7 unique things to do in Albufeira

by Andrea Gambaro  |  Published June 5, 2018

Of the things to do in Portugal’s southern seaside destination of Albufeira, art, food, a sand city and the guilty pleasures of the Algarve coast rank as some of the more unique options.

The spectacular caves and inlets of the Algarve coast (Photo: Algarve Fun)

Situated in the central part of the Algarve coast, Albufeira offers all the seaside attractions this holiday region is famous for. Top up your tan on celebrated beaches, embark on a sea adventure or explore one of the theme parks around the city. There are also plenty of good excursions out of town for discovering the local food, visiting hidden art galleries and relaxing at a luxury seaside resort.

Discover the famous Benagil Caves

Algarve Fun is one of Portugal’s largest activity companies. The ‘Benagil Caves and dolphin watch’ tour aims to cover two of the main natural attractions in the area. Departing from Albufeira Marina and reaching the lighthouse of Corvoeiro, the boat tour includes visits inside the stunning caves of Benagil and a swim stop along the 2.5-hour cruise. They aim to guarantee an 80% chance of spotting dolphins throughout the year, which rises to over 90% in July and August. Other marine species such as orcas might also be spotted.

Meeting point – Marina de Albufeira, Albufeira 8201-918

Take your time to choose the wine (Photo: Veneza Restaurant)

Taste Algarvian dishes and wines from an extensive cellar

Housed in a former dance hall, Veneza brings together local culinary excellence and great expertise in the wine trade. Over a thousand labels are stored in the wine cellar, while the kitchen serves up Algarvian dishes cooked according to traditional recipes. Pork liver, xerém (a corn flour dish), country soup, veal loin and crab are among the a-la-carte options. The staff will also talk you through the day’s specials. Located 10km north of Albufeira’s centre, Veneza is the place to go for a local culinary experience in a cosy, informal and homey setting.

Restaurante Veneza, Paderne (Albufeira) 8200-488

A well-deserved stop on a 6-hour cruise (Photo: Sea Booking)

Join a BBQ cruise

An all-day BBQ cruise is what it takes to fully enjoy the beauties of the Algarve coast. With Sea Booking you can join a 6-hour boat tour to beautiful beaches, peculiar rock formations, caves, and exclusive areas far from the tourist routes. Lunch is a freshly-prepared BBQ served on a private and deserted spot of the coast, during which visitors can go for a swim or relax on the beach. The cruise portion of the trip is by catamaran, and can be enjoyed both on the spacious sundeck and in the shade. There will be plenty of opportunities for a dive in the ocean.

Meeting point – Marina de Albufeira, Albufeira 8201-918

Gillian Catto opened ArtCatto after a 30-year career in London (Photo: ArtCatto)

Discover the best art galleries of the Algarve

The art galleries around Albufeira offer a great excuse for a change of scenery from the seaside. Paderne (10 km north of Albufeira) is home to Galeria Côrte-Real, surrounded by beautiful nature and gardens, which showcases and sells contemporary art. In Lagoa, Lady in Red – Galeria de Arte is a multifunctional space hosting a lounge bar, a stage, a cinema screen and various exhibition areas, the main of which accommodates a vast selection of artworks. Gallery owner Gillian Catto opened ArtCatto in Loulé after a 30-year career in London, during which she launched several internationally-recognised artists such as Scottish painter Jack Vettriano.

Galeria Côrte-Real – Estr. de Paderne, Albufeira

Lady in Red – Galeria de Arte – Edificio Adega de Lagoa, EN 125, Lagoa 8400-395

ArtCatto – Av. José da Costa Mealha 43 R/c, Loulé 8100 – 500

The nature around Côrte-Real is stunning, but don’t forget to visit the gallery too (Photo: Garret Walsh)

One of the spaces at Lady in Red – Galeria de arte (Photo: Lady in Red)

Stroll around the Sand City

Started in 2003, FIESA is considered the biggest sand sculpture festival in the world. This mega exhibition features talented sculptors from all over the world, whose creations reach as high as twelve metres. Each year the subjects revolve around specific themes, reproducing in great detail people, objects and landscapes. In addition, the park offers music events, workshops, a spa and guided tours. Held by ProSandArt, FIESA runs every year from March to October, and it’s a must-see during a stay in the Algarve.

EM 524, Pêra 8365-201

FIESA 2015: the Mad Hatter’s tea party (Photo: William Warby)

Interact with dolphins

Located in Guia, just a few kilometres from Albufeira, Zoomarine is a family park that invites its visitors to explore the mysteries of the ocean while partaking in a day of water entertainment. While dolphins are by far the most popular sights, other shows regularly held at the park include sea lions, seals, tropical birds and birds of prey. Other attractions are the aquarium with sharks, various habitats, a 4D Cinema, slides, and a wave beach with salt water and sand.

EN 125 – km 65, Guia (Albufeira) 8201-864

The beach restaurant at Vila Joya (Photo: Vasco Célio)

Stay at a luxury resort near golf courses

A restaurant, spa and residence, Vila Joya translates to ‘House of Joy’ or ‘Jewelry Box’. It’s a small oriental palazzo lying on the picturesque coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The twelve unique rooms and eight suites boast a distinctive elegance, coupled with a sunny garden with palm trees, cypresses and beautiful flowers. The two Michelin-starred restaurant and the spa are two more reasons to indulge at the resort, while some of Europe’s top golf courses are located within 5 to 40 minutes from Vila Joya.

Estrada da Galé, Albufeira 8200-416