Portugal’s East Algarve is ever popular with overseas residents. Anybody considering the area soon begins to ponder the possibility of living in Tavira.
One of the Algarve’s most elegant small cities, Tavira has it all: history, amenities, and stunning beaches on the doorstep. There’s a well-established and friendly community in the area – one where many expats speak Portuguese and are truly integrated into local life.
In this article, a long-term resident of the area presents seven insider tips for making the most of living in Tavira. Learn more about living in Portugal here.
1. Head for the market on Saturday mornings
Tavira’s large municipal market runs six days per week (every day except for Sunday). It’s a fabulous place to shop on any day, but Saturday is always the highlight. The market – and its surrounding shops and restaurants – are a hive of activity, with locals meeting up, congregating around the cafés, and buying their food for the weekend.
Tavira’s market specialises in fish and local fruit and vegetables. Locals love living in Tavira for the availability of fresh produce. There are also lots of other stalls selling specialities like honey and dried beans. On the outer walls of the market there are butchers’ shops, delis and cheese shops. On Saturdays, everything in the main market is often complemented by a flea market outside.
A Saturday morning sitting outside the market, sipping an espresso or a bargain Sagres beer, is the kind of thing guaranteed to reaffirm your decision to move to Tavira – time after time.
2. Discover the “secret” beach
Although it’s right on the coast, Tavira is neither a beach city nor a resort city. The stunning Ilha de Tavira is an island beach, which is reached via an enjoyable journey on a quick ferry or water taxi.
The fact that Tavira isn’t a resort adds to its appeal, for many. It helps it to retain a largely authentic feel.
However, there is actually a small beach in Tavira – for those in the know. Named Praia do Rato, after the fort that sits behind it, it’s a small stretch of sand that faces the Ilha de Tavira. As it sits on an inlet, the water can get notably warm in the summer months.
It’s not the biggest secret in the world. In the summer, plenty of locals head there. But even at its busiest, you can sit watching the packed ferries go back and forth from the island, feeling a little smug about your local knowledge.
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3. Avoid the tourist traps
As alluded to above, Tavira isn’t a particularly touristy town. However, it is an increasingly well-known destination, and a popular place for day trips. As such, it’s not entirely immune from tourist traps.
The first is a strip of restaurants, facing the river between the city and the market. This is where ferries to the beach depart from in the summer months. These restaurants are the only ones in Tavira that regularly have pushy touts outside, and they’re known for being overpriced.
Another place where you can spend more than you intend to is the cafés on the main square – facing the amphitheatre and “Roman” bridge. This is a question of paying for location. The same coffees, cakes and beers can be found all over town for far less. Many locals save trips to these places for when they have guests, who want the showy living in Tavira experience. However, they often have much more affordable favourites off the beaten track.
4. Make use of the train
Unlike some places in the Algarve (where the train stations are located in places far from the towns they serve) the Tavira area has train stations that are truly useful.
The main train station is just five minute’s walk from the city centre. There’s also Porta Nova, serving the east of the city. Also worth noting is Conceicão, which serves the neighbouring resort of Cabanas.
With regular (and inexpensive) trains west to Faro and east to Vila Real de Santo António, on the Spanish border, Tavira is a great place to make full use of the train. It also makes living in Tavira without a car a truly practical option.
5. Familiarise yourself with ALL the supermarkets
Tavira has several supermarkets. There’s a large Continente in the Gran Plaza shopping centre, a Pingo Doce and a Minipreço in town, and both Aldi and Lidl near the train station.
It’s well worth getting to know all of these supermarkets, as prices for certain items can vary quite significantly between them. It’s also good to sign up to the loyalty schemes, and pay attention to the many flyers that come through the letterbox.
Overseas residents often turn up first thing at Lidl and Aldi on days when they launch promotions on global food – it’s a chance to stock up on ingredients that may usually be hard to find.
6. Don’t buy fish at the market on mondays
Another quick piece of market advice from a local living in Tavira: Don’t buy fish on a Monday. This applies to any market in Portugal.
Nobody usually goes out to fish on a Sunday, so the fish you see will likely be the same fish that people didn’t buy on Saturday. Make Monday a meat or a vegetable day!
7. Use the municipal leisure facilities
You’re hardly short of places to swim when you’re living in Tavira! But if it’s winter, or you don’t fancy the sea or a resort pool, there’s a great leisure centre, complete with a free outdoor gym to enjoy.
The best part of all is the price – just €2.50 at the time of writing.
Living in Tavira is a joy, and you’ll no doubt soon meet some new friends with plenty of tips of their own. Just don’t tell too many people about the “secret” beach!
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