Portimao - a nice place to drop anchor for awhile
"Portimao is a busy commercial center"
Our ship sailed into Portimao but I really did not spend any time here. I was quickly put onto a tour bus that departed for Lagos, Sagres and Cape St. Vincent. But I did get a short while to savor the atmosphere of this quaint and scenic town.
Portimao is not really a resort town but a busy Portuguese city that bustles with life. Here is the real Algarve and it seems barely aware of the thousands of tourists who visit nearby Praia da Rocha and Alvor.
It is a perfect place if you want to stay in a bustling fishing port rather than a modern hotel perched right on the beach at Praia da Rocha. Since the 1930s, Praia da Rocha, 2 miles (3.3km) away, has snared most of the sun-loving tourist traffic. However, many tourists still flock to Portimao in the summer. This town, with some 35,000 inhabitants, is essentially commercially orientated and was the main shopping town of the whole region during the 1970s and 1980s.
The pedestrianised town center combines the fashionable with the slightly tatty, but is a great place to shop for a truly unique present.
During the period of Islamic rule the place was named Porcimunt. Then in 1504 it was recognized as a town and granted the name “Vila Nova de Portimao” and became part of the possessions of the "Castelo Branco" family. Much later it was renamed to Portimao and was extensively developed in the 19th century to become one of the most important centers of sardine fishing and its attendant canning industry. This prospered into the 1980s when a recession drove most of the remaining factories out of business.
The aroma of the noble Portuguese sardine still permeates every street. Portimao still is the leading fish-canning center in the Algarve. For a change of pace, this town, on an arm of the Arcade River, makes a good stopover for its fine dining. Then stroll through its gardens and its shops (they are noted for their pottery), drink wine in the cafes, and roam down to the wharfs to see sardines roasting on braziers. It really is the routine activity of the Algarvians that gives the town its charm.
After dark the riverside parks and squares take on a distinctly southern European atmosphere as families come out to stroll, meet friends and drink coffee in the many open air cafes. This is pavement cafe culture at its best and you cannot fail to feel relaxed by the atmosphere. In fact the greatest risk is that you get to like it so much that you don't want to go home.
How do I describe to you the Portimao I but briefly saw in this southern part of Portugal known as the Algarve? Well, first and foremost there is the blue, clear sea and its gently lapping waves. Then there are the fine-grained golden sand beaches framed by the very scenic eroded headlands of colorful cliffs and rocks. Also, at Portimao, there is the cosmopolitan atmosphere of a thriving international tourism destination. And even then I haven’t done this region justice. This is a prime destination for European holidays in the sun. But I think that Portimao and its municipality have more to offer you than that. They have a proud and rich heritage of historical monuments. And they have the eternal natural beauty of Ria de Alvor which is one of the most important humid wetland areas in the south of Portugal. Portimao has the charm of cultivated fields with its slopes covered with pine trees and wild flowers. It provides the allure of walking up into the hills and looking down on the world from a new perspective.