Albufeira

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Albufeira  is a city,  and municipality in the district of Faro, in the southernmost Portuguese region of the Algarve.

The municipality population in 2011 was 40,828, in an area of 140.66 square kilometres (54.31 square miles). The city proper had a population of 13,646 in 2001. It is 250 kilometres (160 mi) from Lisbon, and is within close proximity of Paderne Castle. Lagos is located 30 kilometres (19 mi) to the west, and Faro 45 kilometres (28 mi) to the south-east. A tourist destination (due to its coastal conditions), Albufeira expands to approximately 300,000 residents during the summer and during New Year celebrations, owing to the number of hotels and lodgings in the district, that includes marina facilities, golf courses, restaurants and bars for the annual flood of visitors

History : It is unclear when the first settlements specifically formed in the region of Albufeira, although scientific research suggest origins during the pre-historic epoch, and that the town of Albufeira formed as an out-port of the maritime fishery. The primitive settlement was occupied by the Romans, named it Baltum, introducing a centralized administrative structure and developing intense agricultural activities along with commerce. The Romans constructed aqueducts, roads and bridges, of which parts still remain.

The name originated from the Arab Al-buhera, which means castle of the sea, owing to its location along the coast, or alternately al-Buhayra, for the lagoon, in reference to the lagoon that formed in the lowlands. The Arabs constructed strong defensive structures, making the area almost impregnable, allowing this area to remain in the hands of their forces longer than other possessions in Portugal. The development of agriculture during this period was notable, with the introduction of new techniques and plant species. The Moors used the plow and fertilizers, as well as winches for lifting the water from the wells, introducing the irrigation of fields, constructing dams and transforming uncultivated areas into gardens and orchards.

Middle Ages : The Christian conquest of the region began at the end of the 12th century. When Afonso III of Portugal occupied the throne, most of the Algarve had already fallen into the hands of the Christians. Templar and Hospitaler Knights, military and religious orders that supported the Reconquista, assaulted many of the lands occupied by the Arabs, but were never successful in taking Albufeira. It was following the capture of Faro that the siege of Albufeira became unsupportable. Encircled by enemy forces on all sides, it fell in 1249 to the forces of Afonso III, who donated the lands to the Order of Aviz in 1250. The Moors were persecuted terribly by the victorious army, which chased the remaining forces into a cavern, known today as Cova do Xorino, situated near the southern limits of the old city. The town became part of the kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves. King D. Manuel I awarded a Charter (foral) to the Town of Albufeira on 20 August 1504 and from that day the town was governed according to the legislation in force for the rest of the country.

Albufeira was one of the towns of the Algarve most affected by natural calamities, but it was the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which caused the worse damage. The sea invaded the town with 10 metres (33 ft) waves, destroying almost all the buildings along the coast. In the town proper, only 27 residential buildings survived the natural disaster, but in states of ruin. The parochial church, an old mosque adapted by the Christians, where many of the residents sought refuge during the cataclysm, collapsed causing 227 deaths. Even following these events, the Algarve continued to experience aftershocks, until 20 August of the following year, which hindered the reconstruction under the Bishop D. Francisco Gomes de Avelar.
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

20th century : In the first decades of the 20th century, the export of fish and nuts represented the largest contribution to the local economy of the municipality. The town itself had five factories employing 700-800 people, mostly wives of fishermen working in local production. Yet, between 1930 and 1960, there was a considerable decline in fortunes, resulting in the closing of many of these factories, the reduction in fishing boats along the coast and the abandonment of many of the homes. The population was reduced by half and the fishing industry became a subsistence activity, supporting local consumption only. The town started to become a hub for tourism in the 1960s, and has grown to accommodate this since, growing out into the surrounding hills to accommodate thousands of the 5 million tourists who visit the Algarve region each year

Access : Coordinates: 37.089722, -8.245833 / By plane :  Faro Airport (FAO IATA) is also the main entrance to get in the Algarve through many low cost airline companies, and there is a large choice of airport transfers carrier companies that can provide private or shared ground transportation to Albufeira or any resort in the Algarve

By rail :  The train station (Albufeira – Ferreiras) is 6 kilometres from the centre. There is a city bus that can take you into town. A small number of taxis are also available, and are generally timed with the train stops . Be sure to grab one quickly, as it may be a while before another one turns up. Although no wifi is offered at the station itself, a small cafe nearby offers free wifi for its customers (and surprisingly delicious pastels de nata!).  Trains to Lagos & Faro take about one hour each. The train to/from Lisbon takes 3–4 hours. There is now a rapid train that takes 2 1/2 hours but with more limited runs. A student fare costs €17 (for Portuguese students only). By bus :  Long distance buses are also available in the city centre.

Get around :   There are local buses that run throughout town – ask your hotel for a timetable.  Taxis are available and can usually be found in the city center

Highlights :

  • Praia dos Pescadores (Fishermen’s Beach). The most famous attraction in the Old Town. Fishermen’s boats are still pulled in every morning. The beach side is lined with restaurants, bars etc., and are open at night as well as during the daytime.
  • Castelo de Paderne (Almoada Castle). Moorish 12th century castle. Free Entrance

Activities : More than 25 superb beaches, many of them recognised for their quality with the distinguished Blue Flag by FEE, entice holidaymakers to swim and walk. The long sandy beaches Praia dos Pescadores, Praia do Tunel and Praia do Inatel stretching for miles in front of the old town offer a variety of water sports including parasailing, jet-skiing, and kayaking.Smaller sandy beaches sheltered by rocky bays with bizarre sandstone cliffs extend to both sides. The new purpose built marina, located in an artificial basin on the western edge of the city, was opened in 2003 with a capacity to moor nearly 500 boats. Alufeira can offer many varieties of culture, entertainment and family fun.

Go next : Lagos, Silves, Lagoa, Tavira, Evora, Milfontes, Troia, Lisbon.

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