With its international airport, impressive shopping centre and ring of high-rise apartments, FARO has something of a big-city feel. However, the central area is a manageable size, boasting attractive mosaic-paved pedestrianized streets and marina-side gardens, while its university contributes to a nightlife scene, at its most animated during term-time. In summer, boats and buses run from the centre of town out to some excellent local beaches: the closest to town is the generous swathe of sand at Praia de Faro, while a ferry makes the short hop to the village of Farol on the Ilha de Culatra .
Originally a Roman settlement, the city was named by the Moors, under whom it was a thriving commercial port that supplied the regional capital at Silves. It then became Christian, under Afonso III in 1249, but was largely destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1755 – so it comes as no surprise that modern Faro has so few historic buildings left. What interest it does retain is centred within and around the pretty Cidade Velha (Old Town), which lies behind a series of defensive walls overlooking the mudflats.