Renowned for its Moorish architecture, Tavira is a coastal city found in southern Portugal.
Also known as the Venice of Algarve, it lies right across the river Gilao. The ‘Roman’ (but actually Moorish) bridge built in the 12th century, survived the 1755 earthquake and is one of Tavira’s main attractions. The other lures of this quaint Portuguese city are the everyday buildings that line its streets, along with its 37 churches and ancient Moorish castle the battlements of which boast the best views in Tavira. Today the city also boasts 18th century architecture which replaced buildings destroyed by the earthquake thus leaving the imprint of the Renaissance on Tavira along with that of its former Moorish occupation. A few medieval Gothic buildings also remain adding to the scope of what to see.
The Santa Maria do Costello church built on the ruined site of a mosque holds the tomb of commander Dom Paia Peres Correia and his knights. They were responsible for evicting the Moors from the city in 1242. The three-aisled church is gothic in origin, but it too had to be rebuilt after the seismic upheaval. Igreja da Misericordia is another rebuilt church and is an excellent example of the aforementioned renaissance architecture, with its illustrious carvings and scenes from the life of Christ.
You can also take a few steps back in time by visiting the Camera Obscura, a vintage optical device which helped lay the foundations of modern day photography. Tavira’s Camera Obscura is situated in an unused water tower, from where you can also get a panoramic, 360º view of the city. The Tuna Fishing Museum also celebrates the part since Tavira was once an important port with a bustling fish market. The migration of tuna though, weaned the city off its dependence on tuna and now it relies chiefly on tourism.
The opening of nearby golf courses had slightly increased the tourist intake but for the most part, the city remains unspoiled. Its blossoming orange orchards, groves of almond, fig and wild shrubs are testimony to that. Lively local markets are flooded with fresh produce, handmade wool blankets, lace, baskets and more. There is even a handcraft centre called the “Old Market” for the more selective shopper.
With its quiet beaches and rustic charm, Tavira is a popular holiday getaway, but if you want to spend a lot more time away smelling the fruit blossoms and sampling some of the best of Portugal’s seafood you might even want to invest in something more permanent – but do it fast! House prices in the area are rising, because the secret of Portugal’s southern beauty is officially out.