The best things to do in Tavira – Our Tavira travel guide

Welcome to our complete guide to Tavira in the Algarve! After spending time exploring this picture-perfect Portuguese town, we’ve assembled a list of the best things to do in Tavira, plus many more tips and tricks to help make your visit a success. Find out why you should discover this quaint town, plus recommendations on restaurants, bars, hotels and more travel tips.

Be sure to leave us a comment if you have any questions! Tavira is well worth checking out, no matter where you’re staying in the Algarve.

Why Tavira?

Shows Tavira Gilao River with a bridge

Also known as ‘the Venice of the Algarve’, Tavira is the place to visit to sample some of the Portuguese tradition. Everything from its white-walled buildings to its fresh corner bakeries are testimony to the classic postcard towns that we all think of when planning a holiday to the Algarve.

It’s one of the only places in the region where you can see many bridges all in one place, setting the scene for some amazing walking routes. The local restaurants, warm atmosphere and impressive architecture will all make it a highlight of your trip. And we can’t forget about Tavira beach! It requires a boat to get there but is well worth the scenic venture down the river.

When should I visit Tavira?

Best things to do in Tavira - Shows a colourful mosaic on a building

As Tavira town is mainly occupied by locals, you can visit year-round and still experience the same sites without it being too quiet. Most bars, restaurants and shops are open year-round, as are its small but substantial array of accommodation options. The popular tourist months of July and August are busiest, as holiday-seekers flock to the town. We personally recommend visiting in April – June or September – October for warmer temperatures.

How can I get to Tavira?

Located in the eastern Algarve, Tavira is only a short drive away from Faro, the location of the Algarve’s main airport, and also a popular place to stay. You can visit from most Algarve towns and resorts by renting a car (our preferred option) or hopping on the local Algarve bus from neighbouring towns. Tavira also has a train station, which is a great means of transport if you’re visiting from the further regions of Portugal. The Algarve is well connected to Porto and Lisbon.

The best things to do in Tavira

Tavira is a compact but action-packed town with some amazing buildings, river attractions and streets to check out. A visit here is all about the traditional design and river views, however you’ll likely encounter plenty more to keep you entertained. So much so that many people choose it as their base for visiting the Algarve.

Check out our recommendations on the best things to do in Tavira below.

1. Walk over the Roman Bridge

The Roman Bridge (Ponta Romana in Portuguese) is one of the original bridges in Tavira and dates all the way back to 400AD, where is served as an important river crossing for trade between Europe and North Africa. Its stunning architecture makes it the most popular thing to see in Tavira, only supplemented by the scenic river views as you walk along it. It’s paved with shiny cobblestones and makes for the perfect photo opportunity. It’s a pedestrian-only bridge and you’ll likely stumble upon it without knowing as you explore Tavira. You can’t miss it!

Picturesque view of Roman Bridge - Tavira attractions

2. Kayak along Gilão River

Most people walk over the bridges and by the river, but not many explore from the water itself! Renting a kayak and gliding under the many bridges is a great way to see Tavira, and you’ll have plenty of fun at the same time. It’s a less common activity for tourists but one that we highly recommend. Start your expedition at the main road crossing bridge and kayak all the way to the edge of the river opening. You can rent a kayak by Uadikayak Kayak Center in town.

Kayaking on Gilao River in Tavira

3. Climb up the hill to Tavira Castle

One of the best things to do in Tavira and our firm favourite is to walk up the hill to the castle in the centre of town. This 8th century castle has a medieval façade and many of the original walls and turrets still stand today. You can walk through the neatly manicured gardens or climb the steps and walk along the walls. This is where you’ll find these best views of Tavira.

It’s well worth spending an hour exploring Tavira Castle, with the scenery being that of a fairy-tale. To get there, walk the winding narrow streets from the old town below or climb aboard the passenger train.

Shows a turret and trees at Tavira Castle
Tavira Castle viewpoint

4. See the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo

Right next to Tavira Castle is the beautiful, white-walled church of Santa Maria do Castelo. The church was built in the 13th century after the Reconquista of the city of Tavira from Moors, and is said to have been the replacement for the original mosque that occupied the land. It’s a stunningly beautiful church and one of the most picturesque buildings in town.

Best things to do in Tavira - Panoramic view of Santa Maria Do Castelo

5. Stop by a corner café or bakery

Almost every corner of Tavira is occupied by a small café or bakery with outdoor seating. Locals enjoy their morning coffee with a pastry and the occasional tourist stops by for a break from sightseeing. These small, traditional cafes are a central part of the Portuguese culture and the options in Tavira are excellent. Stop by for breakfast, take a break from walking or grab a takeaway pastry. We recommend Bakery Porta Nova.

People sitting outside a cafe in Tavira

6. Explore the colourful streets

What we loved most about Tavira was simply wandering the narrow, colourful streets. Pastel shades of pink, yellow and blue cover doorways and windows, and cobbled streets intertwine with each other. Ditch your Google Maps and get lost as you explore Tavira on foot, marvelling at the houses, river walks, parks and churches. Alternatively, rent a bike from Abilo Bikes and cycle around town. You’ll cover a lot more ground this way, which is great if you’re only visiting for the day.

Tavira attractions - Colourful town streets

7. Tavira beach / Tavira island

Many people visit Tavira town and don’t think about stopping by the nearby beach. Whilst the culture and architecture of town is the central attraction here, the beach is a beautiful part of Tavira and can’t be missed, especially if you’re visiting for more than a day. Set back away from town, Tavira Beach is a little difficult to get to, located on its own island at the mouth of Gilao River. Therefore, you’ll need a boat to get there.

Rent your own boat from Tavira town or join an organised tour, then head onward to the beach. It’s a great place to relax on an afternoon and the remote location ensures that you’ll practically have the sand to yourself.

Waves on the beach at sunset

8. Admire Praca da Republica in Tavira square

Out of all of the buildings in Tavira, Praca da Republica is one of the most impressive. It sits in the very centre square of Tavira town, a short walk from the Roman Bridge and amongst monuments, cafes and restaurants. Take time to sit down and marvel at this picturesque location. During the summer months and on key festival dates, the square often has live performers, stalls and even full-blown shows.

Susie walking to Tavira main square

9. Check out Tavira Camera Obscura

A cool thing to do in Tavira, especially if you have kids, is a visit to the Camera Obscura. This spaceship-looking observatory uses inverted photography techniques to give you a unique perspective of the town below. Enjoy the interactive tour that talks you through the key sites in Tavira and enjoy watching the happenings of local life below. Many towns around the world are now embracing these unusual attractions and it’s a great way to see Tavira from a different perspective.

Overhead view of Tavira old town

10. Wander the quaint gift and art shops

With any town as rich in Portuguese culture as Tavira, you’re sure to find plenty of shops selling handmade gifts, art and sculptures. These local exhibitions are a must for anyone that’s interested in art and fancies buying something special to take back home. They’re also great for browsing! Have fun wandering the quaint shops, which have a traditional ‘old town’ feel.

Quaint square in Tavira - Best things to do in Tavira

The best Tavira hotels

Many people visit Tavira for a day trip from neighbouring Algarve resorts, but we highly recommend staying overnight if you get the chance. It suits those that like quiet local towns whilst on holiday and is especially good for a long weekend city break. Check out our recommendations on the best Tavira hotels for all budgets below.

Luxury: AP Maria Nova Lounge Hotel – Adults only

View on Booking.com | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

For all you luxury hotel lovers out there, AP Maria Nova Lounge is the best place to stay in Tavira. With its modern design and uniquely shaped swimming pool, it’s the go-to place for those that like stylish boutique hotels. It’s only a short walk from the old town centre and balcony rooms are the perfect place to enjoy breakfast on a morning. They have a great view of town!

Moderately-priced: Ozadi Tavira Hotel

View on Booking.com | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Ozadi Tavira Hotel is a stylish, simplistic and modern hotel that’s situated just on the outskirts of town. Its secluded location away from the hustle and bustle is a nice place to wind down after a busy day of sightseeing in Tavira. It has an excellent outdoor garden area with a large swimming pool, and some excellent wellness facilities.

Affordable: Quinta do Caracol

View on Booking.com | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Quinta do Caracol is a small hotel with a traditional Portuguese feel. Its white-walled façade and blue furnishings perfectly matches the architecture of town, and it has a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. Rooms are basic but well equipped and you can walk to the centre of town in only 10 minutes. We personally love the outdoor seating areas, which are nestled in amongst beautiful gardens.

Booking.com

The best Tavira restaurants

If you haven’t already noticed whilst reading our guide, Tavira has Portuguese tradition at its heart, and that’s reflected in its choice of restaurants. Its coastal location means that you can taste some delicious, freshly caught seafood. It also has plenty of authentic Portuguese taverns with white window shutters and small outdoor seating areas.

It isn’t all traditional Portuguese restaurants either. A thriving tourist scene has increased demand for new, trendy and exciting dining options. You’ll find quirky gastro-bars, plus international restaurants ranging from French and Italian to Indian and Moroccan. Give your taste buds a sample of something different every day of the week!

Check out our recommendations on the best Tavira restaurants below.

Ti Maria

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Ti Maria is colourful, quirky and their food is an explosion of flavours in your mouth. Located on the outskirts of Tavira town, this restaurant is the perfect choice for those that want to get creative and try new and exciting things at dinner. It has a variety of tapas and main dishes, each presented beautifully. The decor of the restaurant is also very cool!

Nikita Restaurante

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Nikita is a small and friendly family-run restaurant that we highly recommend. It has a menu of assorted pasta’s and Portuguese favourites and you can sit outdoors or indoors. As soon as you walk through the door you’ll feel welcome, and the atmosphere is upbeat, with a traditional feel. We found the prices very reasonable for the quality of food, making it one of the best restaurants in Tavira.

Castelo Cafe E Restaurante

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Being a town right by the coast, its no surprise that you can find amazing seafood in Tavira. Castelo Restaurant is the best Tavira restaurant for fish and shellfish in our opinion. Its dishes are plentiful in portion sizes, reasonably priced and absolutely delicious. It’s a small and unassuming roadside restaurant just away from the main square, offering a more traditional dining experience. If you’re not a lover of seafood, you should try their steak options. They’re equally as good!

Artefact

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 5/5

If you want a great Tavira restaurant for brunch and tapas, look no further than Artefact. During the day it serves up tasty smaller fishes that are perfect for a light lunch whilst sightseeing. On an evening, the lights are dimmed and it provides a beautifully romantic setting to splurge on fine wines, charcuterie boards and more exciting tapas dishes. Its wooden furnishings give it a traditional feel and the food is excellent. It’s currently one of the best rated restaurants in Tavira on Tripadvisor.

Tavira nightlife and bars

Nightlife in Tavira is all about cosying up in a traditional Portuguese restaurant and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. You won’t find the vibrant party scene or entertainment of other Algarve towns… What you will find is small wine bars, corner pubs and a few trendy cocktail bars. We personally love the nightlife scene in the summer months where everyone drinks and socialises outside the bars. Check out our recommendations for the best Tavira bars below.

Santa Lucia Bar

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

As the number-one rated bar in Tavira on Tripadvisor, Santa Lucia is the best place to visit if you want an authentic Portuguese bar experience whilst staying in town. It often hosts local musicians and the atmosphere on an evening is excellent. Locals and tourist gather outside, whilst the interior is a little more romantic, with its dimly lit and cosy surroundings.

Arcada Cocktail and Wine Bar

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Arcada is one of the livelier bars in Tavira, depending on the evening and season you visit. It’s the kind of place where you dress up to enjoy cocktails in a dimly-lit and moody bar, served by waiters in waistcoats. It’s a great bar to visit at any time of the day and we particularly liked sitting outside on warm evenings.

Rooftop Nomad Restaurant and Bar

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4/5

Enjoy a drink with a view as you sip on a cocktail at Rooftop Nomad Restaurant and Bar. This elevated and trendy bar has an outdoor patio area that’s best enjoyed as the sun sets. The décor is modern and upscale, and the drink selection is excellent. You can also order food if you wish.

Our top tips for visiting Tavira

Shows a scenic transporter bridge in Tavira - Tavira travel tips
  • Be sure to walk the length of the river to see other areas of Tavira, outside of the old town centre. The peaceful river walk is one of our favourite things to do.
  • Tavira is known as the Venice of the Algarve and the best way to see it is by boat. Rent a small kayak or join a boat tour and head out to Tavira island. Many tourists only visit town and don’t realise how beautiful the river and beaches are.
  • You can reach Tavira by bus, however, public transport isn’t as frequent as other Algarve towns, so we recommend renting a car and driving here.
  • Visiting Tavira for the day? Consider combining your trip with neighbouring town Olhão. Many itineraries include both in a one day trip.
  • Plan plenty of rest stops in corner cafes. The local eateries here are idyllic and a central part of local life.
  • Park just outside of town to avoid the narrow streets and any congestion. It’s much easier to park a little bit further out and walk into the centre. We recommend this car park.
  • Visit on a weekday for less tourists, especially during the months of July and August. Restaurants, attractions and cafes are more enjoyable with less queues and crowds.
  • If you’re tired of walking around, take advantage of the small tourist train. It takes you from the main town centre to the castle at the top of the hill. It’s a great option if you have children!

That wraps up our Tavira travel guide! We hope we inspired you to visit this charming town. It’s the only place in the Algarve where you’ll find so many bridges all in one place; so much so that it’s often named ‘the Venice of the Algarve’. Note down a list of the best things to do in Tavira, plus eating out and hotel options on your Google Maps app. They’ll always come in handy.

Do you have any questions about Tavira? Let us know if the comments below and we’ll respond as soon as we can.

Check out our other Algarve travel guide below for more inspiration. 😊

The best Algarve beaches to visit

Where to stay in the Algarve

The best places to visit in the Algarve

Ricky

By Ricky

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

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