Faro is the capital of Algarve! A city that is close to the airport and has a lot to offer to those who visit! Curiously it is not as popular a vacation destination as Vilamoura, Albufeira or Lagos. Also for this reason, Faro is a place that deserves our visit. A destination that goes far beyond the voluptuousness of white sand beaches and warm waters.
Those who visit Faro are surprised by the quiet atmosphere of the city and the absence of mass tourism. The city presents itself with the personality of those who have been here for a long time. A time and a history that started way back in Roman times when it was called “Ossonoba”. The most difficult thing in Faro is to choose what to do and visit! Are you ready? Let’s start the journey!
WHERE IS IT AND HOW TO GET TO FARO?
If you’re traveling from abroad (or northern Portugal), you’ll be glad to know that Faro has a medium-sized airport. 11 kilometers separate the city of Faro from its airport, a distance that can be covered in just 14 minutes by car. If you prefer to go by bus, you should know that this is also a possibility. Be aware that one of the buses that passes by the airport goes to Faro beach. If your goal is to go to the city center, you already know that the one that says “Faro beach” is not the right option! If you leave from Lisbon, count on a 285-kilometer trip, a distance that can be covered in 2 hours and 47 minutes by car on the highway.
WHEN SHOULD I VISIT FARO?
The climate in the Algarve region is generally warmer than elsewhere in continental Portugal. Near the coast, in winter, temperatures rarely drop below 10 degrees. If your goal is to go to the beach and enjoy the heat and sun, the months of June through September are the best options. But keep in mind that the summer season is one of high tourist demand and large crowds. If you prefer a quieter setting, choose to visit Faro any other month of the year. Even if the weather is not ideal, you will have the opportunity to get to know the city with more calm, less confusion and fewer lines of people.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND IN FARO?
Although there is some public transportation in Faro city, the best option is always to rent a car. If you choose to ride the bus you will waste a lot of time waiting for transport and above all you will be limited regarding the places you can visit. Still, you should know that the bus network in Faro is called PROXIMO and that you can check the different routes and schedules through this link!
But we have to tell you clearly our opinion. The public transport offer in Faro (and practically in the whole Algarve region) is not good. Exception for the trains that usually arrive and leave on time but are quite limited in terms of where they take passengers. If you can… Take or rent a car!
WHAT IS THE AIR AND WATER TEMPERATURE IN FARO?
The city of Faro and the entire eastern Algarve suffer the (positive) influence of the Mediterranean climate. It is in July that the average temperature reaches its maximum, 27 degrees. The minimum average temperature is registered in January (15 degrees). Regarding the water temperature, it should be noted that the temperature range is between 17 and 24 degrees. It is important to note that in the region of the Western Algarve (between Aljezur and Albufeira), the water temperature, even in summer, is much lower than in the Western Algarve. In Sagres or Vila do Bispo, the ocean doesn’t suffer the influence of the Mediterranean, and temperatures are low (18, 19, and with luck, 20 degrees). In contrast, in Tavira, Manta Rota or Vila Real de Santo António, during the summer months it’s common to find the sea water at 22, 23, 24 or 25 degrees. A delight for those who, like me, can’t stand the cold water of the Atlantic. On the beaches around Faro, between July and September, be prepared for a water temperature between 20 and 23 degrees.
WHAT TO VISIT AND DO IN FARO?
There are many options and tourist attractions in the city of Faro. To make this article easier to read we have divided the attractions into blocks: 1- The best beaches around Faro, 2- Attractions in downtown Faro, 3-Museums in Faro, 4- Other attractions in Faro.
THE BEST 5 BEACHES AROUND FARO
The beaches around Faro are less popular and less sought after than in other regions of the Algarve. Also because of this fact, Faro deserves a closer look because in the vicinity of the capital of the Algarve we find beautiful beaches! Due to the characteristics of its geography, Faro is a set of small islands inserted in protected natural environments. It is in this context that we find some of the most beautiful beaches of Faro and even of the Algarve. A place where everyone can find a beach to their measure. Perfect also for families and water sports enthusiasts. Below is a map to help you plan your visits!
A paradise strangely unknown (and frequented) by foreign tourists. A beach a short distance from the airport (approximately 5 minutes) that stretches for 5 kilometers. Ocean on one side and the beautiful lagoons of the ria formosa on the other. A tongue of sand with the best of both worlds! The beach offers a relaxed atmosphere, mainly with Portuguese tourists but always away from the crowds we associate with the Algarve (during the summer). Connecting Faro Island to the mainland, we find a road bridge.
It is on the island of Culatra that we find the very long and beautiful beach of Culatra and also an old cluster of fishermen’s houses. In fact, even today we still find there a small fishing community and several boats that catch fresh fish and seafood. If you decide to visit Praia da Culatra you will have to cross this village and a long extension of dunes. When you get there you will be rewarded by a sandy beach and a crystal clear warm sea (if you are lucky). It is surely one of the most quiet, beautiful and relaxing beaches of our country.
DESERTA BEACH (or Barreta Beach)
It is surely one of the most beautiful beaches of the ria formosa! To get there you have to go by boat. But the trip is an immense pleasure and another experience that will stay in your memory. A journey through the small “water roads” that we find in these authentic sand mazes. Be sure to watch carefully the resident birds that search for food there. Once you get to the beach, delight yourself with the 10 kilometers of extension, calm and tranquility. A deserted beach between the ocean and the Ria Formosa that has a minimum number of beach supports for company. The boat is picked up at the gates of the Sea in Faro.
It is on the island of Culatra that we find a large sandy beach where a huge lighthouse stands out, the lighthouse of Santa Maria. To get here you will need a boat that you can take in Olhão or Faro (in Portas do Mar). The crossing is available all year round but more frequently during the summer. A 40 minute trip through the beautiful Ria Formosa and an excellent opportunity to appreciate the fauna and flora there calmly and in good time. When you get to the beach, enjoy the crystal clear sea and the endless sand. The beach has the support of several restaurants. Bearing in mind the time spent with the boat trips, we suggest you spend a full day at the Lighthouse Beach. You won’t regret it!
You can get to Barrinha beach on foot (leaving from faro beach) or by boat (like the previous beaches mentioned). Another place of great natural beauty and enormous tranquility. If you like bird watching you will be enchanted by the presence of the turtle dove and the little tern. Every year the Barrinha beach changes its silhouette! A change that is due to the erosive effect of the wind (especially during winter). Watch out for the currents on this beach!
WHAT TO VISIT IN FARO CENTER?
The center of the Algarve capital has a lot to see. Prepare a full day to calmly see the city’s core. Below is a map to help you plan your visits.
VILA VELHA (vila a-dentro)
To get a good and calm view of the historical center of Faro (also called the “a-dentro” town), we suggest that you reserve a full day in your agenda. You can do it on foot or by bike (never by car). But always take your time and don’t rush! This is the only way to get to know the “soul” of the Algarve’s capital.
The “old town” is bordered by the Ria Formosa, the Marina and is protected by walls. You can get there through one of the four access gates. The most famous one is called Arco da Vila. As soon as you start your walk you will notice that local commerce is a constant presence in the streets of the historic center. Take the opportunity to sit on a terrace resting and watching those who pass by!
In Roman times it was an important defense structure for Faro. Later it was used and renovated by the Moors. Of this ancient and primordial structure today we can only see some ruins. At the end of the 16th century the city was the target of an English attack. The result was a burned out and robbed city. Decades of renovation and restoration of the city’s buildings followed. In the 17th century, the walls were renovated so that they could be used by artillery forces. In the 19th century, the castle was rented to a company. This rent resulted in a regrettable modification of this heritage.rimónio.
It was erected in 1251 on the very spot where a mosque once stood, which in turn had been a Christian basilica. Even today it is possible to glimpse some of the primordial traces of the original monument. It gained the status of a cathedral and was consequently enlarged during the 14th century, during the time of Dom Dinis. At the end of the 16th century, the city of Faro (and almost all of its monuments) were sacked and burned down by the English. It was already in the 17th century that the interior was rebuilt and ornamented with a large organ and gilded carving. The earthquakes of 1722 and especially the great earthquake of 1755 (the same one that decimated Lisbon), heavily damaged the Cathedral of Faro. Its restoration took place in the following years and since then few changes have occurred.
FARO’S CHURCH OF MERCY (IGREJA DA MISERICÓRDIA)
In 1583 the church of Misericórdia of Faro replaced the old church of Espírito Santo. We are talking about a Mannerist style church with a dome in the central area. In 1596, thirteen years after it was built, the church was burned down by the English. A new reconstruction followed. Inside the temple there is gilded carving on the altars, a series of paintings, and the font for holy water. In 1755 it was the turn of the great earthquake to partially destroy the church. Once again it was recovered and built at the end of the 18th century. If you go there spend a few minutes also appreciating the pieces of sacred art in the small museum there.
CARMO CHURCH and FARO BONE CHAPEL
Also called Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo church, it was built in 1713. Inside it stands out a beautiful gilded carving and in annex the fascinating and sinister Chapel of bones. This one receives us with the following inscription: “Stop here considering that you will reach this state”. The chapel was built in 1816 and gives eternal rest to the remains of more than a thousand monks of the 19th century.
It was built in 1912 by a wealthy merchant (Manuel Belmarço). The palace has two floors and was initially intended as a residence. Inside, two tile panels from the year 1916 stand out. Built in revivalist (or historicist) style, a style that tried to recover the best of the architecture of the past. It is one of the symbols of the city of Faro and holds the classification of monument of public interest.
SÃO PEDRO CHURCH
The church of São Pedro was erected in the 16th century and later rebuilt as a consequence of the devastation caused by the 1755 earthquake. It has three naves, two side chapels and a main chapel where an altarpiece from the 17th century stands out. A special word for the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament with an altarpiece where we can admire a magnificent relief of the last supper of Christ. A final note for a painting by Diogo Teixeira that represents the descent of the cross (in the sacristy).
VIRTUAL TOUR TO FARO
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN FARO
Below is a map showing the location of the following attractions.
RIA FORMOSA NATURAL PARK
The Ria Formosa stretches out over a long stretch. It is 18 thousand hectares (each hectare is equivalent to a soccer pitch) that spreads between the ocean and the coast. An area of 60 kilometers between Manta Rota and Ancão. An oasis in the heart of the Algarve and safe from mass tourism. A place where wild life proliferates and shelters. An ecosystem formed by beaches, dunes, salt marshes, sand and salt banks, canals, lagoons and a multitude of birds that are worth observing and getting to know.
FARO TOURISTIC TRAIN
Touring Faro by train is one of those activities that pleases everyone. A route through the main sights of the city that departs from the Dom Francisco Gomes square. An option with a distinct offer and frequency according to the different periods of the year. During the summer the offer is, naturally, much higher than during the winter. Along the way, passengers have the help of a tour guide who will talk about the different tourist attractions. Price: 1 day ticket – 6€; Single use – 4€.
MANUEL BIVAR GARDEN
Not a very big garden, but quite nice. Well kept, with a huge variety of trees and a bandstand. From time to time it is the stage for markets, exhibitions and other cultural events. Besides the garden areas, it also has “little streets” that are paved and perfect for a short stroll. A place with a view of the Faro marina and the old part of the city. It is very central and close to other tourist attractions.
The Faro dock connects the sea to the city. A very nice place located in the heart of Faro. A good option for those who enjoy walking. It is particularly beautiful in the morning, when the seagulls and grebes are out looking for fish. At that time of the day, walking around the marina is synonymous with freshness, tranquility and well-being. Try it out!
MUNICIPAL MUSEUM OF FARO
It is over 100 years old and is one of the oldest museums in the Algarve region. The perfect option for those who want to know the origins and history of the once Ossonoba (name given by the Phoenicians). There we can follow a historical path that begins in the second century AD and continues until the Arab presence in the region. In the municipal museum of Faro you will find permanent and temporary exhibitions. It consists of several rooms and spaces. A final note for the museum’s exhibition of ancient paintings.
REGIONAL MUSEUM OF ALGARVE
A small ethnographic museum that offers an insight into the way of life of the local population. It is located in the heart of the town and there we can see small old boats, ceramics, peasant objects and canvases with Algarvean images. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions by various artists. A visit that can easily be completed in an hour.
ALMIRANTE RAMALHO ORTIGÃO MARITIME MUSEUM
Since 1962 the museum has been located at the Captaincy of the Port of Faro. It has the collection of the former maritime industrial museum. A set of objects about the maritime and fishing activity in the Algarve. It has 3 rooms (Baldaque da Silva room, Lyster Franco room and Manuel Bívar room). There we can find fishing objects, navigation instruments, boats and various on board material. A trip back in time that is worth to be done!
HISTORY OF FARO
Ossónoba, this was the first name of the city we now call Faro. It must have been in the 8th century BC, during the Phoenician period, that a settlement first appeared on the site. It was a place where important commercial exchanges took place. In Faro fish, minerals and agricultural products were bought and sold.
Between the 3rd and 4th century BC, the city became particularly important to the Romans and even minted its own currency. This importance was due to the “garum”, a fish paste produced in the region and then exported to the most important cities of the Roman Empire. The ruins of Milreu still remain from the passage of the Romans through Faro. It remained a trading post during the Greek and Carthaginian periods.
It was in 1249 that the Christians, led by King Afonso III, conquered the city of Faro from the Moors. The Christian occupation did not stop the Arabs from continuing there with the approval of the Portuguese king. Before being called Faro, it also went by the names Santa Maria de Faaron, Farom, Farão and finally. Faro!
From Faro to the Roman ruins of Milreu are only 9 kilometers away, a distance that can be covered in just 13 minutes by car. It is next to the village of Estoi. Milreu was, in the distant past, a place where only wealthy families lived.
10 kilometers and a 15-minute drive separate the city of Faro from the small but charming village of Estoi. We speak of a parish belonging to the municipality of Faro with approximately 4000 inhabitants. A village that attracts more and more tourists every year. If you go there don’t miss the typical Algarvian houses, the main church and the Pousada Palácio de Estoi.
GASTRONOMIA EM FARO
Faro has restaurant options for all tastes and all wallets. It is a city with a strong local dynamic but it is also a city that receives many tourists. Because it has this double valence, in the capital of the Algarve we find restaurants designed for the usual residents (essentially Portuguese), but we also find restaurants perfect for tourists with a fat wallet.
The Mediterranean diet predominates with special emphasis on fresh fish and seafood. The soups are also a hallmark of the local gastronomy with emphasis on the razor clam soup and the clam broth.
Among the many gastronomic options we highlight the fish and seafood cataplanas, the choquinhos à algarvia and the raia alhada. If you like sweets, you should know that in the Algarve sweets made with nuts, almonds, figs and carobs predominate. Dom Rodrigo is king, but there is also room to mention the “gargantas de freira”, the “colchão da noiva” and the “bolo tacho”. To eat and cry for more!