The Portuguese say Tavira is the “prettiest in Portugal”
TAVIRA, ALGARVE: A former trading port south of Portugal turning fishing town and now favorited by tourists. With five arch bridges over river Gilao and a picturesque, relaxed, peaceful and elegant town. Definitely discovered by foreigners, but Tavira has still managed to hold off the influence of tourism to stay firm on to its unique tradition and character. After all, this is the Eastern Algarve, which is authentic Portugal.
The stretch of a re-vamped river front is a great place to visit. Try one of the cafes and enjoy the very picturesque setting near the Ponte Romana, the Roman bridge with arches reflected on the water and people searching for clams at low tide. Nearby Jardim do Coreto is another alternative and a shady place to play a game of dominoes.
Ferry to the main beach
The main beach at Tavira is a fabulous island beach, Ilha de Tavira, a 14km long offshore sandspit. Ferries cross from the town centre throughout the summer and all year round from nearby Quatro Águas. The island is home to some of the best beaches in Europe, included an official nudist beach.
Churches. In and around the town, Tavira has more than 20 churches. The 16th century Igreja da Misericòrdia with its blue and white azulejos tiles is one of the finest and a national monument.
Meet locals. The historic centre comes alive in the evenings and it´s here tourists and locals dine at one of the many restaurants. So do the growing group of foreigners staying here most of the year. They love the relaxed lifestyle and a mild climate during the months of winter in Europe.
Here to eat. The value is outstanding and the seafood’s superb. But who serves the best octopus, the best sardines and the best baccalao? It will take a whole week to decide. If I had only one day in Tavira, this is where I’d have lunch or dinner. Imperial was the first restaurant to open 70 years ago and here many of the local dishes was invented. Imperial´s fish soup is still on the menu. For fish lovers, order the traditional Cataplana, a hot pot stew made by Chef Adriana with tomato, pepper, onion, fish and seafood. Imperial, address: Rua Jose Pires Padinha 22, Tavira.
Guided Tours. Tavira is a town full of history, churches and old buildings. If you don´t want to miss something join a guided Tour of Tavira http://www.formosamar.com/en
Or simply hire an electric Tuk Tuk offering guided tours, from tapas and wine to birdwatching.
Soul City of Fado music
Asking any local and they will tell you that a must-do experience is to listen to Portugal´s soulful national sound: Fado music. Following the advice, I visit the Fado Museum for a mid-day concert performed by Sara Goncalves. She won a national Fado competition in Portugal. What a voice! Sara is the new Soul and Sound of Portugal – and we had our moment.
No go and Pro. Tavira is not a holiday destination for groups seeking crazy nightlife and excessive drinking. On the pro side, the prices are extremely modest, especially compared with summer havens like Amalfi Coast in Italy or the French Riviera. Serving a strong cocktail of values and scenery, no wonder that some two million foreigners — primarily from Britain — flood the long stretch of Algarve. However, this is the other Algarve.
Statement. Tavira is the town the Portuguese call the “prettiest in Portugal”. As you probably know, always take advice from the locals.
More inspiration from Algarve: Faro means great fish and soft landing
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Faro airport, 35 km to the west, has connections to the whole of Europe. Get there with airlines including British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Monarch, Norwegian, Ryanair and Thomas Cook Airlines. For onward transfer from the airport to Tavira either pre-book a transfer or take public transport.
Stay: I stayed at Hotel Princesa do Gilao, excellent location next to the river and welcoming staff. Room rate; 45 Euros including breakfast, add 20 Euros for larger room with river view.
Eat: Don’t balk at the cover charge. It often includes bread, cheese, olives and a sardine pâté you’ll become slightly addicted to, and it means you can skip starters.
Play: During the summer months, Ilha de Tavira is the party beach. Don't miss the Gran-Plaza shopping mall - providing shops, places to eat and cinemas as well as a large supermarket.
Mini Guide: Many cultural events and festivals throughout the year. Easter festival, Mountain Food Festival in March, Sea Food Festival in May, Popular Saints Festivities in June, Mediterranean Diet Fair from July to September, Fair in October and Christmas concerts in December.