16 Fun things to do in Faro Portugal
After residing in Faro for five years, I can attest to the city’s unique allure, often overshadowed by its renowned neighbors. Faro, the quaint capital of Algarve, stands out with its natural beauty and cultural richness.
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Don’t underestimate Faro’s charm compared to nearby gems like Tavira, Lagos, Albufeira, and Portimao. The city’s elegance and tranquility are truly captivating, offering a distinct experience whether you visit in winter or summer.
Things to do in Faro, Portugal
Immerse yourself in Faro’s beauty, from its picturesque beaches to historic sites. Whether hiking through wild cliffs, exploring charming villages, or relaxing on the beach, Faro has an abundance of attractions that ensure an unforgettable visit.
Explore Old Town Faro
Begin your Faro adventure by exploring the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site adorned with medieval streets and the Moorish castle.
Wander through narrow winding streets, marvel at whitewashed buildings, and indulge in local culinary delights.
Travel in time through Faro’s ancient ruins
Embark on a journey through time by exploring two ancient ruins near Faro: Milreu and Aljezur. Milreu, an ancient Roman settlement, offers well-preserved ruins that provide a glimpse into Roman life. Take a guided tour for a deeper understanding.
For a different historical experience, ride the Faro Cliff Railway, Europe’s oldest funicular, along 400-meter-high cliffs. Enjoy breathtaking views of the coastline and Faro city, making it a moderately-priced and leisurely afternoon activity.
Explore the Faro Cathedral and Towers
If you’re seeking a cultural journey beyond Old Town, consider a visit to the Faro Cathedral, Torre dos Clérigos (Tower of the Clerics), and Torre dos Meninos (Tower of the Children).
Built in the 13th century, the Faro Cathedral stands as one of Portugal’s largest and most impressive cathedrals, boasting remarkable architecture, artistic treasures, and exceptional acoustics. The intricately carved details inside make it a captivating stop, and its prominence in Faro is evident from the numerous cityscape photographs.
For a breathtaking panoramic view of the city, climb to the top of the cathedral tower early or late in the day to avoid crowds. Meanwhile, the Torre dos Clérigos, constructed in the 16th century, offers fantastic city views, and the Tower of the Children, or Tower of Lions, served as a medieval watchtower.
Discover the Igreja do Carmo
The Igreja do Carmo, with its unique octagonal design dating back to the 1200s, stands as one of Faro’s most beautiful churches. Renowned for well-preserved carvings, it’s listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, showcasing the exemplary Manueline style.
Experience the Torre do Tombo
For a dose of history, the Torre do Tombo, a medieval watchtower atop a cliff, is a must-see. Alternatively, take a cable car for 360-degree views of the town and ocean below, offering a unique and active way to appreciate the surroundings.
Don’t Miss: Go on a boat trip!
Capture the Arco de Vila
Capture a piece of history by visiting the Arco de Vila, a medieval arch that once formed part of the city walls.
This arch, now a popular tourist spot, boasts a variety of shops and restaurants lining its narrow streets. Keep an eye out for museums and churches in the vicinity, offering additional discoveries.
Enjoy Largo da Se
For a delightful time in Faro, indulge in people-watching and savor drinks at Largo da Se. This vast square, adorned with over 1,000 intricately carved limestone tablets, stands as one of the largest public squares in the Algarve.
Surrounded by beautiful buildings, it’s an ideal spot to unwind, relish regional cuisine, and soak in the ambiance without breaking the bank.
Immerse in Nature
For nature enthusiasts, hike to the summit of Pendente Natural Park, surrounded by ancient oak trees, for a close-up view of the town and ocean.
Experience the tranquility, take in bird’s-eye views, and escape the city sounds. Another recommended hike is the Ludo Trail, guiding you through Ria Formosa Natural Park, offering glimpses of flamingos and other captivating bird species.
Amidst the multitude of activities, Faro’s Botanical Gardens provide a serene escape with over 1,000 plant and tree varieties from around the globe, offering a refreshing break from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Embark on a Serra de Faro Hiking Adventure
For a memorable hiking experience in Algarve, look no further than Serra de Faro. The highest peak, Fajã de São Tiago, forms a stunning cliff reaching approximately 500 meters, making it a highlight of this popular hiking area.
The trail leading to Fajã de São Tiago commences in Faro, taking around three hours to complete. Hiring a guide is advisable as the trails, while scenic, can be challenging to navigate.
Explore enchanting natural wonders near Faro with a guided tour.
Cruise the Beauty of Ria Formosa Natural Park
Embark on a daily boat tour from Faro to navigate the scenic Ria Formosa, renowned for its sand-blown beaches, remote islands, and mangrove forests.
As you cruise along the Ria Formosa’s saltwater river, passing barrier islands like Tavira island, Culatra island, and Armona island, be prepared for the mesmerizing blue waters. Keep an eye out for dolphins, porpoises, and whales, adding a touch of wildlife to your journey.
Whether opting for a narrated cruise or a private tour with free time in villages and parks along the waterway, you’ll pass by the Faro Lighthouse and explore various inlets along the river.
Check availability for Ria Formosa Cruises here
Immerse in Faro’s Diverse Museums
For those less inclined to walk or hike, Faro offers captivating museum experiences. The Faro Maritime Museum showcases a diverse collection of boats from across the globe.
The Centro Cultural de Faro, housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau building, features art galleries, a planetarium, and a cinema.
Engage in interactive learning at the Museu do Faro, where games, films, and hands-on activities provide insights into the city’s history. The Faro Archaeological Museum, the region’s oldest, displays artifacts dating back over three thousand years.
For a few hours in one place, the Faro Cathedral Museum offers a history showcase, and the best part—it’s entirely free!
Explore the Enigmatic Capela des Ossos
Your Faro itinerary should include the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), a haunting chapel built into a limestone cliff.
Rumored to be haunted, the chapel’s interior, adorned with intricate carvings, can be explored for a closer look at this mysterious structure.
Experience Sports in Faro
For a dose of live-sports-watching excitement, Faro offers options. Catch a soccer game at the historic Estádio do Marítimo, or for rugby enthusiasts, head to the Estádio da Mata Real, boasting a retractable roof and a seating capacity of up to 20,000 spectators.
Unwind at Praia de Faro
Praia de Faro, the primary beach in Faro, stands out as one of the finest beaches in Algarve, making it a popular destination for visitors winding down their day.
This expansive, white-sand beach attracts sunseekers and swimmers, offering an ideal setting to bask in the sun and take a refreshing dip. It’s also a prime location to witness the breathtaking sunset.
On clear days, the cliff’s summit provides views of the 12 apostles on the Moroccan coast. Palm trees and the characteristic whitewashed houses of the old town adorn the longest beach in Algarve, with several small crescent-shaped beaches perfect for sunbathing and calm waters. For beginners, surf schools offer both half-day and full-day lessons. For a closer encounter with the water, consider renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
Indulge in Retail Therapy
Faro’s allure extends beyond natural beauty to enticing shopping opportunities. The city hosts upscale shopping malls, including Forum Algarve, Forum Algarve Center, Forum Algarve Grand, and Forum Algarve Pavilhão.
Forum Algarve, the region’s largest mall, boasts over 200 stores featuring renowned brands, while Forum Algarve Center provides a more budget-friendly option with over 100 stores.
Immerse in Faro’s Vibrant Nightlife
As the sun sets, Avenida Almirante Reis comes alive with some of the most vibrant nightlife in Faro. Lined with palm trees and beautiful buildings, the wide avenue hosts an array of bars, clubs, and restaurants.
Exploring Faro’s nightlife on foot reveals the city’s lively bars and pubs. Whether you’re in the mood for drinks, live music, or dancing, Faro offers numerous options. Along the beach, several clubs and bars provide a scenic backdrop for music and ocean views simultaneously.
How to Be a Responsible Traveler in Faro
Leave No Trace
While Faro is undeniably stunning, it’s crucial to resist the temptation of taking away natural resources as souvenirs from its attractions.
This includes refraining from collecting sand and seashells on the beach, as disturbing the ecosystem is avoidable. Faro offers an abundance of memorable experiences and picturesque moments without the need to take away pieces of its natural beauty.
Opt instead for ethical souvenirs available for purchase, supporting local businesses while commemorating your visit to Faro.
Respect Local Culture and Locals
When traveling, always bear in mind that you are a guest. Show respect for the local culture and environment, refraining from actions that may cause offense to the locals or other visitors in the area.
Steer Clear of Unethical Animal Tourism
While unethical animal tourism is prevalent worldwide, Faro is no exception. The region hosts animal attractions such as a zoo marine and a zoo, tempting visitors with clever marketing tactics.
Avoid supporting unethical practices, particularly those involving captive dolphins in attractions like the Zoo and Zoomarine. Swimming with captive dolphins contributes to their suffering, disrupting their natural behavior and habitat.
Embrace ethical alternatives to witness dolphins in their natural habitat while exploring the wonders of Faro responsibly.
Is a Trip to Faro Worth It?
If you’re contemplating a visit to Faro, you might be questioning whether it’s worth the journey, especially with numerous captivating destinations across the Algarve competing for your attention.
Despite being a common transit stop, Faro stands as a popular destination in the Algarve, and even if you can only spare a day, a day trip to Faro is advisable.
Faro promises an array of exciting activities, although it might be a bit bustling for those seeking a more leisurely pace. If a slower travel experience appeals to you, considering Tavira or Olhao as your base might be worthwhile. Nevertheless, exploring the attractions in Faro might just change your perspective.
Rest assured, whether you visit in the summer or winter, Faro retains its charming allure.
HAVE YOU BOOKED YOUR ACCOMMODATION YET? HERE ARE MY TOP PICKS:
LUXURY: 3HB Faro – a splendid hotel featuring 2 pools, restaurants, a bar, and a spa and wellness center.
MID-RANGE: Le Jardin Secret de Faro Guesthouse – a beautifully decorated guesthouse nestled in the heart of Faro.
BUDGET: Sunlight House – private rooms with options for shared or private bathrooms, offering a shared kitchen for preparing your meals.
APARTMENT: A Casa D’Amelie – exquisite apartments located in the heart of Faro Old Town, some featuring a terrace or balcony.
HOSTEL: Hostel Casa d’Alagoa – situated just outside the old city walls, surrounded by numerous restaurants and bars, providing a vibrant, youthful atmosphere.
Concluding Thoughts on Exploring Faro
I trust this guide has equipped you with insights into what to do in Faro (and what to avoid). Faro offers a wealth of activities catering to diverse traveler preferences, ensuring an exciting and enjoyable vacation.
Allocate a few days to explore Faro before embarking on your journey to other Algarve destinations – it’s a decision you won’t regret.