Welcome to Algarve
A busy trading port in ancient times, Albufeira declined into a poor fishing town in the 18th century, having been swamped by tidal waves and burnt out by civil war. But since the 1960s the tide has turned again and this central Algarve enclave is once more awash with prosperity, thanks to a tourist boom.
Albufeira, Portugal's most popular holiday resort, has been described as a stretch of 'holiday-land suburbia', spreading from the old town both east and west along the coast, its sandy coves and golden beaches drawing an assorted crowd from retired couples to wild teens, and plenty of families with young children. Satellite resort developments provide every imaginable type and grade of accommodation.
Everyone finds something to enjoy in this sprawling, low-rise holiday destination, which retains its old world charm in narrow alleyways behind the new hip and happening "Strip". The Strip, to the east of town, runs from the Montechoro Hotel down to the Praia da Oura, lined with dozens of cafés, restaurants and bars that keep pumping from breakfast time to the small hours. On the long stretch of beach below Albufeira's central square, accessed through a tunnel, craggy fishermen mend their nets, unperturbed by the languishing topless sunbathers around them.
While the chief holiday attraction of Albufeira is its 23 or so enchanting beaches, most protected by ochre-tinted cliffs, there are some interesting sightseeing possibilities too, like the new Virtual Archaeological Museum, the Municipal Art Gallery and a small museum showcasing Ming ceramics. Those who venture inland will find a tranquil green countryside to explore, redolent with almond, fig, orange and pine trees, where little villages stand timelessly in the sun.
Portuguese is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood.
Portugal is a member of the European Union and its official currency is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. There are numerous banks, bureaux de change and ATMs available in main cities and tourist destinations. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and automatic currency exchange machines. Banking hours are generally 8.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques.
Local time is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).