A Brief History of Albufeira

Albufeira in the Algarve, Portugal, attracts thousands of visitors every year and it’s easy to understand why! There is Albufeira old town with it’s pretty cobbled streets lined with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops; the lively nightlife in São João; Albufeira marina with it’s sugar candy coloured apartments and last but not least the beautiful sandy beaches. Albufeira is perfect for families, couples and singles of all ages and is central for all the tourist attractions, with the added bonus of a short transfer from Faro airport! Find out all you need to know about this lovely area of the Algarve here on Albufeira Uncovered!


It was the Romans who were the first people to put their stamp on the long history of Albufeira, which they called Baltum. The Romans brought their administrative systems, agricultural skills and commercial activities, and the village grew steadily under their rule.

Much of the trade with Albufeira came from North African cultures, leading to the gradual influence of Arabic Moors on the town. The Moors were active all over Portugal’s Algarve region and gave Albufeira its modern name, which is Arabic for ‘Castle of the Sea’.

During the Middle Ages, the Christians became the main power of the Algarve region, driving out the Moors in the middle of the 13th century, after decades of conflict. King Afonso III made Albufeira part of the Portuguese and Algarve kingdoms. Things were quiet during the next couple of centuries until the early part of the 16th century, when King Manuel I granted Albufeira its very own charter on 20th August, 1504 (still a public holiday today).


Although most of Portugal’s southern coastal towns have suffered natural disasters over the course of history, Albufeira seems to have been specially targeted for some big ones. The 1755 earthquake was the worst of all, washing away nearly the entire city with a subsequent tidal flood. It took decades for the town to recover, and it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the fishing industry put Albufeira back on its feet.


In the 1960s, the world began to discover the pleasures of holidaying along Portugal’s Algarve coast and Albufeira enjoyed particular attention. By 1986, it had grown so much that it was designated a ‘city’, having already outgrown its historic town centre.


Outlying developments like the Areias de Sao Joao (The Strip), Montechoro and the renowned Oura emerged to cater to the ever-rising number of summer visitors. Recently, the Albufeira Marina has expanded the city’s eastern territory even more. With some five million annual visitors to the city and the surrounding area, Albufeira has plenty to offer.

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