Convento

Olhao, Algarve, Portugal
Book from Book from £95 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 under 13s 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 pool, or a sundowner
  • Olhão is only 20 mins from Faro airport, yet it's an authentic fishing town with cobbled streets and simple restaurants serving charcoal-grilled sardines and jarros of wine; ideal for a car-free holiday
  • 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 - the rooftop cabins are only suitable if travelling with hand luggage only
  • No TVs, air con or music docks (though there is WiFi)
  • It can be difficult to park, but you don't really need a car here

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. Convento is closed in the winter months.

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
Romantic
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9 rooms
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • Ages 13+ only
  • Closed: mid Nov-mid March
  • Outdoor 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 gilded mirrors and lamps, handwoven rugs, local antiques and mismatched 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 Cabins 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 beds 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. Or there's Chá Chá Chá, a quirky local joint with fresh, locally sourced fare, gluten-free desserts and vegetarian options. For rustic and traditional Portuguese food (grilled fish and meat), try Pitéu along the seafront, deservedly popular with locals.

Before you head out, grab a drink from Convento's honesty bar and pop up to the roof terrace, to make the most of the last of the evening sun. The views of the islands (with swifts and storks flying past) is really special.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating: kitchen
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

Children aged 13 and over are welcome at Convento, but there are no extra beds so they'll need their own room.

Kid Friendly:

Location

Convento is in the centre of Olhão, a small fishing town in the eastern Algarve, 20 minutes from Faro airport.

By Air:
Faro airport is the closest (15km) but you could fly into Seville (in Spain, 200km) or Lisbon (300km) if you don't mind a longer drive.

Take a taxi or hire a car from the airport; see our rental recommendations. You'll need to park on the street in Olhão.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Faro 15.0 km FAR
  • Seville 200.0 km SEV

Other:

  • Beach 1.0 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.1 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 26 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

Amazing room with sea and town views, excellent shower and lots of privacy. Breakfast was enormous and of extremely high quality, plus the kitchen took great pains to serve up many different dishes each day (we never saw a duplicate breakfast in four days).

10/10,

As a return customer I have to say the personalised attention and help that the owners give is like going to stay with family whether that’s booking a local restaurant, booking a cab or recommending something new to do. The moorish style of the hotel is endlessly appealing and the views over the Rio Formenosa like a soothing balm . A true de- stressor . I will return again and again.

10/10,

We have just got back from a 4 night stay at Convento. It was a beautiful hotel - almost Zen-like in terms of its calmness - in a great location, close to the sea front in Olhao. Guillaume and Antje, and their team, made everything look effortless. They are truly excellent hosts. Whilst the town is not the prettiest, it has a nice feel to it, and some fabulous places to eat. It is also a quick hop over to Culatra, Armona and Farol, which feel slightly other worldly, but in a good way. We would highly recommend Convento for an escape!

10/10,

Convento is pure perfection! From the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. There is a peaceful and calm air about everything they do I can't recommend this enough. The area is just fabulous - so many great bars and restaurants - will definitely be back .

10/10,

Sadly I only stayed one night as the hotel was booked out the rest of the time - would have loved to stay longer. A charming place with a Moroccan feel, calm simple interiors, delicious breakfast, excellent location near the sea front but set just back in the charming streets of Olhao. Excellent and friendly service and a warm welcome from Guillaume. I would definitely recommend staying here.

10/10,

We had a wonderful experience at Convento! Guillaume, Antje and all the staff made us feel so welcome and were extremely helpful. Our room was very clean and everything had been thought of. The building itself is stunning - an oasis of calm! Perfect for a relaxing holiday. Breakfast was a delight every day. Olhão is a charming place, with plenty of restaurants on the doorstep, friendly locals and stunning beaches on nearby islands. Highly recommended!

10/10,

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Rates for Convento

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