Written by Ben Taylor,
5th July 2022

A property in Olhão, in Portugal’s east Algarve, can deliver plenty for your money. Along with great value property, the town offers easy access to the rest of the Algarve. Is Olhão the region you’ve been searching for?

Not that long ago, buying a property in Olhão was an option largely overlooked by overseas buyers in the Algarve. However, this authentic (and hugely convenient) city is now firmly on the expat radar.

In this article, we explain why Olhão could well be the perfect east Algarve location for a holiday home or permanent residence.

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Location

Olhão is one of the most convenient Algarve destinations, especially for those who wish to take frequent trips in and out. The city lies just 10km east of Faro and its airport, with the journey taking around 20 minutes by road.

Notably, the airport experience is enhanced by the Portuguese authorities’ recent decision to allow Brits to use the EU passport lanes. On a good day, you could move from the airport tarmac to your holiday home in Olhão in less than an hour!

Olhão is also somewhere you can easily live without access to a car. It has a train station on the main Algarve line, with Faro station just 11 minutes away and almost the entirety of the Algarve coast within reach as well.

property in Olhao

Typical white and blue houses in Olhão

The City

Olhão is a historic port city. Its fishing industry dates back to the 17th century and continues to thrive to this day. The city’s waterfront market is one of the best in the Algarve, selling not just fish but meat, fresh produce and other local artisan foods.

Olhão’s Old Town area is packed with the whitewashed buildings and Moorish architecture that the Algarve is famous for. Bargain properties and renovation projects still exist in this area, for those seeking a truly authentic Portuguese experience.

While the city sits on the waterfront of the Ria Formosa natural park, Olhão isn’t – strictly speaking – a beach city. However, it’s the jump-off point for two enormous sandbank beaches, the Ilha da Cultura and Ilha da Armona, reached by a short ferry or water-taxi ride. Both islands have small permanent populations, making a home on one of them a possibility for overseas buyers seeking a genuinely unique lifestyle.

While much of historic Olhão remains, there’s plenty of modern living on offer too. Developments such as the waterfront Marina Village provide condominium-style living, with amenities like pools and manicured green spaces. Modern developments also abound on the outskirts of the city. This area is also home to the large Ria shopping mall, complete with a cinema and a number of restaurants.

View of the main church of Olhão

Lifestyle

Olhão has an authentic, working city feel. It’s much less gritty than it was as recently as 10 years ago, but still feels a world-away from a purpose-built resort town. While there’s a long sun-drenched waterfront area, the island beaches appeal more to locals and adventurous travellers than tourists who like to rotate between hotel room, bar and sun-lounger.

Similarly, this isn’t a place packed with sports bars and menus in English. There’s plenty of choice – from fine dining to low-priced local bars and cafés – but they don’t tend to trade their authenticity for tourist accessibility. For most overseas buyers, this is seen as a good thing!

Despite all of this, Olhão is friendly and unintimidating. You will undoubtedly encounter tourists and hear English voices, and there are plenty of expats within easy reach if you wish to be part of that “scene.” Equally, you can avoid it in Olhão if you wish.

Olhão’s location puts all of the Algarve’s amenities on your doorstep. There are golf courses nearby, endless water sports facilities, and great places to shop. The cobbled Old Town is the place to find small local stores, and the outskirts is home to several supermarkets and DIY stores. It’s worth remembering that Faro is only 20 minutes away, with its extensive range of shops and malls.

Finally, don’t forget that long, inexpensive lunches and beers by the water are part of day-to-day life in Olhão. These everyday luxuries are as inexpensive as they are anywhere along the Algarve.

property in Olhão

Lunches and drinks by the water are part of day-to-day life in Olhão.

Property Options

One of the great things about property in Olhão is that bargains still exist, especially for those willing to take on a project. Better yet, there are small and habitable homes for less than €150,000.

This one-bedroom villa is full of character and only five minutes from Moncarapacho and 15 minutes from Olhão centre. It offers surprisingly modern open plan living and a beautiful fully covered terrace with barbecue and garden. It’s on the market at just €100,084.

At €150,000, this one-bed townhouse is a habitable renovation project, where you can live right in the centre of the city. It has bags of potential for a mix of modern and historic and has a sizeable roof terrace. It is located just 10 minutes from Faro airport, a few minutes’ walk from the market and has easy access to the boats to the islands.

Going up a little in budget are these two gorgeous villas, both at €240,000. The first is a traditional three-bedroom villa located just minutes from the centre of Moncarapacho. It boasts a huge roof terrace that is bathed in sunshine and offers a spectacular sea view. The second is a beautiful 1-bedroom villa in the centre of Olhão. Despite only being built recently, the property has a very authentic feel with vaulted ceilings and whitewashed walls. It comes fully furnished and equipped and would make an ideal holiday or permanent home.

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