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20 Best things to do in Faro: the gateway to the Algarve

Faro is the starting point for a vacation in the Algarve. Did you know it’s also fun to explore the city on your own? These are the most beautiful Faro sights.

Faro: an introduction

Faro, the charming capital of the Algarve, has a rich history dating back to Roman times. The Old Town with its cobblestone streets and historic buildings is a wonderful place to explore.

Faro is also a great place to enjoy fresh seafood in local restaurants, drink coffee in trendy coffee shops, and visit interesting buildings like the Faro cathedral. Moreover, the city is strategically located on the Algarve coast, making it the ideal base for exploring the region’s breathtaking beaches and natural beauty.

Faro is not only a destination in itself, but also a gateway to the rest of the Algarve. With its international airport, it is easily accessible and provides access to the many treasures this region has to offer.

For me, Faro is a familiar stop during my annual two-month stay in the Algarve and I’ve visited the city numerous times. In this article, I’ll share my favorite spots in Afro and you’ll learn why you should visit Faro during a vacation in the Algarve. Read all about the best Faro sights, fun day trips, and how to get to Faro.

The best things to do in Faro

What to do in Faro? This is an overview of the best things to do and the most beautiful Faro sights.

Marina de Faro

The Faro Marina is one of the city’s main attractions. In the harbor, there are many small boats, like picturesque fishing boats. In addition, there are several beautiful statues around the harbor, giving it a very arty vibe.

Around the harbor, you’ll find many benches for you to relax on. I always like to sit here for a few minutes. I really enjoyed watching the fishermen enter the harbor after their night on the water. It’s lovely to see local activity like that! I also saw sea hares swimming in the harbor last time. I had never seen those before, beautiful creatures!

There are several terraces around the harbor, making it a great place to have a drink. Make sure to order fish at one of the specialized restaurants like Santa Maria Petiscaria, it’s fresh and delicious!

Faro Marina
Faro Marina.

Unwind in Jardim Manuel Bivar

Next to the Marina is a beautiful plaza (or park) called Jardim Manuel Bivar. The park has a few shady trees, well-kept gardens, and benches where you can relax and enjoy the view of the marina and the sea. It is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike and regularly hosts events, musical performances, and art exhibitions.

Personally, I always sit here when I have to wait for my train or bus. It’s a great place for people-watching and enjoying the sunshine.

Jardim Manuel Bivar in Faro

Take a boat trip to Ria Formosa

The Ria Formosa is a large nature reserve on the coast of the Algarve and is located near Faro. This vast lagoon system is a haven for an abundance of birds and other wildlife, and it is on UNESCO’s list of biosphere reserves. You can sometimes even see flamingos here!

With its winding waterways, salt pans, and sandy islands, the Ria Formosa offers a beautiful setting for hiking, bird-watching, and ecotourism. You can explore this beautiful nature reserve with a boat tour.

Book a boat trip to Ria Formosa here and visit several islands with a guide.

Ilha Deserta

One of the most beautiful places in Ria Formosa is Ilha Deserta, a pristine paradise for nature lovers. The perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, this island offers expansive, pristine sandy beaches and a picturesque setting with few buildings.

On the island, you can take lovely walks on the soft sand and fully enjoy the serene sound of the waves. In the process, you can also spot many unusual birds here. Accessible only by boat, the island offers a peaceful, secluded experience for those seeking tranquility and a connection to nature.

Book your boat ticket for Ilha Deserta.

Arco da Vila

Near the harbor, you can find the Arco da Vila, an impressive city gate from the nineteenth century. In the niche, you can see an Italian statue of São Tomás de Aquino, and inside you can see remains of the former Arab gate.

Arco da Vila in Faro
Arco da Vila.

Explore Cidade Velha

Arco da Vila is the gateway to Cidade Velha, also known as Faro’s historic old town. It seems as if time has stood still here. Stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets, and discover atmospheric squares. Check out the beautiful architecture, such as the imposing cathedral.

Personally, I like to take a walk through Faro’s old town. Somehow it is always wonderfully quiet here, it really feels like a hidden gem. It’s also not as polished and renovated, making it feel more real. I absolutely love that.

Get lost in cozy Cidade Velha

Visit the Igreja de Santa Maria

Faro’s cathedral, also known as the Igreja de Santa Maria, is an impressive feat of architecture and history. This Gothic cathedral dates back to the 13th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Faro. Inside the church, you will find beautiful details such as the Baroque altarpiece and an atmosphere of peace and devotion.

The imposing bell tower, originally a minaret during Moorish rule, offers panoramic views of the city. This is one of the things I did on my very first visit to Faro and it is a great place to see Faro from above. Just be aware of the time, as you’re standing right next to the church bells. And they are loud!

Muralhas de Faro

Muralhas de Faro are the old city walls of Faro, a number of which are still standing. The Arco do Repouso is very beautiful, from here you have a gorgeous view of the old city center. There is also a beautiful park along the old city wall, where you can relax on a bench between the palm trees.

Arco do Repouso in Faro
A beautiful view at the Arco do Repouso.

Visit Museu Municipal de Faro

The Museu Municipal de Faro offers a fascinating insight into the rich history and culture of this enchanting city on the Algarve. The museum is housed in a former monastery. Here you can admire a wealth of archaeological finds, works of art, and historical artifacts that highlight the evolution of Faro over the centuries.

From Moorish remains to medieval art and local traditions, Museu Municipal de Faro is a fascinating journey through time, giving you a deeper understanding of the unique identity and heritage of Faro and the surrounding region.

Look out for the stork nests

If you look closely at the Arco da Vila, you will see a few large stork nests on top. Storks are very common in this region and this is not the only place where you will see these large nests. Also around some churches, you see that storks have built a nest. So take a look around and see if you can spot more.

Stork nests on a church in Faro
You can also find the stork nests on top of churches.

Go shopping in the cozy city center

Faro has a beautiful city center with a number of streets that are only accessible to pedestrians. A great place to explore, as it is filled with restaurants, cafes, terraces, and stores. You will find many boutique stores where you can buy local products. Be sure to visit Comur, a beautifully decorated store full of canned fish! Faro is a great place to go shopping and buy some souvenirs.

Faro city center
Faro city center is very pleasant.

Discover street art in Faro

During my last visit in 2023, I discovered more and more colorful street art in Faro. A great development, as I love discovering unusual works of art. I saw the artwork below not far from Arco do Repouso. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Street art in Faro

View Palácio Belmarço

In my opinion, Palácio Belmarço is one of the most beautiful buildings in Faro. Designed in 1912 by architect Manuel Joaquim Norte Júnior, it is considered the most important example of revivalist architecture in Faro. It was a residential house for thirty years and now it is used by a business.

It is unfortunately not open to the public, but from the terrace at Ponto Expresso (cheap coffee!), you have a great view of the building. Don’t be startled by the bill-clattering noise you hear, there are quite a few storks on the roof.

Storks at Palácio Belmarço

Igreja do Carmo with the Capela dos Ossos

There are several churches in Faro that are worth visiting, so make sure to step into them when the doors are open. Personally, I especially like the Igreja do Carmo, although it is actually also a bit sinister. The interior is richly decorated with wood carvings and is beautiful to see. You mainly see many images of Jesus and angels. The angels look a bit like babies, interesting interpretation.

The reason why many tourists visit this church is because of the Capela dos Ossos behind the church. This is a chapel made of human bones and skulls. Bizarre, but also a very interesting place to visit in Faro.

Capela dos Ossos in Igreja do Carmo.
Capela dos Ossos in Igreja do Carmo.

Relax on Praia de Faro

Faro’s main beach is not close to the city center, but right behind the airport. Praia de Faro is a very long sandy beach along the Atlantic Ocean and a popular destination for sunbathers and swimmers.

There are facilities such as restaurants, bars, and water sports, making it perfect for a relaxing day by the sea. The dunes and natural environment surrounding Praia de Faro add a touch of wilderness to the beach, making it attractive to nature lovers as well. For example, behind the beach, you can walk the beautiful Ludo Trail.

How do you get to Praia de Faro? You can take the bus to the airport, but it’s even nicer to take the ferry. It departs just south of the Marina and the trip takes only 35 minutes.

Fun day trips from Faro

You can use Faro as a great base for a vacation in the Algarve. These places are fun to visit as a day trip from Faro.

Palácio de Estoi

Palácio de Estoi is a hidden gem about 10 kilometers from Faro. This is a magnificent neoclassical palace from the nineteenth century and it is famous for its beautiful architecture, lavish gardens, and striking azulejo tile decorations.

It is now a luxury hotel, so the best way to see this pink palace is to spend a night there.

Visit the Benagil Cave

The Benagil Cave is a natural wonder not to be missed during your stay in the Algarve. This magical sea cave is known for its imposing rock formations and the mesmerizing natural light that shines through the “eye” of the cave, creating a breathtaking spectacle.

You can reach the cave by boat, an adventurous day trip. You will also get the chance to swim in the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean and explore the Algarve’s beautiful coastline.

Book your tour from Faro to the Benagil cave here.

Benagil caves
With a boat tour, you can sail into the Benagil caves.

Loulé

Loulé, just a short drive from Faro, is a quaint Portuguese town known for its lively market and charming historic center. Stroll the cobblestone streets, admire the architecture of the Moorish fortress and visit the bustling market halls where you can discover local products, crafts, and tasty treats. Loulé is a nice destination for a day trip from Faro with a touch of local culture and tradition.

Tavira

Tavira, an enchanting town within easy reach of Faro, is an idyllic day trip destination. Personally, I think Tavira is one of the most beautiful places in the Algarve, it is truly picturesque.

The town has historic charm with atmospheric bridges over the Gilão River and several historic churches, such as the Igreja de Santa Maria. Explore the beautiful gardens of the Jardim do Coreto and enjoy the serene atmosphere of this eastern Algarve town.

Read more: 15 things to do in Tavira, Algarve

View from Castelo de Tavira

Seville

Another great day trip from Faro is Seville, which is a 2-hour+ drive from Faro. This Spanish city enchants with its Moorish architecture, royal palaces such as the Alcázar, and Seville’s majestic cathedral with the Giralda Tower.

Stroll the narrow streets of the old Santa Cruz district, sample delicious tapas in local taverns, and immerse yourself in vibrant Spanish culture. Don’t forget to visit the Plaza de España and the Metropol Parasol, also known as “Las Setas,” for a modern artistic touch. Seville offers an unforgettable taste of Andalusia a short distance from Faro.

Read more: 16 great things to do in Seville

Tip! You can also very easily take a bus from Faro to Seville. There are buses several times a day and the ride takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. Book your tickets through Busbud. The earlier you book, the cheaper it is. Keep in mind that it is 1 hour later in Spain than in Portugal.

Plaza de Espana in Seville

Where to stay in Faro?

Faro is a small city and it’s easy to explore the city on foot. So in terms of location, it doesn’t really matter that much where you sleep, although being in the old town with all the restaurants and cafes is highly recommended! There are many options for accommodation in Faro, from luxury hotels to cozy guesthouses to cheap hostels. These are some great places to stay in Faro:

  • Senhor Gigi – a very nice small guest house in the city center. This is the place where I always stay when I am in Faro, I really like it and it is usually very affordable.
  • Lemon Tree Stay – an incredibly nice accommodation in the old town.
  • AP Eva Senses (4⭐) – this luxury hotel is in a prime location right next to the Marina.

Check out Booking.com for more options, availability, and prices.

Where to eat in Faro?

Faro is filled with excellent restaurants and cafes. These are my favorite hotspots in Faro.

Chelsea coffee & brunch A very trendy cafe. Instagram-worthy cafe serving coffee, tea, and delicious cakes.

Restaurante o Piteu Portuguese specialties at a good price. The restaurant is a bit hidden in a little square and has a cozy terrace.

Alcachofra Cafe Here you can get vegetarian and vegan dishes at a good price. It’s a nice and cozy restaurant with friendly service.

The best travel time for Faro

The best travel time for Faro is generally during spring (April to June) and early autumn (September and October). During these months the weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures, and it is considerably less crowded than during the high season.

  • Spring (April to June): This is an excellent time to visit Faro, with warm days and pleasant evenings. Nature is blooming, and beaches are beginning to welcome guests without the big summer crowds.
  • Early autumn (September and October): In September and October, the weather remains warm and sunny, which is ideal for a relaxing vacation. The sea is still suitable for swimming, and most tourist attractions are less crowded than in the summer months.

The summer months (July and August) can be quite hot and crowded, with high temperatures and lots of tourists. If you like the heat and don’t mind the crowds, this can still be a good time to visit, especially if you like beach activities.

I myself have visited Faro in the fall (October), winter December, and spring (March). Most of the time, the weather was gooed. Not too hot, not too cold, and mostly sunny.

Keep in mind that the weather can always be a bit variable, so it is advisable to check the weather report ahead of your trip for the most up-to-date information.

Book a trip to Faro & practical tips

How to get to Faro? There are several daily flights to Faro from several European cities. Mostly low-cost airlines fly to Faro, such as Easyjet, Ryanair, and Transavia, so airfare is usually not very expensive. There are also flights from Lisbon to Faro

Check out WayAway to find the best deals on plane tickets to Faro.

How to get around in Faro

How to get to Faro from the airport? And how to get around in Faro and the Algarve?

How to get from Faro Airport to the city?

Faro Airport is located pretty close to the city center (you can even see the airport when you’re in the harbor), but it’s quite a long walk (one hour). So I would recommend getting som sore of transportation, especially if you’re carrying a lot of luggage.

If you don’t have a rental car, there are several ways to get from Faro Airport to the city:

By bus There is a bus that leaves about every hour from the airport to the bus station in Faro. A ticket can be purchased from the driver and costs €2.50 (2023). Check here for more information and bus schedules. Please note that these are regular city buses, there is not much room for much (large) luggage.

By cab As you walk out of the airport you will immediately see lines of cabs. You can board right away and a ride to downtown Faro costs between €11 and €15. Check if the meter is on or agree on a price in advance. You may pay extra fees for large luggage.

With an Uber Uber also operates in Faro and there are always a number of drivers waiting at the airport. Through the app, you can quickly get in touch with a driver. If I am in a hurry (when I have to catch the train to Lagos), I always travel by Uber to the station. A ride usually costs me between €6 and €8.

Traveling by rental car in the Algarve

There are many car rental companies at Faro airport, so it is very easy to rent a car from here to explore the Algarve. Rental cars are usually not expensive and gasoline prices are also slightly lower in Portugal compared to other western European countries. Check Rental Cars to find the best deals.

Tip! Just outside Faro’s old city walls is a large public parking lot where you can park for free. From here you can walk right into the old town.

Public transport in the Algarve

In Faro itself, you do not need public transport, because the city is quite compact and most of the sights are within walking distance. Do you want to leave Faro and discover the Algarve without a rental car? That’s no problem because you can also travel around the Algarve by public transport. And it’s pretty cheap!

Faro has both a bus station and a train station and the connections to other cities nearby are very good. You buy a ticket at the station (e-tickets do not yet exist) and for a bus ride, you rarely spend more than €8 in the Algarve. Check Google Maps or the website of EVA (the bus company in the Algarve) for routes and departure times.

Tours and activities in the Algarve

There are many fun tours and activities offered all over the Algarve, like exciting boat trips. I myself have booked several tours in the Algarve through Get Your Guide as they have so many to offer.

Read more about Portugal and the Algarve

These were all my Faro tips! Would you like to visit Faro and explore the Algarve? Get one of these great travel guides for more travel inspiration.

DK Eyewitness Top 10 The Algarve

Fodor’s Essential Portugal

As I travel to the Algarve every year, you can read a lot about a vacation in Portugal on this website. Check out one of these articles:

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This article was published in November 2020. Last update: September 2023, with even more tips thanks to multiple visits to Faro.

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Things to do in Faro - Portugal
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As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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