Gateway to the Algarve and often overlooked by visitors, the capital city of the southernmost region of Portugal ticks all the boxes on your perfect holiday to-do list. Known for its mild weather all year round and an airport that connects the city to all corners of Europe, Faro’s strategic location lets tourists explore the Algarvian beaches and resorts with ease. The city, though, has much more to offer.
With its 60,000 inhabitants, Faro saw the invasions of the Romans, Byzantines, and the Moors before the country became independent in the XII century. This mix of influences can be seen as soon as you enter the old town (Cidade Velha), where a baroque gateway (Arco da Vila) lets you in. Narrow cobbled streets guide you towards the beautiful Sé (a cathedral bombed during WWII, that offers stunning views of the city from the top of its tower), surrounded by colorful orange trees that decorate the Largo da Sé, the main square hosting the city hall and bishop’s palace as well.
Not to be missed among the many churches of the city is the Igreja do Carmo (built-in 1251 and damaged in the 1755 earthquake), located beside the famous Bone Chapel (Capela dos Ossos): its interiors are fully plastered with the real bones of over 1,200 monks.
Home to the University of the Algarve, Faro boasts museums, theatres, and a plethora of cultural events and activities: from the Fado nights (traditional Portuguese music) played at Castelo, within the medieval town walls, to the live concerts and local artists’ performances hosted by the Music Association, based in the grounds of the Old Beer Factory; here tourists and locals alike can enjoy the Feira da Tralha (flea market), art exhibitions and music lessons.
Fancy a bargain? Rua de Santo Antonio is a quaint street with pretty buildings and shiny pavements featuring all sorts of shops – souvenirs, clothing, food and spirits, books and more. The Mercado (market) also has good deals and promotions, as well as the Forum shopping center.
A stone’s throw from the city, easy to reach by bus, is Faro beach: great for surfing, paddling, and grabbing a drink. Boat tours depart from Faro Marina to the small islands just off the coast, perfect for sunbathing on a quiet, sandy beach and diving into crystalline waters. Located between the beach and the city, Ria Formosa nature park is rich in wildlife and offers breathtaking sunset views with salty lagoon scenery that varies with the rise and fall of the tide.
When it comes to food, Faro never disappoints. Local and exotic cuisine can be savored in the dozens of restaurants scattered between the Marina, the Baixa, and the old town, along with lively and affordable wine bars and cafes. Our favorites: Biblioteca (literally, library) for sampling medronho liqueur and muscatel surrounded by books and wooden interiors; Chefe Branco for freshly sourced seafood in an informal yet impeccable environment; Woods for watching the sunset over the dock, glass in hand and delicacies on your plate.
BONUS TIP: ever seen a stork, or a stork nest? Lookup: you may be able to spot them atop churches and gateways.
What to do in Faro: 3 Best Tours & Experiences in Faro
This tour takes you from Faro or Tavira to explore the iconic Benagil Cave with a private guide. Enjoy a day of swimming, hiking, and sunbathing. You will be provided with snorkeling equipment, as well as be able to take a hike in the Seven Suspended Valleys.
Book this tour to explore the marine life around Faro in a cruise that sets sail on the Atlantic Ocean with a marine biologist. You will get to see dolphins and bottlenose, marine birds, bluefin tuna, and maybe even orcas and sharks.
This tour allows you to sail the Ria Formosa Natural Park and visit stunning islands on a catamaran that takes up to 12 people. You can choose either the morning tour or afternoon tour, both of which provide breaks for swimming.
Where to Stay in Faro: 5 Best Hotels in Faro
Only 7 kilometers from Faro Airport, 3HB Faro is a modern 5-star hotel with features of Urban Check, in the pedestrian area of downtown Faro. The hotel features two restaurants, a gourmet rooftop restaurant and one inspired by Italian cuisine. The interior of the hotel was decorated by Paulo Lobo, the rooms and suite having been designed with the perfect lighting in mind. The 3HB Faro SPA features an indoor pool, sauna, Turkish bath, sensory showers, and a gym.
Located in the city center, Roots Hotel is inspired by a harmonizing union of the cosmopolitan and nature. Featuring studios and apartments, Roots Hotel’s units come with gorgeous tiled floors, a fully equipped kitchenette with a dishwasher, dining area, flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom. Some even include a private outdoor patio, while the communal outdoor patio features a saltwater waterfall. Roots Hotel features several rooftops with a privileged view over the Ria Formosa.
Family-owned since 1941, the Cardeal Suites & Apartments is located 500 meters from the Faro Marina. The building still has its regional architecture, despite renovations, and features nine apartments, all decorated contemporarily with a private bathroom and kitchen. This place offers an outdoor terrace with seating areas, perfect for a drink after the beach.
Hotel Faro & Beach Club is a 4-star modern hotel overlooking the old town, marina, and Ria Formosa Natural Park. The rooms at this place are filled with natural light, a flat-screen TV, and a minibar. Some rooms even open onto a balcony. Have a delicious meal at Ria Formosa Restaurant or a drink at Cosmopolitan bar. Along with an outdoor infinity pool, the spa and wellness center features a Turkish bar, sauna, and a Cromoterapeutic shower.
Located in a 17th-century building, Alameda Exclusive House opened in 2018, after renovations that kept the identity of the building intact. The hotel is a modern space, where the colors and materials reflect the urban concept of the closeby Alameda Deus Garden. This place has dormitory rooms for those looking to save, as well as double rooms, and larger suites. You can also enjoy the shared kitchen and make use of breakfast in bed with their room service.
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