Portugal City Travel Guide: Faro & The Algarve
Faro serves as the gateway to the many resorts that dot the surrounding Algarve area. While it cannot compete with those resorts' locations and facilities, Faro is not without its own attractions.
Loulé is 18km inland from Faro and, not being a resort, is one of the few places in the area that offers a whiff of the region's pre-tourist-boom atmosphere. Loulé is accessible by approximately hourly bus from Faro and train.
Faro International Airport, 6 km to the northwest of Faro, is where most tourists enter the town from, alighting at the harbor. The harbor is the city's hub, and it's a short walk east from there to the main modern shopping and dining street of Rua de Santo Antonio. For night life, go north from the harbor to Rua do Prior for clubs and Conselheiro Bivar for outdoor cafes and bars.
The beach of Praia de Faro is the town's biggest attraction. You can take a ferry there from the jetty beside the Old City, or 'Cidade Velha'. Not much of old Faro remains due to earthquakes in 1532 and 1755, and an English army in 1596.
However, some fine buildings built after the 1755 earthquake are worth seeing.
The old walled neighborhood of Cidade Velha at the southern end of the harbor and is where the town began as a Moorish settlement. Enter through the neoclassical Acro da Vila part of the reconstruction of Faro after the earthquake in 1755 overseen by Bishop Francisco Gomes.
Christians replaced the mosque with the Se, or Faro Cathedral, which had previously been a Roman temple. Across from the cathedral is the Paco Episcopal (Bishop's Palace), built in the 18th century with some fine azulejos.
Bishop's Palace with orange trees in the Largo da Se, Faro
The nearby Museu Municpal de Faro (Museu Arqueologico) (Tel: 289 897 400) is housed in the Renaissance Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assuncao and displays some impressive ancient Roman and Islamic artifacts including a beautiful mosaic depicting the God of the Sea. You can exit the Old Town here through the restored Arco de Repouso, with a casting in bronze of the original Moorish charter of the town.
The Museu Regional Do Algarve (Tel: 289 827 610) on Praca da Liberdade displays local Algarve handicrafts.
Don't miss the bizarre secret in the back yard of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo church, near the central post office on Largo do Carmo: the Capela dos Ossos, or Chapel of Bones, is decorated with the remains of 1,200 monks, viewable for EUR 1.
Down by the marina is the Jardim Manual Bivar, the starting point for the trackless train, the Comboio Turistico, which does a circuit of the town's attractions. On the edge of the marina is the Maritime Museum (Museu Maritimo). The Teatro Lethes was formerly the Jesuilt college of Santiago Maior and holds a lovely miniature reproduction of Milan's opera house, La Scala, built by an Italian doctor after the building was sold off. Enquire behind the hospital within office hours to be shown in.
Teatro Lethes, a replica of the ornate La Scala in Milan
Loulé has the same history of occupation by Romans and Moors as most other towns in the Algarve and has a museum of archeological relics of that era, the Museo Arqueologico inside a small castle of Moorish origin, which has great views from its ramparts. Loulé is famous for its carnival festivities, which draws visitors from all over the Algarve region. The Igreja Matriz near the Jardim dos Amuados (Sulky People's Garden) is the standout church in town with Manueline carvings and tilework.
For goods from Faro with a real local flavor, visit the morning market on Largo de Sa Carneiro in the north-east, open between 6.30am and 1.30pm. Loulé is also a good place to get traditional local handicrafts - you can actually watch the craftswomen and craftsmen at work making baskets, saddles, woodcarvings lace and leather goods.
Igreja do Carmo, Faro, the Chapel of Bones is at the back
Doca de Recreio, Faro
Rua da Misericordia 8-12 (tel. 289 803 604)
Places to see around Faro
There are a number of interesting places to see within easy traveling distance of the center of Faro. There are boat trips to the uninhabited Ilha Deserta and the channels of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Visitors can enjoy bird-watching on a catamaran or a traditional wooden boat and visit the southernmost point of Portugal. Close to the peaceful village of Estoi, north of Faro, are the remains of a 1st century AD Roman villa and bath complex - the Ruinas de Milreu. The nearby Palacio de Estoi was built in the late 18th century and is now a lovely Pousada. Olhau, 9km east of Faro, has a pleasant Arab-style quarter dating from the 19th century and reflecting the town's trade links with North Africa. There are ferries from June to September out to two offshore islands: the Ilha da Armona and the Ilha da Culatra.
Train at Faro Station - there are connections from Faro to Lisbon and Tavira
There are abundant scheduled, charter and no-frills flights to Faro from all over Europe. Portugalia and TAP Fly from both Porto (via Lisbon) and Lisbon. There are TAP flights to Lisbon and Frankfurt and Easy Jet flights to multiple destinations throughout Europe.
Faro Station (tel. 289 801 726). If in Lisbon, dial 218 884 025. Four trains a day from Lisbon on about a three or four-hour journey. There are local trains to Albufeira (30 mins), Lagos (105 mins), Loule (20 mins), Tavira (40 mins)
From the west, take Route 125. From Spain, get onto N125 going west.
There is a bus every hour from Lisbon, taking 4 and a half hours to five hours and costing under 20 Euros. There are local buses to Albufeira, Lagos, Olhao, Portimão and Vila Real de Santo Antonio (via Tavira). EVa bus company runs a service to Sevilla in Spain via Olhao, Tavira, Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Ayamonte and Huelva. There are presently two buses a day leaving from Faro's bus station near to Faro train station at 8.20am and 3.35pm arriving at Sevilla's main bus station at 1pm and 8.15pm respectively.
Roman mosiac of Oceanus in the Museu Municipal de Faro
From Faro Airport
There are trains from Faro to Lagos and Vila Real de Santo Antonio on the Spanish border. There are buses to various destinations from the airport and it is 20 minutes to Faro. A taxi should be under 15 Euro to Faro, 60+ Euro to Lagos and 30+ Euro to Tavira. Please note these prices are estimates.
Statue of Afonso III, Faro, in front of the Infante Dom Henrique Archeological Museum and the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Assuncao
Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones, Carmo Church
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Mural Old Town, Faro, Algarve, Portugal
Diesel Bar Travessa Sao Pedro, off Rua do Prior.
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Local football teams
Sporting Clube Farense and Louletano.
Founded 1910; Stadium name: Estadio Algarve. Seats 30,000. The stadium now hosts music festivals as well as sports events, but has become something of a white elephant as neither of the two local clubs Farense and Louletano can afford the upkeep of around 3 million Euros a year, a payment the local councils can ill afford.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
Ornamental pavement outside the Igreja do Carmo, Faro