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 lovely, 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!
If you are looking for lively nightlife and bars and clubs that are open nearly 24 hours a day then you probably want to stay in the Areias de São João area, home to "the strip" (Avenida Dr Francisco Sà Carneiro), or nearby Montechoro both of which are about 2kms from Albufeira old town. There are plenty of hotels and apartments to choose from and shops, bars and restaurants (many with English menus) all to hand and the beautiful beach, Oura, just a short distance from the bottom end of the strip. Of course, with everyone in party spirit it isn't going to be particularly quiet, particularly in peak summer! So if neon signs and late night revelry aren't for you, it will be better to stay near the old town!
Albufeira old town is more relaxed and has a lovely central square decorated with trees and colourful shrubs surrounded by street cafés and restaurants for a quiet meal or a cool drink. The streets leading off the square are a shoppers delight with clothes shops, leather goods (fantastic handbags!), gift shops, street stalls and of course, all the practical shops for daily necessities. There are also many more restaurants and bars in between the shops so there is never a shortage of places to eat and drink! It is worth mentioning that although English is very widely spoken and menus will normally be in 3 or 4 different languages, if you have any particular likes or dislikes or have special dietary requirements then you may find you need to research food and drink information.
The bars in the old town are still open late - most will be open until 4am during the summer months but may close at 2am in the winter. It does mean that you can take a rest after a busy day on the beach before getting ready for the night!
There are two main beaches in Albufeira itself - "Fishermans beach" (Praia dos Pescadores) is overlooked by a variety of restaurants and there is always the tempting aroma of barbecued fish in the air. Here it's possible to walk straight onto the beach without the need for steps. Adjoining Fishermans beach is Albufeira beach (Praia do Túnel), slightly to the west through the tunnel near the tourist office. There are more bars and restaurants here and steps down to the beach.
If you are staying in Albufeira, it isn't really necessary to rent a car; in fact, particularly if you are new to driving in Portugal, it can be quite nerve wracking in the summer months when the Algarve is so busy, and parking can be difficult too. Albufeira Travel information has details about the 'tourist train' that runs between the 'strip' and Albufeira 'old town' and the excellent local "Giro" minibus network. If you want to visit one of the water parks such as Aqualand or the Algarve's most popular theme park Zoomarine, there are several agencies in Albufeira offering very reasonable prices for transportation and tickets and with pick-up points near the main hotels it's both convenient and cheaper than hiring a car.
Albufeira marina is on the western outskirts of the town - you can't really miss it as all the buildings and apartments are painted in blue, pink, orange, green and yellow squares! There are rows of shops along the road behind the marina and some bars and restaurants along the marina itself. It is a brilliant place to spend an afternoon, have a drink or a meal, or just sit in the sun and watch the boats and people strolling by. If you go for nothing else, go to see the amazing colours of the buildings! There are also some interesting dolphin statues raised on poles along the marina walkway and each has been individually decorated with a different design.