15 Best Things to do in Portimao - Sights & Day Trips

Portimao is a city located in the Algarve region in southern Portugal. It was traditionally a center of shipbuilding, sardine fishing, and fish processing. Today, most of the old industries have been replaced by tourism and leisure activities, though if you look closely enough, you can still find signs of the past around every corner of the town.

There are many things to do in Portimao; you can explore the historical parts of the city, relax on one of the nearby beaches, taste delicious local seafood dishes, or venture out on day trips to the countryside or neighboring towns.

Here are 15 of the most popular things to do in Portimao

1. Igreja do Colégio

One of the favorite things to do in Portimao is to pay a visit to the famous church, Igreja do Colégio. Located in the center of Portimao on the Praça da República, the church dates back to the 17th century.

It is known for two things: firstly, it is the only church in the area that survived a powerful earthquake in 1755 mostly unscathed. Secondly, famed merchant Diogo Gonçalves was the founder of the church, and his tomb is still located within.

2. Explore the Benagil Caves

Discover one of the most stunning sea caves on the planet. With light shining down from the holes on the cave ceiling, white sand, and turquoise waters, the place looks as amazing in real life as it does on the photos.

Benagil Cave – also known as “Algar de Benagil” – is a site one must visit while spending time in the southern part of Portugal. Definitely add it to your list of things to do in Portimao! As the Algarve coastline is full of caves, secluded beaches, and has a few interesting historical sites as well, it is a great idea to take a boat tour from Portimao.

You can admire the picturesque landscape of Algarve, see the Fort of Santa Catarina, the Ferragudo Castle, and visit Benagil Cave. The two-hour boat trip starts at Cais Vasco da Gama in Portimao. 

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3. Mercado Municipal

If you really want to experience the authentic Portimao lifestyle, one of the activities on your “things to do in Portimao” list should definitely be a visit to the “Mercado Municipal” – also called “The Main Market.”

The best time to visit is on Saturday morning when the market is booming with vendors and food products. In Mercado Municipal, you can find vast varieties of fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers, and many other products. However, do not forget to visit the fish section, as the seafood selection is out of this world.

The market is a great place to shop for souvenirs, enjoy a fast meal from one of the stands, or just wander around and observe the stalls.

4. Jeep Safari the Algarve

If you are at least a little bit adventurous, one of the trips you should take from Portimao is a Half-Day Jeep Safari tour of the Algarve. Escape the busy streets of the city and venture on a journey to the countryside, where the life of the villagers is as slow as it was decades ago.

Explore the off-road trails of the Algarve by 4WD vehicle and stop at traditional villages in the countryside. You’ll get the chance to taste local foods and liquors and observe the panoramic views from secluded spots.

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5. Ribeirinha

If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Portimao, take a wander on the Ribeirinha walkway. This riverside walkway, decorated with a long row of palm trees, starts at the Museum of Portimao and guides you through some of the most popular city sites, where you can find the most interesting things to do in Portimao.

While walking along the docks, try to imagine how chaotic the area looked a century ago. It is a unique experience to visit the Ribeirinha walkway after dark, when you can see the colorful lights on the opposite bank.

6. See Portuguese Tradition in Eastern Algarve

Visit the historical Eastern Algarve area with an organized minivan tour. Stop at the picturesque Castro Marim village and visit its castle. Continue to the historic city of Vila Real de Santo António and discover the old city center and its architecture. Admire the Roman Bridge over the River Gilão in the town of Tavira, and finish the day trip in the capital city of Faro.

The tour includes a lunch stop, where you will be served a typical Algarve fish meal. The minivan tour is a great way to visit most of the interesting sites in Eastern Algarve in one day.

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7. Taste the Best Algarve Wine

 

Due to its warm, Mediterranean climate and a wide palette of different soils, it is no surprise that Algarve is famous for its wines. The traditional wines of the area are Arinto, Malvasia Fina, Manteúdo and Síria – made from green grapes – and Castelão and Negra Mole, made from the red ones.

A trip to wine estates is a great way to spend a day out of Portimao. Learn about wine production, sample the most famous wines of the area, and enjoy the panoramic views of the countryside with a guided tour.

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8. Visit Beautiful Lagos & Ponta da Piedade

The Algarve coastline is famous for its scenic routes, rock formations, and many unique towns. A great way to explore the Algarve coastline is to visit Lagos and Ponta da Piedade on a three-hour scooter or car tour.

During the tour, you will have a chance to visit the town of Lagos – famous for its historic role as a base for the many Voyages of the Discoveries.

The trip continues to the Golden Coast (“Costa d’Ouro“), named after yellow and red cliffs, where you can visit some of the stunning beaches in the area and explore their unique sea caves and rock formations.

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9. Algarve Zoomarine Amusement Park

If you want to take a break from sightseeing in Portimao, a day trip to Algarve Zoomarine Amusement Park is a great choice. Don’t miss the fun and educational activities for all the family members.

In the Amusement Park, you can get close to sea lions and seals, walk amongst the birds, ride a rapid river raft and more. If you’re brave enough, you can even swim with the dolphins. It’s a good idea to book a ticket in advance so that you can skip the long queue.

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10. Tandem Skydive from 10,000 or 15,000 Feet

Looking for adventurous things to do in Portimao? Why not Skydive from 10,000 or 15,000 feet? Because you will jump with a professional instructor, the activity is perfect for first timers as well as experienced divers.

During the long, 70-second fall, you can observe the stunning views of the Algarve coastline. If you want to bring home the proof of your jump and a long-lasting memory, you have the option of choosing a video or photo package.

To get a skydiving certificate at the end of your jump, book your experience here:

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11. Museu de Portimao

One of the best things to do in Portimao is to pay a visit to its popular museum, situated along Ribeirinha walkway. During the early 20th century, the booming industry in the area was sardine production, and this museum is housed in the old sardine factory.

Many pieces of old equipment from the factory are on display in or around the museum. On the bottom floor, there is a display of underwater archaeological findings from the megalithic complex nearby Alcalar. “Museu de Portimao” is the perfect place to educate yourself about the history of the city.

12. Jardim 1º de Dezembro

Take a break from walking around Portimao and cool down at the garden of “Jardim 1º de Dezembro.” While relaxing in the shade, you’ll have the chance to learn a valuable history lesson; on the tile panels around the park, there are memories of important events throughout Portugal’s history.

The events on the tiles include the discovery of Brazil by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500, Portugal’s first ever constitution in 1820, the original founding of the country in 1143 featuring the Treaty of Zamora, and many other notable historical happenings.

13. Praia da Rocha

When you get tired of sightseeing, Praia da Rocha is the place to go. Just south of Portimao, this is a classic beach holiday destination with a great beach, holiday atmosphere, and endless choices of entertainment.

Relax by the sea, try a new water sport, and treat yourself to lunch in one of the restaurants in the nearby marina complex.

Praia da Rocha is an excellent choice for a wide range of visitors. It is perfectly suited for children of all ages, as there are many waterparks and other water activities to keep your children busy.

In the evening, take a walk down the Tomás Cabreira Street, drink a cocktail or two, and enjoy the energetic nightlife of the area.

14. Fort of Santa Catarina

The Fort of Santa Catarina is a medieval fort situated at the Eastern end of Praia da Rocha. It was constructed by the military engineer Alexandre Massai and built in 1621, with the purpose of defending the peninsula from pirates and military invasions.

There is not much architectural heritage left to see on top of the fort; however, the panoramic views from the top are fabulous; you can enjoy the view of the Praia da Rocha beach on one side and the Arade River mouth on the other.

15. Famous Sardines

Sardines are one of the most typical Portuguese foods, and the town of Portimao is known as the home of sardines. Tasting sardines is definitely one of the must things to do in Portimao.

Walking around the harbor, you will see (or smell) about half a dozen restaurants offering sardines. They are grilled right in front of you, served with a piece of bread, salad, and a glass of wine. The traditional way of eating sardines is with your hands; it can get messy, but the locals promise they taste better this way!

With this list of the best things to do in Portimao, you can cover the area’s highlights and explore a little further afield if you wish. Happy holidays!

Related reading:
See all the best things to do across the Algarve region
And this list of the best towns and places to stay in the Algarve

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From adventure to cuisine, there's no shortage of things to do in Portimao. We've listed the 15 best sights, tours and day trips so you can plan with ease.

From adventure to cuisine, there's no shortage of things to do in Portimao. We've listed the 15 best sights, tours and day trips so you can plan with ease.

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