Ships have to sail into the river mouth to dock. You'll see the massive sandstone cliffs and wind-sculpted rock formations of the Algarve beaches when you approach. The recently upgraded cruise facilities make that all ships now can dock alongside the wharf, with an up to date terminal building, including Duty Free Shop, Tourist Information Office.
The terminal also offers tenders’ services for the biggest cruise vessels anchored alongside the Port of Portimão.
Minibuses run between the port and the main tourist sites every 15 minutes. As the quay is about 1,5 km from the town center, it also makes for a pleasant walk along the boulevard with many cafes towards the town center.
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Between 1930 and 1950 a group english writers and intellectuals settled in Praia da Rocha, since then the little town developed itself to one of the largest and most famous holiday resorts of Portugal. The old bridge crossing the Arade river was built with iron left over from the Eiffel Tower (1900).
This lively fishing port on Portugal's sunny southern coast, the Algarve, is good for shopping – leather goods, handmade copper items, and beautiful painted porcelain are treasured finds. Or simply sit in the sun of one of Portimao's outdoor cafes and enjoy an excellent lunch of fresh sardines (a local specialty) grilled quayside, washed down with superb local red wine.
Located at the mouth of the River Arade it provides a natural harbor and has been associated with many famous smugglers and pirates in the past. Its origins date back to a Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian trading port.
The Arade provides the sea access to the ancient city of Silves which was the capital of the Algarve during the Moorish occupation. It was called Porcimunt during this period but was recognized as a town in 1504 and renamed Vila Nova de Portimao and ruled by the Castelo Branco family until the seventeenth century.
The town church of Our Lady of Conception sits on a hilltop and dates from 1476 but underwent many changes from 1717 onwards. It has three naves and an impressive altar with carved and gilded baroque decoration.
The municipal museum is housed in an old sardine canning factory where different art, history and general culture exhibitions are held on a regular basis.
A new marina has just been built adjoining the popular tourist area of Praia da Rocha and with this has come a plethora of new bars and restaurants to while away the hours watching the yachts and what seems like the rest of the world go by.
Best thing to do in Portimao, is just wander around in the old center, which is relatively unspoilt, with two-storey houses with wrought-iron balconies and ornate stonework around the windows and doors.
The tourist office is located in the center of town at a unique square with a tiled fountain and all trees wrapped in colorful embroidery: A "Kodak" moment.
When you walk into town from the ship there is a nice promenade along the water. On the Promenade there are several tour vendors that sell all kinds of tours (boats and otherwise). Many kayak tours, in general 2.5 hours, you're able to kayak under arches and into caves and sinkholes and of course go for a swim.
Also on offer are boat tours of caves, including Benagil. Scuba diving is also on offer.
You also can take a taxi to Praia do Vau (~10min from the terminal) as it is possible to spend the whole day enjoying that beach (it has a couple of restaurants which would probably be good for grilled sardines and a glass of wine or a Sagres beer) and walking west along the cliffs and exploring the small beaches and caves there. There are easy, safe pathways along most of the cliffs, so it is really easy to explore on your own without a map even.
Public transport in Portimao.
The castle, archaeological museum and Cruz the Portugal in Silves
(13 km land inward)
Monchique, The highest situated village in the Algarve.
Cabo São Vicente - The most southwesterly point of mainland Europe.
Omega Parque - on the road to Monchique - Zoo, holding only threatened species.
It pays to compare your cruise line shore excursions here
Praia da Rocha - next to Portimão - presents itself as a cosmopolitan beach resort where you can join a wide range of activities, dine in one of the many excellent national and international restaurants and afterward enjoy the vibrant nightlife for which the Algarve is famous.
The main shopping streets are Rua Comerciale and Rua Vasco da Gama (hand-knitted sweaters, local hand-painted porcelain and pottery).
Look for the colorful tiles: the azulejos, which you can buy in several shops.
Around the harbor there are outdoor fish restaurants.
It would be considered sacrilegious to talk about the gastronomy of Portimão without mentioning the fat and tasty sardine first, charcoal-grilled, seasoned with coarse sea-salt, eaten from a slice of bread and washed down with a measure of red wine. Its shrine and gurus are to be found in the restaurants underneath the iron bridge across the Arade River. It is not only the grilled sardine that rules cookery in Portimão, but as a rule, one looks firstly what the sea has to offer.
Emergency telephone nr: 112.
For internet cafés check with the tourist office at Largo 1 de Dezembro.
In the Algarve:
Banks are usually open from 0830 to 1500, but are closed at weekends and on public holidays. While that might be part of the charm of Algarve tourism that has not yet been lost, you nevertheless don't want to get caught out without enough cash!
Shops mainly operate from 0900 to 1300, then 1500 to 1900, with no afternoon opening on Saturday and many don't open at all for business on Sundays - not even to exploit the income offered by Algarve tourism!
Algarve tourists who are used to longer trading hours will be relieved to learn that shopping centers are more attuned to the needs of disorganized holiday-makers and can often be found open until 2200 hrs.
Holidays in Portugal
A local holiday will be held on the day of the local saint.
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