Olhão is the largest fishing port of the Algarve and the gateway to the beautiful islands of Farol, Culatra and Armona. The town is only 10 minutes from Faro by train and car. To be fair, Olhão isn’t the most stunning town of the Algarve. However, you can have an excellent stay in the five star Real Marina Hotel & Spa and have one of the best pizzas in the region at Pizza na Pedra. Find out all the secret tips on Olhão.
Olhão – Highlights
Top attractions in Olhão:
• The municipal market
• Old town with narrow streets
• Sandy islands with beautiful beaches
Olhão is a town in the Algarve with more than 40.000 inhabitants. Over the course of history, Olhão used to be a fishing village. The town situated near the nature reserve of Ria Formosa and is only a 30 minute drive from the border with Spain. Nowadays, Olhão is the biggest fishing port of the Algarve. The centre of Olhão has cute little streets, and there is a friendly atmosphere in the town.
What to see
We suggest that you start your visit in Olhão by visiting the municipal market (in Portuguese: mercado municipal), which actually consists of two markets:
• The fruit and vegetable market;
• The fish market, which is the biggest and most interesting of the Algarve.
These two markets are located in two striking red-brick buildings. The buildings are built in 1915 and have been renovated in 1997. Around the municipal market you can find several bars, where you could eat or drink and enjoy the view over the sea. The municipal market is located on the street Avenida 5 de Outubro.
From the markets walk through the narrow streets of the fishermen´s quarter. At the end of the pedestrian area you find the Parish church, also known as Nossa Senhora do Rosario. This is a 17th century baroque building, and is the most impressive building of Olhão. Inside you can see beautiful gilt carved woodwork (18th century) and a vault with fresco paintings. From the bell tower one can enjoy excellent views over the town and the Ria Formosa.
The chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos is situated at the back of the parish church and was the place where the fishermen’s wives used to pray in stormy days for the safety of their husbands out at sea. It was also used to pray for the sick and wounded. From the back of the parish church you see the main street of Olhão, Avenida da República.
Across the front of the parish church, you can find the Casa do Compromisso Marítimo. The building is from the 18th century and was initially meant to support local fishermen. Nowadays, this is a museum, with a small exposition of archaeological materials and the history of Olhão.
Near the market buildings there are two parks where you can sit or take a seaside walk. You will probably find fish drying in the sun.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
You can visit the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. This is a series of lagoons and island along the coastline of the Algarve. There is unspoiled nature and one can see a variety of wildlife in the Ria Formosa natural park.
Festival do Marisco
The base of the gastronomy of Olhão is fresh fish, shellfish and clams. You should not leave the town without tasting one of the several fish or shellfish specialties. Every year in summer the Festival do Marisco takes place. This is a gastronomic festival where one can enjoy the typical specialties of shellfish and clams. This festival is growing every year and is attracting more and more visitors.
From Olhão you can take a boat to Ilha da Culatra or Ilha de Armona, the two main beaches near the town. Another island is the Ilha da Fuseta, near the fishing village Fuseta. The area of Fuseta is suitable for a beautiful walk along the sea. You can also take a boat to Ilha do Farol, which is one of the bigger islands.
The best day to visit the municipal market is on Saturday morning. This is because on Saturday, there are also several extra stands around the market. The Saturday market of Olhão is one of the biggest markets of fresh products in the Algarve. There is a lot of choice of fresh fish and vegetables.
We recommend you take a boat trip to one of the islands (Armona, Culatra or Farol). The islands have beautiful beaches.
We also recommend a walk in the Ria Formosa at Quinta do Marim. Here you can see beautiful nature and tide mills and Portuguese water dogs.
In Olhão, you can find several ceramic tiles, depicting important historic events in the town. These typical Portuguese tiles are called azulejos.
Since Olhão is a typical fishing town, we recommend you to seize the opportunity to eat in a typical Portuguese fish restaurant.
Near the water of Ria Formosa you can have an amazing view of the sunset.