Behind the Scenes at Sand City

What is Sand City? That might seem an odd question, but if you haven’t visited for a while, you could be in for a pleasant surprise. 

It’s been twenty years since I visited Sand City, back when it was based in Pêra. Today’s attraction – now based in Lagoa – is a very different offering, with a focus on providing a relaxing and entertaining attraction for residents and tourists alike. 

On the day of my visit, I was greeted by João Correia, Sand City’s friendly Marketing Manager. João lives in Portimão and has worked at Sand City for the last two years. He clearly loves his work and, along with Executive Director Nuno Angelo and owner Alper Alagoz, he has big plans for the future. 

João explained the basic premise. “Some people still think of Sand City as a theme park, but we consider it an exhibition centre. It’s also a place where in this digital age, people can relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of their lives.” 

While today’s offering is undoubtedly different to the previous one, the sculptures are still as enthralling. After all, where can you see the Pope on a Vespa, the Queen drinking tea, and a four-metre-tall Ronaldo? My particular favourite, however, is the western gunslinger, the detail of which is outstanding. 

There are over one hundred and twenty sculptures created by sixty artists from all over the world. Typically, a sculpture takes about a week to complete. Virtually any shape can be created. The initial focus is on carefully placing ‘building blocks’ of sand into place before sculpting and then sealing so they are protected from the worst of the weather. They can stay in place for up to two years. 

I particularly appreciated the information signs which accompany many of the sculptures. For example, the sculpture of the Statue of Liberty tells you all about the history of the statue while just a few metres away, there’s a statue and accompanying information all about the Great Panda. It all helps make Sand City an informative and interesting attraction. 

With today’s offering, greater emphasis has been placed on creating ‘break out’ areas, complete with tables and chairs and a picturesque water feature, where visitors can sit and relax. There is a new snack bar, although if visitors prefer to bring their own picnic, they are welcome to do so. 

As for the future, João said opening hours will soon be extended so visitors can experience the sunset at Sand City. “It is a very special time of day and the sculptures look amazing. With the buildings we have here, there will be more art exhibitions, so we extend the range of attractions.” 

Sand City is far more than a theme park. It’s the largest sand sculpture venue in the world, set within a picturesque and relaxing environment. I will certainly be back before too long and I’m really looking forward to seeing the plans of João and the team coming to fruition.

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