Uncover the essence of Olhão: A coastal retreat embracing cultural traditions and natural beauty, inviting you to a timeless Portuguese experience.

Aerial photos of Olhão from the Ria Formosa looking onto the olhão market and town

Where is Olhão?

Olhão is part of the Eastern Algarve region. Only  9 km to the east of Faro City Center and  14.3 km from Faro Algarve Airport.

GPS Coordinates: 37.02754326780707, -7.842191803762103

Population: 44. 600 people 

The area of the Olhão municipality: 130,90 km². The municipality includes the following 4 parishes/counties;

  • Moncarapacho e Fuseta
  • Olhão
  • Pechão
  • Quelfes

Positioned along the Ria Formosa lagoon, Olhão offers a picturesque setting with its waterfront charm and historic allure. The town is conveniently located, making it accessible for both domestic and international travelers.

What is the nearest Airport to Olhão?

What is the nearest airport to the town of Olhão? The nearest airport is 14.3 km from Olhão, Gago Coutinho International Airport, also known as Faro FAO Airport. 

What is Olhão Know For?

What is Olhão known for? Olhão is known for its vibrant fishing culture and stunning natural landscapes of the Ria Formosa. 

Olhão’s historic architecture and cultural landmarks contribute to its charisma. Visitors can explore charming streets adorned with traditional buildings, churches, and other architectural gems.

The town’s waterfront is adorned with traditional fishing boats, and its fish market, Mercado Municipal de Olhão, is a bustling location where locals and visitors can purchase fresh catches directly from the fishermen. 

The town’s cultural events, including festivals and celebrations, glimpse its rich history and traditions.

Prepare your taste buds with Olhão’s unique and flavorful cuisine. Savor the iconic “cataplana,” a rich seafood stew simmered in a copper pot, bursting with the essence of the ocean. Indulge in “arroz de lingueirão,” clams cooked in garlicky rice, a dish passed down through generations in the Algarve.

Explore the breathtaking nearby islands Armona and Culatra from the port of Olhão.

 
 
 
 
 
view of the Olhão market with its red bricks on the left, in the centre the olhão promenade and to the right the Ria Formosa
Breathtaking Olhão

History Of Olhão

Olhão, a vibrant coastal town in the Algarve, boasts a rich and fascinating history deeply intertwined with the sea. Though evidence suggests prehistoric settlements existed here, Olhão’s documented journey began in the 14th century with the first mention of “Olham” in 1378.

Initially, a small fishing village faced opposition from nearby Faro. Over the years it became one of the most important fishing industry towns in Portugal.

From the 17th century onwards, Olhão’s heart and soul became inextricably linked to the sea.

 Tuna and sardines, abundant in the surrounding waters, fueled the town’s growth. In The 19th century led the way to a new era for Olhão with the emergence of the fish canning industry. The first factory, established in 1882, marked the beginning of a period of immense economic activity.

Though the industry declined in the 20th century, its legacy remains etched in the town’s cultural fabric.

Beyond the fishing industry, Olhão witnessed significant urban development. The establishment of the Municipal Council in 1856 laid the groundwork for Olhão’s transformation into a bustling town. This period saw the construction of various important buildings, including the Municipal Market (1912-1916), still a vibrant hub of commerce today.

In recognition of its growth and progress, Olhão was officially declared a city in 1985.

Aerial photo of Olhão showing main church and streets of Olhão at sunset
Olhão at Sunset overlooking the Ria Formosa

 

Is Olhão worth visiting?

Is Olhão worth visiting? Absolutely! Olhão has the magic of the narrow streets with terrace houses in the old town, the unique red brick fish & vegetable market, discover the Tales Sculptures – Path of Legends and its 5 statues. The vibrant new Marina. Discover the street painting depicting the history and the importance of a fishing and canned factory town.  

Explore churches and buildings that stand as testaments to the town’s cultural significance. Each landmark tells a unique story, offering visitors a glimpse into Olhão’s past while adding depth to their journey.

Once you have mastered the history and culture of this humble town, catch the ferry to nearby islands. Drive to the nearby town of Fuseta another small fishing town with a great beach and also a short boat trip to the Fuseta Island is also a great option.

Olhão is famous for its fresh seafood, but, that is not the only cuisine the town is famous for. If you have a sweet tooth then you must try the traditional  Easter cake “Folar de Olhão”. This cake is now available all year round in most pastry shops.

Olhãos cobbled narrow streets

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What to do in Olhão?

City Museum of Olhão – Museu da Cidade de Olhão

Address: Praça da Restauração
Marítimo de Olhão 8700

GPS: 37° 1.560′, -7° 50.464′

Telephone: + 351 289 700 103
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10 am-12.30 pm; 2 pm-6 pm; Saturday 10 am-5.30 pm

Closed: Sunday & Monday

The Museum is located in the former “Casa do Compromisso Marítimo”, a historical landmark dating back to the end of the 18th century with great importance to Olhão.

This small museum opened its doors in 2001. 

Walking through the museum you will see collections such as maritime heritage, archaeology, numismatics, canning industry, agricultural work, and naval models.

Outside of the Olhão Museum
Olhão Museum

 Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário – Church our Lady of Rosary.

Our Lady of Rosary is the main church and one of the main monuments in Olhão. It was the first stone building in Olhão.

The main entrance is located facing the City Museum.

The church was built between the years  1698 and 1715, with contributions from the fishermen it was built in 17 years.

On the main altar, you can see a wooden image of Nossa Senhora do Rosário – Our Lady of Rosary dated from the 17th Century. 

The ceiling with Fresco painting and the side altars are made of delicately carved wood ornamented by wooden 18th Century carved statues of Christ on the Cross and also of the Apostles.

It is the true beauty of cult and worship as soon as you walk in the church.

It is possible to climb the tower of the Church the highest point of the town giving you a real panoramic view of the town and see the traditional white flat terrace roofs.

The Back of the church facing the Avenida da Republica is the Capel of offerings Capela do Senhor dos Aflitos. This chapel is where the locals especially the fishermen come to light candles to ask for help, guidance, or to thank the Lady of Rosary. 

Take a look at the detailed blue tiles that surround the chapel showing the Crucifixion of Christ.

Address: Praça da Restauração
8700-350,Olhão

GPS Coordinates: 37.02658652561114, -7.8407316341854365

olhao Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosario

 

side view of church in Aolhão

 

olhao capela do senhor dos aflitos

Mercado de Olhão – Olhão Market

The two red brick buildings are hard to miss as you drive or walk through the main riverside road of Olhão.

Works commenced in 1912 and the doors opened only four years later in 1916. It tells a story of the region’s deep connection to the sea and its people.

Two distinct buildings, one exclusive for fresh fish and seafood and the other building for vegetables, fruit. 

Early days saw the market flourish as a vital location for the local economy. Fishermen brought their daily catches, while farmers showcased their produce. The air hummed with lively bartering and the aroma of fresh seafood. 

The market became a social gathering place, where locals exchanged news and stories.

From the 1970’s the fishing economy started to decline, therefore other items such as dried fruit, local crafts fresh flowers were introduced to the local market. The Saturday market extends to the outside along the river along the market selling clothing, and household items and also allowing for more local produce from farmers to be sold ever Saturday morning. 

Recognizing the market’s cultural and economic significance, authorities embarked on a renovation project in the late 1990s. The buildings were modernized while preserving their historic charm. Accessibility improvements and upgraded facilities enhanced the market experience for both vendors and customers.

Today, the Olhão market thrives as a vibrant testament to its past and a beacon of the future. It continues to be a vital source of fresh produce, seafood, and local crafts, while also attracting tourists seeking a glimpse into the region’s culture.

Olhão market opening hours

What time does the fish & vegetable market open? You can visit this beautiful market 6 days a week from 7:00 am – 1:00 pm Monday to Saturday (closes on Sunday).

Address: Avenida 5 de Outubro, 8700-412 Olhão

GPS Coordinates: 37.02375407316759, -7.840987620835743

exterior of Olhão Market red brick building
Olhão fish, Vegetable and Fruit Market

 

Olhão fruit and vegetable market with lady selling fresh fruit to tourists inside the market
Olhão- Fruit and Vegetable market

 

Interior of Olhão Market in Algarve showing fresh vegetable and fruit stands
Visit the Olhão Market for fresh produce

Olhão Path of Legends – Caminho de Lendas 

Discover the 5 Olhão Tales Sculptures.

Learn about the legends and explore the streets of Olhão while you follow the map to each sculpture. 

Each sculpture tells a legend or a tale. Do you want to know how the Ria Formosa was formed? Whether you believe in tales or not, you will definitely enjoy this “treasure Hunt” throughout the  old town of Olhão.

Address: R. da Fábrica Velha, 8700-302 Olhão

GPS Coordinates: 37.02479537782574, -7.838620125971208

 

Statue of Arraul in olhão standing high in Olhão

Olhão the legends Tales Sculptures.

Visit Olhão's Captivating Marina

The marina bustles with activity and serves as a gateway to the town’s islands and a tranquil spot for a leisurely walk or a moment of reflection. 

In July 2022, a new and improved Marina was inaugurated. this new space offers splendid views of the Ria Formosa. Modern cafés, bars and restuarants. 

The Marina now has room for 720 boats. The renovated area includes new pontoons, the construction of a fuel station for boats, a reception pier, changing rooms, and other services for navigators.

The promenade, lined with palm trees, cafes, and restaurants, invites visitors to bask in the sunset’s beauty explore the local cuisine, have a cup of coffee, or just take a leisurely walk along the Ria.

Discover the Fishing History illustrated on the Murals

If you want to learn the History of Olhão’s Fishing tradition and how they grew the exportation of canned sardines, becoming one of the most important towns in Portugal when it came to canned fish.

Head over to the Largo da Fabricá Velha and you will see in exibition with memories and the history of canned fish. There are actual photos of women working on the factories, exterior photos of factories aswell as the name of each factory. Spend a couple of minutes walking around.

What will immeditately capture your attention are the beautiful murals on the Rua da Fábrica Velha and also Rua Raúl Martins Veríssimo. 

These murals depict the following;

Fishmerman getting the  fishing nets ready going out to sea.

Fisherman coming back to shore with their boats full of fish ( mainly sardines) 

Women is the factories selecting the sardines, cutting them in half longways. The process of trying the fish .

The fish being canned

Olhão is not only for fresh fish but also for fresh seafood. You will see murals showing picking clams and cockles from the Ria Formosa.

These Murals were painted by  graffitis Peter “Mistik”, “Gnosis” and “Kaset”, from Sator Artistic Associationi, and “Dgiphi”.

It is a true work of art for everyone to see.

 

Does Olhão have a beach?

Absolutely, Olhão, part of the Eastern Algarve, offers access to seven beautiful beaches: Armona Ria, Armona Mar,Culatra, Farol, Fuseta Ria, Fuseta Mar, and Praia dos Cavacos. These beaches are renowned for their excellent location, quality, and scenic beauty, easily accessible from the town center.

How far is the beach from Olhão Center?

The town centre of Olhão doesn’t  have a direct beach in town, but within a short 10 -15 ferry trip you will discover the beautiful islands of Armona, Culatra and Farol.

Can you drice to the beach?

Yes, it is possible to drive to some of the beaches in the Olhão municipality.

Praia do Cavacos in Montecarapacho is a short 14 minutes drive.

The Fuseta beach is within 20 minutes drive. 

Where do I Catch the Boat or Ferry to the Beach?

Where do you catch the ferry to the beautiful Islands to spend a memorable day on islands with crystal-warm water and golden sand? 

The boat pier is at the promenade’s end, just before the fisherman’s wharf. 

If you want to visit the Farol or Culatra Island beach, you must wait on the right-hand side of the pier.

If you want to go to Armona Island, it is on the left-hand side.

The pier is well signposted, and you can see the names of the islands on the Pier.

Boat Pier wjere to catch the ferry in Olhão
Where to catch the Boat to Olhão Islands

Where do you Buy Ferry Tickets to the Islands?

Where can you buy your ferry tickets? 

You can buy your tickets at the wooden boat shape ticket booth at the end of the promenade and at the entrance to the Ferry Pier.

How much is the Ferry Ticket to Ilha do Farol, Ilha da Culatra, and Ilha da Armona?

What is the cost of each ferry ticket? 

Adult Tickets:

1 way – 2 euros

Return – 4 euros

Children Tickets:

1 way – 1 euro

Return – 2 euros

 

 

Ticket Booth to buy ticket to the Olhão Islands. this is designed as a wooden boat.
Where to Buy your tickets to the Olhão Beach Islands