TAVIRA

Culture, Heritage and Nature

We all look at the Algarve as a synonym for sun, beach, sea and summer ... but Tavira is much more than summer, it is an enchanted city of art and history.
Its history is lost in time, it is a city of nooks and crannies, crossed by the Rio Séqua and Gilão, which also has stories and legends to tell. Legend has it that the knight Gilão and Princess Séqua of opposing military factions fell in love and their secret meetings were at dawn on the old bridge. At dawn, they were surprised by the Christian military faction and the Moorish military faction.

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Because they knew that they would be charged with treason, which would lead them to death, they resolved to anticipate suffering. Each one threw himself to one side of the bridge, falling both of them to the river. This explains why one side of the bridge is the river of Tavira called Rio Séqua and across the bridge the river is called Rio Gilão ... curious, you never know when the legends tell us the truth!
Tavira was inhabited by several peoples, from the Phoenicians, Turdetanos, Greeks to the Romans. A notable presence was the Islamic that remained in the lands of "Al Garb al Andaluz" - the West of Andalusia - during the VIII-XIII centuries, more than five centuries.

Since 1242, when it was reconquered from the Moors, until the implantation of liberalism, in 1834, Tavira occupied a great prominence in the region.
Due to its strategic importance for the defense of the Portuguese border and also due to its wealth of the maritime exploration and in the fertile fields surrounding the village, a great population growth attracted the attention of the monarchs.

Strolling in Tavira is to go through many centuries of history, through the richness and beauty of its built heritage.
On the summits of Santa Maria and Santa Ana, we have a panoramic view of Tavira that stretches over the River Gilão. When admiring the landscape we come across several domes, crowning of towers and pediments of churches in unusual number, more concretely 21 churches, being nicknamed as "city of the churches". It owns one of the richest architectural religious complexes of the South of the Country.

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We begin our rediscovery of Tavira through the center of the city, the Republic Square, next to the river and its old bridge. The amphitheater-staircase right in the center of the square, provides moments of rest, and is also the stage of festivals, street art and concerts, giving much life and excitement to the city center.
We cross the ancient bridge, of Islamic characteristics that are noted in its arches. Since the floods of 1989, where two arches were destroyed, the bridge became pedestrian. On the side of the river séqua catches our attention, the houses with stairs leading to the river. It was explained to us by Sílvia Lourenço - who during our visit so well guided us - that once the inhabitants of those curious houses, went directly to the boat, their means of transport.
On the other side of the bank, XVI are reflected in the waters of the river Gilão. We pass the municipal historical file and continue to the garden of S. Brás, where it has the Ermida de São Brás, of late medieval origin.
Again across the river, we passed in the bandstand garden. The bandstand was for a century, the main center of attention and all the festivities of the city. We sat on one of the green benches of the garden and enjoyed the magnificent view over the gilde river. We see fishermen on their boats to find the fishing nets.
In front of the bandstand is the old river market, a historical building dating from 1887, which stands out for being an example of the Iron Architecture in Tavira. Since 1999 has been recovered for leisure activities, trade and esplanades.
Throughout the historic center we find gates of reixa, a Moorish heritage, with a strong presence in Tavira. They are doors made by a tracery of overlapping wooden slats forming geometric designs. They allow the illumination of the interior and the circulation of air, without exposing the intimacy of the house.
We also find noble houses that display beautiful windows and Renaissance medallions, the fruit of a glorious past.
We continue along the river bank until 4 waters, where in the restaurant "Portas do Mar" we stop for lunch. Waiting for us, we had the sympathy of D. Irene and her daughter Marta who prepared us some excellent dishes for tasting. The view was relaxing over the gilde river and the dishes a delight. From the loaf of tuna with seeds, powdered octopus, octopus to lagareiro, fillets of cod with onions of peppers and black pepper, monkfish with green sauce to the desserts everything was divine.
We returned to the historic center, and in the wide Abu Otmane we see the entrance of the medieval castle, from where the city walls developed. According to tradition, every year on the night of St. John, there is a haunted Moorish castle that appears to mourn its fate. The Moorish governor Aben-Fabila, would be his father and when the conquest of Tavira by the Christians, disappeared after enchanting his daughter. It is said that he intended to return to reconquer the city and rescue his daughter, but he never succeeded.
There is a garden inside the towers of the wall. We go up to the octagonal tower of which we have an overview of the city and the famous "scissors" or "four waters" roofs. The tiles are of straw and sit on a cane mat thus allowing air circulation. In conjunction with reixa doors, these roofs are an efficient way to aerate for warmer days.
At the exit of the castle is the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, was built in the early thirteenth century, probably on the old Muslim mosque, after the conquest of Tavira to the Moors. The main façade is a Gothic portico. Inside the church you can see the tomb of the seven knights martyred during the capture of the village and D. Paio Peres Correia, master of the Order of Santiago when conquering Tavira.
Sitting next to a wall a tourist made a sketch of the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, showed me all vain and told me that he used to return every year, outside the bathing season, to enjoy the calm of the city and thus to inspire himself for their works of art.
The Infantry Regiment No. 1 - dating from 1795, is one of the oldest in the country and a striking element in the urban context, a building of Pombaline architecture. It is open to the public for exhibitions and conferences.
We returned to our shelter - the Vila Galé Albacora hotel, located in the Natural Park of Ria Formosa, one of 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal.
A hotel with a lot of history, a place that was once a fishing village. The "Arraial Ferreira Neto" was a village where they lived between 400 and 500 people. It was there, between March and September, that during the fishermen and families lived. There were warehouses for collection and restoration of materials, offices, bakery, elementary school, chapel, medical post and barber shop.
It has now been converted into a hotel from the old fishermen's houses, preserving the original architecture and cultural characteristics. The primary school gave way to a children's club, the chapel was restored and the bakery became the museum's center of tuna fishing. Besides being a different hotel, it also has Eco-Hotel certification. A place without a doubt, to experience, repeat and want to stay.
We awoke to the song of the birds in a great silence that surrounds the beautiful ria.
Our guide waited for us to take us to the Nossa Senhora da Graça Convent which since 2006 has become part of Pousadas de Portugal. The convent founded in 1542 by the Order of Saint Augustine, has the peculiarity of having been transferred from the African square of Azamor to Tavira. In 1834, when the religious orders expired, it began to function as a barracks. Today, as a hostel, it perfectly combines the classic lines and the cozy atmosphere with the most modern equipment.
We continue our discovery by the present past. We stop at the most remarkable building of the city's civil architecture - the Gallery Palace: the project of the architect Diogo Tavares de Ataíde, the most outstanding of Baroque Argarvio. It was once a noble residence until the early nineteenth century and since 2001 is used for cultural functions such as exhibitions on heritage and contemporary art.
The old civil chain was reconverted in the Álvaro dos Campos Municipal Library, designed by the architect Carilho da Graça. A very pleasant place that seeks to ensure the quality of life of visitors in the cultural, educational and scientific.
We left the city center and headed for the mountains. The sound of the sheep bells, the various green tones, the brooks, the smell of the oranges, the arbutus with its orange and red fruits, the carob trees, houses and whitewashed churches keep landscapes of other times.
The cold was felt, we stopped for lunch in the restaurant "Monte-Velho", the nicest and most welcoming place we could have chosen. The owner and also cook D. Lídia prepared some hard to forget specialties. The fireplace was lit which made the environment even more inviting. We were served duck feast with blackberry compote, wild boar feijoada, pork tenderloin with fig sauce and for dessert almond tart, carob tart with a mini medronho liqueur. All very, very good. The pork tenderloin with fig sauce was my favorite, I have to go back there.
To make the digestion, we walk on the pleasant banks of the Asseca river, an area of ​​great wealth and natural diversity, where there is the famous waterfall "Pego do Inferno" which in winter is a place of perfect tranquility.
We returned to Hotel Albacora for a boat trip on the Ria Formosa, in its vast ecosystem of unique ecological features, which extends over an area of ​​about 20.000 hectares and 60 kms of coast. In a horizon dominated by the waters, the marsh supports a biological and ecological reserve of rare value, with species of fauna and flora unique in the world, constituting a very rich and complete ecosystem.

Another look at Tavira that breathes culture, heritage and nature. To know this city erected at the water's edge and feel its atmosphere, just wander aimlessly and go back in time.

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