Alvor is a pretty little fishing town which is popular with tourists, as opposed to many of the other former Algarvean fishing villages, which are tourist resorts that are popular with fishers. It may be a small difference, but it is an important one, as Alvor has retained its charm in a way that other places on the coast of the Algarve haven’t. Not surprisingly, Alvor is famous for its fish restaurants on the waterfront over-looking the fishing boats in the River Alvor estuary. The anchor pattern in the cobbles here reflect the fishing tradition, while a statue, Homenagem ao Pescador (‘Homage to the Fisherman’), sculpted by João Cutileiro (who also sculpted the statue of King Sebastian in Lagos) in 2000, acknowledging the importance of the local fishermen, is in front of the nearby fish market, where fishermen sit and play cards.
After walking around the Alvor Nature Reserve we decided to explore the town further. A walk up the pedestrianised Rua Doutor Frederico Ramos Mendes, Alvor’s main restaurant and bar street,
leads to the Manueline Igreja do Divino Salvador (Church of the Divine Saviour), built in the early-sixteenth century. The arch around the front door is a wonderfully extravagant example of Manueline style, with carvings on the arch in the shape of plants and a giant octopus tentacle making up the final arch. Inside the church the highlights for me were the ornate altar, two Rococo-style azulejo panels depicting the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples and several depictions, in stained glass and sculpture, of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem (Our Lady of the Good Voyage) holding a child in one arm and a boat in the other.
From here we walked up Rua 25 Abril, a narrow street with traditional whitewashed houses, to the Praça da República, a tree-lined square which I suspect is the real heart of Alvor, where local older men sit and chat. In one corner of the square is the small Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Mercy).
A short walk south of the square are the remains of a former Moorish castle, dating from the time when the town was called Al-Bur. The castle was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and the surviving castle walls now shelter a children’s playground.
As we walked back to the car park a man offered to sell us a bag full of freshly caught razor shells. It seemed a fitting end to our visit to Alvor.