Large building on river promenade
Walk the Tavira Promenade

How to Enjoy a Short Break in Tavira, Portugal

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A short break in Tavira was our next destination in Portugal.

Having spent time exploring the cities of Porto and Lisbon, we were ready for a short break on the Algarve coast.

We had one more stop in Portugal and chose Tavira on the Algarve coast.

Leaving our Lisbon Airbnb, we took a taxi to the Lisbon Entrecampos train station for Tavira on the Algarve coast. Depending on the time of day, the train trip takes three hours, with a stop outside Faro for the regional train to Tavira.

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Book a Short Break in Tavira, Portugal

Tavira has a history dating back to 1000 BC as one of the first Phoenician settlements in West Iberia, with conquests by the Romans and the Moors.

Tavira was once a busy port, but the as the encroaching silt built up, the trading ships disappeared. The town is now a great place to relax, enjoy nearby beaches and sample the local seafood dishes.

Our train from Lisbon was two hours to Faro, where we changed to take a local train to Tavira, only half an hour away.

As we left Lisbon, the countryside changed to a dry landscape. But as we travelled between Faro and Tavira, the landscape changed to salt farms.

Arriving in Faro, we knew we were in the south as the temperature was now 26 degrees, hot and dry.


Tavira on the River Gilao

River with bridge in distance
Gilão River via an old Roman bridge

Our walk from the Tavira train station was only a kilometre to the old town on the River Gilao. Affected by the tides, 2 pm was now at high tide.

The town square, with its cafes, restaurants and a new amphitheatre, was the perfect place for lunch and to sit and watch the world go by.

With our Airbnb landlord, one of the local restaurant owners, we organised the keys and settled into our room for the next two days.

Our Airbnb was a local home now a large five bedrooms with ensuite. Tasteful decor, spacious and clean with a fridge, but the bed was a double fold-up, hard as a rock and squeaky every time you turned. Oh well, at €35per night, a bargain.

As we ascended some steps near the Airbnb, we heard Fado singing from a small bar around the corner.

Make sure to visit the friendly people at the local Tavira Tourism.

Tavira Old Town

Narrow street with table and chairs
Tavira old town

A wander down the river promenade with its sheltered walkway, we crossed over the old bridge of Ponte Romana to explore the opposite side of the river.

Walking along the broader streets, we noticed many beautiful homes and buildings replaced after the 1755 earthquake. The decoration of many homes with tiles also included street signs.

What was interesting was the number of Indian restaurants and looking at the menus, food catering to the English palate.


What to Eat in Tavira

Covered shopping in Tavira
Covered shopping in Tavira

Remember that you are now on Portuguese and Spanish time, so lunch is around 2 pm, with the evening meals available from 8.30 pm.

Returning from the old town, we stopped at the Tavira Lounge for lunch at about 3 pm for a Tapas plate.

The view from our table over the River Gilao was so beautiful that we decided to book a table for dinner later in the evening to view the lights. 

Dinner was fabulous, with a local dish of tuna in olive oil and garlic and a plate of squid. And as the evening was still very warm, we walked to the river promenade to listen to and enjoy local music.

We finished the evening at the Tavila Cafe for a delicious Cuban Hot Chocolate laced with rum and topped with cream.

River with lighted houses
Evening at the Tavira Lounge overlooking River Gilao

Santa Luzia Fishing Village

Fishing boats on the river
Santa Luzia Fishing Village

Tavira has a slower pace, and fewer tourists are in the off-season.

We had a great local breakfast of coffee and a toasted sandwich alongside the river with a view of its many colourful boats.

While in Tavira, you have a few options for exploring more of the nearby area.

Book a Ferry

On the river promenade, away from the main square, is a small ferry booth offering destinations of:

  • white, sandy beaches
  • fishing villages
  • and natural parks.

At €2, the ferry leaves on the hour for the 40-minute trip to the beach.

If you visit the old fishing village of Santa Luzia, you can order octopus, the day’s local catch. You can also hire a bike or walk the 3 km.

In the low season, the Ria Formosa Natural Park trips are only twice daily, with a chance to see migrating birds and flamingos in their natural habitat.


Castle and Churches

Yellow painted building
Pousada Convent Hotel, Tavira

Tavira’s history will have you climbing the steps of a 13th-century castle wall (Castelo de Tavira) with views across the river.

And across from the castle is the famous Santo Maria Church, built on the site of a previous mosque.

The bright yellow building nearby was an old convent, now a hotel with the most beautiful courtyard.

Church with a clock
Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, Tavira
White coloured church
Igreja de Santiago (Santiago Church) Tavira, Portugal

Walking back down the many steps, we stopped at Misericordia Church.

The decoration of beautiful tiles within Misericordia Church depicts stories of Jesus. There is also a small church museum.

Our short break in Tavira was a great way to learn more about this beautiful country, Portugal.

Our next stop is Seville, Spain.

How far is Tavira from the Spanish border?

Tavira is 25 km from the Spanish border. 

Your best option is to book a bus from Tavira to Seville, which is only two hours away. We booked an Eva Transport bus. The bus does make a stop for refreshments along the way.

Is Tavira Portugal worth visiting?

Tavira is worth visiting if you are looking for a short break away from Lisbon.

The town is easy to navigate on both sides of the Gilbao River. The river is dotted with restaurants and cafes of local seafood. Here you can relax, eat, drink wine or coffee and enjoy the picturesque old town.

If you feel like a walk, you can walk up to the old castle dotted with churches on one side of the river. Or cross over the Roman bridge of River Gilao to cobblestoned streets and cafes.

Tavira is a seaside town where you can spend a day exploring, take a ferry to the beach, or sit and enjoy the Portuguese charm.