The so-called “Lisbon earthquake” of 1755 in fact occurred near Tavira, which explains why so much of the city was rebuilt in a relatively consistent Portuguese Baroque style.
The best parts of town are scattered along the edges of the center, not in the center itself. The overall Moorish feel remains, and oranges are grown in the surrounding countryside.
There is in fact nothing to do here. That said, the town is consistently lovely and you will find few chain stores or fast food outlets. The real problem is that Portugal is depopulating, and within depopulating Portugal Tavira is itself depopulating in both absolute and relative terms. Many buildings are uninhabited and they are beginning to fall apart.
I am not sure I have seen an older town, and that includes a variety of stints in Japan.
It is very difficult to use one’s credit cards here, and it is not because they have leapfrogged to some more advanced means of payment.
For dining, I recommend the snack bar attached to the seafood market, on the far left corner as you look at the market. They serve what is perhaps the best broccoli I ever have had. It is also full of “characters,” salty men of the sea types.
More generally, I recommend the orangey snacky pastry thing, famous locally. Pork and clams is a classic regional dish, cod to me is overrated. Garbanzo beans are deployed profusely. The seafood is excellent in quality, though too often it is put in a decent but not really interesting tomato broth. It is worth a cab ride to the food market in nearby Faro, a larger town.
There are numerous Indian restaurants, but I haven’t run across a single Chinese locale, nor seen a single Chinese person here.
Visitors to Tavira do not regret it, but neither do they say “I wish I had come many years earlier!”