What to do in Faro – 10 best things to do in Faro, Portugal
A few words about the city of Faro
Before we dive into the things to do in Faro, let’s learn a bit about the city. Located on the Atlantic coast in the south of Portugal, Faro is the gateway to the Algarve region thanks to the international airport – Faro Airport (FAO), also referred to as Algarve Airport.
Faro has a rich history and in some corners of the city, you can find Phoenician, Roman and Moorish influences. The city’s location along the Ria Formosa lagoon means that it was an attractive place for settlers and traders. Once known as Ossonoba, the city’s name changed to Faro during the Moorish rule, which lasted some 500 years. The city was conquered by the Christians in the 13th century. Faro became the capital of the region at that time. During the 15th century, Faro became a centre of culture. It is believed that this is where some of the first books in Portugal were printed.
Sadly, Faro had some bad experiences in the following centuries. In 1596 the city was plundered by the Earl of Essex and burned. The Earl and his men stole many books from the library of the Bishop of the Algarve. These books are now a part of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. More disasters came in the form of an earthquake in 1722 and 1755. Fortunately, parts of the historic city centre survived, but its surroundings had to be rebuilt.
Is Faro, Portugal; touristy?
Despite being the region’s capital, most tourists decide to travel to other beach towns in Algarve. Such as Lagos or Albufeira. So although Faro is home to an international airport, it is not as touristy as other parts of the region. A stay in Faro will appeal to fans of seafood, nature and history who are looking for more than just a beach town.
Is one day in Faro enough?
Faro is not a big city and most of its attractions are within the city centre. One day would be enough to get a taste of it. If you decide to spend most of your time in the Algarve beach resorts, you can still easily spend one day in Faro. However, experiencing the beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park is highly recommended, so we suggest reserving an extra day for that.
What are the best things to do in Faro?
Now that you know a bit about this city in the Algarve region, let’s have a look at Faro’s highlights.
1) Stroll around the Old Town
Walking around Cidade Velha is a must while in Faro. Start from Arco da Vila, the main gate leading to the Old Town. Take a leisurely stroll along the cobbled streets and Roman passages. Along the way, you’ll notice ancient walls and many buildings covered in tiles. Make sure to step into some churches, in particular Sé Catedral de Faro also known as Igreja de Santa Maria situated on the Largo de Sé. The cathedral’s interior is decorated with many azulejos (tiles) and you can climb the tower to get nice views of Faro.
On the same square is the Bishop’s Palace (Paço Episcopal) from the 16th century. We also recommend visiting Faro Municipal Museum (Museu Municipal de Faro) located in Praça Afonso III. Here, you can learn about the history of Faro and the surrounding area. You will also see an impressive collection of artefacts from prehistoric, Roman and medieval times. While in the Old Town, be sure to take a coffee break at one of the outdoor cafes.
2) Visit the Igreja do Carmo and the Bone Chapel
This Baroque church with two twin towers and a beautiful facade is one of the most popular things to do in Faro. What makes this church popular though is the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) at the back of it. The chapel’s every surface is covered with bones of the Carmelite monks (more than 1000) who once served there. If the idea of seeing it doesn’t creep you out, we’d say it’s a must in Faro. As a side note, the Igreja do Carmo church was funded thanks to the colonial trade and gold from Brazil.
3) Admire the yachts at the Marina
Although not big in size, Marina da Faro can be a fun and relaxing way to spend time. You can take a walk around it and look at the yachts and boats. It’s just a short walk from the Old Town and has a fair share of cafes, restaurants and bars. From there, you can also pay a short visit to the Faro Maritime Museum to get an insight into the maritime history of Portugal.
4) Family time at Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve or Museu Regional do Algarve
Visiting Faro with kids? Pop into the Algarve Live Science Center where you and the kids will have a fun and educational time. This interactive museum consists of exhibitions dedicated to the sea, renewable energies, geology and many more. This is a great way to stimulate kids’ curiosity while making learning fun. Alternatively, you can visit the Ethnography Museum (Museu Regional do Algarve) with interesting exhibitions about the Algarve inhabitants and reconstructions of old habits and traditional houses.
5) Enjoy the sun on Praia de Faro
A visit to the coast of Portugal would not be complete without some beach time. Although not specifically a beach town, beaches are not missing in Faro. Located in Ilha de Faro, Praia de Faro is the city’s main beach. Here, you can not only sunbathe and swim but also practise surfing or play volleyball. Since the beach is long, you shouldn’t have any issues finding a spot to lay down, even in the summer.
6) Join a boat tour in the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa (and visit Ilha Deserta)
The Ria Formosa Natural Park is something that any nature lover should experience while in Algarve. Faro is the best place to hop on a boat tour and discover the beautiful nature reserve. On the tours, you can visit the islands of the Ria Formosa, like the Ilha Deserta, a perfect place if you’re looking to get away from the crowds.
7) Chill in the Garden of the Alameda João de Deus
If you’re looking for some greenery, take a walk around the Jardim da Alameda João de Deus. Located in the centre, this place features a small lake and a waterfall, as well as a playground for kids. If you’re lucky, you can also see some peacocks here.
8) Bite into fresh seafood
With a fishing harbour, it is obvious that seafood is the focus when it comes to local cuisine. However, there are also some regional meat dishes, like piri-piri chicken, that you should taste while in Algarve. For the best seafood and oysters from the nearby Ria Formosa, look for a traditional marisqueira (a seafood restaurant). For those who want to get a taste of the Algarve regional dishes, keep an eye out for frango piri-piri (piri-piri chicken), cataplana (seafood stew), javali (wild boar).
9) Take advantage of the nightlife
Don’t let the tranquillity of Faro fool you into thinking that there’s nothing happening at night. With many young people and students in Faro, you can expect lively nightlife. Whether you’re looking for a fancy rooftop bar, a nightclub, or just a lively restaurant in Portuguese style, you’ll find it in Faro. When looking for some night action, your best bet will be heading to the Old Town or the Marina area. For drinks and cocktails in a chill place with nice views, consider Bar Columbus. If, on the other hand, you’d like to see a live music performance, O Castelo is the place to consider.
10) Take a trip to Estoi
If you have an extra day to spend in Faro, consider a trip to Estoi. Some 10 km away from Faro you can see Roman remains (the Roman Ruins of Milreu) dating back to the 1st and 2nd century A.D. There is also the Palácio de Estoi, a 19th-century palace with a pink rococo facade. The palace is now a luxury hotel and only hotel guests can access it from the inside, but you can still give it a look from the outside.
Faro travel made easy with MrShuttle
Wonder how to get from Faro airport to Faro? We can make your time in Faro, Portugal stress-free with our convenient airport transfers. You can get a comfortable ride at an affordable price from Faro airport to your accommodation in Faro. We also offer private transfers from Faro Airport to other destinations in Algarve, for example, Albufeira, Vilamoura or Vale do Lobo. With MrShuttle you can also book a transfer back to the airport once your time in Faro is over. Check out all the transfers we offer in Faro here.