The short answer is Yes, Faro is worth visiting. I wish I had known it earlier!
Check out best day trips from Lisbon article.
Deciding to visit Faro
Have you ever heard of Faro before? Yes, I know, I would answer the same thing. Before buying an airplane ticket, I had no idea where it was and why Faro should be my next destination.
It started with a glass of wine on girls’ out night (okay, two glasses). We felt the irresistible urge to escape for the weekend (moms will understand me!). As we do not normally carry a globe to the party, we started scrolling the Ryanair website looking for cheap tickets. And… Faro came into our lives only for 35€ round trip! Faro, somewhere in Portugal. It’s time to investigate!
There were three of us (three graces, I might add), which is an optimal number from an economic and organizational point of view as we share one apartment and all taxi costs.
So, the second step is to book the apartment. Although Faro is a relatively small city, the offer on Airbnb and Booking.com is quite extensive, and the prices are, obviously, lower compared to Lisbon or Porto.
If you go for more than a weekend, you’ll need a car as the most beautiful places are within one hour drive from Faro. Importantly, rent a car in advance. Otherwise, you’ll not get a good offer as the number of rental cars is limited.
Where is Faro?
Faro is a charming Moorish-looking town on the Atlantic Ocean coast in the south of Portugal, the capital of Algarve province. It is a perfect base for exploring beautiful lagoons, sandy beaches, river routes, and hidden bays.
Ria Formosa surrounds the town, a marine natural park, which stretches from Tavira to Faro with a variety of wildlife there, including flamingos (perfect for bird watching lovers).
I had only a 3-days vacation, so planning was crucial.
Best things to do in Faro, Portugal
The Old town (Cidade Velha)
Faro’s history is compelling, and Roman’s legacy is tangible. The greatest historical monuments date from the 16th and 17th centuries here, and they are clustered together in the walls of the Old Town.
Start walking from Marina Faro, a busy and colorful port, towards Old Town.
Passing Arco da Vila, a 19th-century gateway, you’ll find yourself on a cobbled pedestrian street, which like the rest of the roads in Old Town, leads to the Cathedral (Sé).
Don’t forget to look back at the gateway when you walk up the street. You’ll see two colossal stork nests with a family of storks.
For me, these beautiful birds became the symbol of Faro. They are nesting high up in the belfries of churches and even on wires.
Built on the site of an Arab mosque, Faro Cathedral was consecrated in the late 13th century. A mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque features gives a building’s exterior a rather haphazard look.
From the terrace of the medieval bell tower, you can soak up a beautiful view of Ria Formosa and the Old Town red roofs of Faro and almost touch the beady-eyed seagulls that glide effortlessly overhead.
- From February to November, the Cathedral is open for visits from Monday to Friday, 10 am – 6.30 pm. Saturdays 9.30 am-1 am.
- In December and January, the Cathedral closes at 6 pm.
- The entrance fee is €3.5
It is the former Nossa Senhora da Assuncao convent, with a beautiful Renaissance cloister. The museum has a permanent collection of the Moorish, Roman, and medieval artifacts. In the summer, the monastery converts into a small artisanal market with an authentic Portuguese vibe.
If you are lucky enough, you may briefly get acquainted with Fadu, a Portuguese music treasure. Just 45 minutes of traditional Portuguese singing accompanied by guitar will touch every soul.
- “Fado no Meseu” events take place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and includes three daily music sessions: at 11.30, 2.30 pm, and 3.30 pm.
Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve
This spot is located close to the Marina of Faro. If you are traveling with kids, they will absolutely love this place! All the interactive activities are aimed at promoting technological and scientific awareness in a fun-filled way.
Kids are engaged in many games and experiments like getting to grips with the earthquake simulator and climbing into an observatory for a voyage around the universe, discovering the magic of electricity, “unraveling” DNA, cooking with solar energy, or following the paths of light.
- Learn more at http://www.ccvalg.pt/public/
Enjoy a sunset boat trip in Ria Formosa
The natural park of Ria Formosa is among Europe’s most important natural habitats, which attracts a dazzling array of seabirds and other wildlife.
Following 60 kilometers of coastline from Praia de Faro to Cacela Velha, the park encloses 18,000 hectares of lagoons, marshland, salt pans, islets, and channels. These, in turn, are sheltered from the open sea by a chain of barrier islands – in effect, huge wind-sculpted dunes. This valuable and fragile ecosystem is protected and constitutes one of the most important wetland habitats in Europe.
You can choose a private boat or group tour lasting up to 3.5 hours. If you are, like me, an average birdwatcher, I recommend trips from 45 min to 1.30h long.
It is important that you choose an electric boat for this tour as, apart from being sustainable, it doesn’t produce any noise and allows you to enjoy nature fully!
Cuevas de Benagil (Benagil Caves)
Benagil, a small fishing village on the southern coast of the Algarve, has gained fame in recent years thanks to its incredible sea cave. A boat tour is the best way to get there safely, and those looking for something more challenging can choose SUP (Stand up Paddle Board) tours.
A spectacular view opens inside the cave with sunlight streaming through the natural roof and beautiful azure waters around you. It is a true natural wonder that you can’t miss! We couldn’t get off the boat as the sea was a bit rough, but still, all the beauty was there!
I kindly recommend planning the whole day for visiting Cuevas de Benagil especially if you are not renting a car. The boat tours to the cave depart from the Port of Portimão, a town 70 km away from Faro.
You can kill two birds with one stone and explore Portimão with its beautiful Marina promenade and the Museum of Portimão.
The museum is located in the former 19-20th-century sardine and mackerel canning factory. It has a superb interactive recreation of the production lines and the daily working life in the sardine cannery during its heyday, utilizing extensive video and sound effects within the original, restored space.
Apart from a boat trip along the coast and to the caves, you might opt for spending a couple of hours on the beautiful beaches of Bengali or nearby villages. That’s why choosing a morning or early afternoon tour makes sense. Moreover, it gets pretty crowded later in the day, as this place is a local Mecca.
- Remember that the ocean is no joke, and you need to be extremely careful getting into the water and swimming. Also, don’t sit or stand below the cliff as rock falls can happen.
- Put on flip-flops and prepare the towels—you might get all wet in the boat, especially when the wind comes from the South.
- Train from Faro to Portimao goes almost every 2 hours, and I can assure you it’s a fast, easy and cheap way to travel.
- Please note the cave tours also depart from Lagos, Albufeira, and Vilamoura.
Islands of Faro
The boat is the main transport to explore the natural beauties of Ria Formosa. Tour to the Islands: Deserta, Farol, Culutra, and Hangares, is our plan for the third day of our Portuguese escape.
Actually, Farol, Culutra, and Hangares are located on the same island – Culatra Island, but the locals call all areas Islas (Islands). This island is a barrier that protects the Ria Formosa natural park.
Along the island’s southern side, there are golden beaches that calm crystal water, while lagoons are on the northern side. Natural scenery and abundant wildlife, coupled with uncrowded beaches, is the main attraction of the zone.
Isla de Farol refers to the village Farol and its area. People live on the island permanently, most of whom are fishers or work in tourism.
Tourists like me, who are looking for a lighthouse in Faro (as Faro in Spanish is “lighthouse”), will finally find it here.
The lighthouse is called Farol do Cabo de Santa Maria and is 50 meters tall. It was built in 1851, and was the first lighthouse in Portugal at that time.
Close to the lighthouse, you can enjoy drinks and snacks in a chill-out beach bar called Maramais, with great views over the beach.
Deserted island, this pretty much describes the spot since there are no people who live on this island permanently. The island is a laidback destination on a stunning stretch of white dunes. Apart from one restaurant, surrounded by swathes of sandy beach, there are no buildings on the island.
Actually, there is not much to do on the island but enjoy the sun and swim in, literally, transparent water.
If you decide to visit only Ilha Deserta, the ferry departs daily from Faro and tours the lagoon waters up to the island.
To make your experience even more memorable, have lunch in Estaminé restaurant, which is open all year round and offers impeccable seafood dishes.
Best restaurants in Faro, Portugal
Last but not least! A few places to eat, drink and hang out in Faro:
Baixacaffe. Lovely café with a good choice of pastry, fresh juices, toast, and English breakfast, of course, as there are many British tourists in Faro.
This friendly and cozy little cafe/bistro is located in central Faro, just across from the memorial to Ferreira d’Almeida obelisk near the marina. Portuguese pastries, like famous Pasteis de Nata, fresh juices, eggs—everything you crave for breakfast.
Faro e Benfica
The place is nice, located at the marina, so you are surrounded by water which gives a pleasant atmosphere while eating. Try sea bass, garlic shrimp, and oysters.
It’s a typical rustic Portuguese restaurant for locals with simple plastic tables but truly delicious food. Try out cataplana or grilled sardines.
It is a restaurant of contemporary and Mediterranean food inspired by Italian cuisine (but not forgetting Portuguese roots). The pasta dishes are divine, and traditional pizza goes with a crunchy base and is rich in flavor and textures. Modern and stylish design, impeccable service.
Located right in the heart of Faro and with a cozy wine-cellar vibe. Se7e Pedras is a local favorite. Come here with a group of friends or for date night to revel in traditional Portuguese dishes with a contemporary twist. Each plate comes in tapas-style portions so you can mix and match. The dishes are accompanied by an extensive Portuguese and Spanish wine list.
Is Faro good for nightlife?
Yes, hanging out in Faro is a perfect way to end the day. Consider going to these spots:
It’s a popular place in a pedestrian street to start your night program in Faro. Decent selection of cocktails.
A cocktail and wine bar—you won’t regret it! Sr. Professor – best drinking experience, Marajoka—cocktail with amazing flavor, and Asia Mojito is the best cocktail I have ever had in my life.
It’s a bar/restaurant in the Old Town. It is a great place to view the sunset with a glass of something chilled. Good vibes.
A place to end the night with shots, live music, and a fantastic atmosphere with people dancing and singing Oasis and Coldplay!
Faro is a beautiful town in the southmost part of Portugal. It is known for beautiful beaches, colorful architecture, delicious food, and adventurous spots. Being relatively small, Faro offers plenty of locations to see and is definitely worth visiting.
If you’ve ever been to Faro, share your thoughts in the comments below!
Hello, my name is Nadia. I usually write about traveling (there are so many places to fit all the lifestyles), relocation (finding a job overseas or moving without losing an income), and living in a foreign country (adapting to a different culture and mentality).