TAVIRA – A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
History of Tavira
Between the 8th and 13th century, Arabs ruled a populous and well-fortified citadel called Tabira. On June 11th, 1242, D. Paio Peres Correia and his Santiago knights conquered the fortification. According to tradition, the sculptured bust on the right corner of the City Hall building is supposed to be a true image of D. Paio Peres Correia, though it is not probable because the building was erected long after his death.
King D. Manuel I decreed Tavira a city in 1520.
Built in an area of exceptional natural conditions, between sea and mountains, bathed by a river and its delta, Tavira had always been a hub for commerce and a privileged port for shipping the goods cultivated and explored both along the coast and the fertile inlands. The highest point of this economic cycle was in the mid XVI century, but already during the first half of 1500 such edifications were built: the Porta de D. Manuel, built in the beginning of the century, the convent of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, belonging to the Bernardine nuns (finished in 1530) and the primitive construction of the church of Nossa Senhora das Ondas is also dated to the beginning of the XVI century.
The Misericordia church, built in 1541, the convent of Nossa Senhora da Graça, built in 1569 after the occupation in 1542 of the old Jewish quarters and synagogue, and the palaces of the
Galeria and Corte-Real, are all examples of buildings erected in the second half of the same century.
However, this importance wasn’t long lasting, because in the last part of the XVI century, and mostly in the next century, Tavira felt a period of great recession of which it never really completely recovered although there was a new period of development and prosperity much further on.
On the XVIII century, Tavira saw a renewal in its life and activity. This is closely related to the years of peace and stability that were then felt throughout the territory, jointly with the riches that came from Brazil and the
national interest that is once more turned to the Algarve specifically by king D. José I and his enterprising minister Marquês de Pombal.
Praça da República – Under the square’s arcades of what is now the Town Hall used to be the market where fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and other goods were sold. At least until Tavira´s Market was built up river in the late XIX century (June 30th, 1887), it was also the favourite meeting point for the town’s people.
The places we recommend on this list are linked to Google Maps. Just click over the information and the map will open in a different page.
CAR RIDE (starts at Praça da República) – drive towards Quatro Águas. On the way, along the river, we will be able to see:
- The Bandstand - in the public gardens, built in 1890, was for more than a century the main centre of attraction and festivities of the city.
- Mercado da Ribeira – This market, built in 30thof June 1887 with metallic structure, was recently recovered (1999) as a place of leisure with street cafés, shops and a place for temporary expositions and fairs.
- Saltpans – a humid zone of saltpans and their intricate system of canals. Visited by migratory flamingos in the spring it is populated all year round by Perna-longa (long-legs) a bird that is the symbol of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. In winter, one may observe the Tartaranhão-dos-pauis (Circus aeruginosus) and the Andorinha-do-mar-grande (Sterna caspia).
- Quatro Águas - here is the pier where the boat to Tavira island leaves from and where there is a small port and dock for recreation boats. Besides the local nautical club, there are also a number of cafés and restaurants.
- Tavira Island – one of the major barrier islands of Ria Formosa (11 km). There we can appreciate the differences between vegetation on the seaside and how it consolidates as we return to the lagoon side. This is also the chameleon’s habitat (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) and some birds that chose these sandy grounds to build their nests.
Returning to Tavira’s east bank (through the “Descobrimentos Bridge”) you will be able to see:
- The Balsense Factory – an ancient canning factory.
- The new City Market – recently build to substitute the old Mercado da Ribeira.
- The Bridge of Descobrimentos – with a magnificent view over the city.
- Arraial Ferreira Neto – Dated back to 1945, this complex of buildings was a community of tuna fisheries, fishermen and their families. It has recently been recovered as a tourist resort that includes a thematic museum dedicated to tuna fishing.
- São Paulo Church – from the 17th century. Portal “maneirista'' and latin cross design falling within the designation of “chã”.
A WALK AROUND TAVIRA (begins at Praça da República)
- Porta D. Manuel – this “door” was opened during the reign of D. Manuel I to allow communication with the market Praça da Ribeira. Over it we may see the arms of king D. Manuel I - the Venturous.
- Misericordia church – a National Monument built in the XVI century, that is considered the most valuable renaissance building in the Algarve. The façade was made by a famous mason master named André Pilarte and was finished in 1551. On the cornice, one may observe the images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Royal Arms and those of the city, and in the centre, Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia (Our Lady of Compassion). The interior has three naves, separated by arches that rest on columns decorated with grimacing faces. The tiles are dated from 1760 and cover the walls of the temple mid height, forming framed pictures much to the taste of the XVII century. Though the blue and white colours are characteristic of the XVIII century, the baseboard and a false door, return to the polychromatic taste of the previous century.
- Palacio da Galeria - Erected in the second half of the XVIII century, is now the Municipal Museum and a Cultural Centre.
- ASTA – Tastes and flavours of Tavira’s Association (handicrafts association)
- Santa Maria do Castelo Church – built over the ruins of the old muslim mosque, it goes back to the XIII century. It was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake and then rebuilt in the end of the XIX century under the orders of Bishop D. Francisco Gomes. In the main chapel, that has no vestiges of the primitive structures, one can see embedded in the wall, the inscribed tombs of D. Paio Peres Correia and other seven knights killed in an ambush by the moors.
- Medieval Castle – one should climb the octagonal tower and see the view of the rooftops with their particular design that is said to be either a consequence of the moorish architecture or that may have an oriental influence.
- Casa Irene Rolo – A foundation named after its benefactor, Irene Dulce da Palma Arez Rolo an eminent citizen of Tavira, who donated the funds for this foundation. Registered as an association in April 15th 1982, its mission is to give general aid to the handicapped in what regards prevention, rehabilitation and professional insertion.
- Roman Bridge – the original bridge is said to have been built by the Romans during their occupation of the peninsula. The floods on the 3rd of December 1989 partially destroyed its central arches and after being recovered it is only for pedestrian use.
- Reixa doors - the screen doors are an Arab inheritance. The mesh of wooden strips allows the airing of the houses while maintaining privacy.
Places to visit near Tavira:
- Santa Luzia – small fishing village, “capital” of the octopus.
- Cacela Velha – small lovely village where the Ria Formosa begins. Incredible views.
- Olhão market (specially on Saturdays)
- Tavira Island (Ilha de Tavira) – take a boat in the pear (close to the old market) or at Quatro Águas.
- Praia do Barril (after Santa Luzia) – pass Santa Luzia and drive till you find a parking. Cross a small bridge (only for pedestrians) and take a touristic train to the beach. You can also walk (12 min). Family beach.
- Terra Estreita (Santa Luzia) – Take a boat in Santa Luzia pier
- Fábrica (Cacela Velha) - Follow the directions to Cacela Velha (N125 road direction Vila Real de Santo António) and then direction to Fábrica. Take one of the small boats or, when the tide is low, cross the ria by foot (it’s a “deserted” island so bring your own food and shade. You can order a picnic at Monte do Álamo.
Restaurants and Bars: these restaurants are small and very busy in the summer! Go early or make a reservation in advance.
- Aquasul - Rua Dr. Augusto Silva Carvalho, 11. +351 281 325 166 (closed on Sunday and Monday)
- Come na Gaveta - Av. Dr. Mateus de Azevedo 36 +351 926 677 879 (open everyday)
- À Mesa - Praça Dr. António Padinha nº 21. Tel: +351 965 634 247 (closed on Monday)
- Petisqueira Belmar (family restaurant) – Rua Almirante Candido dos Reis,16. +351 281 324 995 (closed on Sunday)
- A Barquinha – Rua José Pires Padinha 142. +351 281322843 (closed on Wednesday)
- Nikita - Rua Doutor Parreira 104, +351 926 897 859 (closed on Monday)
- Pausa (tapas restaurant) Rua D. Marcelino Franco, 32A. +351 281 023 477 (closed on Sunday)
- Nó de gosto (tapas restaurant) - Praça Dr. António Padinha, 11. +351 931 380 343 (closed on Tuesday)
- Restaurante A casa - Av. Eng. Duarte Pacheco, 78. +351 965 084 207 (closed on Wednesday)
- Casa do Polvo - Avenida Engº Duarte Pacheco, 8 - in the promenade of Santa Luzia. +351 281 328 527 (closed on Tuesday)
- O Alcatruz - R. Cap. Jorge Ribeiro, 46. +351 281 381 092
- Chá com Água Salgada (praia da Manta Rota – Manta Rota beach). +351 281 952 856
Cabanas de Tavira:
- Noélia – R. Fortaleza, Ed.Cabanas-mar loja 6 –+351 281 370 649 (closed on Wednesday)
- Restaurante Ideal - R. Infante D. Henrique, 15, Cabanas +351 281 370 232
- Moinho das Marés (tapas) Rua da Liberdade 164) +351913092612
- Casa Corvo (traditional barbecue) Largo 1o de Maio +351936258260
We have several activities and services available. Check with the staff for more information.