Portugal City Travel Guide: Portimão & Ferragudo
Portimão, Praia da Rocha & Ferragudo
Portimão is the largest and busiest town in the Algarve, an important fishing port, sardine canning centre and retail hub. Portimão is also the center for the construction industry on the Algarve coast and the town attracts a growing number of ex-pats stocking up on supplies for their holiday villas and retirement properties.
Portimão is the major stopping off point for the popular beach of Praia da Rocha - the Algarve's trail-blazing resort which has been welcoming tourists since the 1930's.
Across the River Arade lies the small holiday village of Ferragudo with its Castel de São João do Arade and its fine beaches stretching south and east.
Portimão is definitely worth a visit if you fancy a break from sun-worship on the beaches. Visitors can enjoy the atmospheric sardine cafes by the harbour, the town's bustling markets and views of the modern suspension bridge across the River Arade.
There are attractive riverfront gardens with shady trees and cafes at Largo do Duque, Praça Visconde de Bivar and Praça Manuel Teixeira Gomes.
There are boat trips from the harbour up the Arade to Silves as well as along the coast in a wooden pirate ship to a number of sea caves. Fishing expeditions on large cruisers go in search of the area's blue sharks and the speedy mako shark. Dolphin-watching trips have also become popular from the the beach at Praia da Rocha.
Rua do Comévio and Rua Vasco da Gama are Portimão's main shopping streets along with the more trendy Rua Santa Isabel. Continente Shopping Centre, Portimão Retail Centre and Aqua Portimão Shopping Centre are three large shopping centres located on Portimão's outskirts.
Much of historic Portimão was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755 but the Igreja Matriz was rebuilt and the impressive Gothic portico still survives. Other churches in Portimão include the Capela de São José in Rua Dr. José Falcão and the Old Jesuit College in Praça da República.
The impressive Museu de Portimão is at Antiga Fábrica Feu, Rua D. Carlos I and is housed in a converted 19th/20th century sardine and mackerel canning factory. Recently expanded and modernized the Museu de Portimão has exhibits of the area's archaeology and an interactive recreation of the production lines and life in the cannery during its heyday using video and sound effects. Recommended.
Casa - Museu Manuel Teixeira Gomes on Rua Júdice Biker is the former home of Teixeira Gomes (1860-1941) a writer and businessman who was president of Portugal from 1923-25. The museum also plays host to temporary exhibitions of photography and painting by local artists as well as performances of drama and music.
There are a number of golf courses close to Portimão and Lagos Zoo is also nearby. Aqualand (The Big One): is a water park at Alcantarilha near Albufeira, which is open from the end of May to middle of September. (Tel: 0282 320 230). Slide and Splash (Tel: 0282 340 800) is another water park near Lagoa, 15 minutes by car from Portimão close to the village of Estombar. Slide and Splash was built in the 1980s and claims to be one of the biggest water parks in Europe. Lots of fun for the children on the various slides to suit all ages. Exit route 125 at Exit A22 Lagoa-Sul.
Portimão celebrates its fishing heritage with the Portimão Sardine Festival in the second week of August: fireworks, live music and lots of sardines and wine!
A pleasant side trip from Portimão is to the small coastal village of Alvor, 8km to the west. Heading north are the ruins of a Roman villa at Vila Abicada and further north a pre-historic tumulus at Alcalar. Excavations from both these sites are in the Museu Regional in Lagos.
Praia da Rocha is one of the Algarve's most beautiful beaches backed by red cliffs with the small, 16th century, now ruined, Fortaleza da Santa Catarina on top. The beach has rock formations in the water. Praia da Rocha has been heavily developed and is packed with hotels, restaurants, clubs, cafes and a casino in the five-star Hotel Algarve on the Avenida Tomás Cabreira.
The main drag is Avenida Tomás Cabreira with concrete steps descending to the beach below. Interestingly the sand on the beach was brought from Portimão when the harbour was dredged. There are great views from the cafe tables set out in the old fort.
The first hotel built in Praia da Rocha, the elegant and vaguely oriental Bela Vista, converted from an early 20th century mansion, still stands among the modern towers and is definitely recommended for a luxurious stay with wonderful sea views and a noted restaurant.
Ferragudo is on the opposite side of the River Arade estuary from Portimão and has a quieter feel. Narrow, cobbled streets radiate out from the main square Praça Rainha D. Leonor and the Igreja da Nossa Senhora. The Castelo de São João de Arade stands on a headland right on the sands of the Praia Frande and was built in the 17th century to protect the estuary from attack along with the Forte de Santa Catarina on the opposite shore of the estuary.
The building was restored by the poet Coelho de Carvalho and remains in private ownership. A pleasant, sign-posted walk continues south to Praia do Molhe, the lighthouse (farol) at Ponta do Altar, Praia dos Caneiros and the hamlet of Siesmarias. The round trip which is indicated by colored arrows painted on walls is about 9km.
Avenida Tomás Cabreira, Praia da Rocha (Tel: 282 419 132)
Portimão Tourist Information Office, Tempo (Portimão Theatre), Largo 1º Dezembro.
Tel: 282 430 165
The British Consulate in Portimão is located at Edifício a Fábrica, Avenida Guanaré, Portimão 8500-000 Algarve, Portugal Tel: 808 20 35 37
Getting to Portimão
Portimão is 62km west of Faro and 18km east of Lagos. There are abundant scheduled, charter, budget and no-frills flights to Faro Airport from all over Europe. Portugalia and TAP Fly from both Porto (via Lisbon) and Lisbon.
There are local trains from Faro Station (tel. 289 801 726) to Albufeira (30 mins), Ferragudo (78 mins), Portimão (81mins), Lagos (105 mins), Loule (20 mins), Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio. From Portimão change at Tunes (via Silves) for trains to Lisbon.
From Faro and the west, take Route N125. From Spain, get onto N125 going west.
There are local buses from Faro to Albufeira, Lagos, Olhao, Portimão and Vila Real de Santo Antonio (via Tavira). EVA bus company runs a service to Sevilla in Spain via Huelva. The bus leaves Lagos at 6.30am and arrives in Portimão at 7am. There are regular Vai e Vem buses from Portimão railway station on the outskirts of town to the town center. Regular Vai e Vem buses also make the short journey to Praia da Rocha.
Buses to Lisbon take around 3 hours, 45 minutes from Portimão, which is also connected by Frota Azul buses to Albufeira, Lagos and Silves Buses also run to Cabo São Vicente. For the quiet coastal resort of Salema change at Lagos.
From Faro Airport
There are trains from the airport to Lagos and Vila Real de Santo Antonio on the Spanish border. There are buses to various destinations from the airport and it is 20 minutes to Faro. A taxi should be under 12 Euro to Faro, 80+ Euro to Lagos and 30+ Euro to Tavira. Please note these prices are estimates.
There is a plethora of accommodation options on the beach at Praia da Rocha including hotels, guest houses and apartment complexes: Choose from the following places: Areais da Rocha, Hotel Santa Catarina Algarve, Apartmentos Jardin da Rocha and the very-reasonably priced Hotel Avenida Praia.
Back in Portimão try the Hotel Flamingo, the Residencial Santa Isabel and the 3-star Hotel Globo. Across the Arade River in Ferragudo are the recommended One2Seven Apartments, Agua Hotels Riverside and the upmarket Casa Rei das Praias.
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Praia da Rocha's main drag Avenida Tomás Cabreira is lined with restaurants and eateries to suit all tastes and budgets with seafood and traditional Portuguese restaurants competing with Italian-style pizzerias, Chinese and Indian restaurants and British and Irish pubs offering fish and chips.
Discoteca Katedral is the resort's main nightspot.
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Cream Caffe, Avenida Tomás Cabreira, Tel: 309 823 520
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
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