The historic port of ALVORbriefly achieved fame as the place where Dom João II died in 1495 and, though much of the town was razed in the 1755 earthquake, it still boasts a sixteenth-century Igreja Matriz with Manueline doors, arches and pillars carved into fishing ropes and plants. It remained a sleepy fishing village until the 1960s, when tourism began to take hold, and today the old town has been outgrown by a sprawl of modern – though largely low-rise – buildings. Nevertheless, the old core around the church and the central Praça da República retains its character, while the harbour is a delight, lined with colourful fishing boats and aromatic fish restaurants.
Rooms can be hard to come by, though there are plenty of expensive hotels around 1km east of Alvor, facing the beach. The best bet in town is Hospedaria Buganvilia, Rua Padre Mendes Rossio de 5 Pedro (Tel:282 459 412; Price: 36-55, no breakfast), a modern place with flouncy decor above a decent restaurant. Campismo da Dourado (Tel:282 459 178, f282 458 002) lies around 1km north of Alvor, near the N125, a pleasant, leafy campsite with a small shop.
The best of the decently priced fish restaurants on the harbourfront is the inexpensive Tasca do Margadinho at Largo da Ribeira 9 (Tel:282 459 144; closed Thurs), an atmospheric place with outdoor tables. Up near the castle, O Alcaide on Rua do Castelo 17 (Tel:282 459 330) is more intimate, with fine cataplanas and moderately priced grills. Down on the sands, Restaurante Restinga (Tel:282 459 434; closed one month in winter) sits on the cusp of a large dune and offers great views to go with its moderately priced fish and grills; Robert de Niro was a recent satisfied customer.
Quinta da Rocha, northwest of Alvor's huge beach, is an extensive nature reserve providing a wide range of habitats for different species of animals and birds – including twenty-two species of wading bird. You can follow paths and tracks around the reserve and into the wetlands.