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This town’s long history is clear from the discovery on Vila Velha hill, overlooking the Ria de Alvor, of a Neolithic village retaining traces of subsequent Roman occupation. During the period of Moorish rule, Alvor was a thriving port. The ramparts defending it were the scene of violent fighting when the Portuguese army led by the king D. Sancho I conquered it in 1189, with the help of Crusaders en route to the Holy Land. Retaken by the Moors in 1191, it was only returned to Christian dominion in 1250, at the time of the campaigns that resulted in the conquest of the whole of the Algarve.
The town walls were rebuilt in 1300 and Alvor was made a town by the king D. Manuel I, immediately after the death of D. João V. It shared in the prosperity of the 15th and 16th centuries, but was badly damaged by the earthquake of 1755. The old town was never to regain its former splendour. It lost its status as a town at the time of the Marquês de Pombal and only regained it in 1938.
Alvor retains much of the charm of a picturesque fishing village, with streets of white houses and colourful boats which, after a day at sea, gather near the old fish market.