Convento

Olhao, Algarve, Portugal Book from Book from £87 per night

A historic townhouse with a Moroccan riad feel, near the eastern Algarve's stunning island beaches
Hidden down a narrow street between a fishmonger and a buzzy restaurant lies a white door in a stone archway, which opens into one of Marrakech’s most stylish riads... Well, not really, but the internal courtyard - with its hand-painted blue tiles, graceful white columns and grand wooden doors - had us fooled. And as we climbed up spiral stairs to a split-level roof terrace, we were delighted by the views across the town's whitewashed roofs to the Ria Formosa Natural Park, where fishing boats bob on the waves and the bright sunshine is almost dazzling.

Once a weekday home for rural girls working in Olhão's fish-canning industry, the townhouse was saved from ruin by 2 architects, a historian and a teacher, who remodelled it into this airy, peaceful haven (no kids allowed). They carefully preserved and exposed original brickwork, turned former dormitories into 9 romantic bedrooms, and adorned communal spaces with local art and antiques from nearby Fuseta. We loved the sheer style of it all.

Highs

  • Fantastic value, and rates include a great breakfast
  • The rooftop terrace: a perfect spot for a lazy morning, an afternoon dip in the heated pool, or a sundowner
  • Olhão - only 20 mins from Faro airport, yet an authentic fishing town with cobbled streets and simple restaurants serving charcoal-grilled sardines and jarros of wine
  • You’re a taxi-boat ride from some of our favourite Portuguese beaches, in the Ria Formosa
  • Managers Guillaume and Antje are incredibly welcoming

Lows

  • Multi level with steep spiral stairs
  • No TVs, air con or music docks (though there is WiFi)
  • It can be difficult to park, but you could easily holiday here without a car

Best time to go

This area of Portugal is great year-round, but we’d recommend April-October when warm weather is almost guaranteed. That said, we’ve visited in February and November and experienced sunny, dry days. Temperatures can soar in July and August, but the cool Atlantic acts as a welcome respite.

Our top tips

Take a day trip to Spain. Drive along the coastal road to Vila Real de Santo António and jump on the small ferry, which takes you across the Rio Guadiana. Just 5 minutes later, you’ll find yourself in Ayamonte, a pretty Spanish town filled with tapas restaurants. Just remember that Ayamonte is an hour ahead of Vila Real de Santo António, and most restaurants in Spain shut at 4pm; we’ve been caught out before!

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Honeymoon
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • Ages 15+ only
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The 9 rooms and suites fan out around the tranquil courtyard, with its tinkling fountain and colourful bougainvillea. All are chic white spaces, with gold-gilded mirrors and lamps, handwoven rugs, local antiques and mis-matched chairs. Bathrooms have huge walk-in rain showers, with heated marble underfoot. Be aware that only shower gel and handwash are provided so bring toiletries.

We stayed in one of the first-floor Suites, accessed via huge sliding glass doors that allow light to flood in. These were our favourite rooms as they felt very private. The Rooftop Rooms are beautifully designed and romantic; one has a private terrace, the other opens directly onto the communal rooftop. The Double and Large Double rooms felt airy and spacious, and have their bed tucked under an elegant arch.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Honesty bar
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is a delight, prepared each morning by Antje and served at a long table in the art-filled breakfast room. Each guest is brought a daily-changing delicacy (we had local cheeses and meats one day; an omelette the next), as well as fresh fruit (papaya, raspberries, kiwi and grapefruit) and Portuguese bread and cakes (including the traditional pastel de nata). If you have any dietary requirements, just let Antje know.

For lunch and dinner, there are some excellent restaurants nearby. Our favourite is family-run O Galo, which serves delectable dishes such as fishcakes with fried sweet potato, as well as a range of tapas. For rustic and traditional Portuguese food (grilled fish and meat), try Pitéu along the seafront, deservedly popular with locals.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Olhão’s pretty cobbled streets, harbour and smart red-brick market. There's a daily spread of veg, fruit and fish, plus a farmers' market on Saturdays with budgies and bunnies, baked goods and pottery
  • Get a ferry or taxi boat to island beaches. Our favourites are Ilha da Culatra and Ilha Deserta, though all offer stunning stretches of golden sand; the journey takes you through the Ria Formosa’s lagoons. Further afield, and equally lovely, are the beaches of Fuseta, Barrill and Santa Luzia
  • Fuseta's antiques market is a must
  • Day-trip to Tavira and admire its hilltop castle, Roman bridge and wonderful collection of Gothic and Renaissance churches. There are pretty boutiques, too, which we never leave empty-handed!

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Historical sites
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming

Kids

This is an adults-only hotel.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 44 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Rooms
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

We spent a lovely, relaxing week here. Gracious hosts, superb breakfasts and a wonderful rooftop terrace. We loved the tranquility of the place, too. Thoroughly recommended.

10/10, , May 2017

Our second trip to Olhao, again made very welcome at Convento. Can recommend a car transfer to and from the airport, great not to have a hire car!

10/10, , May 2017

Our room was excellent - beautiful, clean and spacious. Breakfast was prepared each day with such care and beauty. Local produce, delicious bread, fruit and cheese from the market each day and home made local jams. It was a real delight to the eyes to be greeted each morning with something new and delicious <br>We were so well cared for by the people who work here. And even before we arrived we had questions about where to find the place and what to do. Nothing was too much trouble.. everything was thought of in advance so that we could relax and enjoy our stay. <br>I didn't really like the approach to Convento - the little alley way was a bit scruffy and not well cared for. Nothing you can do about this.. but anyway as soon as you step into Convento you have entered another world. A world where beauty and artistry go hand in hand with peace and tranquility. The white walls and the blue mosaic give a feeling of light and space and it's a real delight to just sit and ponder the important things in life and coming back to a real sense of quiet. <br>Convento organised a taxi for us from the airport 25 euros - 20 minutes. This was useful as we didn't have to worry about how to find it. <br>Olhao has a host of restaurants - lots of fish and seafood, all freshly brought in on the fishing boats. <br>We took a boat taxi across to the island of Armona. We walked across to the other side of the island (20 minutes) to a beach full of sand dunes and the sound of the sea. There was hardly anyone on the beach with us -so relaxing. If you like a real escape from the everyday this is a great way to do it.

10/10, , April 2017

The calm in this hotel is palpable, and total. The service is so light-touch as to be imperceptible, whilst being entirely sufficient. The breakfasts are exceptional and quietly varied. <br>It is a shame the Convento doesn't extend a dinner offer, though that may risk breaking the tranquility. There are some reasonable local restaurants, favourite being lunch at Restaurant Rui in the town Culatra on a nearby island accessible by water taxi or ferry (vast expanse of perfect Atlantic-facing sandy beach only a 15 minute walk away from the lunch spot). <br>The (apparently new) gelato stand in the square between the two markets also a highlight. I recommend both the basil and the avocado (yes, really) ice creams. <br>Unostentatious and understated in the extreme, Convento is one of the most restorative places I have ever stayed. I hope to be back.

10/10, , April 2017

I had a wonderful 3 days at Convento. It's the best of all worlds: very conveniently located; bright, airy with large, very comfortable rooms; stylish and luxurious; relaxed and welcoming; incredibly friendly, accommodating hosts with all kinds of useful information, not just about Olhao but anything and everything; the rarity (in Southern Europe) of a delicious, beautifully presented, enormous breakfast; and very moderate prices. I cannot think of any serious improvement that could be made to this perfect place.

10/10, , March 2017

A gorgeous place, so white and calm with a lovely interior courtyard and spacious well designed bedrooms. A good pool on the top floor, and several shaded areas for sittting with good views. Lower down, there are plenty of attractive places to sit including a well stocked library and the proximity of the kitchen, where snacks and drinks are constantly available. We liked the communal table for breakfast and found the other guests to be interesting and agreeable. There are plenty of good restaurants nearby and Phillipe was happy to advise and he is a most genial and helpful host.

10/10, , October 2016

Stunning place, lovely people. Highly recommended!

10/10, , October 2016

There is an unfortunate smell (which is nothing to do with the markets) that wafts over Olhao at certain times of the day. This is very unpleasant both indoors and outside. However it would not stop us from going there again. Most people stay at Convento for just a couple of nights, but we stayed for two weeks and a little more wardrobe and drawer space would have been appreciated, though for short stays there was more than adequate facilities. Otherwise everything about the Convento including staff, facilities, cleanliness, food and very warm welcome, was first class. <br>Facilities in and around Convento were ideal. We had no car for the fortnight and enjoyed using the trains (station only 10 mins walk) many local restaurants which were just steps away, ferries to the islands, boat trips and Tuk-Tuk experience. <br> <br>

10/10, , September 2016

Again a great hideaway choice from i-escape, thank you so very much. <br>My room, the downstairs suite, was beautiful and large but quite dark. The indirect light in the bathroom looked fabulous but was somewhat unpractical, when for example putting make-up on. The sitting area in the beginning of the room was too sweaty to use at all. Here I have to say though that the weather was extra-ordinary hot. <br>Best way to get there from Faro is by taxi (approximately EUR 23 - 25) as you otherwise end up waiting a long time for a bus and walking quite a bit. For me personally neither Faro nor Vila Real de Saint Antonio were worth the visit, but Tavira is beautiful. To visit the before-mentioned towns are easy to reach by train or tuk-tuk. <br>The beaches are fabulous but you need to take a ferry to get there which however is very easy. À do Fernando, Rua do Gaibeu, 27 is my absolutely favorite restaurant, great value for the money. They serve delicious, fresh food, and Arina and João are the friendliest hosts I have met for a long time.

10/10, , September 2016

Truly amazing people running a gorgeous, seriously relaxing establishment. Definitely booking for next year. We loved it.

10/10, , August 2016

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Rates for Convento