Pronounced “oll-yaow”, is the Algarve’s largest fishing port. A rare gem, its center is charming, faded, and stuffed full of appealingly batty characters.
Olhão is a coastal town in the Algarve which grew out of the fishing industry in the seventeenth century, it is located just ten kilometers east of Faro. It was here that the first canning factory was established in 1882, sparking a trend that was to spread in both directions along the coast, with canned tuna and sardines quickly becoming the Algarve’s main source of income.
Olhão achieved its status as a town in 1808 after a group of seventeen Olhaneses sailed to Brazil in the Bom Successo, a sixty five foot fishing boat. They made the journey (without the benefit of navigation charts) in order to tell the exiled Dom João IV that the French had been defeated leaving the way clear for him to return to Portugal.
The fishmarket on the waterfront is still Olhão’s main draw. A quaint and energetic place, the market sells local produce such as fruit, honey and live chickens as well as a huge variety of fresh local fish.
The old quarter of Olhão has a distinctly Moorish feel, with square whitewashed houses, flat terraced roofs and box-chaped chimneys. The church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dates back to the seventeenth century, while the chapel behind it, dedicated to Nossa Senhora dos Afelitos, is still the place where the wives of fishermen gather during stormy weather to pray for the lives of their husbands.