Alvor is 6km west of one of Portugal's oldest tourist developments: Praia da Rocha. Southwest of Portimão, beautiful sandy beaches are bordered with craggy cliffs and the whole effect is extremely picturesque. There are some fabulous views from the fort here, especially at sunset, and it is easy to see why fin-de-siècle tourists loved it so much. Today, after the Algarve's post-1960 tourist boom, both Alvor and Praia da Rocha are more 'high-rise hotel' than 'old-world villa' in style, but the views remain equally as magnificent.
Alvor has fewer high-rise eyesores than its neighbour, and was a port in ancient times. Its claim to fame is rather dated now as it is the spot where King Joao II died way back in 1495. The much talked about earthquake of 1755 flattened most of the town, but there are still a couple of sights of historical significance. One of these, the sixteenth-century Igreja Matriz, boasts Manueline arches, doors and pillars that have been carved into the shapes of fishing ropes or plants.
The area around the church and Praça da República have managed to hang on to their charm and character, and the fishing boats in the harbour, which has several good fish restaurants, add to the area's allure. If you walk up to the castle there is a playground amid the ruins to amuse the children and thirteenth-century relics to amuse their parents.
The main street for bars and restaurants is Rua Dr Frederico Romas Mendes, which in turn leads down to Largo da Ribeiro by the river with its own fish market and restaurants. The restaurants on the riverside square serve up excellent grilled fish and you really feel you are getting a taste of local culinary specialities. There is also a modern sculpture of a fish in the square to continue the fishy theme. You can enjoy the fine weather on the restaurant terraces that overlook the river with its colourful fishing boats, and then stroll up the path by the estuary after lunch, or in the other direction towards the Praia de Alvor. It is a gargantuan beach with little to recommend it other than sea, sand and the fact that it is less crowded than some of its neighbours.
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