20 Things To Do In Portimão

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Portimão is both a port and a resort on the Algarve in Portugal, one of many places that tourists can select as a base. Its attractions are certain to keep visitors busy and there are plenty of visitors. The permanent population of Portimão is little over 50,000, but that number swells significantly during the weeks of the high season.

While the beach and sea are major attractions, there is more to Portimão than that. It has a significant history and the old quarter is certainly worth exploring. Add the fine cuisine and wine and you’ll realise why Portimão is attractive to holidaymakers. Many arrive at Faro, the Algarve’s international airport which is less than an hour to the east. Indeed, the Algarve is a fairly compact region meaning that is it easy to reach other parts of this popular holiday region on day trips.

The climate is good enough to attract visitors throughout most of the year, especially from Northern Europe, where winters can be both cold and depressing. In the years before mass tourism became the norm, Portimão’s economy depended on fishing and shipbuilding. The Portuguese traditionally were seafarers with explorers heading out to discover faraway lands during the “Age of Discovery”. Some tours allow visitors to learn about the past but also to enjoy the Algarve as it is today. Read on and you will get a few ideas of things to do in Portimão and the surrounding areas.

Portimao, Portugal

Top Tours

Portimao: 3.5 Hour Food and Historical Center Tour
Looking for things to do in Portimao? Here’s our top 20 list.

20 Things To Do In Portimao

1- Take To The Seas On A Pirate Ship

Portimao: Pirate Ship Cave Cruise
Pirate Boat Ship top things to do in Portimao.

Portugal’s explorers came across plenty of pirates, especially those explorers who were returning with riches from South America.

You won’t find any confronting you here and you will enjoy being on board a pirate ship for a few hours.

You are certain to like landmarks such as the lighthouse of Alfanzina and the Benagil Cave.

You can disembark into a small boat to explore the cave.

Swimming is possible and if you like, you can walk the plank, as pirates used to do, before dropping into the clear warm waters.

Dolphins and other marine life live along this coastline so keep your eyes open.

Recommended tour: Portimao: Pirate Ship Cave Cruise

2- See The Benagil Caves At Sunset

Portimao: Sunset Cruise to Benagil Cave
Taking a boat trip out to the Benagil Beach Caves is one of the top things to do from Portimao, Portugal.

The Benagil Caves are one of the highlights on the Algarve Coast and a great destination for a sunset cruise leaving from San Francisco de Portimão Dock.

The whole setting ensures that you will take plenty of photographs as the sun goes down.

Alfanzina Lighthouse close to Benagil Beach is a major manmade landmark that you are certain to want to capture through your lens.

In the months of summer, it is still warm enough to take a swim and there is plenty of time to do that.

All in all, a magical evening before you head back to Portimão.

Recommended tour: Portimao: Sunset Cruise to Benagil Cave

3- Choose From Several Fishing Options

If you have spent just a single night in a restaurant in Portimão, it will come as no surprise to you that the seas are full of fish.

Even if you have little experience of fishing, you might like to head out to catch fish for yourself.

There is local help for you to do it, whether you decide to anchor 5 kilometres (3 miles) offshore and cast a line or whether you prefer to go bottom fishing along one of the local reefs.

Out at sea, the common species include red snapper, seabass, bream and grouper, most of which appear on those restaurant menus.

Along the reefs there will be snapper, mackerel and much more.

A local skipper will advise you on the best locations so follow local advice and choose your tour.

Recommended tour:

4- See Marine Life In The Atlantic

The Algarve Coast is rich in marine life, including plenty that are not targets for fishermen.

You have an excellent chance to see pods of dolphins but there are even bigger things swimming in these waters, orcas and whales.

Orcas, commonly called killer whales are actually a species of dolphin but they are much bigger.

A guided trip out to see with an experienced skipper and biologist is great fun and you will learn much more about local marine life and its habits.

Have your camera ready because dolphins regularly leap out of the water and you may just get a fabulous shot if you are quick.

Recommended tour: Portimao: Dolphin Watching with Marine Biologist 1.5 Hours

5- Cruise The Arade River To Silves Medieval Town

Portimao: Silves & Arade River History Tour on a Solar Boat
Visiting Silves is one of the things to do in Portimao.

You can go from the modern to the past by cruising along the Arade River from Portimão to the mediaeval city of Silves.

The cathedral, the Moorish castle and the museum are three landmarks in Silves while the traditional cuisine is a joy as well.

The cruise uses a solar panelled boat while is clean and silent.

Silves was the Islamic capital of the Algarve from the 8th to the 13th century with the river providing the link to the sea.

Trade was important in those days with many peoples using that link over the centuries including the Phoenicians and Romans, Vikings and Moors.

There was trade in minerals, cork and wood, a range of fruits, fish and salt.

This is a lovely contrast from days on the beach and swimming in the sea.

Recommended tour: Portimao: Silves & Arade River History Tour on a Solar Boat

6- Tour Portimão in a VW

portimao cathedral and blue sky
Admiring amazing architecture, such as the Portimao Cathedral’s, is one of the top things to do in Portimao.

A foodie tour in Portimão on foot and in a classic Volkswagen which includes visiting a few eateries is a great way to spend a half day, with a choice of morning or afternoon.

Either way, the route starts down the riverside and it’s the historical part of the resort.

You are certain to enjoy the architecture, the streets and squares.

The regular stops allow you to try a number of different tapas, accompanied with local wine (perhaps afternoon is best?

The tour ends with your being served a regional sweet with tea or coffee and a brandy.

Recommended tour: Portimao: 3.5-Hour Food and Historical Center Tour

7- Have Some Fun As You Walk

You can download self-guided app in English or German to explore Portimão independently.

You will then play a game, answering clues to get the next location.

Time is no issue unless you decide to compete against friends to see who can complete the course in the shortest time.

You start in the heart of the city and the route includes most of Portimão’s major landmarks.

Once you have the app, you can use it for however long you wish.

Recommended tour: Portimao: CoupleAdventure: fun game,challenges and city walk

8- Eat Local Fish At A BBQ

The range of fresh fish at the local market is quite spectacular and it is always fresh.

Stalls sell the ‘pescado do dia’ (fish of the day) five days a week and you will enjoy talking to a vendor who will be more than happy to discuss the fish with you.

In the Algarve, a fish BBQ is a favourite with locals and is an experience that visitors will enjoy as well.

A local will tell you how best to grill particular fish and tell you the best appetisers to accompany the meal, as well as the best seasonal produce and local wine.

Recommended tour: Algarvian Style Fish BBQ Class with Market Tour

9- Savour Algarve’s Cuisine

Mediterranean cuisine is world famous for its healthy content.

Although Portugal has no Mediterranean coastline, the Iberian Peninsula is generally accepted as part of the Med from the point of view of what is produces.

The latitude of the Algarve means that the range of fruit that is produced can be broadly described as exotic while olive oil is central to the dishes that are presented at all restaurants.

In the case of Portugal, its coastline is rich is fish with grilled sardines offered as anything from a snack to a main course.

There are places where you can book to go for a set meal that offers the best of Algarve cuisine with local wines paired with different dishes.

The cuisine is seasonal; none of the processed supermarket offerings that are so common elsewhere will be found here.

Recommended tour: Homemade Algarvian with a twist gourmet experience

10- Enjoy An Evening Of Culture With Traditional Fado Music

Fado nights with Algarvian tapas tasting
Watching a Fado performance is one of the enjoyable things to do in Portimao at night.

Fado is an important Portuguese tradition with many of its songs talking about the history and culture of the nation.

A popular evening event is a night of fado music with traditional local cuisine and wine as you watch and listen.

Typically, the food you will be offered will include fresh breads, olive oil, fish such as crab, prawn and sardine, and meat dishes, often pork.

Desserts are traditional as well, something like Mini Dom Rodrigo (egg, cinnamon and almond), a definite local favourite.

There will be wine of course from the wide range produced locally, making it a great evening all round.

Recommended tour: Fado nights with Algarvian tapas tasting

11- Enjoy A Romantic Sunset Picnic

There are many fine restaurants in Portimão but if you want a different experience in dining, you can book a tour where you can head to the beach at sunset for a picnic which will always be as filling as sitting down for a three-course meal at a restaurant.

The food will always be local, traditional and seasonal with vegetarian or vegan alternatives.

You can make this a romantic night for two or perhaps book as a family after different members have been “doing their own thing” during the day.

Recommended tour: Portimao Private Romantic Picnic at Sunset

12- Enjoy A Dance Show With Tapas and Wine

If you are interested in evening entertainment, especially if it includes food and drink, you may like to consider an Arabian night.

Belly dancing is an art, and if you are adventurous, you may be asked to give it a try.

There will be a range of traditional tapas to eat and wine to drink.

The wine is likely to give you courage.

You can expect some lovely dishes such as Hummus which is made with chick peas, adding garlic, lemon and olive oil.

Pitta bread, celery or carrot are great with this dip.

Cous Cous, Shakshuka Tomato dip, soup, kebabs and aubergine provide a variety of flavours and there will be a rice-based dessert as well.

Recommended tour: Portimao: Arabian Night Dance Show with Tapas and Wine

13- Savour Algarve Wine

Algarve Wine Tour of Two Wine Estates
Tasting wine and tapas is one of the top things to do in Portimao Portugal.

The climate of the Algarve is perfect for growing grapes, and hence producing lovely wines.

The mountains shelter the Algarve from the winds from the north, another factor benefitting wine production.

Portimão is one of 4 regions within the Algarve where wine is produced and you are welcome to take a variety of tours to vineyards, either concentrating purely on wine for the day or combining wine, and tasting of course, with learning more about the area, its beautiful landscapes and the tradition and culture of the locals.

The wine industry in the Algarve is growing all the time and there are plenty of holidaymakers only too happy to try out the different varieties.

There are several varieties with more red wine than white.

Taking a tour where you have no driving to do has its obvious advantages.

Recommended tours:

14- Get A Bird’s-Eye View While Sky Diving

Algarve: Tandem Skydiving Adventure 15,000 to 10,000 Feet
Going skydiving is one of the fun things to do in Portimao.

Have you ever thought of parachuting out of a plane? Perhaps not but one great holiday experience is to skydive with an experienced partner who will ensure that all you have to do is to enjoy yourself.

No experience required! You will jump out at anything between 10,000 and 15,000 feet in good weather (otherwise skydiving will be cancelled).

The free fall section lasts for just over a minute though you may think it is longer.

You can get a video of your performance if you wish, and certainly photos, something you can show family and friends back home.

Recommended tour: Algarve: Tandem Skydiving Adventure 15,000 to 10,000 Feet

15- Take A Surfing Lesson

This coastline is great for surfing if you are a beginner.

At Galé Beach you can book in and get your wetsuit and surfboard.

Before you actually try surfing, your instructor will give a short safety briefing.

After that, you will be taught how to get out into the sea, the first skill to master.

It is then that you will come ashore and learn how to balance on your board before trying to use what you have learnt to then ride the waves.

It may take a little while to get going but hopefully this initial lesson will get you interested in surfing, and determined to persevere.

16- Treat The Kids To Aqualand

On a hot day, what better way for you to cool down that to buy tickets for Aqualand Algarve that you will find between Albufeira and Portimão, Aqualand Algarve offers water fun to keep you busy all day.

There is something for all ages.

The “Children’s Paradis” area has mini slides and some options that will challenge the adventurous.

Grown ups looking for an adrenaline rush should go to “Banzai” where there is a vertical drop of 23 metres (75 feet).

Surf Beach wave pool is another option while there are a number of impressive slides.

If you just want to swim while others enjoy a range of activities, head to the semi-Olympic swimming pool.

Definitely a great day out, especially if you have kids.

Recommended tour: Algarve: Aqualand Entrance Ticket

17- Kayak On Calm Waters

Kayaking on the calm waters off the coast is great fun.

Even if you have never sat in a kayak before, you will enjoy the experience and it is perfectly safe.

Before you set out, you will get instructions on safety and at no stage will you feel without support.

The whole setting is beautiful; cliffs, caves and crystal-clear water.

You will be able to get into a cave to explore, seeing marvellous rock formations both within a cave and outside.

Even on a hot day, the gentle breeze in your face will mean you are comfortable as you make your way around.

Recommended tour: Praia do Vau -Kayak Cave and Cliff Tour – Alvor and Portimao

18- Play A Championship Golf Course

The Algarve has become an extremely popular destination for golf tours and it has the added advantage of a climate which ensures the courses are in good condition all year around.

That is in sharp contrast to countries where winters mean cold weather, rain and even snow and ice.

Several courses in the Algarve have hosted the Portuguese Open so you can challenge yourself on championship courses.

Penina is the closest championship venue to Portimão, just a few minutes away.

Quinta do Lago, Vilamoura and Vale do Lobo are among the most popular places to play in the Algarve and each is around an hour east by road.

You will need to book in advance in order to get a tee-time at any of them.

19- Spend A Day In Lagos

Nearby Lagos is the former capital of the Algarve and played an important role in the “Age of Discovery” when Portuguese explorers set out to sail to far away places.

It was home to “Henry the Navigator”, a famous name from those times.

You can see the old city walls, and the shipyard where many of the ships that sailed the world were built.

It was actually the heart of the slave trade and the huge Nigerian city took its name.

In high season, the population of just over 20,000 swells dramatically and you will find plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants as you spend a day of discovery for yourself.

20- Head To Portimão Market

Traditional towns and villages in Portugal inevitably have a market selling whatever the local region produces.

In the case of Portimão, that includes several species of fish from the Atlantic, and a wonderful range of fruit and vegetables.

Even if you are on holiday with no intention of catering for yourself, you will surely be tempted to buy whichever seasonal fruit is there? The fish market is very popular with the catch selling quickly.

There is a meat section while it is the fruit and vegetable section that provides the real splash of colour.

You will find honey, local cheeses, sweets and desserts as well.

Maybe you will decide to have a picnic once you see what is on offer?

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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.