Convento

Olhao, Algarve, Portugal Book from

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
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • 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...

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

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