Olhão is the Algarve's largest fishing port. Not used to tourism, its centre is crumbling, charming, Moorish-styled, and full of alleys begging to be explored. Olhão is an ideal place for a relaxing “put your feet up” holiday topped with extremely good food.
The Town itself is organised around its fishing port and the markets, after all we are still a fishing village. A seaside promenade links the port, the markets, most of the town’s restaurants, bars and marisqueiras (those little funny shops that only sell shellfish).
Next it's time to venture into the historic heart of Olhão and the easiest road to follow is directly across from the gap between the market halls. Here, many of the buildings are the elegant merchant's homes with wrought iron balconies, carved stonework and tile decorations and are such a contrast to the busy port area of Olhão. At the centre of the town at the end of Avenida da República, in the Praça da Restauração, is the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário, built in 1698 with contributions from the fishermen, it was the first stone building in Olhão.
In the surrounding narrow, cobbled streets are a wide variety of inviting shops and cafes that tempt you to linger! This historic area of the town is really rather picturesque and gives a totally different view of Olhão from the port and the fishermen's quarter.
When you arrive at the house you’ll find a recommendation book with local information, suggestions of places to visit and things to do.
Being a fishing village olhao had to be all about the food, and in this case all about the sea food. From the freshest fish from our cost (the one they ship to all over the world to be the centre piece of some very renowned restaurants) to the fragrant shellfish from the lagoon just in front of us. People here wake up, spend their day and go to bed thinking about food, and there good reasons for it as well.
In the center of it all are the two markets along the water front, where you’ll find a huge variety of extremely fresh fish and sea food straight from the port and a vast array of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. Olhão is well known for its fish market, in particular but it’s on Saturdays morning that the city really blooms as the small producers of the surrounding villages come down from the mountains around us to sell their fresh produce in a large outside market.
Bread and patisserie is another strong point all over Portugal and Olhao is no exception to the rule. There are many little bakeries both in the alleyways and around the market which sell lovely freshly baked bread and the traditional pastries like the famous Portuguese custard tarts.
Along the sea side avenue and in the winy cobbled stone streets there are numerous restaurants and cafes serving beautifully cooked, local delicacies, like cataplanas, stews served in rustic clay pots and grilled sardines. We always leave a book of recommendations to our guests at the House but the honest truth is that you can’t really go wrong here….
Olhao is surrounded by the beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park. Recently elected as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, this is a unique coastal lagoon which is constantly changing due to the continuous movement of winds, currents and tides. The separation between the lagoon and the sea is made by a string of sandbank islands with blessed with pristine beaches. Off season they feel wonderfully remote but even in the summer remain.
In a few minutes’ walk from The Marmalade House you can catch the ferry boat or a water taxi to the Islands of Armona, Culatra or Farol. Once there it’s a short walk to the beach. All the islands have small bars and restaurants where you can have a midday meal or a refreshing drink.
We’ll leave you the boat schedules at the House to help you plan your day.