Last Updated on 09/11/2023 by secretmoona
Faro, the capital of the Algarve region, is among some of the most charming cities in Portugal. Although overlooked by many tourists who seem to pass through the town in a flash, there are many things to do in Faro to allow for a longer stay. Like the more popular cities of the Algarve, like Albufeira, Lagos or Tavira, Faro offers a mix of history, culture and natural beauty. Renowned for its picturesque coastal landscapes, ancient architectural wonders and vibrant city centre, Faro has something for all travellers.
Whether your main reason for visiting the southern Portuguese region is the stunning architecture, the history of the area or the beautiful beaches, Faro has it all.
Of course, since Faro is the region’s capital, you won’t run out of things to do and see. While in Faro, you can do activities closer to nature, such as taking boat trips to the Ria Formosa, hiking along the coasts and relaxing by the beach. Exploring the city’s natural elements is not the only thing you can do in Faro. With such a rich history, Faro is the perfect place to discover the region’s Moorish past by visiting museums and admiring historic sites, especially in the old town.
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Faro is a great base to explore the surrounding villages and towns of the Algarve. If you plan your itinerary for your trip to the Algarve, be sure to continue reading. In this guide, we will delve into the things to do and see in Faro, highlighting the must-see attractions, cultural experiences, and other activities.
A brief history of Faro
Faro has a long and fascinating history dating back to the 8th century BC when it was known as Ossónoba and was conquered by the Moors. It was a bustling urban centre in southern Portugal that focused on trading agricultural products, fish, and minerals. Following Portugal’s independence in 1143, Faro became integral to the country’s expansion towards the south. The first king and his successors took over territories that the Moors previously held. Due to its strategic location, safe port, and the trade of salt and agricultural products from the coast, the city continued to prosper. Unfortunately, it was hit hard by a devastating earthquake in 1755. However, Faro is now a modern city that hosts major Portuguese institutional services.
Things to do in Faro, Portugal
Explore Faro Old Town
While taking a stroll in the old town of Faro, visitors are transported into the city’s rich history. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by Roman walls and seems to have remained as it was in the last century.
While wandering the medieval winding streets, you will be captivated by its old-coloured doors, whitewashed buildings, red-tiled roofs and tiled facades worn by time.
Wandering through the alleys of the picturesque Cidade Velha and soaking up the atmosphere is one of the top things to do in Faro.
Visit Se, Faro’s Cathedral
While exploring the historic centre, you will come across Faro Cathedral. Igreja da Sé is one of the most charming buildings in the city. Built in the 13th century, the cathedral was erected on the ruins of a Moorish mosque and ancient Roman temple.
It is the biggest religious building in the Algarve and is a great place to visit for architecture lovers. While visiting, you can admire the Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Inside, a Baroque-style altar takes the central stage while the side chapels reveal interesting artefacts from the past.
You can climb all the way to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the city. The views are absolutely stunning, but be there in the early morning to have an unobstructed view of the Ria Formosa, the ocean and the old town.
Outside the cathedral, the orange trees perfume the entire cathedral square (Largo da Sé), adding to the Mediterranean vibe. The Algarve is known for its citrus fruits; you will see lots in many of the towns.
Relax at Manuel Bivar Garden
The Manuel Bivar Garden has been a public square for over a thousand years and is situated across from the Arco de Vila near the Faro Marina. It’s a popular location for locals due to its central location. It is bordered by significant buildings such as the Church of Misericórdia, the customs buildings and the Bank of Portugal. The garden boasts a variety of trees, beautifully arranged flower beds, and the traditional cobblestone pavement, perfect for a stroll. Although the small playground and bandstand require refurbishment, the garden remains a popular spot for people to gather during summer. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful break in this beautiful park throughout the year, and many events are held here, including the Faro Christmas market in November.
Visit Igreja do Carmo & the unusual Capela dos Ossos
The 18th-century Igreja do Carmo is a church with impressive Baroque architecture surmounted by two bell towers. It’s one of the most beautiful churches in the region. You can admire many golden angels watching over the building and its well-preserved carvings when entering inside.
While visiting the Igrega do Carmo, do not miss out on discovering the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones). Located at the back of the church, this chapel attracts many curious people. This unusual chapel was built with the bones and skulls of Carmelite monks embedded in the walls and ceiling. If you want unique things to do in Faro, explore this spooky church.
Push the doors of Faro’s churches
Faro is home to many churches ranging from small chapels to an impressive cathedral. Among the top churches to visit, we recommend the Igreja de Misericórdia, a 16th-century church facing Arco da Vila. This charming church was built in the late Portuguese Gothic style, the Manueline style. The interior is decorated with impressive carvings and gilded woodwork.
The Convent of Saint Anthony of the Capuchins (Convento de Santo António dos Capuchos) may have a simple facade. Still, it holds beautiful altars adorned with gilded wooden sculptures and historic azulejos. The harmonious cloister is also a sight to behold. The convent has served various purposes in the past, including being used as a barracks, prison, and archaeological museum. Since 1973, it has resumed its religious function.
The church, Igreja de São Pedro, may also look plain on the outside, but its interior is a different story. It is decorated with stunning polychrome azulejos. The Chapel of the Very Holy Sacrament is also a must-see with its superb gilded woodwork.
Look at Arco de Vila
Faro is a historic town that boasts several breathtaking architectural wonders, and among them is the Arco da Vila. This gate marks the entrance to the old town and serves as a splendid reminder of the city’s rich heritage. The Baroque-style construction dates back to 1751 and has retained its original form, allowing visitors to revel in its intricate details. Interestingly, the Arco da Vila is one of the few remaining gates of its kind. A visit to this site provides visitors with an opportunity to marvel at not only the stunning architecture but also the scenic views of Fuzeta Beach.
There is another fascinating gate called the Arco do Repouso. Exiting the Cidade Velha, also known as the Old Town, is possible by passing through the medieval Arco de Repouso, otherwise known as the Gate of Rest. This gate was strengthened during the Christian conquest to make it easier to defend the city.
Stroll along the Faro Marina
Faro Marina is a great place to stroll and enjoy the local atmosphere. The marina is packed with beautiful yachts, and it is also where you will find Porta Nova, the starting point for boat tours to the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
Although small, the marina is a great place to take a leisurely walk along the promenade in the late afternoon or admire the sunset while sitting in one of the restaurants by the waterfront. Shows and concerts are held there during the summer months, which also adds to the festive atmosphere.
People-watch at Largo da Sé
If you are looking for a place to relax in between sightseeing, then Largo da Sé is a great place for that. Beautiful buildings and orange trees surround the square. You can enjoy a drink from one of the cafes while relaxing in the lovely scented environment.
It’s the largest public square in Faro and also where the Se cathedral is located. Largo da Sé comprises more than 1,000 finely carved limestone tablets. And at its centre, you can admire the sculpture dedicated to Bishop Francisco Gomez do Avelar.
Explore the many museums in Faro
Faro has a variety of activities for different types of travellers. If you’re interested in culture, there are numerous museums to visit, including art galleries and a planetarium. Begin your cultural exploration by checking out the Maritime Museum (Almirante Ramalho Ortigão), which houses a significant collection of naval constructions, fishing instruments, marine mammals, and sea artefacts, providing insight into the city’s history. For those interested in archaeology, the Municipal Museum of Faro has a collection of objects excavated from the Algarve region that you can admire.
Museu Regional do Algarve (Museu Etnográfico) enables visitors to discover the culture and lifestyle of the Algarve’s past. You will find through exhibits the daily life in the region, including traditional artefacts.
Relax in Praia de Faro
After a long day exploring the charming capital, nothing is better than relaxing on the city’s beaches. Thanks to the Ria Formosa and its many islands, Faro is blessed with many places to enjoy some moments of idleness in the sun. One such place is Praia de Faro, the city’s main beach.
Unfortunately, the beach is not right by the city centre; you need to either reach there by bus, boat or car. Once there, you will enjoy over 5km of golden sandy beach.
Whether you are looking for relaxation or adventure, you will find it on the beaches of Faro. The clear water offers great swimming opportunities. If you want to do more than sunbathing, you can participate in kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
Get some local produce at Mercado Municipal de Faro
The Mercado Municipal de Faro is a charming white building that opens every morning until 2 pm. Inside the covered market hall, you can discover a variety of fresh, locally sourced produce, including fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, and bread. The selection of fresh fish is awe-inspiring, and the seafood and shellfish are always well-chilled. Most fruits and vegetables come directly from local producers, with only a few exotic fruits being imported. In addition to the market hall, there are a supermarket, cafes, and several restaurants.
Take a boat trip to the Ria Formosa Natural Park
If you’re looking for things to do in Faro, a boat trip to the Ria Formosa Natural Park is a must. This impressive natural park spans over 60km and covers 18000 hectares. It consists of lagoons, small islands, salt marshes, and river channels, providing a habitat for diverse wildlife, including many migrating and nesting birds.
To truly appreciate the beauty of the park, consider taking a boat trip on an ecological boat. You’ll be able to admire the stunning views of the fauna and flora and observe various birds like storks, flamingos, and egrets, as well as sea turtles and dolphins. Additionally, the park offers great opportunities for hiking and other activities such as kayak and catamaran.
Discover the local cuisine
It would be a shame to explore Portugal, especially Algarve, without tasting the local; cuisine. The Algarve is a perfect destination to try typical Portuguese dishes. Due to its strategic location closer to the sea, the region has an abundance of seafood and fish dishes, as seen in nearly all of the region’s restaurants.
If you have already travelled to Lisbon or Porto, you will be familiar with bacalhau (dried salt cod). You can enjoy grilled fish with vegetables, Portuguese tapas called petiscos and seafood rice. Faro cuisine includes meat dishes, especially pork, such as presunto and enchidos. For vegetarians, the arroz de tomato (riz with tomato) is simple yet delicious. Pastéis de nata are always a good choice for dessert, and bolo de mel (honey cake). You can pair it with a delightful Portuguese wine or beer.
Shop for Algarvian souvenirs
Faro, the capital of Algarve, is the go-to place for shopping in the region. The town offers a wide range of options to choose from when it comes to souvenirs. One of the most charming commercial streets, Rua de Santo António, is situated in the old town of Faro. The street is adorned with beautiful tiles. The street is home to several shops that make it a must-visit location. Apart from the traditional shopping street, you can also explore shopping centres like Forum Algarve and António Manuel that offer luxury goods.
Things to do near Faro
Olhão, a charming fishing village near Faro, can be reached within less than 20 minutes. You’ll be able to appreciate the whitewashed houses of this small fishing port, explore the most famous covered market in the Algarve, the Mercado de Olhão, or even embark on an island tour to Culatra or Armona. Alternatively, take some time to wander through Olhão’s small alleys and admire the cubic houses. Visit the Igreja Matriz church or simply marvel at the frescoes adorning this charming town’s walls that are well worth a visit. Look up to the top of the church, and you may be surprised to see storks’ nests!
Discover the town of Tavira
If you’re searching for activities beyond Faro, consider visiting Tavira. This small, historic town is over 3,000 years old and a well-kept gem in the region. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be charmed by Tavira’s location on the edge of the Gilão River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Cross the many bridges to take the town’s pulse and discover its beautiful facets. Strolling through Tavira’s alleys, you’ll see facades of houses covered with the famous azulejos, the typical mosaics of Portugal. The town’s square offers many terraces to enjoy coffee and the famous pastéis de nata. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the covered market, Mercado Municipal, where you can fill up on flavours and nibble on some Portuguese specialities. Finally, visit the castle of Tavira, which overlooks the hill of Santa Maria. One of the highlights is Ilha de Tavira, a magnificent island reached by boat.
Algarve Villages and Culture
The Algarve is dotted with charming little towns that usually go unnoticed. These hidden gems are truly fascinating, both for their natural beauty and architectural marvels that remind us of Portugal’s past, with all its history and traditions.
In Estoi are the Roman ruins of Milreu, an important vestige of the Roman occupation of the Lusitanian lands. It is also in this parish that the magnificent Palácio de Estoi is located. Although the facade of the building is simple, it hides inside the opulence characteristic of the time (which can be seen by observing the magnificent painted ceilings).
Due to its agricultural prosperity and commercial importance, Silves was the capital of the Algarve for several centuries. Silves is a typical Algarve town, with narrow little houses whitewashed to reflect the sun, with an imposing church next to the castle watching over the whole city. The Castelo de Silves is one of the most important historical monuments in the Algarve. The fortification is an irregular polygon surrounded by a strong wall, and outside the main gate is a bronze sculpture of King D. Sancho I.
The village of Cacela Velha is perched on a cliff facing the estuary. The peaceful village enjoys natural and architectural beauty, as seen in the typical Algarve whitewashed houses. As well as cafes and restaurants, the town has a beautiful church and the remains of an 18th-century fort.
A tranquil fishing village, Alvor rests on a serene lagoon just a short distance away from the bustling Portimão. During the day, watch as fishermen return to the port with seagulls circling above. At night, Alvor bursts with life as its lively bars and restaurants attract tourists and locals. And don’t miss the opportunity to walk along the lagoon; it’s a sight worth seeing.
Where to stay in Faro
Faro has various accommodations available for all types of travellers and budgets. The Cidade Velha and Marina areas are highly recommended for lodging. The historic centre features charming boutique hotels and traditional buildings, while the harbour offers modern hotels with waterfront views. Praia de Faro is a great option if you’re looking to stay near the beach. You can easily browse Faro hotels on Booking.com.
3HB Faro is a five-star hotel with large balconies located in downtown Faro. It offers great rooms with great amenities, including Nespresso machines. The hotel’s highlight is the rooftop pool overlooking the city’s cobbled streets and the sea beyond.
AP Eva Senses Hotel
Hotel Eva Senses is a lovely modern hotel located near the marina in the centre of Faro. It offers spacious rooms with modern and clean interiors. It features a rooftop swimming pool with a bar and a health club with a sauna and Turkish bath.
Hotel Faro & Beach Club
Located in downtown Faro, Hotel Faro & Beach Club is a modern property overlooking the old town, the marina and the Ria Formosa Natural Park. It offers spacious rooms filled with natural light and a rooftop pool.
Where to eat in Faro
Discover some of Faro’s best dining options with these recommendations. Cantinho is a cosy brasserie that welcomes you with open arms and serves a variety of fresh fish dishes with a side of veggies. A do Pinto is a great seafood restaurant that offers fresh fish and seafood. If you’re looking for a local spot with delicious food at affordable prices, A Venda is the perfect place for you. Enjoy stunning views of the harbour and Ria Formosa while dining at Ria Formosa Restaurant, a rooftop eatery. The lovely restaurant, Restaurante Sol E Jardim, is situated downtown and offers indoor and outdoor seating with delicious food and excellent service. For those who love tapas and wine, Epicur Boutique Wine Bar is a great option.
Things to do in Faro, Portugal – Practical Information
How to come to Faro?
It’s easy to get to Faro which has its international airport. Direct flights from various European cities, such as London or Paris, arrive at Faro airport. If you come from outside Europe, you can fly to Lisbon or Seville and then transfer to Faro. Faro Airport is located 7km from the city centre.
How to reach Faro from the airport?
By bus :
To get to Faro from the airport, you can take either bus line 14 (less frequent) or 16. Remember that Line 16, which runs between the city centre and the beach during summer, tends to be very busy. A single ticket costs €2.35, and the journey takes only 15 minutes.
By taxi :
A taxi from the airport to downtown Faro can be a cost-effective option, especially if travelling with more than two people. A taxi ride to Faro will cost between €15 and € 25 per trip.
By train :
The rail network has a service linking Faro to other cities such as Tavira, Portimao or Lagos. Be aware that some cities such as Albufeira or Silves have their train stations very far from the town centre. You can also travel to Faro by train from Lisboa Oriente or Entrecampos stations. The journey takes 3 hours, 35 minutes and arrives in downtown Faro.
By car :
If you’re driving from Lisbon, you can easily get to Faro by taking the A2 motorway. The trip covers a distance of 280 km and takes approximately 3 hours. There are tolls along the way.
If you’re planning a road trip to the Algarve, booking a vehicle through DiscoverCars is advisable. The website ensures that you get the best price, and you can be sure that the price you see when booking is what you pay.
Getting around Faro
The Cidade Velha is easy to walk on foot; however, wear comfortable walking shoes. The compact old town centre with its winding alleys and streets is best for walking.
Faro has an urban bus network connecting the city centre to various cities and towns of the Algarve.
Travel Tips and Resources 🧳
Here are some of my favourite travel tips and resources.
- 🛫 Flights: I’m all about snapping the best deals when booking flights. Therefore, I use Google Flights and Skyscanner to get the best deals each time. I also use AirHelp to receive compensation for delayed and cancelled flights.
- 🚆Trains: I love using Trainline to book trains within Europe.
- 🛏 Accommodations: Booking.com and Agoda are my favourite sites for great hotels and private home deals. They offer many hotels, including luxury accommodations and private homes.
- 🚙 Car Rentals: Renting a car is ideal when travelling to remote destinations. For these, I love renting cars through Discover Cars. They offer some great options for affordable rentals, and their customer service is one the best.
- 🎟 Tours and Experiences: Visiting a new place also means getting to experience and do many things. I usually book tours via GetYourGuide or TripAdvisor. If you like doing things solo, WeGoTrip offers audio tours and excursions.
- 💳 Travel Insurance: Travelling without proper travel insurance is not recommended. I always travel with one. Use VisitorsCoverage to compare and get the best travel insurance policy for you.
How many days do you need in Faro?
Faro is a small but compact town. Two or three days are more than enough to explore. A single day is enough to get the highlight of the city. But take the opportunity to spend an evening in the town to experience the nightlife. Faro is a good base to explore the Algarve region, so if you spend a little longer, you can spend a day at the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
When is the best time to visit Faro?
The best time to travel to Faro is spring; May has great weather conditions. The high season in Faro, as in the rest of the Algarve, is during July and August. April, June, September and October are also months to visit due to the good weather.
Is Faro Worth Visiting?
Faro is definitely worth visiting! It’s an ideal spot for a tranquil city break by the seaside. History buffs will enjoy discovering the city and the surrounding area’s fascinating past before unwinding on the sandy shores. Nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers will be thrilled by the breathtaking Ria Formosa Natural Park, which offers bird-watching, hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities.
Is Faro expensive?
Faro may not be the most inexpensive city in Portugal, but it is still more budget-friendly than the capital Lisbon and several coastal resorts. You can enjoy a decent meal for under €15 per person, which includes a drink. Additionally, a cup of coffee is only €0.70. To put this in perspective, a London espresso costs around €3.29 or £2.80.
Does Faro have good nightlife?
Looking for things to do in Faro at night? You’re in luck, as this city comes alive long after the sun goes down. With a lively nightlife scene, there are plenty of options for evening entertainment. For example, you can watch the beautiful sunset from one of the many bars along the waterfront. Alternatively, take a stroll along the marina, where you’ll find a variety of restaurants, bars, and performances during the summer months. For a more typical Portuguese experience, head to the city centre, where you’ll find lively bars and a nightclub to keep you entertained.