In Roman times Albufeira was known as Baltum and then re-named Al-Buhera by the Moorish settlers in the 8th Century. Albufeira, like many Algarve towns, has the remains of a castle dating from Roman times, but most of the castle along with the town, was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. The most visible pointer to the castle remains is the Torre do Relógio (clock tower), which was built on one of the old castle towers, and is normally lit up on festive occasions.
Albufeira was a small fishing village until the arrival of tourism in the 1960s. Substantial developments since then have turned it into a major holiday area and today there are well over 100 Albufeira Hotel and holiday resorts to choose from. Even with all of the developments, some of Albufeira Old Town still retains the essence of the village it once was, with narrow cobbled streets winding up and around the hillsides and typical single storey houses lining the roadside.
If you are looking for lively nightlife and bars and clubs that are open nearly 24 hours a day then you probably you want to go to the Areias de São João area, home to "the strip" (Avenida Dr Francisco Sà Carneiro), or nearby Montechoro both of which are about 2kms from Albufeira old town. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants all to hand. And the beautiful beach, Oura, just a short distance from the bottom end of the strip.
Albufeira old town is more relaxed and has a lovely central square decorated with trees and colourful shrubs surrounded by street cafés and restaurants for a quiet meal or a cool drink. The streets leading off the square are a shoppers delight with clothes shops, leather goods, gift shops, street stalls and of course, all the practical shops for daily necessities.
There are two main beaches in Albufeira itself - "Fishermans beach" (Praia dos Pescadores) is overlooked by a variety of restaurants and there is always the tempting aroma of barbecued fish in the air. Here it's possible to walk straight onto the beach without the need for steps. Adjoining Fishermans beach is Albufeira beach (Praia do Túnel), slightly to the west through the tunnel near the tourist office there are more bars and restaurants here and steps down to the beach.
Albufeira marina is on the western outskirts of the town - you can't really miss it as all the buildings and apartments are painted in blue, pink, orange, green and yellow squares! There are rows of shops along the road behind the marina and some bars and restaurants along the marina itself. It is a brilliant place to spend an afternoon, have a drink or a meal, or just sit in the sun and watch the boats and people strolling by. There are also some interesting dolphin statues raised on poles along the marina walkway and each has been individually decorated with a different design.
The marina is the starting point for many of the most popular things to do in Albufeira, such as boat trips, fishing trips and diving excursions. Just around the corner from the marina is the fishing port where you can see the fishermen going about their daily business and also get a lovely view of Albufeira across the bay.
Albufeira is always bustling in the summer months, but it is a lovely place to wander around in the autumn and winter when the crowds have disappeared. Contrary to popular belief - the Algarve doesn't close down - the bars and restaurants are open, as are the shops! So for those of you who find July and August too hot and too busy - try the quieter pace of life in the Algarve during the out of season months - the sun still shines and Albufeira is still there to welcome you!