Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

1. Ilha de Tavira

Ilha de Tavira - Big beach / big sky

Ilha de Tavira
Hendrik Dacquin | BY-SA

The Ilha de Tavira (Tavira Island) has a well deserved reputation as one of the best beaches on The Algarve. Forming part of the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve, the island is an 11 kilometre long sand spit, which varies in width from 150 to 1000 metres.

What brings hordes of sun worshippers here from far and wide are the pristine golden sands and the crystal clear (if slightly chilly) bathing waters. Come here on a sunny day and you could be mistaken for thinking you’d…

2. Ponte Romana de Tavira

Tavira Roman Bridge

Tavira Roman Bridge
Paolo Querci

The picturesque town of Tavira was founded in 400 BC and was an important trading post between Europe and North Africa. The River Gilão, on the banks of which the town is built is crossed by two main bridges.  One of these is known as the Roman Bridge (Ponte Romana) as it was built on the foundations of the bridge on the route of the Roman road which linked Faro and Castro Marim.

In medieval times the old Roman Bridge formed part of an important transport route offering one of the few crossing…

3. Igreja da Misericórdia de Tavira

Igreja da Misericórdia interior - Tavira

Igreja da Misericórdia interior
Concierge.2C | BY-SA

The Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Mercy) in Tavira was built between 1541 and 1551 and is considered to be one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture on The Algarve.

Before entering the church, take a moment to admire the Renaissance façade, believed to be the work of local architect and master stonemason, Andre Pilarte, who also worked on Lisbon’s Jeronimos Monastery. Above the elaborately carved portal is a niche on which stands a statue of Our Lady of Mercy, supported by angels and flanked by…

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4. Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo

Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo - Tavira

Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo
Concierge.2C | BY-SA

The church of Santa Maria do Castelo, a short stroll from Tavira’s Moorish castle, was built in the 13th century on the site of what was probably one of the largest Moorish mosques on The Algarve. It was significantly damaged in the 1755 earthquake and was later re-modelled in Neo-Classical style, although parts of the clock tower with its arched Arabic-style windows and the Gothic stone portal are believed to date from the original 13th century structure.

5. Tavira Castle

Tavira Castle

Tavira Castle
Peter Broster | BY-SA

There is no entrance fee to explore the well-preserved ruins of Tavira Castle and visitors will be rewarded with a well-tended garden within the walls of the ruin and some exceptional views of the town and river.  You won’t find anything in the way of guides here, and very few signs explaining much about the castle, but it can be a pleasant place to sit and listen to the occasional busker while taking in the views.

The castle has a turbulent history. It is thought that the Phoenicians had a settlement somewhere around this spot as far back as the 7th or 8th century…

6. Torre de Tavira

Torre de Tavira

Torre de Tavira
Wolk9

A unique way to see the sights of Tavira is offered in this converted 1930s water tower.  A lift takes visitors to an elevation of 100 metres above sea level where there is an opportunity to experience 360ᵒ panoramic views of the city with the help of a remarkable camera obscura.

Optical experimentation has been going on for millennia, with the earliest written descriptions of devices operating on the same principles as a camera obscura dating back to China in the 4th century B.C.  Leonardo Da Vinci took an interest and Johannes Kepler took matters…

7. Convento da Graça – Tavira

Pousada Convento Graça - Tavira

Pousada Convento Graça – Tavira
Jérôme Bon | BY-SA

Today this is a Pousada hotel, but until the 19th century the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Graça da Ordem de Santo Agostinho was an Augustinian monastery.

The building, which has some interesting Baroque and Renaissance features, has an interesting history.  Until the late 15th century this area of Tavira housed the Jewish Quarter.  However, in 1497, under pressure from the Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella, whose daughter he had married, King Manuel 1st of Portugal decreed that all Jews…

Sé de Évora

 

Évora’s imposing cathedral (Sé Catedral de Évora) is situated in the very heart of the old city and the UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest parts of the building date back to the 12th century, which was when the Moors were finally driven out by the Christians. As a consequence it is no coincidence that this mighty cathedral has certain aspects which resemble a fortress. Probably most people’s first view of the cathedral is the façade which looks out over the Évora’s main square. The rose granite façade consists of the main entrance portal over which is an impressive Gothic window with period tracery. This is flanked by two great towers which were added in the 16th century. Each tower has different decorative features, with one sporting a bells and a clock, and both topped by conical spires. The Gothic doorway is worthy of note for its Gothic sculptures of the twelve apostles, six on each side of the entrance, which were added in the early 14th century. The building is similar to the cathedral in Lisbon in many respects. The overall floorplan is of a “Latin cross church” with a long nave crossed by a transept to form the cross shape. Also like the Sé in Lisbon are the Gothic rose windows, one featuring the mystical rose and the other the morning star. Set above the cross of the transept and nave is the high lantern-tower with its spire and six turrets, each of which reflects the design of the main tower. Within the cathedral is a high barrel vaulted ceiling with fine Gothic vaulting. However, it is the early 16th century Manueline choir that really draws the attention with its fantastic carved would and painting. There is also a rather unusual sculpture of a pregnant Virgin Mary. The main chapel is a less sombre space and was completely rebuilt in the 18th century during the reign of the spendthrift king João V. It was designed by German architect João Frederico Ludovice who had previously designed the Monastery of Mafra. It is built in the Baroque style and richly decorated in coloured marble. The 14th century Gothic cloisters provide a pleasant space. There is a spiral staircase leading onto a roof terrace from which there are great views out over the Alentejo countryside. Within the cathedral’s chapter room is the cathedral museum (Museu de Catedral) which exhibits some of the riches of the medieval church. Along with some fine paintings are the jewel encrusted golden sceptre of Cardinal-King Henrique, a 17th-century reliquary purportedly containing pieces of Christ’s Cross and perhaps most bizarre – a small statue of the Virgin Mary, whose midriff opens revealing various scenes from the Bible.

 

By Lala