Algarve / June 30, 2019. By Susan Connolly
The busy airport in Faro is the first step for many tourists arriving in Southern Portugal. Often overlooked by visitors the city is much more than just a gateway to the beaches.
Faro is the capital of the Algarve and full of historical sites. An earthquake in 1755 destroyed many of the buildings constructed before that time and the renovation of many buildings has led to a mixture of styles.
Faro is also home to some of the best beaches in the Algarve. Nature lovers are going to love it here between the beaches, the islands and the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
Below you will find everything you need to know with the best places to visit in Faro, Portugal.
The best place to start your sightseeing tour is Largo da Sé, in Faro old town. A peaceful square lined with orange trees where you can see the Cathedral, the Bishops’ Palace, part of the old city wall and the City Hall.
The landmark cathedral of Faro is free to enter, pay attention to the large organ installed in Faro in 1716. Leading European organists still come to give concerts in the Cathedral. There is a small fee if you want to climb the bell tower but it is well worth it for the wonderful views of the city and the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
An excellent museum exhibiting treasures unearthed in the region and beyond. Housed in a 16th century convent the most attractive exhibit is a huge Roman floor mosaic which was found in the city.
The impressive facade of Igreja do Carmo dates from the early 18th century, but the structure we see today was begun after the 1755 earthquake. The interior is very ornate decorated in Baroque style with Brazilian gold leaf.
At the far northeast corner of the city is the Jewish cemetery just beside the municipal football stadium. The Jewish community was brought to Faro in the 1700s by Marques de Pombal to revitalise the economy after the earthquake. There are 76 Hebrew inscribed marble headstones(1838-1932). However, there is no Jewish community in Faro today.
One of my favourite things to do in Faro old town is stroll around the cobblestone streets, pedestrianised Rua St António is filled with outdoor cafés, shops and restaurants. Pastelaria Gardy is one of the best places in the Algarve to try Dom Rodigo a traditional Portuguese cake, made from a combination of egg yolkes, sugar, ground almonds, cinnamon and fios de ovos – a confectionary product consisting of thin egg threads.
A fun way to see the sights is to take this Cultural Faro 90-Minute Segaway Tour.
You might also like: Faro: Historic Bike-Tour
Discover the natural beauty and wildlife of this protected wetland, a paradise for bird watchers. Ria Formosa is sheltered from the sea by 5 barrier islands and 2 peninsulas. A unique coastal lagoon which is constantly changing due to the continuous movement of winds, currents and tides. A pleasant and comfortable way of exploring the Ria Formosa Natural Park is to take a boat trip.
You might also enjoy a bike tour along the coast to discover the saltpans, marshlands and beautiful beaches.
There are some wonderful beaches in Faro but they are not within walking distance of the city. Buses to and from Praia de Faro depart and return on a regular basis from the bus station.
The most popular is Praia de Faro “Faro Island” part of the Ancão Penninsula. It is approximately 6km from the city, road access is via a narrow bridge.
Barrinha beach is an area of great natural beauty, with no buildings. It is a very peaceful beach and usually deserted, you can access it from Praia de Faro either on foot along a long wooden walkway, or by boat.
Barreta Island also known as Ilha Deserta access is by sea, it’s like being on a paradise island as you can only reach the beach by boat. The trip lasts about 30 minutes each way and costs about €10 return. The boat departs from Faro near the old seagate. Keep an eye out for the various birds as you cross the Ria Formosa. There are few facilities on the island, but there is one restaurant,WC, sun beds and lifeguards are on duty during the summer months. Once on the beach the sand appears to stretch out for ever.
Praia da Culatra still home to fisherman and their families now boasts various infrastructures and services. There are regular boat services from Faro in the summer and from Olhão all year round. There are plenty of facilities.
Praia do Farol and Praia dos Hangares are both situated on the island of Culatra. There is a regular boat service from Faro in the summer and from Olhão all year round.
I hope I’ve inspired your trip to Faro, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.