Faro is a lovely little historical city in Portugal’s Algarve region. It is the entry point to Algarve because it has an airport. Faro is used as a base to explore Algarve’s other beach destinations like Lagos, Albufeira, Portimão, Sagres, Benagil Cave, Vilamoura, etc.
I have this thing for old Portuguese buildings, town centers, family restaurants with chairs on the sidewalks so I highly enjoyed my time in Faro. In some ways Faro reminded me of Lisbon, but thankfully it is tiny and isn’t as touristy. But it did have some of the things I loved about Lisbon.
If you’re wondering how many days you need in Faro, then the answer is two. If you are in Portugal for a short time, then you can reduce this time to one day. It all depends on how you enter Portugal.
If you’re wondering if Faro is safe for solo women travelers, then the answer is yes. Faro is where I landed before I headed off to Lagos. And this is where I came back a day before I flew back home to Germany. As a solo female traveler, I felt very safe in Faro and overall it was a very easy destination in every way.
Here are things to do in Faro, Algarve’s entry city.
Walk around in Faro & admire Azulejos
Walking around in Faro was a fun experience because I saw some interesting old buildings, artwork and azulejos. Azulejos are painted ceramic tiles that are everywhere on older Portuguese buildings. I fell in love with these tiles the first time I visited Portugal.
Sometimes they are just around the doors and windows but at times I saw the face of the walls covered with them. I photographed at least 20 different ones in Faro.
The time I visited Faro, the city was blooming with Jacaranda tree. I could see purple flower petals on the streets and the air smelled nice.
Here’s an important tip for walking around in Portugal – the old town streets are wretchedly slippery. Be careful with your shoes and wear the ones that are least likely to slip. A friend’s friend fractured her ankle because she slipped.
In my next points I talk about specific areas of Faro that you can discover by walking. But I’d still like to recommend that you don’t limit your walking to just those sections because I saw so many interesting sights in the most random places too.
Stop at a nice place for a coffee and Pastel de Nata and enjoy the warm weather that Faro is known for. I loved every bit of my time there and you will too.
Arco da vila
I have this thing for photographing arcs, and this one had the most perfect background of the old town street behind. It kind of reminded me of Prague’s arches where one can see the old town except it wasn’t as crowded like Prague always is.
Arco da vila is a city gateway that leads to the old town. It is right next to Algarve Tourism office. This arch has bell on top with a clock under it. This highly ornate arch dates back to the 19th century and is a national monument.
I asked a stranger to click this photo and it turned out decent. The light was perfect as it was just after the sunset with a warm hue of street-lamps in the background. This spot was so empty at this time, it felt unreal.
I saw some massive bird nests on this building near the clock. I think they were vulture nests. I also saw vultures that were standing and sleeping here at night – was a strange sight.
Cidade Velha (the Old Town Area)
Cidade Velha is not the name of a place or a church but it means the old town. Faro’s old town is lovely in every way and what’s even special is that it is small and not busy.
Cidade Velha is the historical center, Centro Historico with well preserved 18th century architecture. Walking around here in the evening was one of the best things to do in Faro. Don’t do this during the afternoon unless you don’t have any other time because it gets hot.
Take our some time in the evening before or right after the sunset to walk around in Cidade Velha to enjoy it with pretty lights. The evening breeze makes it a pleasant experience and you can also find a restaurant with outdoor seating. Check out my restaurant recommendations at the bottom of this post.
At the end of the Cidade Velha, you will find Arco de Repouso. Just the way Arco da vila is the entry point of the old town, Arco de Repouso is the exit point – or the other way around depending on your direction. It isn’t as special as Arco da vila.
Igreja do Carmo
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo & Capela dos Ossos is the full name, which isn’t so easy so just keep Igreja do Carmo in your head. This is the most famous church of Faro which was completed in 1719.
The Capela dos Ossos (the bone chapel) in the Igreja do Carmo church can be accessed through the church for EUR 2 entry. Is is decorated with the skeletal remains of over 1,200 former monks. Yes, you can actually see their skulls and bones used as tiles. It is a very strange sight.
Igreja do Carmo doesn’t have wheelchair access or baby stroller paths.
Mercado Municipal (Faro Municipal Market)
I have this thing for local markets and Faro did not fail me. I entered Mercado Municipal without any expectations but I wanted to buy everything. There was a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, honey, flowers, pastry, bread, and many other things.
Mercado Municipal is a modern building and is air-conditioned. It is a good place to pass your time and people watch. No, not in a creepy way but to experience the culture.
Faro Marina & Jardim Manuel Bivar
Faro Marina is the scenic dock area with I love Faro sign. This was right next to my room at Suites Aliança, so as soon as I got our of my room, I had an opportunity to walk around here.
There’s a Musicpavillion, Jardim Manuel Bivar and a children playground next to the Faro Marina. Walk around here and you will see some musicians busking. Some are good and they stand next to the restaurants with outdoor seating.
You will also see the stunning Banco de Portugal building in this area. That’s closer to the street than the actual marina.
Igreja de Santa Maria
Igreja de Santa Maria is the church that I saw from my balcony at Suites Aliança, that appeared to be right behind the Arco da vila. It also has a few bells on top, like Arco da Vila. In reality it was much farther and I realized it while I walked through the old town, Cidade Velha.
A local told me that it is possible to go the the rooftop of Igreja de Santa Maria, and he highly recommended that I do it at sunrise to see the view. But I did not want to wake up at 5 am on my vacation. I’d still like to mention this to you, in case you want to experience this.
Igreja de Santa Maria has two chapels, a garden with a sun clock, and the rooftop that I mentioned before. You need to pay EUR 3.5 to enter. The interiors are lovely but keep in mind that I recommend this place mostly for the views.
Ria Formosa Lagoon
Ria Formosa Lagoon is close to Faro, is a group of islands and six inlets which collectively form the Ria Formosa Nature Park. This lagoon was recognized in 2010 as one of Portugal’s 7 natural wonders.
The wetland of Ria Formosa Lagoon islands, channels, marshes, sandbars between the beaches of Garrão and Manta Rota. If you are into birdwatching, then you should keep Ria Formosa on your list. My friend went kayaking here and saw flamingos.
There are restaurants in Ria Formosa by the sea and also the white city of Cacela Velha with a fortress that you can climb for a view.
I have handpicked a few tours for you to experience Ria Formosa:
- Ria Formosa Islands Catamaran Tour: 4 hour catamaran tour that includes a stop at Farol and Deserta islands. EUR 35 per person.
- 4 Islands, 4 Stops in Ria Formosa Catamaran Tour: 4 hour catamaran tour that includes a stop at Deserta Island, Farol Island, Hangares, and Culatra Island. You will also have the option to have lunch in a typical restaurant on Breech Island – the cost of lunch is not included in the tour. This tour costs EUR 35 per person.
- Ria Formosa bird watching tour: Get on an eco friendly solar boat for a 2 hour bird watching tour. The tour costs EUR 30.
The above tours are by GetYourGuide – it’s a company I personally use for tours and have always had an excellent experience in terms of booking, service and the tour quality. I only recommend the companies that I personally use,
Praia de Faro
This is the main beach of Faro. If you’re going to visit the other destinations in Algarve, then this beach will not be special for you. However, if you have time and / or if you aren’t hitting Algarve’s beaches then make surre you visit Faro’s main beach – Praia de Faro.
This sandy beach stretches for a few kilometers and doesn’t tend to get crowded. It is very close to the airport so is a good place to stop right before you leave Faro in case you need to check out early but your flight is in the evening.
Fado is Portuguese Blues and if you like live music then you should try to experience it while you’re in the country. Fado guitar recitals near the tourism office are popular in Faro and they cost just EUR 5.
Where to stay in Faro (my Hotel recommendations)
When I travel solo, I usually book a bed in a hostel to save money and to make friends. But in Faro I decided to book an entire hotel room for myself because they weren’t expensive and I found some really stunning ones.
This hotel was actually the best hotel experience in Portugal for me because it had everything. It was in a beautifully preserved old building with stunning new interiors and fittings. I’d call the interiors Art Deco.
My room was comfortable with a nice bed and air conditioner. This hotel also has a kitchen with all the appliances that one can use.
The best part for me was the reading room and the view from the window. It looked directly on to the old streets! I think that’s the room I enjoyed the most while I was here. I used it for Yoga, reading and made a few videos.Click here to book SUITES ALIANÇA
The location was perfect because this hotel is next to Arco da vila so you have the entire old town at your feet. The main bus station is also nearby, it is on the other side of the hotel. Faro marina is super close and you can see it from the terrace.
Rate Hotel Afonso III – Eurosun Hotels
This is a basic hotel in Faro that’s close to everything. The train station is just next to it so that was a big relief. My room had a super tiny attached toilet and shower. My room also had an air conditioner, which is much needed in Portugal’s summer months.Click here to book Hotel Afonso III – Eurosun
I decided to eat breakfast here and it was just 5 euros. It was pretty basic and I enjoyed it.
Restaurants in Faro:
I spent two nights in Faro, so I got a chance to try out a few restaurants. Here are the three that stand out:
Taberna Modesto for seafood
Taberna Modesto was recommended to me by a local and it was perfect in every way. The vibe was perfect because it is in Cidade Velha, the old town. There is an outdoor seating and an amazing atmosphere. I was here alone but the romantic vibe made me miss my husband.
I love fish and seafood in general, so I loved the menu here. I wanted to order everything because there were so many varieties of freshly caught fish, prawns, octopus, and crabs. I eventually decided to order one of the fishes, which arrived with potatoes and broccoli.
I also drank green wine, which is something I tried for the first time in Portugal. I thought the price was for one glass but for that I got a small bottle – wow. I ate chocolate souffle too. I was surprised at how affordable my meal was as compared to rest of Europe.
Chelsea for breakfast
What do you look for in a good hearty breakfast? For me it is avocado, fruit, eggs, and coffee – I had all of that in Chelsea.
I ordered Eggs Benedict which arrived on sourdough bread, avocado, chia seeds and hollandaise sauce. They also had smoothies, salad bowls, pancakes, and many other delicious things. I also enjoyed my orange juice and soy milk cappuccino here. I packed Pastel de Nata for the way and they were super delicious.
Apart from the above two, there are three more restaurants that I wanted to visit but didn’t. They are:
- Cidade Velha Rooftop: This restaurant was recommended to me by Google and looks like the rooftop area has an amazing sunset view. I did not go there but I’d like to mention this to you.
- Namastey Indian: It is an Indian restaurant that I wanted to visit but I decided to eat the local specialities so skipped it.
- Chefe Branco: This was recommended by someone on a travel forum because they have local specialities.
Getting around in Faro
You don’t need anything like a rental car to get around in Faro. Yes, if you want to explore the rest of Algarve then a rental car will help you but in Faro you can just explore everything by walking or by hopping on to an E Scooter.
Faro airport to the city center is just 5 kilometers. I was told that I could get the bus 16 from airport and it drops off in Faro itself. But I decided to take a taxi instead because I landed late and I didn’t want to wait for the bus.
Faro Train Station
Faro train station is small. I noticed a big queue for tickets and I was nervous since I was there just 10 minutes before my train to Lagos. But luckily I found out that I could just buy the tickets on the train so I didn’t have to stand in the line.
Faro Bus Station – Terminal Rodoviário Faro
Faro bus station is 3 minutes walk from Faro Marina. From here you will find buses that leave for other destinations within Algarve. I traveled on train and bus both in Algarve. The trains are faster and better since you can stand up and walk around. The buses are decent too and the one I was on had very good internet.
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