Having recently updated my website, I finally had the time to post about my Tavira trip back in June. I took some time off, right in the middle of the busy summer event season (very unheard of) to relax and travel to beautiful Tavira, an unspoilt Portuguese fishing town, situated in the East of the Algarve.
The weather in London had been pretty depressing for July, stepping out of Faro Airport to 30 degree heat was rather special. The transfer to our hotel was a little dramatic, our overzealous driver kept shouting obscenities in Portuguese and sped through the busy rush hour traffic. This of course all added to the holiday fun and we managed to get to our hotel in one piece, with a few new words added to our Portuguese vocab!
We had booked our hotel, The Maria Nova Lounge prior to it undergoing a major refurbishment. This was a little risky as all we had to go on were planned design images and reviews from the initial hotel launch. Walking tentatively towards the entrance we were blown away by the warm welcome from the hotel staff and the modern, chic finish and furnishings.
Our room, although pretty basic, was airy, clean and modern, unfortunately we were facing over the main road however, it was a pretty quiet area, so we had no issues with noise or lack of sleep. The beds were firm yet comfortable, housekeeping were great at suppling fresh towels each day, and the safe inside the room is free of charge. The fridge is located inside the wardrobe behind a cabinet door which we actually didn’t realise until two days into our stay.
Tip – Pull the fridge out of the wardrobe as it gets too hot inside and starts to work in reverse. Bringing this outside allows the fan to circulate and keep your drinks cool.
We decided to book half board, and the food was, okay! Breakfast offered a range of eggs, omelettes and bacon etc, continental options were available and this was the same for each day. Dinner was not too exciting and had a few choices of meat, fish and vegetables. Like most half board at all-inclusive hotels, you do occasionally get the ‘odd’ food pairing. One evening we arrived to see smiley faces served alongside pork chops! Considering this was an adult only hotel the smiley faces did throw us slightly. However, this gave us something to giggle over and we decided from that point onwards to eat out.
The great selling point for the hotel is the Nomad Rooftop Bar. Situated at the top of the Maria Nova Lounge, overlooking the entire town perfect for an evening drink or nightcap. As the hotel had only recently opened it was relatively quiet, however I can see the bar getting very popular when word gets around. The bar had a relaxing atmosphere, live entertainment and an extensive list of delicious cocktails including traditional and Champagne Sangria. The prices are great and worked out around €7/11 per cocktail (considering I am used to prices between £14-£18 in London I was a happy bunny). The bar is open to the public with lift access at the front of the hotel.
The pool area was clean with lovely surrounding gardens, it was extremely quiet for summer, most likely due the recent opening so we didn’t struggle to get a sun lounger (no 6am towel placement required). The pool bar was unfinished and still in the process of having work done, therefore you could only order a variety of soft drinks, beer or wine. The hotel also has a Spa and Wellness Centre which we used a couple of times. The gym has the basic equipment which suited us fine, we were on holiday so didn’t fancy any major workouts! The spa facilities were lovely and included a list of relaxing treatments, I booked the Hibiscus Massage on the last day which was the perfect ending to a well needed getaway.
Even though the hotel was still undergoing last minute tweaks and touch up’s, the entire holiday was booked lastminte.com on a budget. We paid just under £350 for the five night, half board stay at Maria Nova Lounge, so we really couldn’t grumble.
Tavira offers a large variety of restaurants and cafes, you would never struggle to find a good place to eat. Of course, being a fishing town there an abundance of fresh fish available at most eateries. If you venture across the Rio Gilao (Roman Bridge, which isn’t really Roman) you will find that the restaurants are that little bit cheaper. After exploring the town for over five days I would definitely recommend a trip to Oskar’s Bar & Restaurant, they offer a great section of salads, sandwiches and light snacks.
We also stumbled across a little gem of a place called Bruschettaria Nossa, that we believe must have opened only a few days prior to our arrival. Our waiter, who also happened to be the owner was still adding the finishing touches to the menu and the décor and was very apologetic regarding the lack of order. However, we loved it and ordered a variety of delicious bruschetta’s. I was particularly fond of their honey, walnut and cheese dish, a traditionally Portuguese starter, something that I continued to sample throughout my trip.
Tavira offers a large variety of restaurants and cafes, you would never struggle to find a good place to eat. Of course, being a fishing town there is an abundance of fresh fish available at most eateries. If you venture across the Ponte Romana (Roman Bridge that isn’t really Roman) you will find that the restaurants are that little bit cheaper. After exploring the town, I would definitely recommend a trip to Churrasqueira O Manel, a great little place serving traditional Portuguese cuisine. Churrasquiera O Manel is located down one of the picturesque lanes and I was instantly drawn to the stunning yellow flowers that decorated the restaurant exterior. Oskar’s Bar & Restaurant is another great place to eat, we found that it was much quieter at lucnhtime. We walked past Oskar’s every evening and it was always busy, clearly a popular place for tourists and locals.
We also stumbled across a little gem of a place called Bruschettaria Nossa, we believe it must of opened only a few days prior to our arrival. Our waiter, who also happened to be the owner was still adding the final touches to the menu and the decor. Although it was a little unorganised, he apologised for the lack of order and was extremely friendly. We had a lovely tapas lunch and ordered a variety of delicious bruschetta’s. I loved their honey, walnut and cheese dish, a traditionally Portuguese starter, something I continued to sample throughout my trip.
Whilst sunbathing by the pool one day, we overheard a couple next to us talking about an amazing bakery located just a stone’s throw away from our hotel. We heard the word cake and of course our ears pricked up! We packed up our books and sun lotion and made our way down the road to Padaria Porta Nova. I can safely say that being nosy and listening to other people’s conversations had finally paid off. We were greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread, ground coffee and the most beautiful selection of cakes and pastries. We ended up visiting daily and the prices were unbelievable. A large cappuccino and a delicious, decently sized cake came to just under €2,00/£1.78 each. I couldn’t even get a crumb for that in London (especially if you go to that overpriced patisserie chain that has popped up on every corner, you know the one!)
To make up for our daily cake eating, we explored and walked around the charming town at every opportunity. We fell in love with the stunning architecture, in particular the rustic doors on the front of the traditional Portuguese houses. We noticed that many of the doors had hand shaped knockers, they are a Moorish tradition and represent Hands of Fatima. Legend has it that they are there to keep away evil spirits. The town itself is extremely clean, gleaming whitewashed buildings with the most beautiful decorative tiles and painted wooden shutters.
Tavria also boasts over twenty churches, and although we only managed to visit a few, (many were closed throughout the day) each of them are impressive and unique in their own right. If you want to see more of the stunning scenery I would recommend a trip to Castelo de Tavira. The ruins of the medieval castle overlook the stunning terracotta tiled roofs and magnificent church spires of the town.
We travelled right in the middle of summer and the flowers were in full bloom. I spent hours snapping the gorgeous natural beauty of Tavira, bold, bright pink florals, luscious greenery and a clear blue sky with the occasional fluffy white cloud.
One thing I was happy to notice about shopping in Tavira, the lack of ‘Tourist Trap Tack’! Usually when in a popular tourist town or city you see a variety of tacky souvenir shops, selling everything from plastic ashtrays to phallic keyrings, oh and of course the obligatory drug paraphernalia. However, it was refreshing to see craft markets, ceramics and art shops with beautiful handmade clothes and accessories. I highly recommend a trip to Casa das Portas, a cute and quirky little shop full of beautiful gifts including soaps, prints and silk scarves. Some of the items are a little pricier than others however, you can of course get smaller and more cost-effective souvenirs which all get individually gift wrapped for you. The Mercado Municipal the antique indoor market hall is a great place for shopping. They have an early morning fish market also selling fresh fruit as well as a variety of quaint tourist shops. It can also be slightly cheaper than the boutique shops around the town.
Tavira is a quiet little town with stunning architecture, beautiful markets and friendly locals. If you are looking for somewhere lively, modern with hustle and bustle this is not the town for you. However, if you want to relax, enjoy good cuisine and stroll down beautiful cobbled streets, put Tavira on your travel map. It will not disappoint!