This picturesque city, frequently ignored by the tourists that visit the Algarve every year, is the capital of the region. Located slightly to the east of the centre of the south coast, the city of Faro with its historical centre, stunning islands, and the natural reserve of Ria Formosa is home to a unique nature, besides offering the most extensive cultural attractions of the region.
With its roots in the 8th century B.C. period of the Phoenician occupation of the western Mediterranean, Ossónoba, the ancient name by which it was known at the time, was an important commercial post. Also dominated by the Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths and Moors, the city would only be conquered by the Portuguese in 1239 with D. Afonso III. Due to its privileged geographic location and safe harbour, Faro became a prosperous city during the Portuguese Discoveries.
Nowadays Faro is a cosmopolitan city, having the third largest airport of the country and being relatively close to the Spanish border. The Faro district welcomes around 12 million tourists every year.
Where to stay in Faro?
Cidade Velha – Cidade Velha, which translates to Old Town in English, is where the historical centre of the city is located. Protected by its imperial walls dating from the 9th century A.C. and the Moorish occupation, the access to Vila Adentro, another name used to refer to Cidade Velha, is through the medieval gates after the garden Jardim de Manuel Bivar. Above the famous Arco da Vila, an arch which welcomes visitors in the old part of Faro, is visible the statue of the city’s saint, Saint Thomas Aquinas.
This area has a lot of hotels and hostels and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the city. Small streets with the typical Portuguese sidewalk, classic regional houses and an abundance of restaurants and bars lend a vibrant atmosphere to an already charming environment.
Look up to the nearby roofs or street lamps so that you can see the nests of the local storks that place their nests in that part of the city.
Marina de Faro – The beautiful marina facing Ria Formosa is an excellent place to find accommodation. Hotels like Hotel Eva or Hotel Faro shelter those wishing to sleep near the beautiful summer yachts or the charming fishermen’s boats.
At the marina there are plenty of cafes, ice-cream shops and restaurants and it is usual to see free performances and music concerts in the Summer. During the high season the streets are filled with tourists who take the opportunity to go for a walk around the marina, tasting the pleasure of a lazy sunny morning.
Downtown – Faro’s downtown is probably the most popular destination for tourists in the city. Similar to the historical centre its streets are also paved in the traditional Portuguese ‘calçada’ style and it attracts lots of attention due to being one of the most famous Portuguese attractions.
Downtown is also where most of the shops, banks, restaurants, cafes and pastry shops are located. In fact, it is in this area that it is placed Café Aliança, considered the third oldest café in Portugal. Those who enter have the feeling of going back in time to the beginning of the 20th century, with the café’s high ceiling and shining white walls.
If you happen to stay at Faro’s downtown, take a moment to visit the craft shops with local products and do not forget to stop by Pastelaria Gardy, where the best croissants in Portugal are made.
Montenegro and Quinta do Eucalipto – These suburban areas are ideal for a family with kids looking to spend a care-free holiday. Because it is slightly out of town the areas have the advantage of not being busy, without so many cars, and with a lot of parks and green spaces where children can play.
In addition to hotels, it is often possible to rent villas in these areas, many of which have swimming pools and gardens.
It is important to point out that this suburban areas are located closer to Faro’s beach, which can easily be reached by bike through off-road dirt tracks.
Islands and Praia de Faro – A fun option can also consist in finding accommodation in the islands close to Faro, the most famous one being the Island of Faro where it is Faro’s beach. The hotels at Faro’s island allow that you to go for a swim either at the ocean or at the lagoon of Ria Formosa since in some parts they are only 10 metres apart from each other. On some of the islands there are houses for rent as well as hotels, as can be found on Ilha da Culatra.
What are the beaches like in Faro?
Due to being so often overlooked for cities like Albufeira or Portimão, the beaches of Faro are considerably less full than in other places of the Algarve. This allows visitors to marvel themselves with the outstandingly crystal clear waters far from crowds.
Praia de Faro (Ilha de Faro) – The main beach of the capital of the Algarve is located in Ilha de Faro. Although it may look like it is too crowded in the Summer, all you have to do is walk a few metres to the side to find an area free of people. In fact this is a very long beach where surfers, beach volleyball players and swimmers all coexist without bothering each other. The island has plenty of restaurants with breath-taking views over the sea, perfect for a beer while watching the sunset. This island, unlike the others, can be reached by car through a bridge that connects the main land to the island.
Praia da Ilha da Culatra – Culatra’s island is inhabited by fishermen throughout the year, receiving hordes of visitors in the months between June and September. The Beach of Culatra Island is absolutely stunning, with very calm water, where on a clear day you can see the coast of Morocco on the horizon.
Praia do Farol – Praia do Farol, named after the Lighthouse (farol in Portuguese) of Cabo de Santa Maria placed there since 1851, is in fact an area that is part of the island of Culatra. The beach is characterized by thin sand, mild temperatures and translucent waters.
Praia dos Hangares – Further east of Culatra Island lies Praia dos Hangares, named after the existing hangars for navy aircraft (which are still visible). The most remote of the three beaches of the island is a great place for a holiday with friends. The few houses that are there are occupied by fishermen who put them out for rent during the summer.
The three beaches are linked together by golden sand meaning you can travel the distance that connects them on a pleasant walk by the sea.
Praia da Barreta – Barreta Beach is located on the Deserted Island, appropriately named due to the lack of buildings and being uncrowded. It is the ideal destination for a romantic getaway away from the city and the noise of people. Take a boat and feel like Robinson Crusoe for a day as you stroll the long sandy beach. The contact with nature, the sand and the sea are therapeutic and will make you forget your problems.
Which beaches have a Blue Flag near Faro?
Every Faro beach, except for Barreta’s Beach at the Deserted Island, have a Blue Flag and, as you can see from the map below, there are plenty of other beaches located close to Faro with a Blue Flag.
Blue Flag means that the beach has been assessed based on environmental standards, water quality and beach cleanliness, and also on important facilities including toilets and lifeguards.
In the Algarve, lifeguards usually work from July 1st to September 30.
What is there to do in Faro?
Walking along Ria Formosa, ideal for birdwatching, mountain biking, playing tennis or paddle, and surfing or bodyboarding on some of the best waves in the country are among the most popular activities to do in Faro.
Centro Náutico at Faro’s beach – Located in Faro’s island, this nautical club offers a variety of sea and river activities such as canoeing, kite surf or stand up paddle (SUP). The Nautical Centre aims to facilitate the population’s access to maritime activities and also allows people to try sailing or windsurfing.
Cathedral of Faro – The magnificent and majestic cathedral of Faro is one of the most visited religious monuments in the Algarve, if not the most visited one. The image of the Blessed Mother, constantly embellished with flowers, is extremely well preserved. Equally magnificent is the red organ with drawings of the Chinese culture. From the top of the church tower you can see the whole city, the sea and Ria Formosa.
Igreja Matriz São Pedro – With its golden interiors and artistically crafted details, this is one of the oldest churches in Faro. Having survived the earthquake of 1755 that devastated much of the country, the 17th century altarpieces are its high point.
Igreja do Carmo – This small church is a landmark in the Algarve’s artistic paradigm. A richly crafted altar and an interior of the Barroco era contrasts largely with the simple, typically regional exterior. It is also at Igreja do Carmo that the Bone Chapel of Faro is located.
Bone Chapel – It is undoubtedly worth visiting the beautiful and some people would say creepy Bone Chapel of Faro. Inaugurated in 1816 the bones come from the nearby cemetery.
Centro de Ciência Viva do Algarve (Life Science Museum) – Located in the complex of the old electric station of the city, this is a place for the whole family to spend a fun day in the midst of chemical and physical experiences, exploring the mysteries of our Solar System and the galaxy, to deepen their knowledge of the ocean depths and learn more about the biodiversity of Planet Earth.
Other cultural attractions – With two distinct theatres in the city, several movie theatres, several museums and a municipal library, Faro offers an extensive cultural program. Teatro Lethes with its magnificent concert hall deserves to be visited just for the building itself, as well as the Municipal Museum of Faro with five permanent exhibitions that range from the time of the Romans to contemporary.
Boat trip to the islands – A perfect recreational activity for groups of all ages is to take a boat trip around Ria Formosa and the islands, where in one day you can visit all the islands and enjoy the wonders of the paradise of this city located in the south of Europe.
Semana Académica do Algarve – Another great event attracting lots of visitors to Faro is the ‘Academic Week of Algarve’ which takes place every year in the city of Faro, for two weeks in May. This gigantic event has some of the greatest national and international icons of music. For two weeks, Faro is filled with concerts to cheer up college students in the region. Although it is a party sponsored by the Students Association of the University of Algarve, this is an event intended for all people looking to hear good music
Motorbike gathering – During the summer, in July, the city of Faro hosts one of the largest concentrations of motorbikes from around the world. More than 20,000 motorcyclists gather for a three-day event in Vale das Almas, an area of around 400,000 square meters near Faro airport. The event features demonstrations of skills, talent contests, various performances and music concerts every night. At the end of the event, on Sunday morning, there is a parade in which all the bikers show-off their motorbikes through Faro. This is certainly an event that no real fan of motorcycles will want to miss.
What is the best time of the year to visit Faro?
Summer – Summer is certainly the most popular season for tourists who wish to visit Faro. The bright sun, lack of wind and a pleasant water temperature bring curious people from every corner of the world to the capital of the Algarve. During high season the city is buzzing with excitement, with various music shows to light up the nights. The bars and restaurants are open until late and the nightclubs only close at dawn.
Winter – Winter is perhaps the quietest time, allowing you to calmly enjoy the city away from the crowds. The fact that it is low season also lowers the prices of hotels and most of the attractions, offering a relaxed holiday at modest prices. The temperatures are not as intense as during other months of the year, which allows you to pleasantly walk outside.
Autumn/Spring – During these seasons, the weather begins to warm up, allowing you to tan on the beach or by the pool. Due to many people having to work and the children still having classes, it is the ideal time to relax and enjoy the weather.
What is the weather like in Faro?
The Algarve has over 300 days of sunshine per year, which is why it is one of the favourite regions of tourists from around the world.
Overall temperatures in Faro are pleasant throughout the year, with the heat intensifying between the months of June and September.
The average annual temperature is 17.2ºC. The hottest month of the year is August with an average temperature of 23.5ºC and the coldest month is January with an average temperature of 11.9ºC.
The following graph shows the monthly average temperatures and the monthly rainfall average for 2017.
What are the best places to eat in Faro?
Faz Gostos – The restaurant Faz Gostos is a gastronomic reference in the Algarve capital due to its cuisine rich in land and sea flavours. Presenting some of the best examples of Algarve and Portuguese cuisine, among many other dishes, this delicious restaurant is located in the Old Town. (High end type)
Tertúlia Algarvia – Located in the Old Town, this picturesque restaurant represents the dream of a group of friends to implement a space able to spread the gastronomy, history and tradition of the region. (High end type)
Ramos – An excellent choice for those looking to taste the delicious fish of the region. Located in Montenegro, this charming and somewhat underrated restaurant features some of the best fish dishes in the country, far from the exorbitant prices practiced by more touristic restaurants.
Frangaria – A restaurant whose specialty is its chicken, which is on the way between the city and Faro Beach. Taste the place’s chamuças as entrée and enjoy a great meal.
What are the best places for a night out in Faro?
Faro has several places to spend the night for all people of all ages.
Families – Marina de Faro is certainly a great place to chill out with the family. Cafes with terraces and ice-cream shops abound in this area.
Couples – Couples looking for a nice place to spend the night can head to the Columbus Cocktail & Wine Bar. Awarded the Best Bar Team and Best Bar Menu awards at the largest bartending fair in the country, the Lisbon Bar Show in 2015, this bar offers some of the best cocktails in the country on a terrace located in downtown, facing Marina of Faro and Ria Formosa. There is also a wide variety of modern and fun bars scattered throughout Faro’s downtown that are worth exploring.
Groups of friends – Most discos and nightclubs are located in downtown. Places like the First Floor, Twice or the Prestige Dance Club usually organize huge parties that attract those who wanting to have fun.
How far is Faro from…?
Faro’s airport – 7 km (approx. 10 min drive) due to the airport being located in the suburbs of the city
Vilamoura – 25 km (approx. 30 min drive)
Albufeira – 42 km (approx. 40 min drive)
Portimão – 70 km (approx. 55 min drive)
Tavira – 40 km (approx. 35 min drive)
Sagres – 110 km (approx. 1hr 30 drive)
Lisboa – 300 km (approx. 2hr 45 drive)
Spanish border – 60 km (approx. 50 min drive)
Seville – 200 km (approx. 2 hour drive)
All distances have been rounded up.
Public transport in Faro:
Faro has a train station from where it is possible to catch a train to the rest of the region and most of the country, as well as a bus station. The train station and the bus station are next to each other, which means that if a train is missed or it has no more space, you can take a bus to the desired destination (or vice versa).
There are also two taxi ranks near the train station and the bus station.
In addition, the city of Faro has a vast network of public buses that cover most of the city.
How much does a taxi from the airport of Faro to the centre of the city cost?
A taxi for a person from Faro airport to Faro (or vice versa) will be around € 10, however it is possible that an extra price will be charged in case the passenger carries a suitcase (normally extra charges are charged for bags that have to be loaded in the aircraft holds).
If it is a private taxi or a van the price will tend to be higher.
If you book the taxi the price will also be higher since it will be added a tariff for making a reservation.
Please note that if the trip takes place during the night, the price will be higher because a special night rate is charged.
It is also possible to take a bus that ensures the transport between the city and the airport, in which case the price of the bus will be around € 3 per trip.
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