Albufeira is possibly the most well-known and popular resort on the Portuguese Algarve, at least amongst visitors from the United Kingdom whose language is widely spoken on the resort and whose trade is crucial to its continued relative prosperity. Its combination of friendly people, beautiful beaches and splendid weather even during the winter months ensures that it is never short of tourists and sun-seekers from the harsher climes due north.
But those who know Albufeira will be aware that it is effectively two resorts rolled into one. The first exudes historic Iberian character in spite of its popularity as a tourist resort, whilst the second is famed for its nightlife. These are the Old Town and the New Town.
Albufeira Old Town
The Old Town in Albufeira is largely pedestrianised, with pretty cobbled streets lined with restaurants, cafés and bars. Some of them even face out onto the sea, and customers sit at tables on the wide pavements out in the sun enjoying local cuisine, or maybe a “caneca” or two of the local brew. It is the perfect holiday resort for families, and visitors to the Old Town can arrive by bus before taking a walk down into the heart of the community.
Although it has been developed significantly in recent years the Old Town retains the village atmosphere which makes it so popular with its loyal visitors. The closeness of the shops to the busy lanes creates real ambience, and the central square is surrounded by trees and vegetation lending it a distinctive and authentic southern European feel.
Albufeira New Town
By contrast the New Town is where it all happens, especially at night time. The district of São João boasts the famous “Strip” and it, along with Montechoro into which it eventually leads, is something of a magnet for young people looking for excitement, cheap beer and nightlife.
During the day the Strip is better known for its many gift shops, where local traders compete to sell their (often very similar) wares to visiting tourists. It is also resplendent with restaurants offering both local and in some cases ethnic cuisine.
At the lower end of the Strip the road descends down into Oura, with its beautiful beach overlooked by open-air eateries and enjoyed by enthusiasts of boating and water sports.
Language No Barrier
Unlike when one heads further inland, most Albufeira traders speak at least some English. Indeed whilst it is always good manners to try to learn at least the odd phrase in the native tongue, many of the locals seem to prefer to communicate with visitors in English than to struggle with their usually bad grasp of Portuguese. It is not even entirely unknown for a holidaymaker to walk into a bar where no Portuguese is spoken!
The popularity of the Algarve for English and other tourists did not develop by accident. The historic friendship between the Brits and the Portuguese is everywhere evident, and the special blend of local culture and British influence is what makes it uniquely attractive to so many.