With a charming character, Tavira is the perfect coastal destination if you want to avoid the crowds in the most popular cities of the Algarve, such as Albufeira or Portimão. Extended along the banks of the Gilão River, Tavira gives a more authentic perspective of the Algarve, without the resorts, golf courses or Irish pubs. Instead, this small town has a Roman bridge and a medieval castle where you can learn about the region's Moorish occupation. The dreamy beaches are also worth discovering, making it the perfect mix between a beach and a cultural destination.
Located on the eastern side of the Algarve, Tavira is approximately 30 km away from Faro, the nearest airport, and 29 km from the Spanish border. Faro airport has connections to the whole Europe so you won't have trouble getting here. To get from the airport to Tavira, either book a transfer (86€ return), take public transport or rent a car. If you're using public transport, you'll need to catch a 20-minute shuttle bus (1.70€) into Faro and from there pop on another bus to Tavira (4.20€). Do not get a taxi from the airport as it will be super expensive.
Once you're in Tavira, it is pretty easy to walk around in the Old Town. But, WarmRental recommends renting a car to explore other towns nearby.
Tavira is ideal for the tourist who wants to experience local culture or families looking for a relaxing holiday destination away from the crowds. However, it is a bit far from the central Algarve region where the main family water-parks are located. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you prefer a vibrant nightlife, this is not the best place for you. Instead, look into Albufeira or Vilamoura. Nevertheless, the most charming town in the Algarve has plenty other things to do and discover!
Start by walking along the banks of the Gilão River. Sit by the river at one of the cafes with something refreshing to drink, and take the time to appreciate the beauty of this town featuring traditional Portuguese architecture with Moorish influences. Then, head to Praça da República. Walk through the cobblestone streets, discover the picturesque plazas, and browse in the shops.
However, Tavira is a great beach destination, so make sure to visit the wonderful beaches. The beaches in Tavira are located in islands, so they are only accessible by a ferry boat or a water taxi. The ferry boat runs constantly to Ilha de Tavira island and the round trip is just 2€; the water taxis are pretty much always available and the cost is around 20€ per journey, taking up to 6 people. As for Ilha de Cabanas island, it is not as popular as the other but it's also beautiful. Tickets cost only 1€ return per person. On both these beaches, you will find restaurants, bars, sunshades to rent, as well as a few water sports, such as windsurf and jet-ski. Make sure to visit these beaches because they're absolutely beautiful and you'll feel like you are on your own little tropical island.
You should also take the opportunity to visit the historic center of this ancient Moorish town - which we will cover below - as well as the Ria Formosa Nature Park, where you can explore its waterways with a kayak.
One of the landmarks of Tavira is the seven arch bridge with Roman origins over the Gilão river. Then, enter the Old Town through the Porta de Dom Manuel. It was built in 1520 when D. Manuel I made Tavira a city. But the monuments to discover don't stop here as this is a town full of history.
One of the finest churches in Tavira is Igreja da Misericórdia. Built in the 16th-century, it is blue and has white azulejos that portray scenes from the life of Christ. Close to the castle, you will also find Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, a huge clock-face tower built in the 13th-century. In this church, you'll find the tombs of seven Christian knights of the Order of St. James who were killed by the Moors. Now you're almost in the Moorish Castle, or what's left of it as it was partially destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. From there you have an amazing view of Tavira. Near the castle, you will find Palácio da Galeria, a former palace that is now a gallery showcasing the town's wealthy past.