Olhao, a very unique town in the Algarve

Olhão continues to be a very authentic place, where you have the feeling of still being in the real Portugal. The town center of the characteristic fishing village is characterized by a labyrinth of narrow alleys, small whitewashed houses and picturesque terraces. In the port near the markets, local farmers come to offer their fresh products.

Around the market halls there are all kinds of small cafes and bars where you can enjoy a Portuguese espresso coffee accompanied by one of the delicious sweets of the region. You’ll also find the inevitable port pubs.

The new avenue in Olhão is one of the most beautiful in the Algarve, with green parks, trendy restaurants and playgrounds.

The beaches are on islands where you can go by boat. For example, go to Armona or Culatra. Ferries depart from the pier near the markets. You can also take boat trips from Olhão through the Ria Formosa Natural Park. The Ria Formosa is made up of a 60 km strip of islands and peninsulas with lagoons and white sand beaches.


Olhão is known as the “Cubist City” due to its unique North African architecture.

Probably everything has to do with the trade that has always been done with North African cities and with the exchange of inhabitants. It is a Moorish architecture that is found not only in the oldest neighborhoods of Levante and Baretta , but also in newer neighborhoods such as Bairro do Mundo Novo. Nowhere in Portugal is this Cubist architecture as dominant as in Olhão.

The most memorable day in the history of Olhão was over two hundred years ago, June 18, 1808. The day of victory over Napoleonic troops. A month later, seventeen fishermen left for Brazil in small boats for the king, who had fled to that country because of the French invasion. The fishermen went to tell him that they had expelled the occupant and that he could safely return to Portugal.

Olhão is the last of the “fishing towns” to undergo transformation to tourism. All over the city you see houses that are being renovated. Ten years ago, the first newly arrived foreigners hardly dared walk around downtown at night because of the nuisances caused by prostitution, crime and drugs. No wonder columnist Arthur van Amerongen described Olhão as the “Detroit of the Algarve” at the time.


Olhão is a Portuguese town and municipality in the district of Faro. The municipality has a total area of 130 km² and has about 40,000 inhabitants. Olhão is located about 15 km from Faro airport towards the Spanish border. It is the first fishing village after the city of Faro . By car you are there in 15 minutes. With public transport you can take the bus at the airport or the coastal train from the center of Faro. 

Olhão is a beautiful city for those who love authentic Portugal, with its history and culture, beautiful islands and beaches, nature reserve and beautiful countryside. Olhão itself does not have a beach, but it has a long promenade and two anchorages for the islands of Armona , Culatra and Farol. On these islands you have wonderful, long beaches with nice beach bars and sun lounger rentals. The boat trip takes about 15 minutes, depending on which island you choose.

Sights and things to do

Narrow streets, hidden squares: you can stroll in the old center of Olhão. Whenever I’m there, I discover other special facades, doors, door handles, etc. It’s impossible to get lost because you always come back to familiar territory; the coast or the central shopping street. And there you can relax on one of the cozy terraces.

A good way to get to know the historic center of Olhão is through the Rota das Lendas, a small pedestrian path with modern statues. You will also pass the 17th century Matriz Church (the largest church), the first stone building built in Olhão, financed by the fishermen. The prosperous houses in this area testify to the period of prosperity that this region experienced after the installation of the first sardine and tuna processing factory at the end of the 19th century.

two large markets on the Olhão quay; the municipal market (= the municipal market). In one hall there is a fish market and in the other the fruit and vegetable market. Here you can also buy spices and local specialties (eg almond paste molds, biscuits and cake). On Saturdays there is a farmers market around the market aisles.

From Olhão you can take boat trips along the Ria Formosa and/or cross to the elongated islands (actually a kind of sandbanks) off the coast, the islands.

Armona and Fuseta beaches are both at the end of this long stretch of sand and offer amenities and water sports. It can get quite busy on both beaches in the summer, but if you walk a little further along the dunes, you’ll reach a quiet part.

Praia da Fuseta Ria, close to the village of Fuseta , is a small sandy cove that dominates the Ria and can be reached on foot. The beach at Lagoa do Cavaco is located in the middle of the estuary and is surrounded by salt pans. This is an excellent place to observe the rich flora and fauna of the Ria Formosa.

Exploration tours in the Ria Formosa are also organized by the Centro do Parque Natural da Ria Formosa in Marim . The guides explain the animals and plants in this area and mark the footpaths around the estuary.

Museums and shops

On the port side is the old center of Olhão, which is mainly characterized by its Moorish architectural style with narrow alleys, cubic whitewashed houses, stacked terraces and traditional chimneys. As you walk through the winding streets, you will find many shops and pleasant terraced squares.

The history and tradition of fishing are clearly evident in the beautiful murals in Largo da Fábrica Velha. This street art in Olhão is based on old photos and many locals recognize themselves or their relatives in it.

The municipal museum gives a good idea of the importance of fishing in this area. Here, too, a good representation of the disappearance of tuna fishing and how overfishing has been decisive for this change. Free entrance.

Shop till you drop

Olhão has good little shops and some supermarkets.

The Algarve Forum in Faro (15 minutes) is recommended for fashion and design buyers. It is a large covered shopping center with, among others: Zara , Mango, Mac, Kiko and a large food court. Free parking under the mall. Spacious and clean. Great to spend half a day, if it’s too hot outside, or too wet…

Lunch in Olhao

In the winding alleys and alleys of Olhão we also find beautiful restaurants for a good lunch. Some food tips for everyone:

  • Figo de Pita (great brunch and lunch)
  • tea tea tea
  • beach restaurant

The best restaurants

      • Bamboo (Thai) on the boulevard overlooking the sea
      • Petiscaria Casa de Pasto (Tapas)
      • Shiraz (Persian), Faro, 15 minutes
      • spout veldha (Portuguese), Loulé , 30 minutes
      • Oporto , Tavira, 30 minutes

    Bars and clubs

    • Olhão docks , where there are terraces and cafes connected.
    • Cas Club Bar
    • Cocktail Lounge Zone

    Weather in Olhao

    [nice to add this, with external feed?]


    The Royal Marina Spa offers you a massage for your body and relax your mind. The spa also includes a jacuzzi , sauna and Turkish bath.


    casa Céu , design hotel

    Casa Céu is a typical Portuguese house in the fishing town of Olhão in the Algarve. This 4 bedroom guest house is located in Olhão, a quirky and authentic fishing town just 15 minutes drive from Faro. The owners Lara and Dário created Casa Céu with a lot of love. The whole house is beautifully decorated, the roof terrace is stunning and the local islands of Culatra, Armona and Farol are an Algarve gem .

     Click here to check availability and get an impression of the hotel.

    Pura Formosa, Concept hotel ****

    Set in the center of Olhão, Pure Formosa Concept Hotel offers accommodation with a bar, private parking, a shared lounge and a roof terrace. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, a concierge service and free WiFi throughout the property.Continental and buffet breakfast options are available every morning at _ Alojamento .

    Click here to check availability and get an impression of the hotel .

    Royal Marina Hotel & Spa *****

    The elegant rooms at Real Marina Hotel & Spa feature a modern interior with wooden furniture and carpeted floors. All rooms have a minibar, flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom. Some rooms have sea views.

    You can relax at the Real Spa Therapy with 10 treatment rooms, hot tub, sauna and Turkish bath.

    Click here to check availability and get an impression of the hotel .

    Near Olhão

    north of Olhão are the villages of Pechão and Quelfes . To go from one village to another, you can take the road that passes through Quinta da Ana Velha ( Bio food). You can also go the other way, over the old bridge over the Marim River , the Ponte Velha. This bridge was built in the 1st century BC, at the time of the Romans. The bridge has the typical Roman arch construction, with stones in the form of wedges and wedges.

    Loule (28 minutes)

    Loulé is one of the most beautiful towns in the Algarve that you should definitely visit. Loulé is a traditional Portuguese market town and one of the most popular day trip destinations in central Algarve. The bold and characteristic historic center , lively market and traditional Portuguese atmosphere attract visitors year after year and keep the city alive . When visiting the Algarve, a trip to the Loulé market should not be off the to-do list.

    Tavira (28 minutes)

    If you drive towards the Spanish border, you will end up in Tavira, a city known for its numerous churches, 37 in total. The most beautiful part of Tavira runs along the river that divides the city in two. An ancient Roman bridge still spans the river. This bridge connects the two parts of the city. On both sides of the river you will find beautiful old houses with the typical pointed roofs of Tavira.

    From Olhão to the West

    Beautiful rock formations and beaches

    If you are coming west from Olhão, it is worth visiting the beautiful rock formations on the coast of Lagos. You can take boat trips along the coast from several coastal towns. This gives a beautiful picture of the Algarve’s rugged coastline. The beautiful yellowish-red rocks protrude above the beaches.

    As the coast here is very steep, you have to go down steep stairs to reach the beaches. Walking along these beaches gives a beautiful picture of this rugged coastline. Behind every curve and rock formation, you have a beautiful new view.

    Tourist places

    The cities along this coast; Villamoura , Albufeira , Portimao , ferragudo and Lagos are among the most visited tourist cities in the Algarve. These towns are ideal for getting out and enjoying the sand, sea and sun. The authentic Portugal is no longer here. It is mainly intended to entertain tourists in high season.

    A little further inland there are several beautiful villages and towns such as Loulé [link to Loulé blog page] with its beautiful historic center and cozy atmosphere. Silves is also largely authentic. The old Fort of Silves annually attracts many tourists to the village. The castle is located at the highest point of the village.

    This is just a small sample of the many possibilities that the Algarve has to offer. In addition to the obvious things like the sun, the sea and golf, it’s worth visiting the authentic villages a little further inland.

    Here you can view all the photos of Olhao



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