The best independent guide to the Algarve
The best independent guide to the Algarve
Faro is a historic and fascinating city, which has a lot to offer tourists. There is a delightful walled old quarter (the Cidade Velha), impressive baroque architecture and a pleasant waterfront that overlooks the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.
Faro has a distinctly Portuguese atmosphere, and the city has barely altered with the growth of tourism in the Algarve. This combination of interesting sights, rich heritage and traditional Portuguese character, makes Faro a popular day trip or destination during a tour of the Algarve.
This article will detail the main historical monuments and tourist activities within Faro and the surrounding region.
Related articles: Faro introduction – Day trip to Faro
The interactive map below details the ten best sights within Faro (green markers) and the highlights of the surrounding region (yellow markers).
Note: zoom in on the map to see the Faro green city markers.
Sights in Faro; 1) Se cathedral 2) Capela dos Ossos (bone chapel) 3) Arco da Vila 4) Jardim Manuel Bivar 5) City walls 6) Arco do Repouso 7) Igreja do Carmo 8) Museu Municipal de Faro 9) Fishing harbour 10) Faro Municipal Market
The best of the Faro region 1) Parque Natural da Ria Formosa 2) Ilha Deserta 3) Kayak or SUP tour of Ria Formosa 4) Praia de Faro beach 5) Estoi Palace 6) Ilha da Culatra 7) Ruínas Romanas de Milreu 8) Cabo de Santa Maria 9) Forum Algarve (shopping) 10) Ilha do Farol
The following section will provide details of the main sights and activities
The Parque Natural da Ria Formosa protects the mudflats and saltmarshes that are to the south of Faro.
These sheltered saltwater lagoons are an important ecosystem for wading birds, migrating birds and small marine life. Below the water level, the waters are teeming with tiny seahorse, crabs and shellfish, while seen wading through the mudflats are Egrets, Spoonbills and Ibis.
There are many ways to discover the rich biodiversity of the waterways, including boat tours, ecology tours, bird watching trips or kayak tours.
Related articles: A boat tour of the Ria Formosa
The ancient cathedral of Faro is a mixture of architectural styles which reflect the turbulent history of the building.
The 13th-century cathedral originally was converted from a mosque, but was burnt down by British sailors in 1596, damaged by the 1531 earthquake and severely destroyed by the powerful 1755 earthquake. What remains is a fusion of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles.
The oldest section of the cathedral is the gothic tower, while the interior follows a simplistic baroque design. The varying altars add character to the cathedral, with some decorated with azulejos tile, others with wood carvings and gold leaf.
The €3.50 admission provides access to the roof viewpoint, the cathedral museum and the courtyard which contains a bone altar.
There are many enjoyable paid activities in Faro, and some of the best offered by GetYourGuide.com include:
The Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel) is the final resting place for over 1,200 monks who were exhumed from the city's overcrowded graves in 1816. The bones line every surface of this small chapel and are even incorporated into the geometrical design patterns and features.
A macabre but truly unique sight in the Algarve.
The Capela dos Ossos lies within the grounds of the Igreja do Carmo church (7) and the entrance fee is €2
Related articles: The Capela dos Ossos
The Cabo de Santa Maria is the most southerly point of mainland Portugal. This tranquil location would almost be unnoticed if it was not for the monument constructed out of driftwood and sea rubbish.
The Cabo de Santa Maria is on the Ilha Deserta, and there is a 2km boardwalk from the harbour to the sandy headland.
The Arco da Vila is the neo-classical gateway which fronts the old medieval gate. This elegant baroque gate dates from 1810, and was constructed over the original gateway that was damaged by the 1755 earthquake.
There are three museums of interest to tourists.
The Museu Municipal de Faro (€2 closed Monday) details the Roman, Moorish and early history of the Algarve. There is a separate gallery exhibiting the oil paintings of Carlos Porfírio (1895 - 1970). Along with an extensive selection of exhibits the museum is set within the former Nossa Senhora da Assunção convent.
The Museu Regional do Algarve (€1.50) focuses on the heritage and traditional ways of life in the Algarve. The exhibits recreate traditional Algarve houses filled with furniture and items from a by-gone era.
The Centro Ciencia Viva do Algarve (€4) is an outstanding science museum, which is designed for families. If you are travelling with children, this is an excellent museum with interactive displays that focus on the seas, geology and local marine life. Centro Ciencia Viva do Algarve: https://www.ccvalg.pt/public/
The Muralhas de Faro is the ancient city walls that completely encircle the Cidade Velha. The original defences were constructed by the Romans and later strengthened by the Moors (9th - 11th century).
The two main gateways were the Arco da Vila (north), and the Arco do Repouso (east), with a small gateway to water (Porta Nova) to the water's edge. The Arco do Repouso entrance was protected by two Albarrana towers, but it was here that King Afonso III stormed the city in 1249 and defeated the Moors.
The Igreja do Carmo is an elegant baroque church which contains a beautiful interior of carved wood altars and lavish amounts of gold leaf.
Sadly, most visitors race through the church to go and see the Bone chapel in the rear courtyard.
The pink coloured Palacio de Estoi lies in the village of Estoi 10km to the north of Faro. This grand palace contains beautiful ornamental gardens filled with classical azulejos tiles. The palace has been transformed into an exclusive pousada hotel (managed by the Pestana Group), but the grounds and lower level are open to the public.
Note: A trip to the village of Estoi, frequently combines a visit to the Palacio de Estoi and the Ruínas Romanas de Milreu
Related articles: Day trip to Estoi
The Ruínas Romanas de Milreu are some of the best-preserved Roman ruins found in the south of Portugal. The ruins include a mansion (Villa of Milreu), a temple complex and a bathhouse, along with beautiful are mosaics.
The villa originated from the 1st century and was so well preserved due to a 13th-century farmhouse being constructed over them.