Faro: Your Guide to the Capital of Algarve

The Algarve is a beautiful and sunny region in southern Portugal known as a perfect travel destination. Faro, the region’s capital, is known for its coastal beaches, entertainment, restaurants, and old streets filled with magnificent historical architecture.

While there is plenty to do and see in Faro, with activities for all types of travelers from history buffs to foodies and adventurers, it remains largely unexplored by tourists giving those who do make the trip, a more intimate and authentic experience.

Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to Faro:


How To Get To Faro

The main airport in the Algarve is located in Faro which means it is easy to book a direct flight. Flights into Faro can be relatively inexpensive and it makes a great starting point if planning to explore other points in the Algarve or Southern Spain.

There are many connecting flights headed east from Faro into Olhao and Tavira, Portugal as well as Madrid and Seville, Spain. If heading west, you can fly to Sagres, Lagos, Portimao, Silves, and Albufeira.

If traveling by car from Lisbon, Faro is about a 3-hour drive. From the popular town of Tavira, Faro is just 35 minutes!

But why rush to somewhere else? Take some time to explore Faro for yourself!


What To Do in Faro

Faro is the largest city in the Algarve and widely considered to be a resort area but in reality, it offers so much more.

The beaches are fabulous, the food, drinks, and culture are out of this world so really, what more could you ask for?

Here are some things you simply must check out while in town!


Island Beaches

Faro boasts beautiful beaches, where the sun shines on the golden sands. Beachgoers will enjoy swimming in the area, finding fantastic restaurants and bars at which to eat the fresh Mediterranean cuisine and sip a drink or two after spending the day relaxing on the sand dunes.

These beaches are relatively deserted because the islands are only accessible by boat or ferry. You may even find yourself alone on your very own beach for the day!

In fact, why not bring lunch from one of Faro’s great restaurants and have a secluded, romantic or peaceful picnic?

Beach and nature lovers alike will flock to the natural parks on the islands of Ilha Deserta (also known as Ihla da Barreta), Ilha do Farol, and Ilha de Faro in order to marvel at the flora and fauna located here.

While you are visiting the area, book a boat trip on an old tuna fishing barge and catch Portuguese Waterdogs being used in the traditional way to herd fish into the nets. You can find clams, mussels, and oysters being farmed and harvested for market sale, or for use by local restaurants. If you are looking for authenticity, this is it!

Ilha Deserta and Ilha do Farol are both almost completely undisturbed, accessible only by ferry or boat trip and have unbelievable golden sand beaches.


Ilha de Faro

Ilha de Faro is accessible by car, and you will find Praia de Faro here. Praia de Faro is well-known as one of the best beaches in the area.

Praia de Faro stretches for 5 kilometers and is well-attended compared to the rest of the beaches in this list. However, it is still possible to find seclusion if you really want it.

Praia de Faro is located conveniently close to the airport, and transportation by bus is very inexpensive. There are bars, restaurants, and hotels in the very near vicinity, just waiting to be explored.


Ilha Deserta (Ilha de Barreta)

Ilha Deserta is one of the five barrier islands in the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This is a one-stop vacation destination with beaches, nature, and walking trails.

Cape St. Mary is located on the southernmost point of mainland Portugal on Ihla Deserta. Take a walk along the curving white sand beach for about thirty minutes to reach Cape St. Mary, then throw down your towel and relax.

If you have rented a car and are looking for a day trip, Tavira’s many beaches are waiting! Learn more about Tavira’s beaches and islands here!


Santa Maria Boardwalk

Taking a walk along the Santa Maria Boardwalk will take you through an incredibly biodiverse landscape.

You will be able to see the barrier islands, which protect the Ria Formosa from the mighty Atlantic Ocean. There is a salt marsh biome, in which you can spy salt-loving plants and seagrass.  The sand dunes are a wonder to behold, and when you step off the boardwalk, you will be on the beach where you can relax, or take a dip in the ocean.

If you’d like to know more about the natural surroundings of the boardwalk, hire a local guide to walk you through it all!


Bird Watching

Faro is a migratory link between Europe and Africa which means that you can see a large number of bird species on Ilha Deserta. The nature park has become a breeding ground for many species, including flamingos. 

You may also be lucky enough to spot sandpipers, terns, short-toed larks, storks, grebes, razorbills, spoonbills, ospreys, stilts, shanks, and different varieties of plovers.

There is no doubt that travelers will marvel at the beauty that surrounds Faro.


Cathedral of Faro

On your visit to Faro, you must also check out the Faro Cathedral.

The Cathedral was built in 1251, and you can scale the Cathedral’s tower to get a birds’ eye view of the city and the Ria Formoso natural park lagoon.

Inside the Cathedral, behold the beautiful altar and chapel, festooned in ornate gold azulejos, the beautiful ceramic tiles found throughout traditional Portuguese architecture. The interior of the Cathedral does have a small entrance fee, but the design inside is more than worth it.



Arco da Vila

This archway was created in Moorish times but was given a facelift in the early 1800s after it experienced damage in the 1755 earthquake. Passing through the archway, you can still see the 1000-year-old stonework

You will want to note the statue of St. Thomas Aquinas, who stands guard over Faro, as the Patron Saint of the city.

This striking welcome on the waterside entrance of the city is a must-see.



Igreja do Carmo

A visit to Faro must include a visit to the Igreja do Carmo.

This beautiful church was built in the middle of the 18th century and features Baroque architecture and beautifully gilded wood that was created by the most renowned woodworkers of the Algarve region. There is gorgeous stained glass and beautifully laid tile to enjoy.

While inside the church, do not miss the ossuary.

The Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) features the bones of over 1200 Carmelite monks, laid as a solemn reminder of how fleeting and temporary life can be.



Roman Ruins of Milreu

Just outside of Faro is the village of Estoi where you can find the Roman ruins of Milreu.

The ruins were discovered in 1877, and feature beautifully preserved mosaics of fish, flowers and other figures. This Roman villa that was uncovered was probably in use from the first century right up until the tenth century.


Golf

Golf is one of the most popular activities for visitors to the Algarve and If golfing is your game, you will be pleased to find Quinta do Lago.

Just a 20-minute drive down the road from Faro city, Quinta do Lago has a choice of 3 championship golf courses.


Where To Stay In Faro

There are lots of lovely hotels in Faro and the surrounding area.


Hotel Quinta do Logo

In the same area as Quinta do Lago golf course, is Hotel Quinta do Lago. This hotel has a 5-star rating, with rooms featuring marble washrooms, air conditioning, and a spa onsite.

If you are looking for food and drinks while staying at the Hotel, you can find world-class cuisine, serving your favorite Italian or Algarvian dishes in one of two restaurants, located on-site. There is also a piano bar overlooking the beautiful scenery. 

The hotel has indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools.


Hotel Faro and Beach Club

If you are looking for a superior view of the Ria Formosa, book a room at the Hotel Faro and Beach Club

This is a 4 star hotel that has modern decor, large rooms, and a breakfast buffet every morning.

You will love the location, as it is conveniently located in the city center of Faro and is close to the Faro marina.


Where To Eat In Faro

When in Faro, you will be delighted by the fresh seafood options. If seafood is not your favorite, there are plenty of other excellent options that will leave you full and ready for another day of exploration in the region.


Tasca Do Ricky

This restaurant serves traditional Algarvian and Portuguese food made to order.

The owner treats everyone like family. How could you go wrong? The food of Algarve is mainly seafood, so if you love seafood, be sure to head to Tasca do Ricky.

There is free wi-fi and some gluten-free options available as well.

Reservations required so be sure to book ahead.


Alef Burger Bar

If you are looking for something different than traditional Portuguese food, try Alef Burger Bar.

The burgers are made fresh and feature fresh, local ingredients. There is a good beer selection and superior service.


Pizzeria Atlantis

This is the best pizzeria in Faro, with many delicious toppings to choose from! This restaurant has vegan and vegetarian options.

The staff is friendly, and the pizza lunch special is priced cheaply! For something fast, fresh and delicious, you can’t go wrong with pizza.

Faro and the surrounding area have much to offer the beach lover, golfer, history buff or travel hound. Reasonably-priced, it has a distinctly Portuguese atmosphere. Enjoy the historic Old Town by wandering the beautifully architectured streets, or sit on a beach and bask in the sunshine. You can even catch a football game, or maybe see some nesting wildlife.

Faro is a beautiful, historic city just waiting to be explored.  When creating your list of must-visit Algarve locations, do not forget Faro!