Olhão has always been known as a traditional Algarve fishing city – full of charm and replete with quaint typical Portuguese houses and streets. Although this city has retained most of these features, it has seen some change in the last ten years which has brought with it many new and exciting attractions.
One of the most notable changes has to be the regeneration project that took place in the Marina back in 2008. This brought with it a new five star hotel, Marina Village (three high end apartment buildings) and a new marina outside these new developments. The remainder of the waterfront promenade, as well as the pier that services the ferries, also received some maintenance and upgrade work. The pier regeneration in particular has meant that access to the local islands (Armona, Culatra and Farol) was improved and has since allowed visitors and locals much smoother trips to the wonderful beaches these islands boast. These new features, along with the existing restaurants that grace this area, serving their amazing fresh seafood dishes, meant that Olhão has benefitted from many more visitors wishing to take in all of what it has to offer. Due to the success of this project, more funds have become available and are being used this year to further develop this area thus meeting the needs of the visitors that pass by every year.
2009 saw the birth of Olhão’s first (and only) shopping centre. Ria Shopping offered locals variety and convenience with a new supermarket, clothes shops, restaurants, a new cinema and even an indoor Karting circuit. This gave the city a much needed boost not only in terms of jobs but also in terms of choice – right on their doorstep. The shopping centre has since been fortunate enough to take in more high street stores and as a result, there was a name change a few years later and it is now known as The Algarve Outlet.
Also in 2009, after three years of construction, the Auditorium was inaugurated. This building was erected on the old site of a canning factory and to ensure the history of this factory remained alive, the original chimney was restored and integrated into the architecture of the building thus becoming a prominent and recognisable feature. Here you can enjoy an array of cultural experiences on offer throughout the year.
Still in the vain of keeping the city’s charm alive, the Câmara Municipal decided to share with the public something that to many was not really common knowledge – The Legends of Olhão. These legends have been around for generations and have been showcased in five redeveloped squares within the old town forming a self-guided walking tour. You start of at the Largo da Fábrica Velha where you learn all about ‘Lenda de Marim’. You then follow the signposted path to visit ‘Lenda de Floripes’ and on to ‘Lenda do Mouro Encantado’. Next is ‘Lenda do menino dos Olhos Azuis’ and finally you end up at ‘Lenda do Arraúl’. Each tale in the path has a sculpture and the story is displayed in both English and Portuguese. This is a very unique way of exploring the historical part of Olhão as it offers entertainment, culture and a route through the many untouched back streets of this enchanting city.
For more history and culture, you can also visit the Museu Municipal de Olhão which offers three different collections: a collection of archaeological materials dating back to Copper Age, Bronze Age, Roman and Islamic period; a collection of numismatics presenting coins from the Middle Ages to contemporary era, as well as a collection of paleontological materials (fossils).
If you are looking for natural beauty, Olhão is the perfect place to be as it sits comfortably on the Ria Formosa. You can explore the wildlife whilst taking a walk through the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa which offers amazing views of the unique coastal lagoon through its windy woodland paths. It is no wonder this natural park has been elected as one of the seven natural wonders of the world as it is indeed quite stunning and a must see for nature enthusiasts.