Tavira Tavira, Eastern Algarve, Portugal

The jewel in the centre of the Eastern Algarve...

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Tavira lies at the centre of the Eastern Algarve coast and is its most picturesque town. It sits on both sides of the river Gilão, linked by four road bridges, a train bridge and an ancient pedestrian bridge.  The atmosphere is calm and relaxed. Its a big enough town to have everything you want, yet small enough to walk from one side to the other in 15 minutes.  At the centre, on a hill rising above Tavira's characteristic pitched roofs, is the castle and the landmark clock tower of Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo. The town centre is full of old buildings - some dilapidated, others newly renovated. The recently renovated Palácio de Galleria houses art exhibitions. Close by is the novel new attraction of the camera obscurer - don't know what it is ? - try it out. Tavira is most famous for its churches - there's loads of them, though nobody quite agrees on the actual number. The most important are Igreja da Misericórdia and Igreja do Carmo. The idle can sit and watch the world go by from an abundance of pavement cafe's, or else, be real tourists and take a tour of the whole town in a miniature 'train' or even a beautiful horse-drawn carriage. The hungry have a huge choice of restaurants, many specialising in sea food. Self-caterers should head for the fantastic municipal market where a wealth of fresh food is on offer each morning: fish, seafood, meat, deli, fruit and vegetables - much of it caught, reared, killed, made, grown and picked locally. During the summer months, you'll find a good program of evening entertainment, much of it open air and much of it free. The amphitheatre in the town's main square is the centre of activity on summer's evenings. The open air Festival of European films is a treat not to miss for discerning cinema goers. Between the city and the sea, you'll find the extensive sea salt industry, oyster and fish farming, many wading birds including stork, flamingo (winter) and avocets, and finally, Tavira's fabulous and - in the summer - busy, beach. Tavira even has its own observatory on a great site just north of the city (see link below).


The Roman town of Balsa, sited close to Tavira, was a major settlement from the 1st Century BC, important for the fish salting industry. During five centuries of Moorish rule beginning in the 8th century, Tavira became one of the largest towns in the Algarve, of strategic importance for its castle and safe harbour. The Portuguese, under King Afonso III conquered Tavira in 1242 from near-by Cacela. Tavira prospered under the early Portuguese expansion overseas into north Africa, becoming the pre-eminent port for supply for the North African colonies in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was made a city in 1520. In the 17th and 18th centuries however, Tavira's fortunes waned, with the plague striking in 1645/6, the gradual silting-up of the harbour and finally the destruction wrought by the great earthquake of 1755. Tavira recovered some of its former importance in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century as it became the main port for the valuable tuna fishing industry. The tuna catch declined rapidly in the 1960's  and the tuna stopped running altogether in the early 1970's. During the 1980's and 1990's Tavira's fortunes have once again begun to look up under the influence of EU membership, tourism, national and foreign investment.

Facility Comment
tourist office YES - but useless and miserable !
train station YES
bus station YES
ferry service YES - to beach
internet cafe YES - several, plus wi-fi in old market on the river
foreign language newspapers YES
post office YES - the worst in Portugal ?
cash machine (ATM) YES - many
supermarket YES - Pingo Doce, Carrefore, Lidl, Aldi
food market YES - big and excellent
Facility Comment
cinema YES - art house in town, multiscreen in Grande Plaza
theatre YES - 2 plus free open air in the main square
health centre YES - on road to St.Luzia, with A&E
chemist / pharmacy YES - many, one always open
art gallery YES - Palácio de Galeria, by the castle
marina YES
castle YES
shopping mall YES - Grande Plaza
pousada YES
other YES - camera obscura, tourist train

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