Welcome to Olhão, a town of fishermen, olive groves and barrier islands.
Bordered by the Ria Formosa estuary, Olhão is both a fishing port and a
coastal paradise of beaches and lagoons.
Visit the bustling food
market in the morning, enjoy a seafood lunch and stroll along the
marina, where boats whisk you off to the islands of Culatra, Armona and
Farol. Our two-day itinerary features the best things to do in Olhão, so you can make the most of your stay.
The first stop on our tour is the municipal market. Set along the
waterfront, the building stands out amidst the white houses with its
red-brick walls and green domes. There are two sections: one with fruits
and vegetables and another solely dedicated to fish and seafood, like
clams, mussels and oysters. Look out for local delicacies like muxama
(dried tuna), ovas de polvo secas (dried octopus eggs) and cured
anchovies. The busiest day to visit is on Saturday morning. Dotted
around the market are a couple of cafés and bars where you can grab a
coffee overlooking the sea.
Walk to the town centre to visit the Igreja Nossa Senhora do
Rosário. Erected between the 17th and 18th centuries, the church
features stunning gilded altars, fresco paintings and blue and white
Just opposite the church is the Municipal Museum of Olhão. The
18th-century building was once the headquarters of the Compromisso
Marítimo, a society founded by local fishermen and their relatives. Now,
as a museum, it offers visitors an insight into Olhão’s history. The
ground floor features a variety of artefacts ranging from prehistory to
the Moorish era. Meanwhile, the top floor covers Olhão’s fishing
If you’re in the mood for a hike, head to Quinta de Marim, the
headquarters of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Stop at the visitors’
centre and buy a ticket for a tour along the reserve. Follow the arrows
to the nature trail, and in a few minutes, you’ll be surrounded by
woodlands, dunes and mudflats. Along the way, you’ll spot an old tide
mill where you can enjoy fantastic views across the estuary. The hike
takes around 2 hours. If you’re lucky, you may spot some birds on the
trail, like flamingos or the purple gallinule.
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the islands of Olhão. Many companies offer boat tours which depart from the town’s harbour. There are also direct ferries and water taxis to each island. If you go on a tour, the first stop is usually Praia do Farol, a small beach with an imposing red-and-white lighthouse. Then, you’ll head to Ilha da Culatra, where the clear waters offer plenty of opportunities for diving and snorkelling. You’ll often grab lunch here and then head to Ilha da Armona, home to a picturesque town with holiday homes and a long sandy beach. You can follow the paths along the dunes or go for a swim. After your island tour, return to the shore and enjoy the sunset from the marina or one of Olhão’s restaurant terraces.
A few miles northwest of Olhão is the town of Moncarapacho, famous for
its olive oil production. It’s here you’ll find the Monterosa Olive Oil
Farm, which offers guided tours and tastings. During the 1-hour tour,
you’ll have the chance to walk around the olive groves and learn more
about the process of making olive oil. At the end, there is an olive oil
tasting, where you’ll sample a variety of olive oils, ranging from soft
to very intense. You’ll learn how to pick the best bottle at the
supermarket, but you can also stock up here.
After the tour, go for a walk around the
village and visit the
church of Nossa Senhora da Graça. The church has a very simple interior,
compared to most of the churches in the Algarve, but it’s still worth
the visit. Erected at the end of the 15th century, it still has some
Gothic elements, like the side door with a pointed arch and the medieval
chapel of Calvário with its ribbed vault. Other features were added
later, like the Renaissance front doorway and the Mannerist altarpiece
in the Chapel of Souls.
The last stop on our tour is Fuseta, an unspoilt fishing village located on the south coast of Olhão. Park the car and walk towards Praia da Fuseta-Ria, following the promenade along the water. Aside from a couple of fishermen, the beach is often empty, leaving plenty of room to sit down and enjoy the views of Ilha da Armona and the lagoons of Ria Formosa. You can also travel to Praia da Fuseta-Mar by taking the ferry from the village. While there are boats running all-year-round, they’re much less frequent in the winter. Tours and fishing trips are also available.
Tavira: Travel east to the picturesque town of Tavira, known for its
churches and stunning beaches. Enjoy a drink at Praça da República,
climb up to the walls of the castle, and enjoy an evening stroll along
the Ponte Romana overlooking the Gilão River.
São Brás de Alportel: Head inland to São Brás de Alportel, a charming
town nestled amid the hills of Serra do Caldeirão. Explore the town
centre, visit the parish church and take in the views from the numerous
viewpoints located along the way.
Olhão has a variety of family-friendly attractions. The municipal garden
near the train station offers the perfect setting for a morning stroll
or a picnic. To learn more about the local cuisine, you can visit
Olhão’s market, where fishermen sell their fresh catch every day. From
the marina, you can hop on a boat to the nearby islands of Culatra and
Armona, where a string of sandy beaches await you. The islands are part
of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a protected area that is home to
diverse flora and fauna. Kids can enjoy a swim here and observe the
wildlife on a boat or kayak tour. It’s also possible to hike around the
area. For more information on trails, you can head to the park’s visitor
centre at Quinta de Marim.
Fresh fish and seafood take centre stage in Olhão, the largest fishing
port in the Algarve. Fish is slowly cooked over charcoal, and there are
numerous stews to sample, like the cataplana or the razor clam rice.
Among the top dishes here are the xarém com conquilhas, a thick corn
soup with clams and raia alhada (ray fish seasoned with lemon, garlic
and coriander). Below are some of the best places to eat in Olhão:
Chá Chá Chá: Just a few steps from the local market, this casual
restaurant offers a great selection of fish and seafood. The owner picks
up fresh ingredients from the market and curates the menu according to
the seasons. Highlights include the marinated anchovies, tuna steak and
Casa Corvo: Grilled fish and fresh prawns are the speciality at this
local restaurant in Fuseta. The fish is simply seasoned with a dash of
olive oil and salt and accompanied by softly roasted potatoes.
Vai e Volta: This lively spot is famous for its rodízio de peixe
grelhado (grilled fish buffet). The deal is only available for lunch and
includes a variety of fish, plus bread, olives, potatoes and salad.
Real Marina & Spa Hotel (5 stars): Set near the marina, this
luxurious hotel offers comfortable rooms with stunning views of the Ria
Formosa Natural Park. It features a rooftop swimming pool, a spa and
Octant Vila Monte (5 stars): Close to
Moncarapacho is this picturesque farmhouse tucked away among citrus
trees and olive groves. It is a peaceful retreat with modern rooms, a
swimming pool and a farm-to-table restaurant.
Hotel Cidade de Olhão
(3 stars): Just a few steps from the Olhão train station is this
affordable three-star hotel. Guests have access to a swimming pool and a
terrace with panoramic views of the town and Ria Formosa. It is also
within walking distance of the town’s top attractions.
The best time to visit Olhão is around
summer. The days are warm enough for a swim, and there are plenty of
events to keep you busy during the evenings. However, it is the peak
season, so expect busy hotels and restaurants. If you decide to come at
this time, be sure to book your accommodation as early as possible.
Spring and autumn offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds. It is the
ideal time for a hike, and if you're lucky, you can also squeeze in a
swim. Winter is the quietest season, but it is pleasant enough to
explore the town’s attractions and enjoy the peaceful streets.
Festival do Marisco: In August, Olhão organises the Festival do Marisco,
a seafood festival where you can enjoy local specialities, such as
grilled fish, clams and oysters. There are also live music performances
Festa de Nossa Senhora do Rosário: This religious festival takes place in early October, honouring Our Lady of the Rosary, the patron saint of Olhão. The event includes processions, religious ceremonies, and traditional music.