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 pedestrianised streets and marinaside 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.
The best travel tips for visiting FaroOriginally a Roman settlement, the town 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. Cidade Velha The only part of Faro to have survived the town’s various historic upheavals is the Cidade Velha, or Vila-Adentro (“town within”), an oval of cobbled streets set within a run of sturdy walls.
Bright-white houses are fronted by decorative balconies and tiling, a few now serving as antique shops, cafés or art galleries. The most central entrance is through the eighteenth-century town gate, the Arco da Vila, next to the turismo.
From here, Rua do Município leads up to the broad Largo da Sé, which is lined with orange trees and flanked by the cathedral and a group of palaces, including the former eighteenth-century bishop’s palace.
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Best things to do in FaroFrom glorious sweeps of golden sand to wandering around the historic Cidade Velha, these are the best things to do in Faro.
#1 Explore the Cidade VelhaThe only part of Faro to have survived the town’s various historic upheavals is the Cidade Velha, or Vila-Adentro (“town within”), an oval of cobbled streets set within a run of sturdy walls. Bright-white houses are fronted by decorative balconies and tiling, a few now serving as antique shops, cafés or art galleries.
The most central entrance is through the eighteenth-century town gate, the Arco da Vila, next to the Turismo. From here, Rua do Município leads up to the broad Largo da Sé, which is lined with orange trees and flanked by the cathedral and a group of palaces, including the former 9 eighteenth-century bishop’s palace.
#2 Marvel at SéParts of Faro’s squat Sé (cathedral) date back to 1251. The impressive structure became the Algarve’s principal cathedral in 1577, but was sacked by the English under the Count of Essex in 1596 and then partially destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, so much of what you see today – a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles – dates from the eighteenth century. Inside there’s fine eighteenth-century azulejo tiling, though for most people the highlight is to climb the bell tower for superb views over the old town and the mudflats beyond.
#3 Geek up at the Museu MunicipalOne of the oldest museums in Portugal, Faro’s impressive Museu Municipal was founded as an archeological museum in 1894. Housed in a sixteenth-century convent with a beautiful cloister, its highlight is an almost intact mosaic showing the Roman god of water, Neptune, and the Four Seasons. Dating from the third century, it was originally excavated near the city’s train station.
Also on display are some fine Roman statues from Milreu (see page 416), exquisite Moorish lamps, vases and bowls, and a variety of Baroque and Renaissance paintings. The collection also includes Futurist works by Carlos Porfírio, one of the country’s leading twentieth-century artists. In front of the building stands a forthright, crucifix-carrying statue of the conqueror Afonso himself, king between 1249 and 1279.
#4 Learn about the area at the Museu RegionalFaro’s likeable little Museu Regional is a refreshingly low-tech ensemble of items representing traditional Algarve culture – perfect for an hour or so on a rainy day. There are agricultural implements, musical instruments, recreations of house interiors and model fishing boats. Perhaps of most interest are the black-and-white photos that show what the town and local beaches looked like before the advent of tourism.
#5 See the Chapel of Bones at Igreja do CarmoFor ghoulish delights, it’s worth seeking out the Baroque Igreja do Carmo, which enlivens an otherwise dull part of town. At the back of the church, you can buy a ticket to view the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), set in an overgrown garden at the rear. The chapel is completely lined with the bones and skulls of monks disinterred from the cemetery next door and carefully arranged into neat geometric patterns.
#6 Check out Igreja de São PedroThe Igreja de São Pedro is an attractive church originally built by the local fishermen in the late sixteenth century, though remodelled after the earthquake of 1755. Its finest decorative work is an altar (to the left of the main altar) whose central image is a gilded, wooden Last Supper in relief.
#7 Chill out on Praia de FaroFaro’s nearest beach, Praia de Faro – the only sandspit beach linked by a bridge – is a long sweep of beautiful sand with both a sea-facing and a more sheltered lagoonfacing side. Its proximity to both the airport and Faro means it’s somewhat developed, with bars, restaurants and villas crammed onto a narrow strip – though out of season you’ll probably have the sands to yourself. The beach is situated on the Ilha de Faro, southwest of town.
#8 See the Roman site of MilreuThe Roman site at Milreu (pronounced mil-rio) is the Algarve’s principal Roman excavation, just south of the attractive town of Estói. The lavish villa that once stood here was inhabited from the first century AD and was constructed round a central peristyle – a gallery of columns surrounding a courtyard. You can also see the remains of one of the oldest Christian churches in the country, which was converted from a former Roman temple in around the sixth century.
Southwest of the villa is an impressive bathing complex, with an underfloor heating system and striking fish mosaics – there’s also an apodyterium, or changing room, sporting arched niches for clothes. A small visitor centre shows what the villa would have looked like in its heyday.
#9 Take a boat tripVarious boat trips depart from Faro’s jetty below the old town walls, including the highly recommended trip to the Ilha Deserta, in the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. The most southerly point of mainland Portugal, the island’s official name is Ilha da Barreta, and there’s little there, save one pricey café and a great beach.
#10 Try some watersports (or birdwatching)Specialising in ecotourism, Lands runs kayaking and sailing tours in the Ria Formosa, along with birdwatching, bike rental and walks around the region.
Best areas to stay in FaroFaro offers a range of accommodations to suit various preferences and budgets. Here are the best places to stay.
Cidade VelhaChoose from charming boutique hotels or guesthouses housed in traditional buildings, offering an authentic and immersive stay in the heart of the historic centre.
MarinaLocated near the harbour, the Marina district offers a relaxed atmosphere and stunning waterfront views. The hotels here are comfortable with modern amenities.
Praia de FaroIf you prefer to stay close to the beach, consider Praia de Faro. This area offers a range of accommodations and is perfect for those seeking a beachfront retreat.
Browse the best hotels in Faro.
Best restaurants and barsFrom traditional Portuguese delicacies to international cuisine and trendy cocktail bars, Faro has some fantastic places to eat and drink. Restaurants are located all across the city centre, whilst the best bars are dotted along Rua Conselheiro Bivar and Rua do Prior.
North of Rua 1º de MaioThere are serval small clutches of restaurants located north of Rua 1º de Maio, one of Faro’s busiest roads, including Rua Conselheiro Bivar.
Rua Conselheiro Bivar and Rua do PriorFaro’s bars and clubs are concentrated along the pedestrianised Rua Conselheiro Bivar and the parallel Rua do Prior. Things get going around midnight; soon afterwards, drinkers spill out onto the cobbled alleys to party.
How to get aroundThe compact town is simple to negotiate on foot, and all the hotels, restaurants and bars are extremely central. There is a town bus service, but you’ll only need it to get to the beach and back to the airport.
By busFaro’s bus terminal is on Avenida da República, just back from the marina. There’s an English-speaking information office inside, though it’s not always staffed. The RENEX bus terminal (for express buses to Lisbon, Porto and the Minho) is opposite.
By carThere’s plenty of metered parking around the harbour; free parking can be found in the streets around the train station or in the large Largo de São Francisco, just east of the old town.
By trainThe train station is on Largo da Estação, a few minutes’ walk north of the marina. Destinations include Conceição; Ferreiras, for Albufeira; Lagos; Lisbon; Olhão; Portimão; and Porto.
What is the best time to visit Faro?The best time to visit Faro is during the late spring, summer, and early autumn months. Late spring (April and May), offers comfortable temperatures ranging from 18 to 24°C (64 to 75°F). This period also sees fewer tourists, allowing you to explore the historic center, relax on the beaches, and engage in outdoor activities without the crowds.
Summer (June to August) is synonymous with endless sunshine, warm temperatures averaging from 24 to 30°C (75 to 86°F), and a lively atmosphere. It is the perfect time for beach lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. You can soak up the sun on Faro's sandy shores, take refreshing dips in the Atlantic Ocean, and embrace the energetic ambiance of the city's streets. However, do expect more tourists, particularly in July and August, as this is the peak tourist season.
Early autumn, from September to October, is another favorable time to visit Faro. The weather remains pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 26°C (68 to 79°F), providing comfortable conditions for exploration and outdoor activities. During this time, the summer crowds begin to disperse.
Would you like to learn more about the weather in Faro? Check out our tips for best time to visit Portugal.
How many days do you need in Faro?To make the most of your visit to Faro, Portugal, it is recommended to spend at least three to five days in the city. This duration allows you to explore the historic center, visit cultural attractions such as the Faro Cathedral and Municipal Museum, and experience the local beaches.
Additionally, it provides an opportunity to embark on excursions to the beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park, where you can enjoy boat tours, island hopping, and discover the stunning beaches and coastal delights.
Looking for inspiration for your trip? Talk to our Portugal travel experts.
How to get here
By planeFlights land at Faro’s international airport, 6 km west of town, where there’s a bank, ATMs, car rental companies and tourist office (daily 8am–11pm). There are no direct public transport services to other resorts from the airport, which means heading first into central Faro.
By taxiA taxi from the airport into the centre of town (15min) are reasonably priced, but there’s also an additional charge for any luggage that goes in the boot; there’s also a twenty percent surcharge between 10pm and 6am, and at weekends.
By busLocal bus services #14 and #16 run from the airport to the town centre (25min; departures roughly every 45 min from 7am–8pm; buy tickets on board). Both stop outside the bus terminal in town and, further on, at the Jardim Manuel Bivar (“Jardim”on the timetables) by the harbour.
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