Portimão isn’t as easy on the eye as Ferragudo, a small coastal town that’s located on the opposite side of the Arade estuary. While Ferragudo is made up of small white-washed little houses, some of them former fisherman’s cottages, Portimão’s landscape is dominated by large apartment blocks. It’s also 2 km from the nearest beach, Praia da Rocha, which is also the name of the resort town that sits next to it.
Portimão does have its pockets of beauty, particularly the restaurant area just below the old bridge, but it’s more of a functional city. It’s not dependent on tourism like nearby Praia da Rocha or Alvor, and it’s somewhere that much more popular with the Portuguese than with the expat community.
But what Portimão lacks in architectural eye candy, it makes up for in services and amenities. As a city with just over 55,000 residents, Portimão is home to schools, shopping centres, a hospital, and two cinemas. It also has a great daily market with a fantastic fish section.
And, the beaches aren’t far away. Praia da Rocha and the nearby smaller beach of Praia do Vau are both less than 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre while other coastal towns like Ferragudo and Lagos are just a little further again.
In terms of public transport, Portimão is one of the better places on the Algarve. Like Faro, the Algarve’s Capital City, it’s a transport hub, so it’s easy to get to a lot of different places on the Algarve from here.
Portimão has both a bus and a train station, and the train station is also in the city centre which is a bit of a rarity in Portugal — many are situated a few kilometres outside.
Did you know that Portimão also has its own airport? It only has one commercial airline, and that airline only flies to a few select destinations in Portugal, but it’s still something you might use once in a while.
Portimão is situated in the Western Algarve, but only just: it’s still very close to many towns in the Central Algarve like Silves and Armação de Pêra.
The Western Algarve is typically less touristy than the neighbouring Central Algarve, particularly when you get over to the West Coast. Portimão isn’t rural obviously, but it could be a good base for those that want to live in a small city during the week and explore the rustic Algarve at the weekend.
It’s also within a short drive of many of the main towns on the Central Algarve and Lagos is just 30 minutes’ drive in the other direction along the N125.
Although Faro is in the Eastern Algarve and Portimão is in the Western Algarve, it still doesn’t take too long to get to Faro Airport: around 50 minutes on the A22 toll road. The Spanish-Portuguese border is then a little further at just under 1.5 hours’ drive away.
There are only two cities on the Algarve, Portimão and Faro, and both have similar sized populations. As the Algarve’s Capital City, Faro typically has more events, services, and amenities than Portimão, and it also benefits from being right next to Faro Airport as well.