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Tavira - the Venice of the Algarve

"Tavira is one of the gems of the eastern Algarve. Straddling the River Gilão and the River Segua, its gentle charm and predominantly low-rise architecture set it aside from other resorts in the region. Sometimes referred to as the Venice of the Algarve, it boasts a seven-arched Roman bridge, some fine Renaissance architecture, numerous churches, tree-lined squares and a certain romantic air. Also, along the Travessa de Dona Brites you will find fine examples of medieval houses complete with Gothic windows and doorways. However, it is also a lively trading town with a vibrant fruit and vegetable market just beyond the riverside park where many stop to drink a coffee and catch up on the local gossip." Travel in Portugal


From Wikipedia:

"...Portuguese town and municipality, capital of the Costa do Acantilado, situated in the east of the Algarve on the south coast of Portugal.[1] It is 28 kilometres (17 miles) east of Faro and 75 kilometres (47 miles) west of Huelva across the Río Grande (Rio Guadiana) into Spain. The Gilão River meets the Atlantic Ocean in Tavira....

...Administratively, the municipality is divided into 6 civil parishes (freguesias):[7]

Here are some figures about Tavira municipality, from 2018 data on AdminStat:

Inhabitants (N.) 24,750

Families (N.) 10,867

Males (%) 47.3

Females (%) 52.7

Foreigners (%) 20.9

Average age (years) 46.7

I am currently unable to find stats on the town of Tavira, as opposed to the municipality.

"What was the Algarve like before resorts, golf courses and Irish pubs sprang up along this coast with its year-round sunshine and golden beaches? Head east (rather than west) from Faro airport and you might find out. Tavira, 18 miles from the Spanish border and straddling the Gilão river, is arguably the Algarve’s prettiest town, and exudes an authentic Portuguese charm. Big hotels are few, churches are many, fishing boats crowd the river and everyone has time to dawdle.

Layers of history can be seen, from Phoenician excavations through Islamic-decorated doorways to Renaissance and Baroque flourishes. However, it is the colours that hit you: blinding-white walls, brilliant azulejo tiles, fiery-red pantiles."

"Tavira is one of the most charming towns in the Algarve, and is a wonderful destination for your holiday. Tavira lies along the slow flowing Gilão River, and is a delightful mix of traditional Portuguese heritage with deep-rooted Moorish influences. Concealed within the labyrinth of cobbled streets are traditionally tiled houses, family run restaurants, and a myriad of decorative churches.

South of Tavira are the protected waterways and mudflats of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, which leads to the beautiful sandy beaches of the Ilha de Tavira. Surrounding Tavira are the fascinating towns of Olhão, Vila Real de Santo António and Cabanas, along with world-class golf courses and unspoilt countryside.

As a holiday destination, Tavira is the perfect combination of beaches and culture, while still offering modern hotels, contemporary cuisines and glorious weather."


"The Roman settlement of Balsa was just down the road, near Santa Luzia (3km west). The seven-arched bridge the Romans built at Tavira (then called Tabira) was an important link in the route between Baesuris (Castro Marim) and Ossonoba (Faro).

In the 8th century, the Moors occupied Tavira. They built the castle, probably on the site of a Roman fortress, and two mosques. In 1242 Dom Paio Peres Correia reconquered the town. Those Moors who remained were segregated into the mouraria (Moorish quarter) outside the town walls.

As the port closest to the Moroccan coast, Tavira became important during the Age of Discoveries, serving as a base for Portuguese expeditions to North Africa, supplying provisions (especially salt, wine and dried fish) and a hospital. Its maritime trade also expanded, with exports of salted fish, almonds, figs and wine to northern Europe. By 1520 it had become the Algarve’s most populated settlement and was raised to the rank of city.

Decline began in the early 17th century when the North African campaign was abandoned and the Rio Gilão became so silted up that large boats couldn’t enter the port. Things got worse when the plague struck in 1645, followed by the 1755 earthquake.

After briefly producing carpets in the late 18th century, Tavira found a more stable income in its tuna fishing and canning industry, although this too declined in the 1950s when the tuna shoals sensibly moved elsewhere. Today, tourists have taken the place of fish as the biggest money-earners."


"1. Praia do Barril - ...Praia do Barril has a long and wide belt of white sand, with rows of parasols and sun loungers and a dune system behind. Children will get a kick out of the journey, as after parking up on the shore you board a miniature train...

2. Tavira Castle - The best remnant from the town’s Moorish era, Tavira’s castle has walls dating from the Almoravid dynasty in the 1000s. It was beefed up later during the Almohad Caliphate in the 12th century, and many of the surviving vestiges are from that time...

3. Igreja da Misericórdia - The Renaissance facade of this church demands your attention, and is from the church’s construction in the mid-16th century...

4. Fado com História - Fado com História is a popular attraction where you can enjoy a great Fado performance (Portugese music genre). A video will introduce you to the genre and it’s rich history which is followed by a live perfomance. After the live performance guests are invited to join the artists for a complimentary glass of port wine and traditional snacks from the Algarve...

5. Praia da Ilha de Tavira - The nearest beach to the town also has the most going on.

As the name tells you, it’s on the barrier island isolated from the mainland by a small channel.

The ferry across costs €2 for a return and shuttles back and forth all day...

6. Tavira Camera Obscura - ...Tavira has its own camera obscura, set up in a converted water tower. The tower is from 1931, and stands near the castle and the Igreja Matriz...

7. Ponte Antiga Sobre o Rio Gilão - Often described as a “Roman bridge”, this structure spanning the River Gilão isn’t quite so old, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

The bridge is most likely from Moorish times in the 1100s and then took on its current appearance in the 1600s...

8. Praça da República - Home to Tavira’s tourist office, and the beginning of any walk around Tavira, the pedestrianised Praça da República has an elegance can’t be matched in the Algarve...

9. Jardim do Coreto - ...With palms, hardwood trees, flowerbeds and walkways paved with mosaic  patterns it’s the ultimate place to take a breather or get your bearings. The park is also the haunt of elderly locals, locked in animated conversation or playing games of dominos. Jardim do Coreto is the oldest public park in the town, configured in the 1890s...

10. Núcleo Museológico Islâmico - A branch of the Municipal Museum, this exhibition for Tavira’s Moorish period opened in 2012. Digs at manyplaces around Tavira, like the Convento da Graça, Palácio da Galeria and Pensão Netos brought to light an array of artefacts that have been restored and displayed here...

11. Palácio da Galeria - The main venue for Tavira’s Municipal Museum is a Baroque palace on a site going back to Phoenician times, around 2,600 years ago. Excavations revealed ritualistic wells dedicated to Baal, their god of storms...

12. Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo - Beside the castle, this church was started right after Tavira was retaken from the Moors in 1242. It even sits on the very site where the town’s mosque used to be. The Gothic building stood strong for 500 years until the epochal earthquake in 1755 that toppled monuments all over Portugal. It was rebuilt with a Baroque design, but the Gothic portal is medieval and dates to the 1300s...

13. Cabanas de Tavira - A breeze from the Taviras, Cabanas is another sweet old town.

You have to pay a visit, as the town sits right in front of the Ria Formosa lagoon. There are yachts and painted wooden boats anchored in the smooth waters and across the channel you can watch the dunes that form another barrier island...

14. Ria Formosa - ...a natural park, sprawling over 170 square kilometres of water channels, islands, salt pans, beaches and shellfish beds. Ria Formosa is help by the experts as one of the most important wetland sites on earth...

15. Water-Based Fun - Optimal wind speeds, water temperature, and miles of deserted beach combine to gift Tavira some of the best kitesurfing conditions around.

The Eolis school can accommodate absolute newcomers as well as experienced boarders who want to get some serious air-time. Meanwhile, the other advantage of the Ria Formosa, beyond the natural beauty and ecological wealth,  is its calm water and the peace once you get once you escape the main towns. SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) could have been invented for this environment"


From Google Maps Street View, just north of Tavira.

Looks great! Can't wait to visit.

Of course, no article about a representative city from a municipality would be complete without a link to the inimitable Vitor Oliveira. Vitor, aka portuguese_eyes, has posted thousands of photos of Portugal, organized by municipality. Here is the link to his Tavira collection (270 photos - what a monster!) and here are a few examples of his work:

Thanks, Vitor!

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