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15 Best Things to Do in Olhão Portugal (2024)

Are you looking for the best things to do in Olhão Portugal? I’ve got you covered!

Even though Olhão keeps becoming a more popular tourist destination it still kept its authentic Portuguese charm.

Olhão is a great place for a boat tour to some peaceful beaches in the Ria Formosa Natural Park and to learn a bit about local legends.

I spent 3 weeks in the nearby countryside housesitting. I got the chance to visit Olhão on a few occasions and I really enjoyed my trips to this coastal town.

Best things to do in Olhão Portugal

1. Take a boat tour of the Ria Formosa

Top Pick
A small boat on the coast of a sand beach; it's one of the Odyssey boat tours Olhao has to offer
This was our boat


Ria Formosa – Boat trip to the 3 Islands

✅ This is the tour I took and I loved it

✅ Visit 3 places in 5h

✅ Small boat with 11 people maximum

The most popular thing you can do in Olhão is take a boat tour to explore the Ria Formosa.

The Ria Formosa is a national park just off the coast of the Algarve with multiple beautiful barrier islands, marshlands and a lagoon system known for its biodiversity.

I took a 5-hour boat tour and absolutely loved it. And I do recommend getting a 5-hour boat tour instead of a 2 or 3-hour boat tour so you have time to relax on the beautiful beaches.

Taking a tour is a great way to get an overview of the different islands and if you have more time you can go to your favourite island the next day by ferry so you can spend a whole day just there.

2. Relax at the beach

Two sun beds with an umbrella on Culatra beach in the Algarve
Praia da Culatra on Culatra’s island, an island in the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

Olhão itself doesn’t have any beaches but there’s a regular ferry service and water taxi to the nearby beautiful islands where you can find some of the best sandy beaches in Olhão.

If it’s your first time in Olhão I recommend doing a boat tour first to see what the different islands and beaches are like. Then you can get a ferry ride the next day to your favourite beach and relax the whole day there.

The ferries set off at the ferry terminal near the market and there are regular boat trips to different islands.

The most popular island is Culatra Island, the ferry goes to Ilha da Culatra and from there you can walk to the beach Praia da Culatra.

Another popular destination in the summer months is Ilha da Armona, which is a bit smaller but just as beautiful when not even more beautiful.

3. Go shopping at Mercados de Olhão

Two red brick buildings in Olhão inside is the market. Visiting the market is one of the best things to do in Olhão Portugal
Mercado de Olhão: The fruit and vegetables are in the left building

Olhão is known for its fresh produce market in the whole area. The municipal market consists of two red-brick buildings. In one building is the largest fish market in the area and in the other building a big fruit and vegetable market.

The fruits and vegetable market is in the left building when you face the ocean but you’ll immediately smell it if you go to the fish market instead.

The local market is open every day, except on Sundays, from 7 am to about 2 pm.

I got some fresh nectarines at the market as a snack for my boat trip and they were delicious.

4. Admire some street art about the history of the town

A wall covered with street art of a fisher man sitting in the harbour
The whole street is covered with street art

On R. da Fábrica Velha the history of the small fisher town is brought back to life in the form of some amazing murals.

The street artists even had real-life photos of days gone past as a source material to base their art on.

The murals are absolutely amazing, I loved them, the only shame is that cars are allowed to park in the street so they’re a bit in the way of the street art.

5. Stroll through the parks in Olhão

Tina lying on a sun bed in a park in Olhão Portugal
I loved relaxing in the park next to the ocean

There are two cute little parks on either side of the market buildings in Olhão which are the perfect place to sit down and relax a bit with a view of the harbour and the Ria Formosa lagoon.

The Jardim Pescador Olhanense is on the west side of the market and Jardim Patrão Joaquim Lopes on the east side of the market.

There are sun beds, benches, a playground and some small stalls selling beach towels. And that is all in an amazing location next to the waterfront. I really enjoyed relaxing in the bit weirdly shaped sun beds with a view of the harbour.

6. Learn about some legends from Olhão 

When I was walking through the streets of Olhão I accidentally stumbled upon an interesting statue of a beautiful woman which seemed somehow connected to the ocean. I read the sign and turns out there are a few statues spread out in Olhão telling visitors about local legends.

Legend of Floripes

Statue of a woman with a flowing dress
The beautiful Floripe

So, here goes the story about the beautiful statue of a woman:

A local man named Zé, known for drinking too much, kept swearing that a beautiful Moorish lady came to the lighthouse every night at midnight. Eventually, he convinced his friend Julião to wait at midnight at the lighthouse.

The beautiful Moorish lady, Floripes, also appeared to him and told him of her spell. The next day Julião wanted to speak to Zé but he was already gone. It is said that Floripes took the only man who truly loved her with her to North Africa. 

Location: Praça Patrão Joaquim Lopes

Legend of Arraúl

A oversized human shaped statue in the middle of a small square in Olhão
The statue of Arraúl is massive

According to legend, Arraúl was the only survivor when Atlantis sank. After his home was destroyed Arraúl’s misfortune continued when a whale swallowed him.

But the whale brought him to the Prainhas site, the site where Olhão was founded. To protect this beautiful coastal region Arraúl created Ria Formosa’s Barrier Islands. 

Location: Largo João da Carma

Legend of the big eyed boy

A small statue of a grumpy looking kid in front of a house overgrown with flowers
The big-eyed boy

I’ll tell you, the legend of the big-eyed boy is the most confusing one to me. Anyway, here it goes:

There used to be a boy with very big black eyes who appeared to the fishermen in the quarter of Barreta. He never spoke but he always cried, so the fishermen felt sorry for him.

The weight of the boy would increase if they picked him up and he still wouldn’t stop crying. So they left him crying in the streets.

Until one day he stopped appearing, it’s said that the lady Floripes took him with her to North Africa. 

Location: Largo do Carolas

Legend of the enchanted moorish boy

Three statues of boys playing
You can fill in for the face of one kid

Legend says that a mysterious boy came up to the local boy Manuel and his friends to ask if he could join them playing.

The mysterious boy eventually showed Manuel a hidden palace full of treasure and told him that he would stay with Manuel forever and that he was the only one who could see him.

However, one day Manuel’s mother took the boy to confession and communion. Manuel never saw his friend again. 

Legend of Marim

A sculpture in the middle of a square
Can you see Alina’s face?

In a palace in Marim used to live a girl called Alina who fell in love with a troubadour, Abdalá. Her father disapproved of the love and sent the young troubadour on a wild goose chase, he was supposed to bring the far-away river spring to him within one night.

When Abdalá managed to fulfil his task, Alina’s father got so angry that he threw his daughter out of the window. Luckily she fell right into Abdalá’s arms and they escaped together.

7. Visit Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Rosário & Capela de Nosso Senhor dos Aflitos

The facade of a church in the Algarve
Capela de Nosso Senhor dos Aflitos

The parish church of our lady of the rosary from the late 17th – early 18th century features one of the most impressive façades in the whole Algarve. 

The chapel of our lord of the afflicted was added later to the back side of the parish church in the 20th century so the fisherman could come and pray anytime during the day or night.

Today you can get a peek through the gates and see some beautiful traditional Azulejos, the blue tilted tiles from Portugal. I was very surprised to see wooden doll parts hanging next to the candles and I couldn’t figure out what they meant. 

8. Float in a salt water pool

Tina floating in a salt lake
It was so cool to just float around!

When I researched things to do in Olhão Portugal I came across the Salinas do Grelha, a company which produces sea salt. They only use traditional methods to produce the salt and you can learn all about it on a guided tour.

The best part is that they have saltwater lakes in which you can swim, well better said float around like in the dead sea. So, I had to check it out even though it’s a bit outside of Olhão and you need to make an appointment in advance.

It was so cool! You walk into the lake, lift your feet and suddenly you’re floating around. It was such a unique experience. The only downside was, that the water could have been a bit warmer for my taste. The water was about 26°C when we visited.

If you want to float in the saltwater yourself, you need to prebook it via phone call or WhatsApp message. You can find the number on the Salinas do Grelha webpage.

9. Go for a late breakfast

An orange juice and a plate with scrambled tofu and bread with avocado and mushrooms
My delicious breakfast

Unfortunately, there are no vegan or vegetarian restaurants in Olhão. At least there were none when I visited in fall 2023. But there’s a great vegan option place Figo de Pita.

At Figo de Pita they have breakfast, brunch and bowls. The vegan items are clearly labelled on the menu.

I had an avocado mushroom toast with an extra side of scrambled tofu and it was very tasty.

10. Enjoy the sunset at the ocean

Sunset at the ocean is always something special isn’t it? 

So, go for a stroll along the marina and enjoy the stunning views of the sunset. It almost feels like the sky is extra orange during sunset in the Algarve, so you definitely shouldn’t miss seeing at least one sunset. 

If you want to make your sunset experience in Olhão even more special you can get a sunset boat tour. Because as wonderful as sunset at the coast is, it’s even better when you’re on a boat and the setting sun lets the water around you sparkle. 

🤩 Check Prices and Availability of the Sunset Tour!

11. Have a look at Caíque Bom Sucesso

A replica of an old fisher boat in the harbour, a modern boat just goes past it

Caique Bom Sucesso is a famous fisher boat in which a group of fishermen crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the early 19th century to tell the king that the French invaders were defeated. 

As a reward Olhão was made administratively independent of Faro. 

Today you can visit a replica of the famous boat in the harbour just behind the Olhão market halls. 

12. Go for a stroll through the old town

An alley with cobblestones and flowers growing up a house in Olhão
Go for a stroll and discover hidden gems

The best way to take in this small town is to go for a stroll through the narrow streets of Olhão old town. I mean, look at that picture, the white buildings with blue elements and the flowers growing up the wall, it’s just so pretty.

13. Visit the Olhão Street Art Gallery

An abandoned building with street art on it
The Olhão Street Art Gallery

I know I’ve already mentioned the street art of the town’s history near the marina. But Olhão has a second fantastic place to marvel at street art, the Olhão Street Art Gallery.

The Olhão Street Art Gallery is an abandoned building on the big street, Av. D. João VI. It’s in between the two smaller streets, R. Pedro Ninil and Tv. D. Joáo VI, close to the Bairro dos Pescadores.

The building is covered with amazing street art from all sides, so make sure to walk around the building to see it from every angle.

I discovered this building by chance as I went past it in an Uber one time and had to go back to take a closer look. It just looked so cool.

14. Wander around the Bairro dos Pescadores

A one story house with steps leading up to the rooftop terrace
The unique architecture of the Fishermen’s Quarter

The Bairro dos Pescadores is the former Fishermen’s Quarter in Olhão. It’s a very old district in which you can see the unique architecture of the region.

All the buildings only have one floor with a flat roof. And there are steps leading up to the roof next to the entrance door. It used to be, so the women could go on the roof and get a view of the ocean to see the fishermen’s boats.

Nowadays those steps make up the unique architecture of this neighbourhood.

15. Take a day trip

Small fisherboats in the harbour of Fuseta Portugal
Fishing boats in Fuseta, a traditional Portuguese town

Olhão has a great location for a day trip to experience other sides of the Algarve. The direct train from Lagos, on the west side of the Algarve, to Vila Real de Santo António, all the way at the eastern end of the Algarve, stops at Olhão train station.

This means you can easily do a day trip from Olhão to almost any city on the Algarve coast, from popular pleases like Faro and Albufeira to lesser-known places like Fuseta.

Even though there’s a direct train route, make sure the check the train boards or ask a member of staff because sometimes you need to change in Faro when you want to go further west.

You can buy the train tickets directly at the train station or buy them online at the official Portuguese railway webpage.

Choose amongst the following day trip options:

Option 1: Fuseta

Fuseta is a hidden gem in the Algarve. It’s still a very traditional Portuguese small town with two beaches, one is accessible by foot and the other one just by boat.

Praia da Fuseta Ria, the beach facing the Ria Formosa lagoon is the ideal place for water sports since it’s sheltered by the barrier islands. Praia da Fuseta Mar is located at the eastern end of Armona Island.

Option 2: Faro

Faro is the capital of the Algarve region, and it’s well worth a day trip from Olhão. The city is a charming mix of old-world charm and modern amenities, with a picturesque marina, well-maintained parks, and plazas, and a historic old town full of pedestrian lanes and outdoor cafes.

Option 3: Tavira

Tavira is a charming little town in the east of the Algarve. Some of the best things to do in Tavira are to walk the castle walls, cross a historic Roman bridge and most of all relax on the beautiful beaches in Tavira.

Option 4: Lagos

It’s also possible to do a day trip all the way to Lagos on the west of the Algarve. Lagos is the best place to see some stunning limestone cliff formations.

But to be completely honest, I recommend spending two days in Lagos to truly appreciate this beautiful city.

Option 5: Albufeira

Albufeira is another popular destination in the Algarve. But to be completely honest, I don’t think Albufeira is worth visiting. There are just so many better places in the Algarve.

The only reason you should choose Albufeira over other destinations is if you’re looking for a place to party with a LOT of British people.

Where to stay in Olhão

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Pure Formosa Concept Hotel

The highlight of the Pure Formosa Concept Hotel is without a doubt the stunning rooftop pool with a view of the ocean. The rooms also have everything you need and look very bright and welcoming.

Casa Rosa Villa with Pool in Olhao Centre

Casa Rosa Villa with Pool in Olhao Centre is another great option with a pool in the inner courtyard. This hotel is a bit smaller than the Pure Formosa Concept Hotel and has a more traditional look to it.


If you don’t need a pool GuestMar is a great option. This small hotel in a renovated building has excellent reviews and is in a great central location.

Final thoughts: What to do in Olhão, Portugal

Olhão is a great destination if you want to explore the unique ecosystem of the Ria Formosa. You can get a boat ride to Culatra or Armona Island and visit some of the best beaches in the area.

My favourite thing to do in Olhão itself was to learn about local legends from the statues around town and to look at the murals about the town’s history.

Read more about the Algarve:

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