Faro Portugal Travel
Faro Portugal: Faro is a historic and culturally rich city that boasts a variety of fascinating tourist attractions. Sadly, Faro is often overlooked, considered purely for its airport, but spend time in Faro, and you will discover a charming and authentic Portuguese city.
The capital of the Algarve is a versatile city that will attract people for different reasons. As a coastal town it’s easy to indulge in the eternal joys of sunshine, beaches, bars and great seafood. But there’s also a rare natural environment just offshore, a lagoon with a maze of waterways between islands.
The delightful historic centre of Faro is encircled by ancient city walls and contains a Gothic cathedral, the Bishop’s palace and pretty cobbled backstreets. Outside of the walls is the modern city centre, with its pedestrianised shopping streets, scenic plazas and variety of restaurants and bars.
Faro Portugal Weather
Holidaymakers often pass straight through Faro en route to the more popular beach resorts of the Algarve. They’re missing out.
This coastal city is well worth a stay in its own right, with a fascinating cultural history, a well-preserved old town, good-value accommodation, tempting seafood menus and lively nightlife. And now is a good time to go.
The glorious, almost rain-free summer is upon us, with temperatures in the low seventies tempered by sea breeze. You’ll also dodge the bulk of the summer arrivals, and be able to wander the medieval passageways and streets in relative peace.
Flights, too – often the most prohibitive part of a trip to Portugal, which otherwise can offer very good value – are reasonable, with returns still available this month for less than £150.
Is Faro Portugal worth visiting?
What is Faro Portugal known for?
Weather Faro Portugal
After a quick breakfast at Bonjour Creperia (4 Rua Conselheiro Bívar), which serves savoury and sweet crepes from €1.50 (£1.30), stroll down Rua Conselheiro Bívar, then turn right on to Rua de São Pedro.
Continue until the end of Largo do Carmo where you’ll spot the Igreja do Carmo , with its twin bell towers proudly perched at the centre of the square. This 18th-century church features the earliest example of Rococo architecture in the Algarve.
Out in the back garden, enter the eerily captivating Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), a chapel made of 1,245 human skulls and other bones belonging to the monks once buried in the cemetery nearby.
Make your way back past Jardim Manuel Bívar and step into the Vila Adentro (the old town) through the monumental Arco da Vila , one of the three gates leading into the city’s oldest quarters, and a striking neoclassical structure in its own right.
Carry on up Rua da Municipio until you see the medieval Se Cathedral , with its gloriously ornamented golden altar from the 17th and 18th centuries and a grand pipe organ. The building was partially burned down in 1596, during the invasion of the English troops under the Earl of Essex, and rebuilt in the 18th century. Down the side street from the cathedral is the Museu Municipal, tracing the city’s cultural heritage, from its Roman rule and Muslim occupation to the Christian conquest in the 16th century.
Make a right as you exit the museum and take a break at Aqui d’el Rei, a homely café near the Arco do Repouso. Soak in the old-town atmosphere, sipping a Super Bock – a Portuguese lager – over plates of tapas from €7.50 (£6.40). Pass the archway and turn right onto Largo de São Francisco, skirting the remains of the ancient walls that once enclosed the city.
Faro Portugal Beaches
Faro is one of the most popular day trips of the central Algarve region, and is highly recommended if you are on holiday in Albufeira, Vilamoura or Quarteira. Contained within Faro are numerous historic monuments, and the city has a distinctly Portuguese atmosphere, which is very different to the hectic resort towns.
A typical day trip to Faro would spend half of the day exploring the old quarter and the second half in the city centre, and this would include the Bone Chapel. For an alternative day trip, you could join a boat tour of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, which visits the fishing community of Culatra or the deserted island of Ilha Deserta.
For the day trip, it is very easy to travel to Faro, as there is a regular bus service connecting Faro to the central Algarve (Albufeira, Quarteira and Vilamoura) or a train service to the east (Olhão and Tavira).
Our Opinion: Loule and Olhão are also popular for day trips, but in our opinion, Faro is the better destination.
Faro makes an enjoyable, if slightly alternative, holiday destination. The city is ideal if you want an authentic Portuguese experience, in preference to a beach holiday.
The city offers history and culture, along with a varied selection of cafes, restaurants and bars. Being a major city there is decent nightlife and this tends to be aimed for Portuguese patrons, rather than foreign tourists. By day Faro has an unhurried and calm ambience, but by night there is a surprising buzzing and social nightlife.
Faro is a recommended holiday destination if you are a restless or intrepid visitor, as it makes for a good base from which to explore the Algarve. Tavira is only 40 minutes by train to the east, Vilamoura is 30 minutes by bus to the west, and even Lagos at the very western edge of the Algarve, can be reached by a direct train.
Things To Do In Faro Portugal
The Ria Formosa as it’s known is a habitat for the most diverse and colourful birdlife you could hope to see, and the shellfish farmed in these waters doesn’t have to travel far to Faro’s enticing seafood restaurants. Plus, captured within Faro’s ancient walls is a peaceful old town full of the city’s top landmarks.
Lets explore the best things to do in Faro:
1. Faro Cathedral
This monument was started in 1251, just two years after Faro had been “reconquered” from the Moors.
That explains the warlike appearance of the facade, dominated by a square Gothic tower, one of the few things that dates back to the cathedral’s earliest years.
You can scale this tower to gaze over Faro’s streets and the lagoon.
The remainder of the building has changed because of an attack by the English in the 1596, razing almost everything.
In the 17th and 18th century the interiors were enriched with the luxurious gilded woodwork and tile panels that were in style.
The altar and side chapels gleam with gold, and the walls of the choir have multi-coloured azulejos.
2. Arco da Vila
In 1812 old Faro’s waterside gateway was given a striking Neoclassical redesign.
This was done by the Italian architect Francisco Xavier Fabri, giving Faro’s seafaring visitors a stately welcome.
There are pediments, a balustrade, pinnacles and a belfry, on top of which is a permanent stork’s nest.
Just above the portal you can see a statue of St Thomas Aquinas in an alcove.
This opening in Faro’s walls goes all the way back to Moorish times, and as you pass through the gateway that 1,000-year-old stonework is still visible.
3. Cidade Velha
This enclave is much quieter, with calçada portuguesa, whitewashed houses roofed with terracotta tiles, and sequestered little squares where you might discover solitary restaurants.
Make for the beautiful plaza in front of the cathedral, which has rows of orange trees.
The episcopal palace on this square is the former home of Faro’s bishops and dates to the 16th-century.
There are occasional exhibitions inside, and you have to go in to see the oriental-style library and stairway decorated with tiles.
4. Ria Formosa Cruise
The Ria Formosa is where natural splendour and traditional modes of life are safeguarded.
The birdlife is as rich as it gets and includes flamingos, razorbills, spoonbills, storks, ospreys, stilts, shanks and the florid purple swamphen.
You can take a nature-spotting trip on an old tuna-fishing barge, and may catch a glimpse of traditional industries; some fishers still use Portuguese waterdogs, and you’ll see the enormous farms cultivating mussels, oysters and clams.
5. Island Beaches
And since the only way to reach them is by boat, these beaches are completely unspoiled.
On quieter days there are no signs of human life beyond the lighthouse and small isolated communities on the Ilha da Culatra.
You can catch a ferry out to Ilha da Culatra, or see Ilha Barreta (also known as Ilha Deserta) on a guided boat trip.
And if you’d prefer to spend a whole day on the beach you could also organise a drop off and pickup at a given time with a motorboat company.