The town of Tavira, Portugal is a beautiful and elegant settlement, some consider it almost surreal in some aspects of it. Tavira is still an Algarvian fishing town, that much stays the same, however visitors might find what they see at odds with that particular notion seeing how unique this town is from most of the surrounding resorts.
Just like the rest of the region, Tavira spent quite a few centuries under Arab rule, in this case it was between the 8th and 13th centuries, after which it was conquered by the Knights of the Order of Santiago in 1242. Then between the 16th and 18th centuries, Tavira was the main trading port in the region. As you can plainly see, a very rich history, and we’ll try to give you a general overview on the place with this short Tavira guide.
What makes the town of Tavira stand out from most of the other Algarve towns is that it managed to somehow stave off the influence of mass tourism and preserve its unique traditions and handsome character. Part of this character is the seven arch bridge which spans the Gilao river; while its current appearance dates from the 17th century, the bridge itself is believed to have been built by the Romans. Severe floods affected the bridge back in 1989 and ever since it has only been open to pedestrian traffic, so you can still get to cross it, only you’ll be doing it on foot and some might argue that this is a much better way.
The river is a major part of the town, Tavira’s river front being populated with a plethora of shopping, dining and other types of opportunities. For instance the market hall present here was re-vamped a few years ago and now plays host to many shops, cafes and restaurants with its central area being reserved for exhibitions and other special events.
The entire river front is a great place for a walk or for a sit at one of the cafes and enjoy the incredibly quiet and picturesque setting. The gardens located near the bridge are a particularly great place to sit down and relax in the shade and usually you’ll see quite a few groups of older men chatting away the day or playing some dominoes.
Before we go any further we should mention that the town isn’t very far away from Faro and in fact you can quickly reach it by using some Tavira transfer from Faro Airport services.
Back to what sets the town apart, the place has some of the finest churches that you’ll see in the entire region of the Algarve and that’s saying something. Not only are they very beautiful, but there’s also quite a few of them, more than twenty in fact, which can be found in and around the town.
The church that is usually mentioned to be the finest in town is the 16th century Igreja da Misericordia; this might be largely due to its blue and white azuejos, and wonderful carvings and scenes from the life of Christ. Close-by you can find the older Igreja da Santa Maria do Castelo which dates back from the 13th century; this is where you’ll find the tombs of seven Christian knights of the Order of St. James who were killed by the Moors during the many battles that raged in the region in medieval times. This church is called ‘do Castelo’ because it is located near the 13th century castle which was rebuilt by King Dinis from what were Moorish fortifications. Nowadays it is used for tourist visits and to offer fantastic views across Tavira.
The churches, while there’s quite a few of them, are only a part of the architectural heritage of Tavira, the town showing signs of defensive structures dating from the Phoenician, Islamic and Portuguese eras of leadership and you can find out where yo look for these things in a booklet printed by the Tavira Municipal Council.
The have been only a couple of the major sights to keep in mind when visiting the town of Tavira, rest assured that there are many more than these, of a much greater variety as well. The best way of seeing the town and enjoying your vacation at the same time will be with the help of some Tavira car hire services, so make sure to keep those in mind when you budget for your trip to the Algarve.