Albufeira today is the most energetic and dynamic town in the Algarve, its name meaning “castle of the sea” from the Arab Al-buhera. While it is unclear when the area of Albufeira was first settled, it was once formed as a port by the local fishermen and has grown to an international tourism destination.
The town was occupied by the Romans, calling it Baltum and introducing commerce, agriculture and an administrative structure. The Romans also built aqueducts, roads and bridges, many of which still exist today.
When the Arabs took over, they constructed strong defensive buildings allowing the area of Albufeira to remain under their government longer then any other area in Portugal. This is mirrored in the strong Arab influences that can still be seen and felt in many places.
During the Middle Ages much of the Algarve had already fallen into the hands of the Christians. Many military and religious orders assaulted the lands held by the Arabs but never successful in taking Albufeira.
Following the capture of Faro, the siege of Albufeira became unsupportable. The town was encircled by enemy forces on all sides and fell into the hands of the forces of Afonso III in 1249. The victorious army chased the remaining forces into a cavern, known as Cova do Xornio today, which is located near the southern limits of the city.
Albufeira was one of the towns in the Algarve that was most affected by natural calamities, but it was the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which caused the worst damage. The sea invaded Albufeira with 10 meters high waves (33 ft.), destroying almost all buildings along the coast. Only 27 residential buildings survived the natural disaster. A church where many of the residents sought refuge collapsed causing over 200 deaths.
In 1833, during the Liberal Wars between absolutist and liberal forces, Albufeira was encircled and attacked by Remexido’s soldiers: a popular absolutist leader, who profoundly damaged the village and executed many of its inhabitants. After the 19th century, the community grew through the expansion of the fishery. This is why the locals annually celebrate ‘Festival de Peixes’, which has been tradition and serves to honor the fisheries in Albufeira that helped with the growth of the city.
Albufeira started to become a tourism hot spot in the 1960s and has grown ever since. Adding hotels, restaurants and entertainment options to the city it is now ready to accommodate thousands of the 5 million tourists who visit the Algarve each year. It´s pristine beaches, many great restaurants and bars have something for everyone.
The town has maintained its charm and flair and is still the picturesque lively place it has been many years ago. It is the starting point for many a adventurous discovery tours through the Algarve and its popularity is undeniable.