Although most people visiting the Algarve for a holiday in Portugal, will land in Faro, not many think it worth a visit. That’s a big mistake, because Faro has it all.
Instead of having been taken over by resorts and tourism, the capital of the Algarve still has a real Portuguese flavor to it. The roughly 8000 students make for a lively nightlife, while the fact it’s a marine town gives it that laid back atmosphere you can only find near the sea. Faro can cater to anyone’s taste: from an attractive marina to a charming historical center; from long stretched sandy beaches close by to many pedestrian shopping streets packed with nice outdoor cafés.
And to top it all off, the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, a protected wetland where Nature lovers can get their fair share. Algarve Housing likes to share with you more about Faro Portugal, the capital of the Algarve!
What to do in Faro
The neo-classical Arco da Vila is the entrance gate to the old city center. The Sé forms the main historical attraction. Completed in 1251, but heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1755, it now boasts a mixture of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic features. Do climb the bell tower for some wide views over the town and the coastal line.
Also worth a visit is the Igreja da Nossa Senhora, with lots of gold inside the church and on the façade.
Especially freaky is the Capela dos Ossos, a chapel made of bones and skulls of over 1000 monks, quite a macabre sight.
For museum lovers, there is the Museu Municipal, located in a former monastery with beautiful gardens, where you will mainly find archaeological finds. The Museu Regional do Algarve hosts mainly exhibitions on rural life in the Algarve.
If you’re more in the shopping mood, you can go to one of the shopping malls of Faro.
Or a more outdoor experience, stroll down the Rua de Santo Antonio with plenty of fashion boutiques and tourist shops to keep you busy for some hours, and nice cafés for when you get tired and crave for some good Portuguese coffee.
Where to eat and drink in Faro?
You are well served when it comes down to food and drinks in Faro. Because of the many students, night life is vibrant and aimed at the Portuguese crowd. Most bars and nightclubs are centered around Rua do Prior, two streets behind the Bus station.
For a more chilling and romantic aperitif, try the Columbus Bar at Praça Dom Francisco Gomes, in what used to be the local hospital, to watch the sunset.
For some excellent sea-food, head to the marina, a favorite with locals is Faro e Benfica. Another highly rated restaurant by the locals is Pasteleria Coelho. Gengibre e Canela is your place if you are vegetarian or vegan, or simply fed up with all the meat and fish; they serve a daily changing buffet with delicious, healthy meals.
Faro Portugal, is packed with local restaurants, so you might also just walk around and pick any place where many Portuguese are sitting, safe bet that you will get value for your money.
There are no beaches at walking distance, but 5 km from the airport (buses 14 and 16 will take you there, or take a beautiful bike ride of about 45 minutes with a rental bike) is Praia de Faro, a 5 km long sandy beach with relaxed cafés and beach bars. It is the most developed island for tourists near Faro, but if you go a little away from the center, it will be more quiet, even in the summer.
Another option is to take a ferry to Ilha da Culatra to the west of Faro, with its beautiful long stretches of sandy beaches and crystal clear water. It has two small villages, Farol and Culatra, but no cars or roads. The small population lives from the sustainable fishing practices.
Ilha Deserta is the other beach close to Faro, even quieter, as there is no public transport to it, you can merely get there with an excursion or a taxi-boat. As the name already implies, it is nearly deserted, and there is only one building on the island, an exclusive seafood restaurant, Estaminé.
All of those little islands are protected by the Ria Formosa natural park, a protected wilderness of salt water lagoons and tidal mud flats, ensuring there is abundant aquatic life and seashells that attract more than 270 species of birds, a heaven of wild nature. To get a good feel of the beauty, the best way to discover the park is with one of the boat tours that you can book in Faro. They last between 45 minutes and 2 hours.
If you are staying elsewhere in the Algarve, it is well worth considering a day trip to Faro, or even spend some more time there, as it abounds with options on things to do while getting a real feel of Portugal.
This article about Faro, the capital of the Algarve, has brought to you by Algarve Housing, for unique holiday villas in the Algarve.