17 Things to Do in Tavira – the Hidden Gem of the Algarve
Let’s go to Tavira, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Portugal’s stunning Algarve region! But don’t let its small size fool you – there’s plenty to see and do in this delightful town. In fact, let me share 17 wonderful things to do in Tavira.
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Is Tavirva Worth Visiting
Tavira is absolutely worth visiting! With its authentic charm, relaxed atmosphere, and beautiful surroundings, it’s no wonder that Tavira Portugal is becoming an increasingly popular destination among travellers.
From strolling along the cobblestone streets and admiring the whitewashed buildings, to taking a boat trip down the tranquil Gilão River, there’s something for everyone in Tavira. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply soaking up the Mediterranean sun, this charming town is sure to captivate you. So why not add Tavira to your travel list and discover all that it has to offer?
A bit about the history of Tavira Portugal
Tavira’s history dates back to the Phoenician times. Over the centuries, the town has been occupied by the Romans, Moors, and Portuguese, each leaving their mark on Tavira’s architecture, culture, and traditions.
The town was once a major port for tuna fishing, and its production of sea salt was also an important industry. Today, Tavira retains much of its historic charm, with well-preserved buildings, winding alleys, and ancient landmarks that offer a glimpse into its past. It’s no wonder it is considered the Algarve hidden gems worth visiting!
17 Things to Do in Tavira
#1 Praça da República (Republic Square)
This large impressive open square looks new and modern. The Tavira tourist office can be found here and it’s a great starting point to explore the city. On one side is the town hall and on the other, there’s a string of bar and restaurant terraces where you can dine alfresco in the evenings or enjoy a coffee by day. Tucked beside this row is a Moorish horseshoe arch, once part of the castle defences.
#2 Jardim do Coreto (Coreto Garden)
Connecting Republic Square to Tavirva’s riverfront is this beautiful garden. With its well-manicured lawns, vibrant flowerbeds, and charming bandstand, Jardim do Coreto is the perfect place to relax, unwind, and soak up the Portuguese sunshine (with a gelato in hand!).
#3 Ponte Romana de Tavira (Old Roman Bridge in Tavira)
The seven-arched roman bridge called Ponte Antiga Sobre o Rio Gilão spans the slow-flowing river of Gilao river or Ria Gilão. It’s thought to be from Moorish times in the 1100s. Although most of the structure had to be reconstructed in 1667.
It’s a pedestrian-only crossing bridge that offers benches in small cut-out niches making it a perfect spot to take in the city’s historic streetscape.
#4 Tavira Old Town
Tavira is best explored by simply walking and wandering aimlessly through its pretty streets and alleyways in the old town. You’ll instantly be mesmerized by its charm and beauty. From the latticework doors with door knockers in the shape of hands (a Moorish influence) to the Azulejo tiles. Almost all the buildings are whitewashed and feature bright yellow details. What to do in Tavira is simple – let your feet lead the way – this is one Instagrammable place in Portugal!
#5 Castelo de Tavira (Tavira Castle and Gardens)
The ruined castle called Castelo de Tavira dates back to the Moorish era. Most of what now stands is a 16th-century reconstruction. You can walk along the fortified wall to a watchtower. This offers a complete panorama view of the waves of triangular orange rooftops with white chimney stacks and an old Tavira water tower.
The interior contains a beautiful botanical garden featuring a lovely bougainvillea in the centre. Of all the Tavira things to do, this is one not to be missed.
#6 Nucleo Islamico Museum
This fascinating museum is dedicated to the region’s Islamic past and offers a unique insight into Tavira’s rich cultural heritage. With its impressive collection of artifacts, informative exhibits, and knowledgeable guides, the Nucleo Islamico Museum is the perfect place to learn about the town’s Islamic history and heritage.
#7 Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo (Church of Santa Maria)
A 13th-century church originally built in the Gothic style was severely damaged by the 1755 earthquake and needed to be rebuilt. The original elements are the doorway and clock tower, the rest was reconstructed in the 18th century. Be sure to climb the bell tower of the Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo for city views.
#8 Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Mercy)
If you’re exploring Tavira’s old town, you simply can’t miss Igreja da Misericórdia. This beautiful church, built in the 16th century, is a stunning example of Manueline architecture, with its intricate stonework and ornate carvings.
Inside, you can admire the beautiful vaulted ceilings, azulejo walls and Baroque altar, making it a must-see for anyone interested in art and architecture. With its rich history and stunning beauty, Igreja da Misericórdia is a true gem of Tavira’s cultural heritage.
#9 Tavira Artisan Shops
If you’re looking for some unique souvenirs to take home from Tavira, you simply have to check out the artisan shops in the old town.
Casa das Portas and Armazem are two must-visit stores, offering a wonderful selection of handmade crafts, traditional Portuguese ceramics, and beautiful textiles. Whether you’re looking for a special gift or just want to treat yourself, these artisan shops are the perfect place to find something truly unique and special. So, make sure you leave some space in your suitcase!
#10 Street Signs
Everything is a little more special and authentic in Tavira. Even the town’s street signs are charming, aren’t they? Once you come upon them, they usually led you to a historic landmark. They are especially helpful as you are aimlessly wandering through the old city.
#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. These lie preserved in the basement, along with a small assortment of artifacts in cases around the walls.
The open square in front of this museum also makes for a good viewpoint for Tavira rooftops like this one.
#12 Torre de Tavira (Tower of Tavira)
The former water tower, now called Tavira Camera Obscura, is a fantastic attraction for anyone visiting the town. This historic tower dates back to the 17th century and offers stunning panoramic views of Tavira and the surrounding area.
Inside, visitors can experience the fascinating Camera Obscura, which uses a series of mirrors to project a live image of the town onto a concave surface, offering a unique and immersive way to explore Tavira’s history and heritage. So, make sure to add Torre de Tavira to your itinerary for a unique experience!
#13 Praia do Barril (Barril Beach)
On the Ilha de Tavira barrier island is a world-class beach. It has a long and wide belt of white sand, with rows of parasols and sun loungers and a dune system behind. For families, a fun thing to do for kids is to board the miniature train that takes you from the parking lot to the shore.
This route crosses sand dunes and creeks until you arrive at the remnants of an old tuna-fishing community. Their huts and homes are now a beach restaurant and mini-museum. The old fishing fleet’s anchors have been planted in the dunes and now act like an anchor cemetery.
#14 Praia da Ilha de Tavira (Tavira Island Beach)
For fun in the sun head to the stunning island, located just off the coast of Tavira. Tavira Island boasts miles of pristine sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and breathtaking views. To reach it, take the ferry across for about €2 and shuttles back and forth all day long.
With its laid-back atmosphere and excellent facilities, Ilha de Tavira is the perfect place to soak up the sun, take a refreshing swim, or indulge in some delicious seafood at one of the island’s restaurants.
#15 Salt Pans
For a unique and memorable experience, don’t miss the salt pans in Tavira. These traditional salt flats have been in use for centuries and offer a fascinating insight into the region’s history and culture. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn about the salt-making process, see the workers in action, and even taste some of the delicious local salt. With its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, the salt pans in Tavira are a true hidden gem.
#16 Ria Formosa Natural Park
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts won’t want to miss Ria Formosa Natural Park during their visit to Tavira. This stunning park, located just a short distance from the town, is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, including rare bird species and marine life, including seeing pink flamingos.
Visitors can explore the park’s trails, take a boat tour, or simply relax and take in the stunning views. With its natural beauty and ecological importance, Ria Formosa Natural Park is a true highlight of any trip to Tavira.
#17 Tuk-Tuk Tours
A fun way to see some hidden gems in Tavira is to take a Tuk-Tuk tour to zip you around. Here are 3 top-rated tours you might be interested in.
- Tuk-Tuk City Tour. Enjoy a 1-hour tuk-tuk tour around Tavira and see the main historical monuments, the main square, and salt pans. Check prices and reserve your spot (up to 3 people per group)
- Santa Luzia & Ria Formosa Tuk Tuk Tour. Enjoy a tuk-tuk tour through the fishing village of Santa Luzia, known for octopus fishing, the real highlight includes the salt pans and Ria Formosa. Check prices and reserve your spot (up to 3 people per group)
- Tuk-Tuk City Tour and Camera Obscura. Take a private tour of the city on a tuk-tuk and visit the Camera Obscura one of the top things to do in Tavira. Check the prices and reserve your spot (up to 3 people per group)
Best Tavira Restaurants
There are many fantastic restaurants in Tavira, offering a variety of delicious local cuisine. Here are just a few recommendations:
- O Tonel – This charming restaurant is known for its fresh seafood and traditional Portuguese dishes, all served in a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.
- Rota Dos Sabores – For a truly authentic taste of Tavira, head to this charming restaurant known for its fresh seafood (but also accommodated for vegetarians). The welcoming service makes you feel like a local or extended family member.
- Ti Maria – This tapas bar is worth the walk a little outside the city centre. You can’t go wrong with the food and friendly atmosphere.
- Pausa – This trendy and modern restaurant serves up a fusion of international flavours and local specialties, with a focus on fresh and healthy ingredients.
- Pousada de Tavira – With its stunning location in a former convent with a view to the garden and a delicious Mediterranean-inspired menu, Pousada is the perfect place to enjoy a romantic dinner or casual drinks with friends.
Day Trips from Tavira
There are many fantastic day trips that can be taken from Tavira, allowing visitors to explore the wider region and discover some of Portugal’s hidden gems. Here are a few suggestions:
- Faro – Just a short car or train ride from Tavira (38 km), the city of Faro is a must-visit destination. Explore the historic old town, sample some delicious seafood, and soak up the city’s vibrant cultural scene.
- Cacela Velha – This charming fishing village is located just outside of Tavira (10 km) and is a hidden gem with stunning views of the coastline.
- Vila Real de Santo António – Located on the banks of the Guadiana River, this picturesque town is known for its elegant architecture and lively cultural scene and is just a short drive from Tavira (20 km).
- Castro Marim – Explore the ancient castle and medieval town of Castro Marim (35 km) and the stunning views over the Guadiana River and the surrounding countryside. This is considered another one of the hidden gems in Algarve.
- Algarve Beaches – Discover some of the best hidden gems Algarve with the amazing beaches extending best Algarve beaches extending the entire coastline of the Algarve
Where to Stay in Tavira
If you want to stay right in Tavira, click here to start your search.
If you want to stay just outside of Tavira, check out Double Delight, two separate apartments on either side of a beautiful pool area. Each apartment has a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living area. This is an ideal choice for groups of friends (up to 4 people) or a couple.
What is Tavira known for?
Tavira is known for its charming historic centre with its top attractions of the Roman bridge, Tavira castle, and Igreja da Misericórdia. As well as its close proximity to Ria Formosa Natural Park.
When is the best time to go to Tavira?
The best time to visit Tavira is during the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) when the weather is pleasant, crowds are smaller, and prices are lower.
How to get to Tavira?
Tavira can be easily reached by plane, train, or car. The nearest airport is Faro Airport, just 30 km away. Driving is a great option, with good road connections from the rest of the Algarve and Lisbon.
Can you walk to the beach from Tavira?
Tavira is not located directly on the coast, the closest beach is Praia do Tavira, which is accessible by a short ferry ride to the Ilha de Tavira.
What to do in Tavira at night?
Tavira at night is magical! Enjoy a drink at a rooftop bar while taking in the sunset, followed by dinner and enjoying a live Fado music performance or simply walking the charming streets.
Portugal Travel Resources
Beyond Tavira, Portugal here is more resources that might help with your trip to Portugal.
- Reasons to visit the Alentejo region with spending a day in Evora
- Spending time in Lisbon? Use this 4 Day Lisbon Itinerary which includes a day trip to Pena Palace and a visit to Jeronimos Monastery
- Want to visit Porto? Wondering if Porto is worth visiting and then use this 3 Day Porto itinerary where you can take a day trip to Douro Valley Wine Tour
- A day trip from either Porto or Lisbon is Coimbra! Find out if Coimbra is worth visiting and when you do go use this Coimbra 1 day itinerary
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As a Holidaymaker
Tavira Portugal is an absolute gem of the Algarve! Of all the hidden gems Tavira has to offer be sure to venture to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, there’s nothing quite like it!
Tavira offers travellers such a diverse holiday. Whether you are looking to relax on the beach or wander a historic town chock full of amazing things to do – Tavira has it all!