Set along the banks of the Gilão River, Tavira
is one of the most attractive towns in Eastern Algarve.
The town was ruled by the Moors between the
8th and the 13th century, an influence that is still visible today in the
region’s architecture. Later, in the 17th century, Tavira became one
of the main trading ports of the Algarve, shipping products like salt and dried
fish. Tavira still retains much of its traditional
charm, with cobblestone lanes and whitewashed cottages straddling both sides of
The main attractions in Tavira are its churches, the castle walls and the stunning beaches around Ria Formosa. There are more than 20 churches in Tavira, ranging from the Gothic to the Renaissance period. Igreja da Misericórdia is considered the finest church in Tavira. Erected in the 16th century, the church is a unique Renaissance monument, featuring a carved arcade and three naves covered with blue and white tile panels depicting the life of Christ.
Other churches worth visiting in Tavira
include Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo,
Igreja de São Brás, Igreja de São Paulo and Igreja de Santa Ana.
Sitting above the town, the Castle of Tavira
is an old Moorish fortress that once protected Tavira and its fishing port
against pirate raiders. The castle has a small garden inside and
offers wonderful views of the town and the lagoons of Ria Formosa.
You can also see a 360-degree projection of the city at Torre de Tavira, a former water tower that has been converted into a camera obscura, using mirrors and lenses to project a real-life image of Tavira onto a large bowl.
Close to the castle, you will find the Tavira
Municipal Museum, where you can learn more about the history and heritage of
The beaches of Tavira are only a ferry ride away
from the town, spread across two sandbar islands - Ilha de Tavira and Ilha de
Cabanas. Both islands are protected by the Ria Formosa
Natural Park, one of Portugal’s Natural wonders and a haven for migratory
birds, such as flamingos and egrets. Ferries to Ilha de Tavira depart from the
centre of Tavira in the summer and all year round from Quatro Águas. Ilha de
Cabanas can also be reached by boat from the fishing town of Cabanas.
The main beach in Ilha de Tavira is Praia de
Tavira which is located at the western edge of the island. A bit further are
the beaches of Praia de Terra Estreita, Praia do Barril and Praia do Homem Nú. Ilha de Cabanas is 7 kilometres long and has
only one beach called Praia de Cabanas. The beach provides several facilities
including a café, sunbeds and showers.
In the historic centre of Tavira, you will find several restaurants serving regional dishes and local wine. Tuna, stone bass and swordfish are a few of the most popular dishes in Tavira. If you're sharing a meal, it's best to order the Cataplana, a delicious shellfish stew cooked in a copper pan.
Tavira is located 35km away from the Faro airport and it's well connected to the rest of the Algarve by train. There are a few towns worth visiting around Tavira: Cabanas, Cacela Velha and Santa Luzia, which is known as the Octopus Capital of the Algarve.
Tavira hosts many festivities around the year, especially during the summer months where the city comes alive with music performances, art exhibitions and street fairs. Some of the best events in Tavira are the Sea Gastronomy Festival, a festival dedicated to fish that usually takes place in May; the Popular Saints in June, with its grilled sardines and the colourful street parade; the fireworks at New Year’s Eve; the Carnival celebrations in February or March and the religious procession on Palm Sunday that begins and ends at Igreja do Carmo.