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As a holiday destination, Albufeira appeals to people of all age groups. Retired couples feel just as at home here as teenagers and families with young children.

Albufeira is spread out rather than high-rise. The town itself consists of "old" and "new" sections which merge seamlessly into an extensive suburbia, spreading off back east along the coast to beaches at Balaia, Olhos d'Agua and Falesia, and west to Sao Rafael, Gala and the links golf course at Salgados. The whole area, greater Albufeira you could call it, is the largest tourist area in the Algarve, but people come here in droves and have the time of their lives.

Albufeira started out at least 2,000 years ago as a small, fortified town which the Romans called Baltrum. Eight centuries later the Moors renamed it Al-Buhera. The Moors turned it into a prosperous port trading with North Africa. The Knights of Santiago led the Christian re-conquest of the town in 1250, but without its trade links Albufeira fell upon hard times and they lasted for hundreds of years.

The old charm is still there, and it is to be found in the labyrinth of narrow streets, lined with whitewashed houses, restaurants, cafes and shops, which lead down the hillside to a central square, Largo Eng. Duarte Pacheco. The square is a good place to sit and watch the world go by. Nearby, next to the tourist information office, a tunnel at the end of a pedestrian-only mall leads on to the town's main beach. In the evening hundreds of people enjoy live music every night during the summer.

Another section of this long beach is equally easily accessible from the streets leading off the other end of the square. There the beach is known as Fisherman's Beach and it's shared with sun-hardened men of the sea mending their nets.

"New" Albufeira, centred on Areias de Sao Joao, is on the east side. Its most famous thoroughfare is affectionately known as The Strip. It stretches from the Montechoro Hotel, past scores of cafes, restaurants and bars, all the way down to a big busy beach called Praia da Oura. The Strip and nearby streets are a hive of activity from mid-morning, well into the wee hours the night.

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