On the way to the beautiful beach resorts of the Algarve you certainly will not miss visiting Faro, the region’s capital . While it is typical for most holiday makers to head straight to other destinations along the southern Portuguese coast Faro itself is a place that deserves more attention. Even a brief overnight stay or a day’s excursion to Faro can add richness to your Algarve experience giving you more than just memories of the beach to take home.
Although it is not a resort town it does have its own beach, the Praia de Faro, several kilometres away from the city’s centre. Faro’s distinction lies more on its vitality as a large modern city offering all necessary conveniences while at the same time presenting tourists with marvellous remainders of its past.
At the heart of Faro is a beautiful square surrounded by ancient walls from the 9th century. Originally built by Romans these walls also feature Moorish archways and enclose a group of antique catholic buildings. Among these is the Se, a handsome cathedral that used to be a mosque, and a Roman forum before that. A Bishop’s Palace dating back from the 18th century also stands in front of this cathedral.
An archaeological museum, meanwhile, can be found inside a convent from the 16th century. The Nossa Senhora do Carmo church likewise has an interesting, although somewhat morbid feature, which is a chapel lined with the bones and skulls of over a thousand monks. The church is also known for its fine gold-leaf woodwork.
Traditionally a seaport and fishing town Faro has a beautiful waterfront filled with yachts. You can take a stroll along the marina and then enjoy a snack in one of the waterside cafés or visit the maritime museum. You will also find that surrounding Faro is the huge Formosa Estuary that provides shelter to different species of animals including huge flocks of migratory birds.
If shopping while on holiday is your thing you will not be disappointed by Faro’s bustling commercial centre. Aside from souvenir shops there are also several popular retail chains and designer outlets so you are likely to find everything you need. A daily market and monthly bazaar feature fresh produce, handicraft, linen, pottery, and other local products.
There are a number of good restaurants that either offer authentic Portuguese or international cuisine. For typical Algarvian cooking try A Tasca or O Costa. For more refined Portuguese food and ambience the beach restaurant Camané and Pousada de São Brás, notable for their quality wines are recommended. A charming little restaurant called Dois Irmãos, which has an international menu, can also be found near the cathedral.
Faro has quite an energetic nightlife especially since, aside from tourists, the bars and clubs are also frequented by local university students. If you want to stay for more than a day you can consider booking at hotels like Hotel Eva or the Hotel Faro which are both in the centre of town. For country home-style accommodations Monte do Casal and Casa de Estoi Manor originally built in the 18th and 20th centuries respectively are wonderful places to stay while in Faro.