Faro is a picturesque, medieval city in the South of Portugal, with cobbled streets, café terraces and a natural park complete with beautiful lagoons. For those looking for more than just sun and beaches, Algarve’s capital won’t disappoint. This peaceful, whitewashed city has friendly people, good food and exciting bars, on top of the sun, sea and sand.
HistoryFaro was the last major Portuguese city to be recovered from the Moors, in 1249. To protect it from further attacks, King Afonso III decided to build a wall around the city. Parts of the murals and Moorish architecture can still be spotted in the Old Town, although the 1755 earthquake shattered most of the medieval construction.
Faro has also a storied Jewish cultural heritage, which can be explored in the Jewish Heritage Centre. Here you can learn about the post-Inquisition Jewish presence in Portugal. The Jewish Cemetery is one of the most ornate in the city and features over one hundred graves in Sephardi style. Portugal’s first hand-printed books were made by a Jewish printer in Faro and the facsimile copy of Gacon's Hebrew Pentateuch published in 1478 can be found here.
LandmarksFaro’s Old City or Cidade Velha is perfect for those looking for a little culture during their break. With baroque Portuguese architecture dating back to the 18th Century, and even some bits from the medieval Moorish-influenced period, this area is a perfect place for history buffs. The Town Hall, the Bishop’s Palace (with beautiful hand-painted tiles) the Cathedral (with incredible views across the city) and the Gate of Rest are just some of the historic landmarks that can be visited in the area.
If nature is more your thing, take a boat trip into the Ria Formosa Natural Park from the Old City harbour and enjoy some bird watching. There are several types of tours that run on the island, including trips to the island’s two beaches, Faro Beach (Ilha de Faro) and Farol Beach (Ilha da Culatra). This last beach is home to the beautiful lighthouse of Cape Santa Maria.
For something truly unique, explore the 19th century Capela dos Ossos, which lies behind the Igreja do Carmo, a chapel decorated with the skeletal remains of over 1,200 former monks: a reminder of human vulnerability.
A Night on the TownThe Algarve’s capital is home to about 8000 students, so there are plenty of great places to drink, eat and that offer fantastic nightlife. For the best bars and clubs, head for Rua do Prior and the surrounding area, especially on weekends when it remains open till late.
If you’re in town in August, don’t miss the Ria Formosa Festival, which celebrates seafood, local beer and all kinds of traditional dishes from all over the Algarve. You’ll find it at Cathedral Square. If you’re planning a trip to Faro in February, then make sure you catch Carnival (Carnaval), which inspires all kinds of dancing in the streets.
Eating OutThose looking for fresh fish don’t have to wait until festival season. Seafood lovers can find midrange restaurants in public squares all year round, such as the beautiful Praça Ferreira de Almeida. Faro’s daily market (Mercado Municipal) is in Largo do Mercado, is perfect for self-catering holidaymakers, specialising in fresh seafood, along with fruit and vegetables.
ShoppingFaro has a great selection of boutique and big name brand stores, both in the city centre and the Forum Algarve Shopping Mall. From supermarkets to clothing stores, from cosmetics selections to wine stores, pharmacies to electronics, Faro has everything.
Regardless of whether you visit for the beach life or cultural city break, Faro can offer you both, providing unique and memorable experiences for any kind of holiday maker.