having two lovely holidays in Portugal, Albufeira didn’t contribute much to my travel experience. In our opinion, both the old and new Albufeira don’t deserve the touristic attention they receive. In this blog, we will explain why we feel that way and we will give you some charming alternatives to help you find the best places to go in the Portuguese Algarve.
Albufeira Old Town And New Town
Albufeira is divided into two distinct areas: Albufeira Old Town and Albufeira The Strip, also known as New Town.
Read more: where to stay in Albufeira?
The Old Town represents the older section of the city, characterized by its narrow streets, churches, squares, and white houses often featured in brochures. This area serves as the tourist hub, housing souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars.
Additionally, it boasts a stunning coastal location, situated directly on expansive sandy beaches, allowing visitors to easily transition from the charming cobbled streets to the ocean.
The new part of Albufeira is located far from the Old Town. It’s definitely too far to walk and we recommend using transportation such as the bus, taxi, or car instead of walking. The New Town is centered around Praia da Oura, particularly The Strip.
Although the New Town lacks charming streets, it offers many amenities including large resorts, trendy restaurants, and, most importantly, an abundance of clubs, bars, and discotheques on The Strip. Additionally, the new town boasts a pleasant sandy beach called Praia da Oura, which attracts many holidaymakers seeking relaxation after a night of revelry.
The Upsides Of Albufeira
The large sandy beaches
Albufeira is a renowned destination in the Algarve for the region’s largest sandy beaches, making it a popular destination with travelers.
Right next to Albufeira Old Town lie two exceptional beaches: the expansive Praia dos Alemães and its neighboring Praia dos Pescadores. The latter is also known as Praia do Túnel, as it can be accessed from the historic center via a tunnel.
A boulevard extends along the beaches with multiple viewpoints offering spectacular beach views. If you prefer not to climb up from the beach to access these boulevards, there is no need to climb the stairs. At one end, you will discover the Elevador do Peneco, a concrete elevator housing a viewing platform. On the opposite side, an escalator is available.
In the new section of The Strip, there are stunning beaches as well. The most popular is Praia da Ouro, a spacious and expansive sandy beach. It is divided by picturesque rocks, forming a natural arc. Towards the eastern end, the beach is adorned with stones and pebbles. Visitors have constructed towers with them, creating a captivating spectacle, particularly at sunset.
The old center and The Strip
In addition to the sandy beaches, the picturesque old center of Albufeira draws numerous visitors. Although it is only a small part of the city, it is undeniably the most charming.
Cobblestone streets, cats resting on benches, and flower-filled bushes adorning the white or vibrantly colored houses create a captivating scene. Notably, the old bell tower known as Torre do Relógio and the church Igreja Matriz are prominent landmarks.
The new area of Albufeira centers around The Strip, which boasts the highest number of bars and discotheques in the entire Algarve. For those seeking a blend of beach and nightlife, this is the ideal destination.
The Downsides Of Albufeira
While Albufeira now may sound like a gem in Portugal, we are not convinced of its appeal to many travelers. It is primarily a highly tourist-oriented town, lacking authenticity and atmosphere. Though we do not always mind touristy places, as it often signifies their beauty, in this case it seems to overshadow and detract from the city’s true essence.
More beautiful beaches in the Algarve
The sandy beaches alone are not sufficient reason to visit Albufeira. The Algarve boasts some of the most exquisite beaches in Europe, not limited to Albufeira.
They can be found all along the coast, ranging from expansive beaches like those in Albufeira to small bays and secluded shores. The southern Portuguese coastline is adorned with scenic beaches throughout, which are more enjoyable and less crowded than those in Albufeira.
The tourist-focused nightlife
The nightlife and restaurants in Albufeira fail to captivate us. The old town is filled with average tourist-oriented eateries.
However, it is the new part that lacks all charm. The Strip is adorned with large discotheque and bar signs. Even during my youth, when I enjoyed nightlife, I was not fond of The Strip at all. We did enjoy some of the bars featuring live music, but unfortunately The Strip is mainly frequented by drunken tourists, loud visitors, and numerous bachelor parties.
Tip: amidst the commotion of The Strip, we discovered Al-Gharb Coffee Roasters. It is a great spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and most importantly, excellent coffee. The serene garden serves as an oasis in the modern area of Albufeira.
Alternatives To Albufeira: The Most Beautiful Places In The Algarve
Although we don’t recommend Albufeira, we adore the Algarve. We traveled around this region of Portugal for over a month to discover the finest spots.
After thoroughly exploring this area, we can confidently tell you about the top places to visit. Despite being highly frequented by travelers, the Algarve still boasts numerous charming locations.
The charming city of Lagos
Our favorite city in southern Portugal is Lagos, where we spent approximately a week. It is an appealing, ancient town with grand city walls, abundant vibrant street art, and a labyrinth of charming streets. There is a wide selection of dining establishments, ranging from trendy cafes to exceptional local venues.
Lagos is nestled amidst the stunning rocky shores of the Algarve, with the Ponte da Piedade being particularly renowned. Additionally, Lagos provides convenient access to numerous exquisite beaches in the vicinity, as well as opportunities for exhilarating hikes through the awe-inspiring Algarve landscape.
Read more: best things to do in Lagos
If you prefer a smaller village than Lagos, you might enjoy Ferragudo as much as we did. It is often called the most beautiful village of the Algarve and we agree.
Although tiny, it is full of picturesque streets, sandy beaches, and restaurants. We stayed here for five days during our campervan trip through Portugal and enjoyed the cozy village life and beautiful beaches.
Ferragudo is also the starting point for one of the best hikes in the Algarve. The Trail of the Headlands is 6 kilometers long and takes you via the impressive rocky coast to stunning bays and beaches of the Algarve.
Read more: best things to do in Ferragudo.
Beach town Carvoeiro
Carvoeiro, a charming village in the Algarve, is perched on the rocky coast, offering stunning sea views. Despite its small size, the village is surrounded by exquisite cliffs and beautiful beaches.
One must-visit attraction is the Carvoeiro Boardwalk, a 600m pathway that leads to the breathtaking Algar Seco Caves. Additionally, Carvoeiro serves as the starting or ending point for two longer hiking trails in the Algarve: the Trail of Headlands and the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, both highly recommended.
Read more: Carvoeiro Boardwalk and Algar Seco Caves
We dislike the overcrowded Albufeira, but fortunately, there are numerous other stunning destinations in the Algarve that we highly recommend.