Faro may be the gateway to the rest of the Algarve but it has plenty to attract tourists in its own right. Come summer, Faro’s seas are warm and skies blue, making it a perfect holiday destination. Ancient fortifications, like the medieval stone walls that envelope its heart, the Cidade Velha, add to Faro’s beguiling charm. The neo-classical Arco da Vila signals the entrance to the vibrant medieval old town where visitors, cafes, flower sellers and markets vie for space on its quirky, narrow cobbled streets. Faro was made for exploring on foot.
Walking out from the Old Town, the Galerias Faro and Galerieas Santa Anotnio provide two of the best modern shopping areas in Faro, while the indoor market Mercado Municipal on Largo Doutor Francisco Sa Carneiro is where the locals go to get their weekly foodie delights, from the famous sweet custard tarts ‘pasties’ to olives, breads, meats and cheeses.
After a sobering stroll via the Carmo Church with its macabre Chapel of Bones, the pastel painted houses of Capuchos Convent and Monastery make for a colourful interlude. 17th century Se Cathedral is also must see. Once the sight of a mosque, it was later turned into a cathedral after the expulsion of the Moors from Portuguese lands.
Take a stroll through the Jardim Joao de Deus, where peacocks roam freely and where children can admire the brightly coloured bird aviary. Flamingos are another wonderful sight found in the lagoons of Ria Formosa Natural Park. Culture vultures can soak up Faro’s history with a visit to the Municipal Museum where Roman mosaics and other treasures reveal of over two millennia of history, or the beautiful painted tiles of the Igreja de Sao Francisco church that tell the story of Francis of Assisi.
Looking for an adrenalin rush? Kayaking, karting and diving are all on offer in Faro, while more leisurely pursuits like fishing and golf are also possible. For fun with the whole family, Aqualand Water Park makes a fantastic day out. As the sun sets, a meander to the Marina promises coffee or cocktails by the water with stunning views out to sea.
The closest airport to Faro is Faro Airport, located just 6 km away from the city centre. There is one bus that connects Faro Airport with the city centre with a journey time of approximately 20 minutes. Coaches are also on hand to whisk travellers to other villages across the Algarve. Taxis are also available to hire 24 hours a day.
What you need to know – 150
Currency: The Euro (EUR) €
Visas: UK citizens and those from all European Union nations only require a passport to enter Portugal for a visit of 90 days or less, with identity cards accepted for certain countries. Passports must have at least three month validity after the date of arrival.
Laws: Portugal has no legal drinking age but to purchase alcohol, the minimum age is 16. It is illegal to use a mobile phone when driving as is parking on the side of any road facing the oncoming traffic.
Best times to Visit
The best times to visit Faro would be during the summer when the sun it at its hottest, warming the sea and the sandy beaches, however, as the Algarve boasts more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in Europe, it’s likely to be around for a while. Besides the sun, July sees the arrival of the motorbike rally. In mid-August the FolkFaro Festival comes to town, bringing with it all manner of folk tales, music, parades and performers from around the world.
Sea swimming is possible from mid-March to mid-November so anyone wanting to explore a quieter Faro should come in late spring or early autumn. February is Carnival month in Faro, but the largest festival of the year is the Feira de Santa Ira held in mid-October. Be warned, during high season there will be longer queues to many of the attractions not to mention ‘livelier’ nightlife.
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