The Facho Tower and Matriz Church, medieval symbols of Alvor's history
Alvor was founded in 436 by the Carthaginian General Aníbal Barca as a commercial port, which he named Portus Hannibalis. The settlement grew around the sea, near the place called Vila Velha, where a Celtic castro dominated the river mouth during the Iron Age. It is likely that it was the Roman colony of Ipses, which was authorized to mint currency, and was absorbed during the Roman era.
Taken by the Moors in 716, the settlement began to be referred to as Albur, and gained an impressive castle, with only vestiges remaining.
This bastion was conquered on 3 June 1189, by the forces of King Sancho I of Portugal, with help from Crusader forces. It was retaken two years, and definitively reconquered in 1250. Rebuilt by King Denis in 1300, it served for 500 years the coastal defences against attacks by pirates and privateers until it was destroyed in 1755 by the tsunami and earthquake that devastated Lisbon.
By royal decree of Afonso V, dated 22 May 1469, it was raised to the status of Countship, under the seigneurial title bestowed to Afonso, Count of Faro. But, this title did not extend beyond this period, as the Count of Faro was implicated in a conspiracy against John II of Portugal (in 1483-84), and it reverted to the Crown.
During the reign of John II, Alvor continued to receive patronage, the king dying on 25 October 1495 in the palace of Álvaro de Ataíde after catching a chill in Monchique (the residence, which was situated on Rua do Poço, was located near the supposed hydrothermal springs of Caldas de Monchique).
The Prince Regent ordered, in the name of Manuel of Portugal, the elevation of Alvor to vila (town) on 28 February 1495, which was confirmed in a secondary diploma on 28 December 1498.
In the closing decades of the 15th century Alvor was a centre of the Jewish community in Portugal.
King Sebastian visited the municipality on 27 January 1573, staying on the 24-25 in Alvor, where he visited the houses (now in ruins) where in 1495 King John II died. At that time the alcaide already pertained to the Count of Odemira.
The first foral was issued during the reign of Philip II of Spain during the Iberian Union on 13 December 1585. Friar João de São José declared, in 1577, that Alvor was a transit port for fully loaded ships (carracks and battleships), while Fernandes Serrão (around 1606) referred to settlement of 240 homes, a heavily defended by its fort, that helped to serve a local fishing fleet and local exports. There is also mention of the localities of Montes de Baixo and Montes de Cima, colloquially known as the Freires since there were a preponderance of residents from that family living in the region.
The Matriz Church was constructed in the early part of the 16th century by Ataide family, alcades of the vila, donatorios with many privileges and lands (it was likely Álvaro de Ataide's son who initiated the construction of the church in 1497). In 1652 the Santa Casa da Misericórdia was first erected in the community. By royal charter, issued by Peter II, the vila of Alvor was once again raised to Countship (4 February 1683) under Francisco de Távora, a nobleman who occupied several official duties and distinguished himself during the Battle of Montes Claros. The title was later passed on to Bernardo de Távora, and then Luís Bernardo de Távora, eventually extinguished after the Távora affair. The parish and the Távora assets were incorporated in the House of the Queens (Portuguese: Casa das Rainhas until 1773, when these were integrated into the parish when it was annexed into the municipality of Portimão.
Although the 1755 earthquake (1 November) resulted in the death of only one person, it was responsible for the destruction of homes, the fort, the Facho tower, and the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, in addition to altering the river's course. Its effects also resulted in the decrease of the local population by 1000 residents; by 1900 the population included less than 3014 souls, owing to the effects of the earthquake.
On 14 April 1988 the village once again attained the title of vila, under decree 42/88, owing to the economic, cultural and social development.