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Faro, Portugal Tourism Guide
Faro as a holiday destination is often overlooked, regarded simply as a point of entry to southern Portugal, via the main airport of the region. This has allowed Faro to retain its peaceful ambience and traditional charm that is centred around the pretty walled Old Town. Faro is situated on the edge of the Ria Formosa national park, a series of saltwater lagoons and mudflats that are a haven for migratory birds and wildlife. Beyond the Ria Formosa national park are the three sandbar islands, which are the location for Faro’s beaches and are some of the least developed in the Algarve. This guide will provide an introduction to Faro, both as a holiday destination or location for a day trip.
Why Visit Faro?
Faro has a very different atmosphere to the busy and hectic resort towns of the western Algarve. The city is very scenic, especially within the old walled town and area surrounding the marina. Faro boasts more historic monuments and buildings than many other Algarve towns, while the pleasant shopping zone is lined with open-air cafes and designed for Portuguese shoppers. Tours of the Ria Formosa national park depart from the small harbour, with ferry services to the almost deserted beaches on the sandbar islands.
The main path around the edge of the city walls
Faro makes for an interesting day trip for those visitors who are based on the coastline region of Albufeira to Quarteira. Both Loule and Faro are popular day trips from this region, and it is our personal opinion that there are more varied sights and tourist activities in Faro than Loule. For a guide to a day trip to Faro please click here.
The Ria Formosa National Park
Why Have a holiday in Faro?
The main advantage of a holiday to Faro is that it makes a great central base from which to explore the Algarve. The excellent and inexpensive public transport means that the entire Algarve can be easily travelled to. Charming Tavira is only a 40-minute train journey to the east, exclusive Vilemoria is 30 minutes by bus to the west, or even Lagos at the very western edge of the Algarve is 1h30 by direct train.
Faro city hall
Faro is an important city so there is a wide range of cafes, restaurants and bars, and many of these are aimed for Portuguese customers, offering traditional food and exceptional value. As Faro is slightly off the common tourist trail, the city never feels overrun by tourists, even at the height of the summer.
Who should have a holiday to Faro?
Faro is an ideal destination for those types visitors who wish to discover the “real” side of Portugal and want more than seven days spent on the same beach. Faro offers history, culture that is set in a relaxing environment, while for the more independent traveller the whole of the Algarve can be easily explored.
The view from the Se cathedral
Conversely, Faro is not really suited to visitors who wish themed bars and all-night parties - for this, head Albufeira or Praia da Rocha. Faro is not that well-suited for families, as it is a distance from the popular family activities such as Zoomarine, and Slide and Splash. Also, the majority of the family-friendly hotels and resorts tend to be on the coastline between Praia da Rocha and Albufeira.
Faro has some of the best beaches in the Algarve but they are not within walking distance of the city and require a 20-minute bus journey. If you are after a purely beach holiday, then there are much better destinations, such as Lagos, Albufeira or Quarteira. For a guide of where to stay in the Algarve please click here.
Faro as the Algarve’s transport hub
Faro airport, the main airport of the Algarve, is located 7km to the south-west of the city, while in the city are Faro bus and train station. Regional services that cover the entire Algarve depart from Faro bus and train station. Unfortunately, these regional services do not pass by the airport, therefore all visitors heading to their final destination via public transport will first have to travel to Faro city.
The stunning beach of the Praia de Faro
How long to Spend in Faro?
There are three different suggested lengths for a visit to Faro, either one, three or seven nights. The one-night stay is suggested for visitors who arrive on late flights and need a short stopover before heading to their final destination. Faro can be easily explored in a single day and makes for an interesting introduction to the Algarve.
A stay of three nights is enough time to fully explore Faro and provides time to discover the Old Town, the Ria Formosa national park, the Praia de Faro beach and a visit to the pretty village of Estoi. This length of visit is ideal for visitors who are touring the Algarve and for a guide to a 3-day stay in Faro please click here.
The Porta do Sol Gate
The seven-day suggested holiday length is for those visitors who wish to explore the Algarve via Faro’s excellent public transport and want to have a pleasant city as a central base. From Faro it is possible to take day trips to Olhao, Tavira, Loule, Albufeira and Vilamoura.
What is Faro’s best Beach?
The best beach of the Faro region is the Praia de Faro, the 5km stretch of golden sands that extend along the seaward side of the Ilha de Faro. The Praia de Faro has low-key tourist development, with relaxed cafes and small beach bars - surprising considering it is less than five minutes from Faro airport. During the summer season, the central section of the beach can get very busy, but a short walk along the coast will provide much quieter beaches. There is a direct bus service from Faro city to the Praia de Faro and for a complete guide to Faro beach please click here.
Ilha de Faro as seen by the air
How to Travel from the airport to Faro?
There is very limited public transport from the airport to Faro city. There is a single bus service that departs every 30-40 minutes from 6am until approximately midnight; for a guide to this bus service please click here. A taxi from the airport to Faro will cost 10-15 Euro and there will be an additional charge for large luggage. The taxi ride is only 10 minutes to the city centre and there is no real need to pre-book a taxi transfer from the airport to Faro city.
The number 16 bus in Faro bus station
What is the best day trip from Faro?
Our favourite day trip from Faro, after spending a day on the Praia de Faro beach, is to visit the pretty village of Estoi. The pink Estoi Palace is the finest example of Rococo architecture found within the Algarve, while the carefully maintained grounds contain beautiful Azulejos tiles. Just outside of Estoi are the ruins of Milreu, a once grand Roman Villa of which the stone mosaics can still be seen. There is a regular bus service from Faro to Estoi and the village makes for an enjoyable half- day excursion. For a guide to a day trip to Estoi please click here.
The beautiful “azulejos” tiles of the Palácio de Estoi gardens
What’s the best-hidden Sight of Faro?
The strangest sight of Faro, which is hidden away from the main tourist route, is the Capela Dos Ossos, the bone chapel. The bones of the overcrowded cemeteries were stored in the small chapel that is located within the Carmo church complex. These bones were incorporated into the designs of the chapel, with skulls lining the walls – very strange and creepy.
A skull in the wall of the Capela dos Ossos