Olhão is a small town situated in the Algarve, and is known as one of the best Portuguese cities to eat fish. Whitewashed houses and narrow alleyways make this town a traditional regional town.
Although Olhão was occupied in prehistoric times by the Neolithic Men, the first written reference to the village dates back to 1378, in which it was referred to as Olham. In fact, Olhão is thought to be a derivation of the Arabic word “Al-Hain” which, after phonetic and phonological modifications, led to the term “Alham” which in turn gave rise to the word Olham.
But it was only in the early seventeenth century that Olhão began to develop after some fishermen decided to settle in the area. Motivated by the abundance of water and the protection of the Fortress of São Lourenço, the inhabitants vigorously developed the area’s economy.
Olhão also had an important role to play in the rebellion of the Algarve region during the French invasions in 1808. On June 16 of the same year, a popular uprising led to the expulsion of French troops from the then village, a movement that later spread throughout the region.
Nowadays Olhão is a city with 28,000 inhabitants and an important fishing port.
Where to stay?
City Centre – The city centre offers several hostels, hotels and houses for rent. Take a stroll along the streets decorated with Portuguese sidewalk, while savouring the maritime breeze that runs from the docks to the heart of the city.
Fishermen’s Quarter – The picturesque Fisherman’s Quarters deserve to be visited because of their cubic houses (which is why Olhão is also known as the cubist city) with tile facades and flat roofs. In this neighbourhood you can usually find houses or rooms for rent.
Armona’s Island – A different choice on where to stay overnight in Olhão can be to spend the night in Armona Island. This beautiful island is about twenty minutes by boat from the port of Olhão. With several houses to rent, this is one of the favourites for Portuguese visitors during the summer months.
Culatra’s Island – Another excellent option is to sleep on Culatra’s Island. In this island surrounded by translucent water there is an absolute silence and calm. Stay at one of the several houses to rent on the island and let yourself fall asleep to the sound of rolling waves.
What are the beaches like in Olhão?
Armona’s Island Beach (Praia da Ilha da Armona) – Armona’s Island Beach has clear water and thin white sand. This is one of the preferred beaches by locals to take their children because of the shallow waters which are great for paddling and playing in.
Culatra’s Island Beach (Praia da Ilha da Culatra) – The stunning Culatra’s Island Beach with golden sand and translucent sea offers visitors a glimpse of paradise on Earth. With an extensive sand-line where it is possible to play volleyball, soccer, rugby, rackets, etc … without disturbing the rest of the visitors, this is one of the best beaches to spend a fun day among friends.
Fuseta’s Beach (Praia da Fuseta) – This last beach is on Culatra’s Island. To get to the beach you can walk along the island of Culatra from Culatra’s beach, or you can catch a boat in the mainland that takes you straight to the beach. There is still a third option only feasible on low tide days, which consists of crossing by foot the distance that separates the beach from the mainland. This was initially a fisherman’s beach, but due to its popularity with locals, it quickly became one of the most visited beaches in the Olhão area.
Which beaches near Olhão have a blue flag?
All the beaches of Olhão have blue flag. As you can see from the map below there are other beaches in the area that have a blue flag.
The Blue Flag means that the beach has been assessed based on environmental standards such as water quality and beach cleanliness, as well as important facilities including toilets and lifeguards.
In the Algarve, lifeguards usually watch over the beaches between July 1st and September 30th.
What is there to do in Olhão?
Olhão’s Municipal Market – Olhão’s Municipal Market began being built in 1912 using a technique that consisted in supporting each of the buildings on wooden stakes, and the buildings would then be connected to each other through brick arches which is why the market has an orange colour. Olhão’s Municipal Market consists of two rectangular spaces – the Vegetable Market and the Fish Market. Every day, hundreds of people visit the Market looking for the best fish, fruits, vegetables and other types of food.
Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário – Known today as the Igreja Matriz de Olhão, this church began to be built at the end of the 17th century. The majestic building with its impeccable white façade has an inscription that recalls the sacrifices committed by the Portuguese to succeed in erecting the church. Its interior with a golden altarpiece and a ceiling decorated with the image of Our Lady of the Rosary is a reason for admiration and it is why so many tourists visit the monument every year. To the rear of Igreja Matriz de Olhão sits a Chapel named Capela do Senhor dos Aflitos, where there is a panel of beautiful tiles with the Crucifixion of Christ.
Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration (Monumento aos Heróis da Restauração) – Near Avenida da República is a small white tower, designed by the architect Carlos Ramos, which aims at paying tribute to the brave people from Olhão who, in 1808, began the uprising movement that would lead to the expulsion of the French from the territory of the Algarve.
Port of Olhão – The port of Olhão is one of the most well-known ports in the Algarve and the country. This is one of the most used fishing ports, and if you go to Olhão’s pier, you can observe the several tons of fish arriving at the mainland every day. The fish is then put up for sale in supermarkets scattered all over the country and even Spain. It should be noted that next to the fishing port is the marina of Olhão, with space for 350 vessels. This marina is more focused on tourism, an investment that has been recurring in recent years by the county.
Festival do Marisco (Seafood Festival) – No tour guide about Olhão would be complete without mentioning the famous Festival do Marisco de Olhão. This festival combines the exotic architecture and the good weather that is felt in the late afternoons of August with the most delicious regional seafood dishes. In addition to seafood, the festival features traditional confectionary as well as live shows and regional handicraft exhibitions. Festival do Marisco takes place at Jardim Pescador Olhanense, near Ria Formosa.
What is the best time of the year to visit Olhão?
Summer – Summer is probably the best time of the year to visit the city of Olhão. During the warmer months, the whole city bustles with excitement and there are music, theatre and dance performances during the warm July and August nights. However, it is also the season chosen by tourists to visit the locality, which causes an inflation in the price of hotels and restaurants in the area.
Winter – Winter is undoubtedly the quietest time and during which Olhão finds itself more deserted by tourists. If what you are looking for is an opportunity to discover the charm of a picturesque little Algarve town far from the summer crowds, this is the ideal time to visit Olhão.
Autumn / Spring – Autumn and spring are also good times to visit Olhão. That is due to the lack of rain and due to the city not being full of tourists. It should also be added that in recent years the region of the Algarve has made a huge effort to stay attractive to tourists throughout the year, which means you can still find some of the typical summer attractions open.
What is the weather like in Olhão?
The climate of Olhão is warm and temperate.
17.2 ° C is the average annual temperature and the average annual rainfall is 501 mm, with January being the wettest month. The hottest month of the year is August with an average temperature of 23.5ºC and the coldest month is January with an average temperature of 11.7ºC.
The following graph shows the monthly average temperatures and the monthly rainfall average for 2017.
What are the best places to eat in Olhão?
Petiscaria Casa de Pasto – This friendly restaurant with typical Mediterranean cuisine offers excellent Portuguese snacks as well as tapas and other delicacies. The exquisite and, at the same time, imaginative menu will surely present a meal not to forget.
Vai e Volta – At the restaurant Vai e Volta reigns an atmosphere of relaxation that will make you believe that you are at home eating with the rest of your family. The quick and professional service will leave you with a smile on your face and the food is simply divine.
Pitéu da Baixa Mar – Pitéu da Baixa Mar restaurant is known for its delicious fish dishes, but the desserts justify any meal in this establishment.
What are the best places to go out in Olhão?
Families – For families who want to explore Olhão’s nightlife, we recommend that you visit Olhão’s docks, where there are esplanades and cafes abound.
Groups of friends – Groups of friends looking for fun should head to the Cais Club Bar where the informal and fun atmosphere will certainly provide an evening to remember.
Couples – The Zona Cocktail Lounge at Olhão marina offers a superb view over the sea and the anchored ships. The calm and discreet atmosphere invites you to share a drink with your romantic partner.
How far is Olhão from… ?
Faro Airport – 15 km (approx. 20 min drive)
Vilamoura – 35 km (approx. 35 min drive)
Albufeira – 50 km (approx. 45 min drive)
Portimão – 75 km (approx. 1hr drive)
Tavira – 30 km (approx. 30 min drive)
Sagres – 125 km (approx. 1hr30 drive)
Lisbon -285 km (approx. 2hr45 drive)
Spanish Border -50 km (approx. 40 min drive)
Seville – 190 km (approx. 2 hr drive)
All distances have been rounded up and are approximate.
Where are the bus and train stations?
Olhão train station is located at the following address: 8700-314 Olhão.
Olhão also has a bus station located at: Beco Padre Tomás 5, 8700-334 Olhão.
The train connects the municipality of Olhão with the remaining municipalities in the Algarve region. The same thing happens with the bus which also guarantees medium and long distance connections with Lisbon, Porto, Ayamonte, Huelva and Seville.
There is also a minibus service, provided by the Municipality of Olhão, which runs through the municipality of Olhão.
How much is a taxi to and from Faro airport?
The price of a private transfer or Uber from Faro Airport to Olhão is usually around 15€ each way (30€ round trip).
If it is a taxi from the rank outside the airport, or it is a mini-bus the price will tend to be higher, but depending on the number of people, the price may end up being cheaper on a per person basis.
Please note that if the trip takes place at night, the price will be higher because a special night rate is charged.
You can always chose to take a taxi from Faro Airport to Faro’s train station (which costs about 10€) and then take a train or bus to Olhão (price ticket is 1.45€).
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