Olhao Olhao, Eastern Algarve, Portugal

The fishing port at the centre of the Ria Formosa...

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Pronounced 'ol-ee-ow', Olhão is a busy modern town with a gem of a waterfront. Its fishing port is the most important in the Eastern Algarve and its fish market is the biggest. It also has many shops, restaurants and an entire summer festival devoted to sea food. Ameijoas - the king of clams - is both grown and eaten in abundance and is a 'must-try' entreé, as are conquilas. Olhão is very Portuguese, very Algarvian and very un-touristic. The pedestrian shopping area winds in cobbled streets through the moorish-looking old town to the waterfront with its markets (fruit, veg, meat, deli as well as fish), its cafe's, parks and sparkling views  out over the Ria Formosa lagoons. From the pier, you can take boats to the island villages and beaches of Armona, Culatra and Farol - all great day trips. The official visitor centre for the Ria Formosa nature reserve is just outside Olhão. Its worth a visit to see: the restored tidal mill (of which there were once many in the Ria Formosa), the bird life, and the chance to spot the very rare symbol of the park, the Purple Galinule. For the Sea Food festival in August, half of the water front gardens are closed off and turned into a massive gastronomic and entertainment delight. The sea food is plentiful and excellent, the entertainment is top class and the organisation great. It's a hugely popular event and deservedly so. Don´t miss it if you are here at the time.


The first documented reference to Olhão is from 1378 when it was a small settlement of fisherman's huts. However, it wasn't until the early 18th century that the first stone buildings appeared. In 1808 Olhão gained its royal town charter, as 'thanks' for the town people's loyalty and for a remarkable piece of enterprise by some Olhanense fishermen. When Napoleon's armies invaded Portugal in 1807, the British Navy evacuated the Portuguese court to Brazil for safety. When the British expeditionary force and Portuguese forces had defeated the French in June 1808, it was fishermen from Olhão who sailed all the way to Brazil in the ship 'Bom Sucesso' to give the good news to the Portuguese court (a replica of the ship can be seen at the small jetty in front of the markets at Olhão). The town of Olhão prospered in the 19th century through the fishing and fish canning industries, which remain important to this day.

Facility Comment
tourist office YES - Carolina is wonderful
train station YES
bus station YES
ferry service YES - to the islands of Armona, Culatra, Farol
internet cafe YES
foreign language newspapers YES - on corner of fish market
post office YES - in main Avenida
cash machine (ATM) YES - many
supermarket YES - Pingo Doce (x2), Modelo, Intermarché, Lidl
food market YES - on waterfront, great.
Facility Comment
cinema YES - 1 in Avenida, multi-screen in Ria Shopping
theatre YES - brand new, by fishing port
health centre YES - on N125
chemist / pharmacy YES - many, one always open
museum YES - by church in the Avenida
art gallery YES - by church, in the Avenida
marina YES
shopping mall YES - Ria Shopping
other YES - kids playground on waterfront

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