A short hop east of Faro, Olhão is the Algarve’s biggest fishing port (“Bela” (sardinhas) sardines are canned in Olhão), with an active waterfront and pretty, bustling lanes in its old quarters. The town itself is a colourful mix of sights and sounds where life is plainly centred on the sea. The 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. In the surrounding narrow, cobbled pedestrian streets are a wide variety of inviting shops and pavement cafes that tempt you to linger!
Olhão is all about the sea. It is famous for it’s fresh fish & sea food and is host to the annual seafood festival which takes place every summer in August. Visit the fish market and the fruit market on a saturday morning (they’re side by side, just by the sea) for a glimpse of what Olhão is all about, then taste the best fish and seafood on the Algarve.
There are many little restaurants and cafes serving a wonderful selection of fresh fish and sea food.
There aren’t many sights, but the flat-roofed Moorish-influenced neighbourhoods and North African feel make it a pleasant place to wander.
At the centre of the town is the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário), built in the first-half of the 17th century with contributions from the fishermen when it was the first stone building in Olhão. This church marked the center of Olhão, back in the 18th Century. It boasts a Baroque façade, and it has a high bell tower, from which you can see the maze that is the old fishing village. In the back of the church, there is an open chapel for worshiping.
While you’re in the area of the town’s main church, there is another church – Church of Nossa Senhora da Soledade (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Soledade), which dates from the 17th century and was the original church of the then fishing village. Built in the Baroque and Roccoco styles, the church was once the parochial church, but is primarily used as a pilgrimage chapel.
Just a short boat trip away, lie the jewels of Olhão’s crown: the breathtaking natural beauty of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve and the miles of undisturbed beaches of the two barrier islands lying closest to Olhão, Culatra and Armona.