View of the roofs and cityscape of Tavira, Portugal

15 Best Things to Do in Tavira (in 2023)

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Tavira, you’re in for a treat. This charming city in the eastern Algarve is one of the top places to visit in Portugal to enjoy a relaxing, sunshine-filled getaway. 

This post covers incredible beaches, historical and cultural sites, where to find delicious seafood, fun attractions, and much more. I also share a few hidden gems in Tavira that you don’t want to miss while in Portugal!

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15 Best Things to Do in Tavira

Praia da Ilha de Tavira

Ride a ferry to a clean, expansive, and beautiful beach

The author Betty Booke enjoying the sand of Praia da Ilha de Tavira
Me enjoying the amazing Tavira beach

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 918 278 934 | Website | Ferry Hours: Runs daily, hours change seasonally (check website) | Ferry Tickets (roundtrip): €2.20 adults, €1 children 4 to 11, free children 3 and under

Visiting Praia da Ilha de Tavira or Tavira Beach on Tavira Island was one of my absolute favorite things to do in Tavira. If you like laying out in the sun, playing in the ocean, and taking long walks on a secluded beach, you’ll probably like it here, too.

Part of the draw of Tavira Beach is that you can only reach it by the river ferry that departs from Tavira old town. Because of this, the beach is less crowded than other Algarve beaches. You can even camp on the beach.

When you arrive, rent a beach cabana or umbrella, grab a bite to eat from multiple restaurant options, and wander the beach at your leisure. Keep your eye on the water. You may get lucky like we did and spot dolphins swimming offshore.

📚 Related Reading: Tavira, Portugal made our list of the best places to travel in 2023

Tavira Castle

Visit the ruins of an 11th-century fortress

The author Betty Booker's husband posing at the viewpoint with the overlooking city in the background
My husband on the Tavira Castle tower with the city in the background

📍 Google Maps | Hours: 8 am – 5 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday | Entrance: free

It may be small, but Castelo de Tavira or Tavira Castle is certainly worth a visit. Much of the 11th-century castle is partially ruined, but what remains is evidence of its grandeur centuries ago. The fortress was once used to defend the town.

It’s completely free to visit Tavira’s Castle. When you enter, you’ll find a well-tended garden with all sorts of pretty plants. Wander around, admiring the garden and what’s left of the castle walls. Before you leave, climb to the top of the tower for an awesome view of the city.

Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo

Visit one of Tavira’s most architecturally interesting churches 

Exterior view of Santa Maria do Castelo church with a clear blue sky in the background in the old town of Tavira
(photo: Caron Badkin / Shutterstock) 

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 281 326 286 | Hours: 10 am – 1 pm & 2 pm – 5 pm Monday-Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday | Entrance: €3

Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo is a beautiful church with an interesting history. It’s believed that a mosque once stood where the church now is, leftover from the days of the city’s Moorish rule. It was converted to a church in the 13th century but had to be rebuilt once more after the earthquake of 1755.

Because of this, you’ll see a mix of architectural details on its exterior. Some of these include gothic, Manueline, and baroque styles. Inside the Igreja de Santa Maria, you’ll find a gallery with religious art and a stunning altar. Make sure you climb up the bell tower to see an expansive view of the surrounding city.

Ofélia Cocktail + Art Bar

Sip pretty cocktails at a modern art bar

A glass of drink with mint leaves on top and another glass of cocktail with a flower design on the foam
These drinks were some of the best my husband and I ever had

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 281 323 718 | Website | Hours: 6 pm – 2 am Tuesday-Sunday, Closed Mondays

Go to Ofélia Cocktail and Art Bar if you’re looking for a sophisticated taste of Tavira nightlife. My husband and I stumbled into this hidden gem on our visit, and it quickly became one of our favorite places. If you want to enjoy a date night in Tavira, Ofélia is the place for it.

The bartenders are friendly and it has the vibe of a metropolitan bar while being tucked away in a small town. Ofélia’s specialty is artfully-presented, super tasty cocktails (I highly recommend the Ridiculo). In addition to drinks, they also have snack plates if you’re hungry. They regularly host musicians for live music nights as well.

🛏️ Need A Hotel? You have plenty of options for Tavira hotels to fit your budget. On our visit, my husband and I stayed in Residencial Mares. This was a reasonably priced hotel in the center of town and convenient to nearly everything on this list. 

For a luxury hotel, I’d recommend Pousada Convento de Tavira. This was converted into a stunning hotel from a 16th-century convent.

Ai Mãe

Sample a bounty of fresh and tasty seafood from a local restaurant 

The author Betty Booker smiling brightly while holding a big glass of beer and some seafood dishes on the table at Ai Mãe
Me enjoying some seafood and bread appetizers — along with a beer that turned out to be the size of my head! 

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 913 972 008 | Website | Hours: 6 pm – 11:30 pm daily, Closed Sundays

Make sure to order seafood when you’re in the Algarve region. One of my favorite restaurants in Tavira was Ai Mãe, a classy but reasonably-priced restaurant with plenty of tasty options from the sea. It can get busy, so I recommend booking a reservation ahead of time.

This restaurant sources local Algarve ingredients, and all of the food we tried here was tasty and made with both passion and skill. Anything you order will be excellent. I highly suggest trying oysters, sardines, salmon, and the octopus, an Algarve specialty. If it’s nice out, make sure to enjoy your meal in the outdoor seating.

Fado com Historia

Learn about and enjoy the soulful music of Portugal

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 966 620 877 | Website | Entrance: €10 adults, free children 12 and under

Get a taste of Portugal’s folk music at Fado Com Historia. Right beside Igreja da Misericórdia, this small production company brings melancholic, soulful art to Tavira.

There are multiple showings daily. These consist of a video on the history of fado followed by an intimate, live performance in a small-capacity auditorium. Enjoy the sounds of the Portuguese guitar accompanied by the gorgeous vocals of a professional singer. 

The performance is high quality, personable, and very enjoyable. If you’ve never heard fado before, this is a great introduction to it.

Roman Bridge

People watch and meander along a pedestrian-only bridge spanning the Gilão River

View of the Roman Bridge and the seven arches over the Gilão River on a cloudy day
A view of the Roman Bridge and its seven arches from across the Gilão River

📍 Google Maps

Your exploration in Tavira will almost certainly take you across the historic old Roman Bridge or the Ponte Antiga de Tavira. In addition to its practical use to get from one side of Tavira to the other, it also makes a great place for resting and people-watching. Take a seat and stop to listen to buskers playing music, enjoy some gelato, take photos, or watch the change in the river from high to low tide.

Despite its name, the historic bridge is actually not Roman in origin at all but was built during the Moorish rule of the city. It was eventually rebuilt after its collapse in the 1600s to the present bridge.

Camera Obscura

Get a live tour of Tavira from an unexpected vantage point

A bright yellow chair with yellow and red pillows located at the entrance to the Camera Obscura attraction
The pretty entrance to the Camera Obscura attraction, one of the best things to do in Tavira

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 281 322 527 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 3 pm Monday-Friday, closed Saturday & Sunday | Entrance: €5 adults, €3 children

One of the very unique things to do in Tavira is to visit the Tavira camera obscura. After buying your tickets, you’ll climb several flights of stairs or ride an elevator to the top of a converted water tower, the Torre de Tavira. In a large, dark room, an enthusiastic English guide will give you a live tour of the city. 

The camera obscura is an optical device created using mirrors and lenses. A live, moving image of the surrounding city is projected onto a bowl-shaped screen. You’ll spend around 30 minutes zooming in and out on various parts of Tavira with fun commentary from your guide. This makes the Tavira camera obscura a great way to get acquainted with the city early on in your visit.

📚 Related Reading: Planning a trip to Portugal? Make sure you read this guide on the best time to visit Portugal before booking your tickets.

Praça da Republica

Hang out, shop, eat, and relax in the city’s historic main square

View of the beautiful fountain and people walking around the Town Square Praca da Republica in Tavira
(photo: Juergen Wackenhut / Shutterstock) 

📍 Google Maps

The Praça da Republica is the historic main square of Tavira. It consists of multiple places to shop, plenty of restaurants with outside seating, a war memorial, and a scenic fountain. The Tavira tourist office is also in the Praça da República. 

Concerts and events are held in the Praça da Republica throughout the year, so if you time your trip right, you may even get to see one. Along with the Roman Bridge, the Praça da República is another great place to relax, people-watch, admire the pretty town, and enjoy a meal with a glass of wine. 

Ria Formosa Natural Park

Bird watching, hiking, and biking are popular activities in this massive wetland area

Sunset view of a boat at the beach of Ria Formosa Natural Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 289 700 210 | Website | 👉 Browse Ria Formosa Natural Park Tours on Viator

Ria Formosa Natural Park is a large and beautiful stretch of wetland in the eastern Algarve. If you want to explore this unique ecosystem that consists of marshes, salt flats, and islands, you can do it during your stay in Tavira. 

There are plenty of trails to explore the Ria Formosa by foot or bike. Boat tours allow you to explore it from the water. This is also a great place to see the salt pans.

Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the Ria Formosa lagoon with its rich animal life. One very popular thing to do here is birding. You have a good chance of seeing flamingos, spoonbill, and many other types of birds. Keep your eyes open and you may spot another critter that calls the Ria Formosa home: the Mediterranean chameleon.

Islamic Museum

Check out a small museum with Islamic artifacts found right in the city

View inside the stone walled Islamic Museum of Tavira with black pillars for support
(photo: Mauro Rodrigues / Shutterstock) 

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 281 320 570 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 1 pm & 2 pm – 4:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday, Closed Sunday & Monday | Entrance: €2 adults, €1 children 8-18, free children under 8

Visit the Islamic Museum to learn about the city’s Moorish roots. Located right near the Praça da República, the Islamic Museum houses various artifacts found in excavations around the city. Most artifacts hail from the 17th century. The most popular of these is the famous Tavira Vase. 

Many of the placards are in Portuguese, but there are pamphlets with English descriptions. There is also a film with English subtitles that delves further into the history of the Moorish rule. The small museum is a quick and easy addition to any itinerary and the entrance fee is more than reasonable.

Abilio Bikes

Rent some bikes and book a tour to take your exploration further

View of the sandbar in the clear blue water of Tavira Beach from Cacela Velha
Cacela Velha is one place you’ll get a chance to cycle to if you book a tour with Abilio 

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 281 323 467 | Website | Hours: 9:30 am – 1 pm & 3 pm – 7 pm Monday-Friday, 9:30 am – 1 pm & 4 pm – 6 pm Saturday, Closed Sunday | 👉 Book a Bike Tour

Cycling fans need to visit Abilio Bikes. This bike shop has plenty of bikes for rent to make getting around the city and outside of it simple, quick, and fun. Tavira is very bike-friendly. Places nearby that make for good cycling trips include Cabanas de Tavira, Santa Luzia, and Cacela Velha.

If you’d prefer to have a guide for your exploration, Abilio Bikes also offers Algarve guided tours. They have tours that will take you through the Ria Formosa, to nearby villages, and more. Abilio is known for its great customer service, so booking with them is a great idea if you’re looking for an adventurous experience in Tavira.

📚 Related Reading: Wondering what you might need to bring on a trip to Tavira? Check out this packing list for Portugal article to get a better idea of what should absolutely go in your suitcase and what can stay behind.

Cabanas de Tavira

Visit a quaint fishing village with an uncrowded, scenic beach

A vibrant blue boat docked on the side of a lake with a cityscape view of Cabanas de Tavira in the background
A boat docked with buildings of Cabanas de Tavira in the background

📍 Google Maps

Cabanas de Tavira is a quaint fishing village just 15 minutes from Tavira proper. If you’re interested in going from a charming town to a charming village, this is a good place for a quick day trip. Cabanas de Tavira is tiny, but you’ll find cute, local restaurants, elderly locals, and fishing huts known as cabanas here.

Be sure to order absolutely delicious seafood at the restaurants (Mariscos & Petiscos is a good option), and take a short boat ride to Praia de Cabana. Since this is yet another beach you need to take a boat to, it tends to be less crowded and perfect for solitude-seekers.

Igreja da Misericórdia 

Visit a stunning church in the heart of the city

View of the intricately carved brown door and the entrance of Igreja da Misericórdia
The front of the Igreja da Misericórdia

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +351 289 247 120 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 12:30 pm & 2 pm – 5:30 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am  12 pm Saturday, Closed Sundays | Entrance: €3

Not far from the Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, you’ll find the Igreja da Misericórdia. This is another beautiful church with gorgeous exterior and intricate details inside. It costs just a few euros to go in and take a look around. 

Be sure to spend some time taking in the impressive alter room with a stunning display of traditional blue and white tiles (azulejos). There’s also an art gallery with both contemporary and historical religious pieces. Before you conclude your visit, climb to the top of the bell tower where you’ll have a pretty view of the town.

Local Shops

Browse and purchase local goods from various tiny shops

View of the handmade local goods displayed at a local shop in Tavira
A few of the handmade goods from one of the cute shops in town 

📍 Google Maps

If you like shopping, you’ll find quite a few places to visit on your trip to Tavira. Shopping is one of the best things to do in Tavira because there are many shops with goods from local artists throughout the city.

A few things you might find are flor de sal from the salt pans, hand-stitched pao (bread) bags, hand-painted azulejo tiles, and ceramics. Wander up and down the narrow, cobbled streets to find places selling a variety of art, home goods, and treats you can take home with you. This is a great way to get a non-mass produced souvenir and to support the local economy, too.

FAQs About Tavira Attractions

View of the vibrant and colorful inflatables at the Gilão River with buildings in the background

What is Tavira, Portugal known for?

Tavira, Portugal is known for its beautiful and secluded beaches. Tavira is also known for having delicious seafood, salt pans, and an easy-going atmosphere.

How do you spend a day in Tavira?

You can spend a day in Tavira by visiting Tavira Island. You can also wander the streets to check out attractions like Tavira Castle and the camera obscura, and dine al fresco with the locals.

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Now you know all the best things to do in Tavira, Portugal! Enjoy your trip!

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