History of the Municipality
Proof of a human presence in the locality since the Neolithic period is furnished by the extensive burial grounds at Alcalar and Monte Canelas and by other archaeological finds scattered across the municipality. The recent discovery at Vila Velha de Alvor of what are probably the remains of a village dating from the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. and the archaeological and maritime artefacts recovered from the Arade river and the coastal areas of the municipality throw new light on the importance of the region during the period when Atlantic trade routes with the Mediterranean and North Africa were developing, following the emergence of Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian trading posts.
Although theories that variously identify Portimão with Portus Hannibalis, Portus Magnus and Porcimunt remain controversial, there can be no doubt about the Roman presence in the city and the surrounding municipality. Amphorae, coins, fish-salting tanks, bronze objects, cisterns, sundry building materials, the remains of buildings at Vale de Arrancada, Montemar, Baralha and above all the major “villa” site at Abicada bear eloquent witness to this fact.
Evidence of the Arab presence in the area can be found in occasional finds of pottery and coins and in the influence it had on the distinctive shape of chim- neys and water wheels, on buildings made of “taipa” (a mixture of clay, rubble, sand and lime) and marabouts, on the region’s agriculture and some of the types of vegetation to be found.
Modern Portimão came into being in the reign of D. Afonso V (1463) with the granting of certain privileges to a settlement which would come to be called Vila Nova de Portimão and around which a ring of defensive walls would later be built. Portimão was ideally placed to enjoy the fruits of the boom in international trade stimulated by the great Portuguese voyages of discovery and prospered as a haven for ships plying the African coast.
The earthquake of 1755 destroyed much of the town and prompted an economic decline that was reversed only towards the end of the 19th century by the return of trade, exports of dried fruit, milling, fishing and the fish-canning industry, activities which would continue into the 20th century. Portimão was made a city in 1924 by the then President of the Republic, the writer Manuel Teixeira Gomes, himself a native of Portimão.
In the last three decades tourism has been the motor driving Portimão’s economy and the city can now claim to be the second most populous in the Algarve.