It’s the unofficial graffiti capital of the Algarve and many of the houses in the old town centre have almost fallen apart. Sounds a bit crappy? You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Enjoy the Algarve spends a day in Olhão and has completely fallen for this charming and authentic fishing town.
See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine December 2015
Pictures by Kyle Rodriguez
You’ll probably get there via the N125 as this road runs right through Olhão. Whether you’re coming from east or west, after a few roundabouts you’ll get to this one covered in cubes. Turn south here to get to the city centre.
See the faded glory
Olhão isn’t the prettiest town of the Algarve. Once it was a bustling fishing town, one of the most important harbours in Portugal. Now, many houses are crumbling apart. They’ve been abandoned and neglected, with flaking paint, broken windows and rotten balconies as a result. Despite the many derelict buildings, the place does have a certain charm and feels authentic, rather than slick.
Spot the graffiti
You’ll find the strangest graffiti all over town. From vampires to Indians, from 2Pac to the Simpsons and from an old Portuguese fishing boat to Spongebob Squarepants. You name it, somebody has taken a spray dose in their hands and painted it somewhere on Olhão’s walls or even on the church.
Walk in the woods
On the N125 just east of Olhão you’ll find the closest you’ll get to a forest in this coastal region. When coming from the west, go right at the Repsol petrol station just after town. Access is directly via the car park. This is also a nice place to go for a jog or walk your dog in the middle of summer, when the beaches are off limits for canines.
Find out about architecture
At the moment of visiting there was a life-sized sailing boat made out of bright coloured pieces of yarn on display at the Museu Municipal de Olhão. However, some of the exhibitions change regularly so there’s a pretty good chance it won’t be there anymore now (sorry, not being helpful here). However, do visit for the black & white fishing history photographs (outside the building) or to learn how the town’s architecture is associated with the Cubist movement (inside the museum, up the stairs, turn right. On the lower ground you’ll find pieces of old pillars and tombstones).
Free entrance, opening times: Monday to Friday 10-12.30 & 14-17.30, Saturday 10-13.
Edifício do Compromisso Marítimo, Largo da Restauração, 8700 Olhão
Discover the old town
With its mixture of abandoned houses, different shops and typical Portuguese cafes, the pedestrianised streets of Olhão’s old town will keep you occupied for a while. Don’t forget to glance upwards when walking around: the many balconies are worth a look.
Alternative – visit Armona
Fancy desolated beaches? Take a ferry from Olhão’s harbour to Armona Island, part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve.
Apart from sand, you’ll find cute small bungalows, a campsite, some restaurants and bars on the island. Usually it’s very quiet, especially in winter time.
If you’re visiting in summer and the harbour area is too crowded for your liking, walk across the island to the Atlantic side. There it’ll just be you, some birds, maybe a few Portuguese waterdogs and the occasional fisherman.
Shop & stroll
The best fresh goat cheese of the Algarve? It might well be sold in Fábrica do Queijo. Daily, fresh cheese is been made on the premises in several flavours by owner Ana Gancho from Olhão who has over a decade of experience.
The sweet version with honey, goji berries and chia seeds is preferred by most Portuguese people. It’s also our favourite, although it was a difficult choice as the salty mixed herbs (sabores de campo) is delish as well. Fábrica do Queijo also sells everything you might need to go with your cheese, like preserves, wine and bread.
Opening times: Tuesday to Friday 10-13 & 14-19, Saturday 9-13.
Av. República 100, r/c Loja 2, 8700-310 Olhão
Alternative 1 – dress to impress
Coisas Giras is a second hand clothes shop that really deserves the name ‘vintage’. All clothes are of good quality, handpicked by owner Aida Siljan. Many of them come from famous brands and designers, like Ralph Lauren, Christian Lacroix and Karen Millen.
Need something fancy for the holiday season that doesn’t break the bank? Get it here. Apart from clothes they also sell shoes, books and jewellery. Great place to score a fashion bargain.
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10-13 & 15-18
Rua de Soledade 17, 8700-400 Olhão
Alternative 2 – Olhão’s shopping centre
Want to do all your shopping in one place? Then Ria Shopping is probably your best bet. Located a bit outside the old town centre, it advertises on being an outlet shopping centre but also has a big supermarket.
Even though about a third of the shops are empty, the top floor is worth a view for its airy semi-covered roof.
Opening times: 10-23h
Estr. de Quelfes 125, 8000-137 Olhão
Visit the market
Olhão’s red brick market halls are not to be missed. Yes, they look good from the outside, but it’s what’s inside what counts. In one you’ll find meat and vegetables, in the other one dozens of different species of fish and seafood as this is the biggest fish market of the Algarve. Want to know what happens to the fish before it ends up on the market? Read all about the fish auction in our July issue.
Walk through the promenade
After visiting the market, go for a walk on the green promenade and choose which one of the many restaurants you’ll try for dinner later. Fancy shellfish and seafood? Read about Cascas restaurant in our July issue.
Hang out with a view
No visit to Olhão is complete without walking past the market halls to get to the harbour side. Get yourself an ice cream at one of the cafeterias, sit on the benches, stare out over sea and just enjoy the view. Life’s good!
See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine December 2015