What do you do when you realise you’ve accidentally booked you and your boyfriend onto an 18-30s-style clubbing holiday? This was the question I was faced with earlier this year. After our gaw-juss holiday to Santorini last year, this year we decided to book somewhere a bit more cheap’n’cheerful (that house deposit isn’t going to fund itself, after all)(but, whyyyy?) and with a bit more of an atmosphere in the evening.
And thus, we ended up booking a hotel in Albufeira, Portugal. I’d never actually heard of it before. ‘The Algarve,’ I thought, ‘how fancy’. And then over the course of the next couple of months I heard of no less than three people heading there on stag weekends. What had I done? Was I accidentally going on a stag do with my boyfriend? Would we have to get matching tattoos on our arses?*
*Fun fact: my boyfriend actually has one of these from a lads’ holiday. Stay classy, huns.
Well, we’ve been home for around a month now (cry), and I’m happy to report back that 1. we had a whale of a time and 2. my bum remains ink-free. Albufeira can ABSOLUTELY be an amazing destination for couples, though it might not seem it at first glance. I’ve put together some of my top tips for where to stay, eat and visit while in Portugal’s party town, and also included some of my fave snaps to er, show off. Insert shruggy emoji here.
Where to Stay in Albufeira
In Albufeira, there are three areas that are the main hubs of activity: the notorious ‘strip’ in new town (i.e. a massive strip of bars and clubs, and I mean MASSIVE), the old town and the marina. We stayed in the Areias Village Hotel & Apartments, which, while only being around a 5 minute walk from the strip, was still far enough away that you weren’t stepping over puke and/or drunk people when you went home at night. Which I thought was preferable, tbh. The apartments in Areias Village are super swanky, and the whole hotel has more of a city break kind of vibe than your traditional beach holiday hotel (i.e. no terracotta in sight, YASSS).
It’s worth noting that we stayed in September, which the locals all said was much quieter than the manic, stag-filled months of July and August, so the hotel would potentially be a bit rowdier earlier in the season (howevs, I do remember reading somewhere that the hotel doesn’t accept big group bookings, so even in the height of the season I think you’re more likely to find couples and families lurking around the pool).
If you want somewhere a bit further from the action, then I think the marina would be the perfect spot to stay. We ventured here for dinner one night and while it was a little quiet for us, it’s super picturesque and there are plenty of restaurants and bars.
Where to Eat & Drink in Albufeira
I’ll put my hands up and admit I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from the resort’s food offering, with party towns usually specialising in fry-ups, cheese toasties and not much else. I thought I’d especially struggle in my fairly new role as #AwkardVegetarian, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. Whether we grabbed something quick near our hotel or headed into the old town or marina, there was always plenty to choose from.
One of my favourite meals of the trip was actually upstairs in Wild & Co, one of the first bars on the strip and the last place I would have expected to find a delish veggie curry. Other places worth noting included Bank in the old town and the beach bar NoSoloAgua (where they even offered tofu! Welcome to the future, guys and gals).
Oh, and full disclosure: I still had approx six cheese toasties over the week, because if you don’t eat cheese toasties, Lays and Milka then did you even go on holiday?
When it came to where to go for drinks on holiday, I was much more confident that we would have choices. And man oh man, did we. As I mentioned, the strip is HUGE, with a bigger selection of bars and clubs than I think I’ve ever seen. The strip is very much what you’d expect for a party town that caters to ‘Brits abroad’, with lots of drink offers, karaoke and dancing on bars. While I did draw the line at swinging round a pole and riding the mechanical bull (miss you, Magaluf 2010 Claire), James and I did get involved and spent a few nights drinking in the various bars. The main difference was we were usually home by 1:30 rather than 5am because, you know, 27 and old.
If you’re not QUITE as determined to relive your chavvy youth as we are though, then the Old Town offered some more relaxed drinking opportunities. There’s lots of live music and you find more couples and families milling around, and then there is the marina for even more civilised vibes.
What to Do in Albufeira
So, onto the biggie – if you’re not getting bum tattoos and hitting up strip clubs then what else is there to do in Albufeira? We were primarily there to enjoy the sun and drink ALL the cocktails, but sitting around the pool for eight hours a day isn’t really our thing. Sometimes we go in search of different places to, y’know, enjoy the sun and drink cocktails.
The old town is really popular in the evenings, but it’s also well worth a visit in the day. There are lots of pretty buildings that you wouldn’t necessarily expect, and some beautiful views to enjoy while scoffing down an ice cream.
Another day, we paid a visit to the NoSoloAgua beach bar. There’s a NoSoloAgua in nearby Poritmao, which looked to have Ocean Beach vibes, but the branch in Albufeira is a bit more chilled. We visited on a Saturday, and hired a nice bed on the beach. Later in the afternoon, a DJ appeared for one of their ‘lounge sessions’, which was a nice way to wind down after a busy day of taking hot-dog-or-legs photos.
On our penultimate day we booked onto a half-day boat trip, complete with a beach BBQ. This was a lovely way to explore the coastline and caves, and included a couple of hours on a secluded beach where you could snorkel, take out paddle boards, or just lie around drinking bottomless wine (no prizes for guessing which activity I kept myself busy with).
We booked this tour, which I would really recommend as it was great value and the staff were so helpful. I had forgot to mention my #AwkwardVegetarian status while booking and so was more than happy to just stick to the salad during the barbecue, but they went out of their way to shift things around so I got a veggie burger and sausage too (sorry to the other customer who was probably half a meal down because of me, OOPS).
Overall we just had a really fun, relaxing time in Albufeira. As amazing as it is taking those ‘bucket list’ trips (and I certainly want to squeeze a couple in next year), sometimes it’s just nice to head somewhere sunny where there’s not a load of pressure to see everything and get all those #travelblogger snaps. Sometimes you just want to drink sangria and watch people murder great songs on karaoke, and that’s okay.
If you’re considering a couple’s holiday to Albufeira then I would say don’t be put off by its party reputation (if you actually know about it anyway, unlike me); there are bars, restaurants and activities to suit every type of person. In addition to this, there are plenty of other towns and resorts nearby for you to explore – if we stayed any longer, then I definitely would have headed to Villamoura and Portimao.
Maybe I’ll head there on my next stag do?