Browse busy markets, taste freshly caught fish and admire Moorish-style architecture at this port town, the gateway to the nearby Ria Formosa Natural Park.
Take a break from the beach to explore Olhão, the biggest fishing port in the region. Wander around the bustling quayside quarter, soak up the buzzy atmosphere in the municipal markets, discover the narrow streets and Moorish-style architecture of the old town, and take a trip to the peaceful bird-filled islands and lagoons of a nearby natural park.
The people of Olhão have traditionally depended on fishing and it remains a big industry for the town. Visit the Port of Olhão to see fishing boats out on the water then explore the Municipal Markets, where much of the fresh fish is sold. Spread across two red-brick domed buildings, the markets include one for fruit and vegetable and another for seafood.
The town is also home to several buildings of architectural note. Stroll around town and look for the Baroque-style Nossa Senhora do Rosario, which was built in the 17th century and features fresco paintings and lovely carved woodwork. At the back of the church is the Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos chapel, where fishermen’s wives would traditionally have gone to pray for their husbands’ safety on stormy days.
Most tourists who come to Olhão use it as a jumping-off point from which to explore the nearby Ria Formosa Natural Park, a vast estuarine reserve encompassing lagoons, islands, lakes, marshland and salt pans. Take a boat from the quayside to one of Rio Formosa’s islands. Find pleasant beaches for bathing and swimming on Ilha da Culatra and search the marshland for bird species including ducks, gulls and rare species such as the yellow-legged gallinule.
Another attraction worth visiting is Centro Educação Ambiental de Marim, an interpretation center for the Ria Formosa Natural Park, located less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from town. Follow a walking trail that winds through several different habitats, including salt marshes and pine woodlands.
Find Olhão in the Algarve, near the Rio Formosa Natural Park. The town is just 30 minutes from the Spanish border by car.