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Day Trip to Faro
Faro is a historic city that makes for an enjoyable day trip for visitors who are based in the Albufeira–Vilamoura region of the Algarve. Faro was an important Moorish city and the charming old town is encircled by the ancient city walls, while the grand Se cathedral provides wonderful panoramic views over the city.
Faro is situated on the edge of the Rio Famonsa National Park, a series of tidal salt water lagoons and mud flats, which are a haven for migratory birds and wildlife. Faro is a fascinating town and is a great destination for a day trip. This guide will provide details for a day trip to Faro, including transport information and a suggested walking route with images.
The Ria Formosa National Park
Is Faro a better day trip than Loule?
In our opinion yes. There are more varied sights and attractions in Faro than Loule. Loule does not have an “old town” as with Faro, and both cities’ pedestrian shopping areas are as equally good. Faro also has a pretty marina and offers the tours of the national park. The one advantage of Loule is that it is much closer to Albufeira and thus has shorter bus journey.
Typical how long is a suggested day trip to Faro?
A common day trip to Faro spends 2-3 hours exploring the city and then joins a boat tour of the Ria Formosa National Park for 1 or 2.5 hours. Instead of the Ria Formosa tour the Bone Chapel could be visited (30 minutes) along with the pleasant shopping streets (1-1.5 hours). The combined time spent in Faro with the 30-40 minute bus (or train) journey means that a day trip to Faro is a long and full day.
Stork nests on the Arco da Vila
Travel to Faro
Generally if you are heading to Faro from the west (Albufeira, Vilamoura and Quarteira) it is advisable to catch the bus, as the main train stations are not close to the resort centres. If you are heading from the east (Olhão and Tavira) it is suggested to catch the regional train. Public transport throughout the Algarve is inexpensive and there are many services to Faro. When traveling from Albufeira to Faro by bus ensure you catch the express service, otherwise you will find that the whole day is spent on the bus!
Inside the bus station of Faro
There are good roads to Faro but in the city centre the roads are narrow and there are few signs. If traveling by car it is recommended to park in the large carpark to the south of the city just outside of the city walls on the Largo de São Francisco street.
Faro bus and train station are in the same section of the city and are only 200m apart. From both the train or bus station turn right, when exiting the station and head down the road (50m for the bus station, 250m for the train station) to reach the main plaza and marina.
Where to have lunch?
The pedestrian shopping streets around the Rua de Santo António and the Rua de Vasco de Gama provide the best open air cafes and restaurants, which serve traditional Portuguese food and offer a pleasant eating environment. For something different try the Japanese buffet at Diamond Sushi (opposite the bus station).
A suggested day tour of Faro - with images
Most visitors start their tour of Faro in the Jardim Manuel Bívar (as this is close to the bus and train station). This is the relaxing plaza where old men come to play cards and storks build their magnificent nests. The plaza overlooks the small marina, which is limited to the size of boats due to the entrance passing beneath the railway bridge.
The peaceful Jardim Manuel Bívar
The decorative Arco da Vila gate leads into the old town. This gate was designed during the 19th century and is positioned in front of the ancient city walls. Next to the gate is the main tourist information centre of Faro and from here it is possible to pick up a free tourist map of the city.
The 19th century Arco da Vila
The small cobbled street leads to the main square of the old town where both the city hall and Se cathedral are located. The Se name is derived from the words “Sedes Episcopalis” which translated means The Bishop’s seat.
Faro city hall
Visitors to the Se cathedral are able to climb the clock tower and from this vantage point there are fantastic view over Faro and the Ria Formosa national park.
The view from the Se cathedral
The next stage of the suggested route is to take the pretty western gate called the “Porta do sol”. Close to the gate are the ticket sales for the Ria Formosa boat tours. These boat tours will be loved by certain visitors, while others will feel that there is simply not much to see. The boat tours also can stop at the two sand bar islands on the edge of the national park.
The main path around the edge of the city walls
For the suggested tour follow the ancient Moorish walls around to the southern entrance and the site of the old ruined castle. The North gate road leads to the rear of the cathedral and the interesting Museu Arqueologico. The most impressive gate to the old city is located on the eastern gate and this is conveniently close to the Museu Arqueologico.
The Porta do Sol Gate
The pretty Palacete Belmarço plaza leads north into the shopping district and is an ideal location for lunch.
A skull in the wall of the Capela dos Ossos
For the afternoon it is either recommended to join a boat tour or to visit the Igreja do Carmo and the bone chapel. The small bone chapel is lined with the bones that were exhumed from the cities graves and is one of the strangest sights of the Algarve.