Tavira Portugal Travel Guide by 55Secrets Algarve
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Tavira Algarve Travel Guide

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August 27, 2020

15 Reasons to Visit Tavira


Tavira Algarve: Genuine and Inspiring

Considered one of the most beautiful towns in the Algarve, Tavira combines incredible beaches and stunning nature with a fascinating historical and religious heritage.

Also known as the “Algarve’s Venice”, Tavira is a winning bet for those looking for an authentic and genuine destination, a peaceful base in a family atmosphere.

This picturesque city with a privileged location has everything you need for a dream vacation.

Get to know the town and discover the 15 Reasons that made us love Tavira and why you should visit it.

1. Beaches

Tavira has white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, perfect for a walk by the sea.

“Praia do Barril” has a unique character due to its peculiar anchor cemetery. There you can find more than 100 anchors, once belonging to a community of tuna fishermen. Access to the beach can be done through a pedestrian path where it is possible to observe the environmental richness of the Ria Formosa, or alternatively, through a small train that ensures regular transportation to the beach. The railroad in this place used to transport fish in ancient times. On the east, “Terra Estreita” beach extends over a 50-meter-wide stretch of sand providing tranquillity and isolation to its visitors. The beach of Ilha de Tavira is the closest beach to Tavira and is also the most crowded beach, accessible by boat just like Cabanas beach.

2. Religious Heritage

Tavira has a remarkably interesting set of religious architecture, where the artistic richness of its churches, hermitages and chapels spread throughout the city stands out. The religious sensitivity of the town instituted by the countless centres of devotion reveals its importance and prosperity over the centuries.

“Santa Maria do Castelo” church, built on top of an old mosque has an eclectic architecture. Inside of the main chapel, you can find a lapidary inscription corresponding to the knight’s tomb who conquered Tavira from the Moors and seven of his crusaders.

The elegant “Misericórdia” church is considered a masterpiece of the Algarve Renaissance. Inside, you can find an impressive mosaic of tiles that line the bottom of the church walls with representations of the 14 “Works of mercy”.

3. Gastronomy

The healthy and delicious Mediterranean diet is intrinsically present in the gastronomy of Tavira. This diet, which is based on endogenous products from the sea and the mountains, is undoubtedly an attribute that grabs everyone’s attention. From the products of the sea, the delicious and much-requested octopus of Santa Luzia stands out, with an equal and deserved highlight for the seafood and tuna, made in the most diverse and tasty ways.

From the mountains, the lamb leg in the oven, the chicken açorda, the sausages and the fresh goat and sheep cheese are part of the gastronomic offer.

Finally, you can also delight yourself with the magnificent sweets made from almond, gila, carob, fig and Tavira pastries.

4. Archaeological finds

Tavira is a charming and surprising city, also at the archaeological level. Between the end of the 8th century and the 6th century BC, Tavira was colonized by a population coming from the eastern end of the Mediterranean and there are several traces of Phoenician occupation in the city such as the Phoenician ritual wells, the Phoenician wall, the Phoenician necropolis and the almohad neighbourhood. The Islamic influence is also notorious and can be seen in the historic centre, through the Islamic walls of Tavira and even in the Islamic nucleus, where one of the most emblematic pieces of that time was found: the Vase of Tavira. This and many other fascinating artefacts can be found in the Islamic museum that explains the historical influence of the Moors in  Tavira.

5. Ria Formosa Natural Park

This protected area of ​​high environmental value extends for more than 170 square kilometres. It includes a wide variety of habitats such as marshes, dunes, salt marshes, freshwater lagoons, forests, among others. The Ria Formosa is really important in economic, ecological and social terms as it is the financial foundation for several families in the region and natural habitat for countless species. It is possible to observe more than 200 species of birds in the Ria Formosa of which some are permanent residents and others are just passing by. In addition to this biodiversity, it is also possible to observe fishermen and salt workers doing their job using the same methods as their ancestors. The best way to explore the Ria Formosa is through a boat trip that allows you to observe the vast lagoon area properly.

6.  Praça da República

This elegant pedestrian square marks the beginning of any walk through the centre of Tavira. On one side, the town hall, on the other, bars and restaurants where you can have lunch, dinner, or drink a coffee during the day. Designed with an amphitheatre, several people roam this square to enjoy live music and other performances. This square was used as the market square and today has a monument in the centre dedicated to soldiers of the first world war.

7. Municipal Market

Located not far from the centre, the municipal market is the main market in Tavira. There you can find a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and fresh fish. With inviting prices and good quality products, this is a market that is worth visiting.

8. Bike ride

Another way to enjoy the landscape of the Ria Formosa is riding a bike ride through the Coastal Ecovia. In a pleasant 23km route, which crosses twelve municipalities, and connects Livramento to Conceição and Cabanas parish, it is possible to observe and enjoy the best that Ria Formosa has to offer. This activity turns out to be extremely relaxing as it is possible to observe marshes, salt marshes and various species of fauna and flora.

We rented our bike from Abilio Bikes and they delivered the bikes in the morning right outside our hotel room what made it perfect so we could start exploring straight away.

9. Galeria Palace

 The seat of the municipal museum of Tavira is a Baroque palace of medieval origin that dates back to the Phoenicians. Several excavations were made and revealed ritualistic wells dedicated to their storm god, Baal. These wells, as well as some artefacts, can be seen at the entrance to the palace, observing some areas of the floor paved with glass. More recent themes are depicted in the museum’s facilities such as local contemporary art, the Mediterranean diet, the fishing activity, and folk traditions of the city of Tavira, adequately accompanied by photos, movies and costumes. Important exhibitions of contemporary national and international art happened here, as well as exhibitions centred on the territory of Tavira, its history and heritage.

10. Tavira’s Castle

Located in the heart of the city, Tavira castle is undoubtedly the best vestige of the Moorish period in the city. This castle was built to protect the river crossing before the bridge was built and its walls date back to the Almoravid dynasty.  It is possible to climb the walls and the octagonal Albarran tower, where you get a magnificent view of the city and the river. Inside the castle, there is also a very well-kept garden, pleasant for a short break or stroll.

11. Tavira Public Garden

Right next to Praça da República and by the riverside area, there is the Public Garden of Tavira or Bandstand Garden. This is the ideal place to rest and relax, walking on its mosaic floor surrounded by several garden benches, trees, and flower beds. The octagonal iron bandstand, which gives the name to the garden, was designed in Porto and brought to Tavira by boat. At the end of the garden is the Mercado da Ribeira, inside of which you can find several shops and restaurants.

12. Salterns

Salterns are definitely a place not to be missed on your visit to the city of Tavira. These habitats sculpted by man are fascinating due to the presence of complex food webs in these places. It is indeed magnificent to visit these artificial ecosystems exploited for the extraction of sea salt, but it is necessary to bear in mind that not all areas are accessible. Traces indicate that the production of salt in Tavira dates back to the era of the Phoenicians who used it in food preservation. There have been salterns in operation for over 100 years, always using the same ancestral process, over several generations.

13. Traditional Products

It is not difficult to understand that one of Tavira’s traditional products is in fact the salt. Tavira salt and Tavira salt flower are both unrefined, unwashed, and additive-free sea salt after manual harvesting. The big difference between the two is that the Tavira salt flower is much more fragile, soluble and has different levels of mineral salts in its composition. Other traditional products like liqueurs and spirits of medronho or fig are handmade in the parishes of Santo Estêvão, and Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo.

14. Horse Riding

This is an entirely different and fun way to experience the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Horseback riding through nature is organized every day, where adults and children can ride a horse without ever having done it before! In an unforgettable experience of about 1 hour and a half, it is possible to stroll along the beach, contemplate nature with a privileged view and get in close contact with these incredible animals

15. Ancient Bridge

The Roman bridge is one of the most famous symbols of the city of Tavira that joins the two sides of the city separated by Gilão river. Several bridges cross this river, but this is undoubtedly the most interesting as it is a beautiful viewpoint. On top of the bridge, some benches allow you to appreciate the river and the historic urban landscape of Tavira. The ancient bridge, which tradition insists on designating as Roman, has medieval origins. Everything indicates that it will have replaced a Roman bridge in the same place that the Romans used to connect Tavira to Castro Marim.

Where to stay

The city of Tavira has several accommodation options for all types of travellers and budgets. For those looking for a peaceful stay with a dream location, we recommend Pedras D’el Rei since it is located right on the heart of the Ria Formosa and a walk from Barril beach.

Tavira has much more to discover, and it was an incredible surprise. The town is full of interesting and cultural activities and is a genuine and authentic local experience of the true Algarvian lifestyle.

We hope that this guide will serve as a base to explore the city of Tavira and discover this beautiful region of the Algarve.

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We are António and Marina, a Portuguese couple passionate about traveling and exploring each new destination from a local perspective. Together we're embarking on a journey to unravel the secrets of the world's most unique, under-the-radar and beautiful places. We started 55 Secrets to provide a regular source of the best travel related tips including the best unknown locations, insight from travellers and a curated list of the best places to explore during your trips. With over 80 Top selling Travel Guides published we want to make sure you get to explore every single place with the best local tips!