Nearby island is home to the best beaches, included an official nudist beach
TAVIRA, PORTUGAL: There are touches of history all over this pretty seaside town at the eastern Algarve region of Portugal. My holiday to Tavira reminds what this part does best. Plenty of charm, relaxing surroundings, golden sand beaches and Portuguese delight.
The food scene in Tavira is exceptional. The value is outstanding and the seafood’s superb. But who serves the best octopus, the best sardines and the best bacalao..? It will take a whole week to decide.
#1 Know the city
The five old arch bridges over river Gilao, makes this town both picturesque and elegant. The stretch of a re-vamped river front is a great place to relax. Try one of the cafes and enjoy the picturesque setting near the Ponte Romana, the Roman bridge with arches reflected on the water and people searching for clams at low tide.
The grand streets are sprinkled with 18th-century mansions. Over 30 churches still watch over Tavira, and the old water tower converted into Camera Obscura tower with views from every angle.
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.
#2 Garden by the river
Nearby the river, Jardim do Coreto is another alternative and a shady place to play a game of dominoes. This botanical garden has various types of trees, flowers and wide sidewalks. Various local festivals are held here.
#3 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.
#4 Best food in Tavira
Imperial. If I had only one day in Tavira, this is where I’d have lunch or dinner. Imperial was the first restaurant to open 75 years ago, and many of the local dishes was invented here. The house fish soup is still on the menu. For fish lovers, order the traditional Cataplana de Marisco, a hot pot stew with tomato, pepper, onion, fish and seafood. Imperial, Rua Jose Pires Padinha 22, Tavira.
Rive Gauche Restaurant. The decoration looked a theatre or art gallery, and the food is a fusion of Portuguese and French. Simple and refined at the same time. I suggest smoked cod salad as starter and a strawberry pie for dessert. All homemade, almost gourmet for decent prices. Address: Rua Dr Augusto da Silva Carvalho 22, Tavira.
Good for Families. Come na Gaveta is a gastrobar perfect for families. Terrace and wine bar. Address: Dr Mateus Teixeira de Azevedo, 36, Tavira.
#5 Soul City of Fado Music
The history of Fado is definitely an attraction. Next to the Misericordia Church, there is a Fado Museum with daily shows. Enjoy a 45-minute live performance by guitar players and a singer.
I got a real flavour of the talented singer Sara Goncalves, who won a national Fado competition. What a voice! Sara is the Soul and Sound of Portugal – and we had our moment.
On a boat trip you will discover why this coast was elected one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal. This is important wetlands for aquatic birds. During a tour we will observe birds like White Stork, Little Egret and the Spoonbill. Waders are most abundant during winter. Birds like the Whimbrel, the Turnstone and the Grey Plover are a constant presence. You will also have the opportunity to see interesting species such as the Black-tailed Godwit, the Oystercatcher and many others.
Two-hour birdwatching tour led by a biologist on a flat boat with maximum 12 people, included binoculars provided. Contact Farmosamar for info and booking.
#7 The Shopping Mall
Don’t miss the Tavira Gran-Plaza shopping mall – offering more than 110 stores, places to eat, and cinemas as well as a large supermarket.
#8 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. These are some reasons why many foreigners live in Tavira during the months of winter in North Europe.
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.
#9 Time for tee
Tavira got three golf courses, Benamor, Quinta de Cima and Quinta da Ria.
Quinta de Cima is the Championship Course and offers different and very unique characteristics: wide fairways, well based bunkers and several lake and streams which calls for a good deal of precision playing.
#10 Family friendly by the sea
Located on the Atlantic coastline, Robinson Club Quinta da Ria is a hotel with family-friendly leisure activities. Guests have access to two golf courses, a large pool and guided cycle tours. The Roby Kids’ Club offers activities for children aged 3 to 12. There are two bars and two restaurants, as well as healthy options.
The hotel is set in a nature reserve overlooking a lagoon. The nearest sandy beach is a five-minute drive away at Cacela Velha. Tavira is a 15-minute drive along the coast.
#11 Extra: Not yet destroyed by tourists!
On the banks of a quiet river, Tavira is the place to breathe peace and harmony.
Portugal Wine: Elegance and the potential to Age
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.