When one thinks of the Algarve region, on Portugal’s south coast, the most popular and well-known resort is most likely Albufeira, at least with visitors from the United Kingdom whose language is spoken widely and whose trade is essential to its economic well-being. Its friendly people, its wonderful beaches and its warm climate even during the winter months means it is never short of visitors from the harsher northern climes.
But those who are familiar with Albufeira will know that it is in fact to distinct towns fused into one resort. The first is resplendent with Iberian charm and character despite its popularity with tourists, whilst the second is more well known for its night life. These are named, respectively, the Old Town and the New Town.
The Old Town
Largely pedestrianised, with quaint cobbled streets lined with restaurants, bars and cafés which sometimes face out onto the sea, customers relax at tables on the wide pavements enjoying local cuisine in the sun, or maybe an “imperial” or even a “caneca” of the local brew. Visitors to the Old Town can travel in by bus before taking a walk down into the historic shopping area.
Although progressively developed in recent years the Old Town retains the village atmosphere which makes it so popular with its visitors. The proximity of the shops to the busy lanes makes for a compelling ambience, and the central square is surrounded by trees endowing it with an authentic and distinctive southern European “feel”.
The New Town
The New Town, by contrast, is where it all happens, especially when the sun goes down. São João district hosts the famous “Strip” and it, alongside Montechoro into which it leads, is something of a totem for young people looking for excitement, cheap drinks and night action.
By day the Strip is better known for its many (and broadly identical) gift shops, where local traders vie to dispense their wares to visiting holidaymakers. It is also awash with restaurants in impressive variety offering local, English and sometimes exotic cuisine.
At the southern end of the Strip the road descends towards the beautiful Praia Oura, overlooked by open-air restaurants and enjoyed by water sports enthusiasts.
No Language Barrier
Most Albufeira traders speak English. And whilst it can be good manners to try to learn at least the odd phrase in Portuguese most of the locals seem in fact to prefer to communicate with visitors in English.
The appeal of the Algarve for British tourists did not develop by accident. The historic friendship between the two countries is evident everywhere around, and its unique fusion of local culture and British influence is what makes it special to so many visitors.