26 September 2015

Where to stay in Olhão: Convento

There is a traditional fishing town I had not known about. Its cobbled winding streets are full of white cubic houses crowned by rooftop terraces on which the sun lays its rays for three hundred days a year. It is called Olhão, and I have just fallen in love with it.

We passed a busy restaurant and a fishmonger's and entered a silent travessa to be soon welcomed at a wooden door by Filipe, one of the owners of Convento. Barefoot, with light white linen shirt and a smile on his face, he told us to leave our bags and follow him. We did. 

Suddenly it felt I found myself in a fairytale-like world. We were at a square courtyard surrounded by white walls and columns, intense magenta flowers and blue handmade tiles. In the middle, there was a tiny fountain giving out this delicate sound of water drops softly echoing in the space. Above our heads, a snowwhite cloth was moving on the wind, uncovering the sun and the bluest sky every now and then. 

He showed us around Convento – our suite, the breakfast room, the reading room and the rooftop. On one of the charming terraces, surrounded by the panoramic view of Olhão, he told us the story of the building, which in the past was used as dormitories for village girls. When he left, we stayed there for a little while, looking at how Ria Formosa was uniting with the Atlantic ocean right in front of our eyes. 

Convento was completely renovated by two architects, Filipe and Eleonore, who made it what it is now: an airy, incredibly relaxing place, where you can sneakily observe the daily life of the Olhanenses on Olhão's white roofs, do yoga during a picturesque sunrise while listening to seagulls, watch boat masts move on the wind or just enjoy the bright Portuguese sunshine, read a book and have a refreshing dive in the swimming pool on a hot day.

There are only nine rooms at Convento and there is no reception. The owners (Filipe, Guillaume, Eleonore and Antje) are around during breakfast and in the evening and are always reachable on the phone. At the top of the spiral steps leading to the terrace, there is a tiny room with a fridge full of vinho verde, beer, juice and water; there are also glasses and a small box in which you leave contribution for what you take out. In the kitchen there is tea and coffee at your disposal, as well as fruit and cakes. Apart from the main house rule  carpe diem  there are many others (guests should not use suncream before sitting on white pillows or should not use shoes in order not to damage the floor) but in such a beautiful place it is no wonder the owners want to keep it in perfect shape, having spent years on renovating Convento often with their own hands.

At breakfast, all guests meet at a common table downstairs. There is freshly squeezed orange juice from Dona Celestina's oranges, organic yoghurt, fresh fruits, Alentejo cheese, top quality presunto, juicy tomatoes, local olives and Portuguese pastry like pastel de nata or delicious almond cake. Oh, and I still dream of that homemade pineapple jam! It really does feel like home and a fairytale at the same time, and I am very happy to have discovered this little gem. I would love to be back one day.

Practical info:

  • from 100 EUR/night
  • the room in the pictures: Edvirgem (Suite)
  • location: about 20 minutes drive from Faro airport
  • the staff speaks English and French
  • breakfast included, possibility to ask for vegetarian, gluten- and/or lactose-free breakfast
  • address: Travessa Antonio Bento 10, Olhão, Portugal (www)

I was welcomed to Convento as a guest. As always, my opinion is my own.


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