16 Best Things to Do in Alvor

Close to the popular Algarve destinations of both Lagos and Albufeira, Alvor has a permanent population of just over 6,000. It rises ever so slightly from the southern shores of Portugal from an attractive harbour dotted with small yachts.

Much quieter than its neighbouring towns, it's the atmospheric streets of Alvor that make it special, although it also has the dubious distinction of being where King João II died in 1495. Cobbled streets wind away not from the coast but from the River Alvor, after which the village is named. The wide riverfront is home to a number of excellent fish restaurants. Whitewashed buildings are in evidence throughout the settlement, opening out to present attractions included the Moorish castle and 400-year-old Igreja do Divino Salvador, in addition to the main beach and a landscape of dunes beyond which is crisscrossed with boardwalks.

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  • Church of the Divino Salvador de Alvor
    Church of the Divino Salvador de Alvor

    Igreja do Divino Salvador, Matriz de Alvor (Church of the Divine Saviour) dates back to the 16th century, as does its best feature, the Manueline style doorway.

    This whitewashed Algarvian church was largely rebuilt in the 18th century in the Rococo style. The interior is fairly impressive consisting of three naves and fine vaulting, some of which dates back to the original church. A lavish high altar and holy water font also date back to the 16th century.


  • Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Portimao
    Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
    Olga Kositskaya

    The Roman Catholic church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception) is Portimão's main parish church and still plays an active role in the heart of the local community.

    The original building was completed in 1476 in Gothic style.  Not much remains of the original structure apart from the main portal and an accompanying gargoyle.  Most of the original building was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, and later rebuilding incorporated a number of Manueline influences.

    Inside the...


  • Museu de Portimao
    Museu de Portimao

    Portimao’s award-winning museum opened in 2008 and is a good place to come to learn more of what life would have been like for those who lived in the locality throughout the ages.  The site was once a fish canning factory, and the main focus is on the industrial processes once carried out here.  The 1000 square metre main exhibition is divided into three distinct areas:

    Origin and Destiny of a Community

    This section follows the lives of those living in the Portimao and Alvor regions from Neolithic times right up until the present day.  There are...


  • Forte de Santa Catarina
    Forte de Santa Catarina
    Francisco Santos | BY-SA

    The fort of Santa Catarina was built in 17th century on the site of a 15th century defensive structure and chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It was one of the various forts built around this time to protect the area from raids by pirates and privateers.

    Today it is possible to climb up a steep set of steps to walk around the battlements.  There is no museum here, but an old canon provides a quick photo opportunity and the views of the marina and the cliffs of Praia da Rocha make the hike worthwhile.


  • Lagos Fortress - Forte da Ponta da Bandeira
    Lagos Fortress

    The small fort of Ponta da Bandeira, also known as the Fort of Our Lady of Penha de Franca (or just Lagos fortress) stands on Lagos's waterfront, where the Bensafrim River enters the sea and overlooking Praia da Batata beach.  Lagos had been the administrative capital of The Algarve from 1577 and this fortress, built around 1690, would have been part of the important defensive structures guarding the strategically important harbour from raids by Corsairs, pirates and the Spanish.

    The fort, used until the 20th...


  • Porta de Sao Goncalo Lagos Fort and City Walls
    Porta de São Gonçalo - Lagos city walls
    António Sacchetti

    Today most visitors to Lagos come for the stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife.  But this place has seen a small amount of bloodshed over the centuries.  The Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors all made their mark here.  In 1577 Lagos became the administrative capital of The Algarve.  It is not surprising that a city of such strategic importance would have been surrounded by some pretty heavy fortifications. 

    It was the Romans who built the first town walls around Lagos and these were reinforced during the Arab and later Christian occupations of...


  • Lagos Marina
    Lagos Marina

    Lagos's award-winning marina, built in 1994, lies in the Bay of Lagos close to the historic heart of the town. It makes a pleasant destination for a stroll along the palm-fringed waterfront which has a promenade with street vendors selling souvenirs on one side and a good choice of bars, eateries and shops on the other. 

    There's lots going on here, even outside the peak holiday season. As well as browsing for souvenirs, it can be fun watching the boats coming in and out through the opening bridge and there are tour boats here offering trips along the spectacular coastline.



    Public Places
  • Igreja de Santa Maria - Lagos
    Igreja de Santa Maria
    Kolforn (Wikimedia)

    The Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria (Saint Mary's Church) in Lagos has been a place of worship since 1498, and continues to be a vibrant local parish church. The original building is thought to have once had a hospital attached but almost all of what you see today was rebuilt in the 19th century. 

    The church was extended at various times over the centuries, and suffered significant damage in the Great Earthquake of 1755, after which it needed rebuilding. The whitewashed exterior has two bell towers, Doric columns and a sculptured,...


  • Lagos Slave Market - Mercado de Escravos
    Lagos Slave Market
    Lacobrigo | BY-SA

    This unassuming building in Praca do Infante Dom Henrique has a tragic history.  This building, (Mercado de Escravos) is widely believed to have been the first slave market in Europe.

    In 1444 Prince Henry the Navigator set up a trading post in Arguin Bay, an island off the coast of Mauritania in West Africa.  From here, that same year, slaves were shipped over to be sold in Lagos.  The original building that stood here was built in that same year.  Contemporary accounts tell of the abject misery and...


  • Lagos Museum entrance
    Lagos Museum
    Notafly | BY-SA

    Founded in 1932 and named after its founder, the Museu Dr. Jose Formosinho, to give it its full name, is Lagos's main museum. This is without doubt the best museum in the Algarve and whatever it is you're interested in, you'll probably find it here.

    As you wander through the museum's many rooms you'll see displays connected to the local history, Portuguese coinage, military hardware from the Age of Discoveries, artworks and more. The archaeological finds here include a collection of Moorish pottery and an eclectic mix of findings going back to Neolithic times. A town...


  • Igreja de Santo António de Lagos - altar
    Altar - Igreja de Santo António
    Lacobrigo | BY-SA

    The church of Santo António in Lagos is one of the finest in the whole Algarve. Dating back to 1707, and then re-built after the Great Earthquake of 1755, it stands as a fine example of the Baroque style of architecture. However, what really sets the church apart is that it has one of the most breathtaking interiors of any of Portugal’s many beautiful churches. Such is the quality of this lavish interior that the church is classified as a National Monument.

    The church is dedicated to Saint Anthony, who was born in Lisbon...


  • Centro Cultural Lagos
    Centro Cultural Lagos

    The Centro Cultural de Lagos (CCL) is a venue for a diverse range of cultural activities, particularly performing arts and visual arts. Events range from jazz and classical music through to stand up comedy and photography exhibitions.

    There are two distinct main spaces within the CCL, the largest of which is the auditorium with its Italian stage and seating for around 300 spectators. There is also a 500 m2 temporary exhibition area of spread over three rooms.

    Exhibitions feature a varied program covering topics including architecture, archeology and history. There are also...


  • Ponta da Piedade - Lagos
    Ponta da Piedade

    This rugged promontory in the western Algarve features majestic 20-metre-high ochre cliffs, calm green-blue waters and some of the most stunning rock formations, sea arches and caves that you will ever see.  It is a great spot to come to watch the sun rise or set and provides excellent photography, snorkeling and boating opportunities. Birdwatchers might also enjoy looking out for migratory birds including falcons, egrets and swifts as they stop-off on the rocks just off the coast here.

    The Ponta da Piedade headland lies around 3 km from Lagos...


  • Slide and Splash waterpark
    Slide and Splash waterpark
    Slide & Splash

    Slide & Splash is one of the Algarve's biggest and best water parks featuring a selection of water flumes, chutes, pools and aquatic fun that should appeal to all ages. Established in 1986 the park has grown to fill its sizeable site with fun-packed activities and new rides.

    The main attractions here are the big water slides and you can probably guess a little about some of them from their names; Corkscrew, Banzai, Black Hole, Plunge, Tornado, Kamikaze and the new Big Wave. Most of these involve zooming down chutes of various steepness and twisty-ness at great speed before...


  • Parque da Mina, Monchique
    Parque da Mina
    Zbigniew Rutkowski | BY-SA

    The Parque da Mina is a theme park with a genuine theme. Centered on an old iron ore mine the park provides an an entertaining view of the workings of the mine along with a range of fun activities in the surrounding park.

    On the heritage side of things you can learn about the workings of the mine, visit the medronho (moonshine) distillery and tour the 18th century manor house. There is also a nature trail through the landscaped surrounds of the Sierra de Monchique with plenty of picnic spots amongst the trees.

    The park is home to a small petting zoo with a range of animals to...




Alvor travel guide »

Situated roughly halfway between Portimão and Lagos is the pretty harbour village of Alvor. Given its position on the Algarve the village is remarkably unspoiled with the old village...