Twice I visited Albufeira in the Algarve and I still don’t really like this popular destination in the south of Portugal. The first time I was just eighteen years old and therefore the perfect target group for The Strip of Albufeira in the new part of the city. In my thirties with a baby, I was the perfect visitor to Albufeira Old Town. But the town couldn’t charm me during my second visit as well. Although I had two lovely holidays in Portugal, this wasn’t because I enjoyed Albufeira that much. Both the old and new Albufeira isn’t worth all the touristic attention it gets in our opinion. Why do we feel that way? We will tell you in this blog why we wouldn’t recommend Albufeira when visiting the south of Portugal. And of course, we will also 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 has two completely different faces: Albufeira Old Town and Albufeira The Strip (or New Town). As you might expect from an old town, this is the older part of Albufeira. It is the coastal town with narrow streets, churches, squares and white houses you might have seen in the brochures. It is the part of the town with the touristic centre with its souvenir shops, restaurants and bars. It is beautifully located directly on expansive sandy beaches, so you can walk from the cobbled streets to the ocean in no time.
The new part of Albufeira is much different and is located quite far from the Old Town. We wouldn’t recommend you to take a stroll to get there from the Old Town. You rather need to take the bus, taxi or car. The New Town centres around Praia da Oura and especially The Strip. It doesn’t have any charming streets, but many amenities. There are large resorts, trendy restaurants and above all: a lot of clubs, bars and discotheques on The Strip. The new town also has a nice sandy beach – the Praia da Oura – where many holidaymakers come to sit out their hangovers.
The upsides of Albufeira
The large sandy beaches
Albufeira is one of the most popular destinations in the Algarve. Some of the Algarve’s largest sandy beaches are at Albufeira, which is reason enough to be a major attraction for travellers. Right next to Albufeira Old Town are two great beaches: the vast Praia dos Alemães and next to it the Praia dos Pescadores. The Praia dos Pescadores is also called the Praia do Túnel, as you can get there from the historic center through a tunnel.
A boulevard runs along the beaches with a number of viewpoints with great views of the beaches. If you don’t feel like climbing up from the beach to those boulevards, you don’t even have to climb the stairs. At one end, you’ll find the Elevador do Peneco, a concrete elevator with a viewing platform. And on the other side, there is an escalator.
In the new part around The Strip you also have beautiful beaches. The most-visited is the Praia da Ouro, which is also a large and wide sandy beach. The beach is divided into two parts by beautiful rocks, in which the sea has carved an arc. At the very eastern end of the beach it is strewn with stones and pebbles. Visitors have built towers from it, which is a beautiful sight especially during the sunset.
The old center and The Strip
Besides the sandy beaches, the photogenic old center of the city attracts many visitors. It is only a tiny part of Albufeira, but it is the most beautiful part for sure. The streets are paved with cobblestones, cats are lazing on benches and bushes with flowers grow against the white or brightly colored houses. It’s a photogenic sight. There are not really any important sights, although the old bell tower – Torre do Relógio – and the church Igreja Matriz stand out.
The new part of Albufeira mainly revolves around The Strip. Here you will find the highest concentration of bars and discotheques in the entire Algarve. If you want to combine beach and nightlife, this is the place to be.
The downsides of Albufeira
Though this might sound like Albufeira is a Portuguese gem, we are definitely not convinced of the appeal that Albufeira seems to have for many travellers. It is mainly a very touristy town, extremely focused on visitors. We don’t always mind touristy places, as it often means that it is just a really beautiful place. But here it seems to predominate and the city doesn’t feel very authentic and atmospheric.
More beautiful beaches in the Algarve
We don’t think the sandy beaches are enough reason to travel to Albufeira. The Algarve probably has the most beautiful beaches in Europe, but not just in Albufeira. You’ll find them all along the coast. From large and extensive beaches such as in Albufeira to tiny bays and secluded beaches, the southern coast of Portugal has beautiful beaches everywhere along its shore. They are a lot more pleasant and less touristy than the Albufeira beaches.
The tourist focused nightlife
The nightlife and restaurants of Albufeira cannot charm us either. The old town is full of mediocre tourist-oriented restaurants. But it is especially the new part where there is little charm to be found. The Strip is made up of big signs from discotheques and bars. Even when I was eighteen and definitely liked nightlife, I didn’t like The Strip that much. We really enjoyed some of the bars with live music, but unfortunately The Strip mainly has tourist focused spots full of loud visitors and a lot of bachelor parties. In the hustle and bustle of The Strip, we loved Al-Gharb Coffee Roasters, a delicious gem for breakfast, brunch, lunch and, above all, really good coffee. The peaceful garden is an oasis in the new Albufeira.
Alternatives to Albufeira: the most beautiful places in the Algarve
Even though we wouldn’t recommend Albufeira, we absolutely love the Algarve. We travelled around this part of Portugal for over a month to fully the best places in the Algarve. After spending a month exploring this area, we can for sure tell you what are the best places to visit. There are still enough places in the Algarve that have retained their charm, even though this area is extremely popular with travellers.
The charming city of Lagos
Our favorite city in southern Portugal is Lagos, where we stayed for about a week. It is a nice, old town with monumental city walls, lots of colorful street art and a maze of picturesque streets. You can enjoy many restaurants, ranging from hip coffee shops to great local spots and everything in between. Lagos is wedged between the most beautiful rocky coasts of the Algarve, of which the Ponte da Piedade in Lagos is one of the best known. From Lagos, you can also easily visit many of the most beautiful beaches in the area and enjoy day hikes through the impressive Algarve nature.
If you prefer a smaller village than the big and popular town Lagos, you might enjoy Ferragudo just as much as we did. It is often called the most beautiful village of the Algarve and we totally agree. Although it is tiny, it is full of photogenic streets, sandy beaches and restaurants. We stayed here for five days during our campervan trip through Portugal and enjoyed the cosy village life and the 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 beautiful bays and beaches of the Algarve.
Read more: our travel guide for visiting Ferragudo.
Beach town Carvoeiro
Another picturesque village in the Algarve is the small beach town Carvoeiro. It is built steeply against the rocky coast and offers phenomenal views over the sea. Although the village itself is tiny, it is nestled between the most beautiful rocky cliffs and the best beaches in the Algarve. Highly recommended is the Carvoeiro Boardwalk, a short 600m walk via boardwalks along those cliffs and to the impressive Algar Seco Caves. Carvoeiro is also the end or starting point of two longer hiking trails in the Algarve: the Trail of Headlands and Seven Hanging Valleys Trail which we both highly recommend.
We are not big fans of the overly crowded Albufeira, but luckily there are plenty of other beautiful destinations in the Algarve that we can highly recommend to you.