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Before detailing what you should see and do in Tavira, let’s start by describing the city for those who have come across this article by chance. Tavira is a seaside town in southern Portugal, located in the Algarve region. It has its feet in the water of the sea, of course, but also of the Gilão River, which flows into the Atlantic from the creeks and lagoons of the Ria Natural Park Formosa. To visit Tavira is to dive into the heart of Portuguese culture: between the magnificent surrounding landscapes, its unique architectural heritage, and its local life, you are sure to fall in love. In any case, we think you will! So, before reading about the essential things to do in Tavira, here’s a little update on the destination itself.
🗒️ What you need to know before your trip to Tavira
Before we start our list of things to do in Tavira, let’s start with some tips for your next trip.
How do you get to Tavira?
The easiest way to get to Tavira is by plane, even if you are coming from afar. Indeed, Faro airport is very well served by companies from across Europe, especially budget airlines, and it is only about thirty minutes away by car or train. Another possibility is going through Seville in Spain. The beautiful Andalusian city is just two hours away by direct line train and 1h45 by car. Finally, if you want to go via Lisbon, the Portuguese capital is located five hours from Tavira by road.
Which hotels should you choose in Tavira?
The port city only has 26,000 year-round residents, but it is used to welcoming visitors. So, which hotel should you choose in Tavira? There is a few choices.
If large hotel complexes don’t put you off, you can opt for the AP Maria Nova Lounge. Located on a hillside just five minutes from the city centre, this establishment has many rooms as well as two swimming pools, a small gym, and a massage room.
However, if you are looking for calm and authenticity, we recommend the Quinta do Caracol. This hotel is in fact an olive farm, meaning you will be between city and nature, just 200 meters from Tavira station. You will have the impression of being in a real hacienda, with the possibility of having your breakfast in a flowery garden with taste.
Finally, if you prefer to have your feet in the water, why not let yourself be tempted by the Luazinha? It is a small, completely renovated fisherman’s cottage, offering all modern comforts.
🔝 The 7 essential things to do in Tavira, Portugal
Let’s move on to activities, which are not lacking in Tavira. To help you choose between the large variety and optimize your time there, here are the seven essential things to do in Tavira.
Cross the Gilão River on the Roman Bridge
The story goes that it was on this bridge that the battle between King Dom Fernando and the Spaniards took place, of which the king was ultimately the winner. Located just after the Phoenician ruins and the Church of Mercy, the Roman bridge is actually not so Roman, according to researchers who have dated its construction to the 12th century. That doesn’t make it any less of a fabulous place to explore. You can enjoy a nice walk on the banks of the Gilão River, then take a place on a terrace in the shade to watch the fishing boats sail on the river.
Enjoy the beaches of Tavira
One of the towns with the most beautiful beaches in the region, Tavira boasts 11 kilometres of golden sand, dotted with dunes and is very popular with holidaymakers looking for relaxation and nautical sports. After crossing the lagoon by ferry, you will have the choice between unwinding in one of the bars or restaurants in the area or simply walking away from these built-up places while enjoying the fresh air of the ocean.
Praia do Barril, Priaia de Tavira, Praia de Cabanas, Praia dos Tesos… The beaches of Tavira are numerous and follow one another without interruption meaning every day from May to September, you can come and bask in the sun.
💧 Bathe in the spring. Did you know that the Algarve is the perfect region for swimming in April? Here is our selection of destinations.
Stroll through the Old Town
To be quite honest, you can’t go to Tavira without enjoying a short walk through its historic centre. Near the middle is the former convent of Tavira, now rehabilitated as a hotel. Why not take a little break in the small park just opposite where you will come across many sites that are sure to catch your eye.
Hungry? There are many restaurants worth visiting in Tavira but try Tasquinha da Paula. This discreet establishment in the centre is run by a local couple and serves traditional and very tasty cuisine.
Tasquinha da Paula | Largo Martires da Republica 3A, Tavira
Take on the castle of Tavira
Perched at the top of the Santa Maria hill, the castle of Tavira is one of the places you absolutely must visit. And then it’s not always on days that you see castles. This one is particularly marked by history. It dates from the time when the Moors occupied the city. You can access the interior of the ramparts by stairway and there, at the very top of the walls, you will have a breath-taking view of the city. You won’t regret making the tip.
Explore the Anchor Graveyard
You cannot visit Tavira and leave without going to see the famous Anchor Cemetery. It features a good hundred anchors arranged next to each other more than 60 years ago now. This is due to the cessation of traditional tuna fishing, among other things. The role of these anchors was to hold the nets against the strong currents and the large quantities of fish caught in them.
Don’t forget that this magnificent site is found on one of the magnificent beaches, where you can also swim. Restaurant signs have replaced the fishing huts which used to line the sand, but the little train that was used to transport goods and fish has been refurbished and is still in use.
Buy sweets at the municipal market
It’s time for some shopping! Tavira Municipal Market is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs for yourself and loved ones alike. Immerse yourself in the lifestyle of the people of Tavira. Take a tour of the stalls, admire the merchandise on display, enjoy the thousands of scents that jostle for your attention, and appreciate the vendors who court the passers-by… The Tavira market mainly offers food. So, what should you buy? Doce do Algarve, fruit-shaped marzipan sweets, the local specialty.
Visit the Church of Mercy
In this top seven must-do things in Tavira, we’ve saved the best for last. This superb work by the famous architect André Pilarte was built in 1541. Hundreds of years later, the Church of Mercy has become a truly emblematic monument of the city. A symbol of the Renaissance, this building is as imposing and beautiful from the outside as it is from the inside: it is decorated perfectly from the door to the ceiling. You may not know that the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon was also born thanks to André Pilarte so here is the perfect opportunity to admire a singular work born from the fertile mind of an exceptional artist.
There you go, we hope you now know what to do and see in Tavira. This sweet city is a place too little known for our taste. If you have other ideas for activities, do not hesitate to share them in the comments.