Convento

Olhao, Algarve, Portugal Book from Book from £88 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 - rooftop rooms only suitable for hand luggage
  • 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
  • Closed: 1 Nov 2018 - 28 Feb 2019
  • 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:

Location

Convento is in the centre of Olhão, a small fishing town on 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. Click on the links below for a list of airlines.

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.com.

More on getting to Portugal and getting around

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 55 independent reviews from i-escape guests

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

Probably one of the most beautiful and natural places I've ever stayed.
No air con or fridge in the room (for water) but it adds to the beauty. It's so peaceful and light! The breakfast was one of my favourites ever. Plenty to eat and so fresh every day. I would definitely return.

9/10,

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this beautiful hotel. It is in a perfect location; extremely close to the markets, great restaurants, shops and boat trip departure points for trips out; and many patios, a lovely room, terraces and a pool to relax in when staying in. The staff were very helpful and pleasant. Breakfasts were fantastic, lots of perfectly ripe fruit and a platter of cheese and cured meat, sometimes an omelette, really nice bread and gluten free people are looked after very well. There is an honesty bar upstairs with reasonable prices.
We met a few people on return visits and we are also planning a return trip.

10/10,

Very friendly staff, nice hotel and beautiful setting.

10/10,

My daughter and I had a very relaxing stay in this beautiful accommodation. The hosts and staff are fabulous and breakfast was beautifully presented and tasted amazing. We will both return to this homely welcoming hotel.

10/10,

The place is absolutely stunning. You get to enjoy privacy, quiet and generally it’s an unforgettable vacation. We came to Convento for our honeymoon and it was the best choice we’ve made. Louis was so friendly, generous, helpful and welcoming and let us feel so comfortable, just like we’re at home :) thanks for everything!

10/10,

The place is absolutely stunning! You get to enjoy privacy and the peace and quiet. Generally, it’s an unforgettable vacation. We came Convento for our honeymoon and it was the best choice we’ve made. Louis was so friendly, generous, helpful and welcoming, and made us feel so comfortable - just like we’re at home :) Thanks for everything!

10/10,

A truly beautiful historic house that has been sensitively restored and is situated within Olhao's atomospheric old quarter. We loved our spacious room on the ground floor leading onto the moorish courtyard, while the pool deck on the top floor was hard to leave, thanks to its amazing views. We also liked the honesty bar stocked with everything from cool drinks to wine and beer. Our hosts were extremely welcoming and recommended some great dining options nearby.

10/10,

This is a wonderful place, exquisitely designed and every detail carefully thought about. You enter it by a small door in an unprepossessing alleyway and it opens up to a large ground floor open to the sky and adorned with white furniture and plants.
The whole atmosphere is calm and peaceful. The owners couldn't be more helpful or welcoming. My husband particularly liked the abundance of tea, coffee, fruit and cake freely available throughout the day!
If there was be reservation it would be the lack of air conditioning. If having a fan blowing is ok for you then that won't be a problem but as my eyes don't react well, it was a little difficult. If this is the case then the ground floor rooms are cooler as you have a through draught with doors/windows that can be kept open ( we saw no mosquitos!). Talking to other guests we discovered that we were in a minority as almost all of them had been several times before. Recommendation indeed! We'll also be back!

10/10,

Convento is a fabulous building maintained to the highest standard and exudes charm and grace as do the owners. The locality is just right, an oasis just a minute or two from the many excellent restaurants in the area.

10/10,

Could not compliment Luis and his staff highly enough for making our stay at Convento so wonderful. We stayed in a suite which was absolutely gorgeous, quiet and cool throughout our stay.You leave all your troubles at the door, it is so relaxing and chilled. The only time you see the staff for any length of time is during the fantastic breakfast that’s served here - don’t miss it - it will keep you going until dinner time. For the rest of the time, you are left to your own devices. Do pick their brains regarding good local restaurants though - we thoroughly enjoyed each of their recommendations.They proudly told us during our stay that they get a lot of repeat customers- we will happily be adding ourselves to that list.

10/10,

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