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Latest update: 26 June 2024

If you go to the Algarve, you will probably fly to Faro. Most people travel straight to their next destination, but spending a day in Faro is really not a bad idea. I want to share my tips for fun things to do and the best sights to see in Faro with you.

Faro in Portugal

Faro is the capital of the Algarve, and opinions are divided. Some people find it boring, and others find It wonderfully authentic. If you are traveling through the Algarve, I think you should not miss out on this city. I definitely wouldn’t spend a week there, but I would definitely spend one or two nights there when you arrive or leave.

Sights in Faro

Faro is a quiet city. According to some residents I meet, it is even a bit too quiet. They long for the time when many events were organized in Faro. The city has a small historic center, and you have some interesting sights and nice restaurants in the streets around it. In addition, you can easily go to the Ria Formosa nature reserve, the beach, or one of the islands. In this article, I would like to show you the most important to-do’s and sights in Faro.

Wander through the old town of Faro

The historic part of Faro is called Cidade Velha and is located within the city walls. The Arco da Vila (Google Maps location) is the old city gate from the 19th century, with both Moorish and Italian details. On the other side of Cidade Velha is the Moorish city gate Arco do Repouso (Google Maps location), which is a bit more straightforward.

I expected the old part of Faro to be packed with touristy restaurants and shops, but that is not the case at all. In September, it is even lovely and quiet. So be sure to wander through the streets, pass the orange trees, and find a nice outdoor cafe.

Join a walking tour in Faro

You can easily walk through Faro on your own, but you might like some extra text and explanation. Then, choose a walking tour. I booked mine with Free Tour, where you pay the guide in the form of a tip. We are on the road for about two hours, and the guide shows us the most important sights and nice restaurants. We also get an information overload of history and general facts about Faro.

Shopping in Faro

The main shopping street is Rua Dom. Francisco Gomes. The most striking shop is Comur (Google Maps location). It is a Portuguese chain of stores that sells canned fish, including sardines, salmon, swordfish, and more. Now, that may not sound very attractive or tasty, but the store is really a treat for the eye.

Also, pay a short visit to the market where the locals shop. The Mercado Municipal (Google Maps location) is quite large, but I would have liked it to be a bit more atmospheric. Yet, it is a meeting place for the local elderly.

View the Sé Cathedral

The Sé Cathedral is located in the old center, which you can visit for €5 (in 2023). The complex consists of a cathedral with an organ from 1701 made in Hamburg, a small museum, a small bone chapel, and a tower. You can climb that tower for the view. In total, a visit takes less than half an hour. The visit is pleasant, but not great because there is a larger bone chapel in the city, and the tower is not very high. The church is impressive and unique because of the organ (with Chinese drawings) and the tile work.

Google Maps location

Visit Faro’s Bone Chapel (if you dare)

The Monte do Carmo church is a rather colorfully decorated church with many ornaments, but what really makes your visit special is the bone chapel behind the church. You can turn the corner and enter the garden at the back right of the church. There is the Capela dos Ossos, or: the bone chapel. The walls and ceiling are entirely ‘decorated’ with bones and skulls of monks associated with the church. It is a somewhat sinister idea, yet it is also very artistic. You can take a look for €2 (in 2023).

Google Maps location

Pastel Palace: Palacio Belmarço

With its pastel blue color and special decorations, the Palacio Belmarço resembles a sweet fairytale palace. Its style is called beaux-arts. Unfortunately, when I was there, the door was closed. But who knows, you might even be able to look inside.

Google Maps location

Palacio Belmarço Faro

Visit the Ria Formosa nature reserve

Faro borders the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa nature reserve. You can perhaps best compare the nature reserve with the Wadden Sea – if you’re Dutch or German that is. There are beaches, you can take a boat trip or discover the area by bike. You can book a bike tour at BajaBikes. You can book a boat tour in many places. For example in the port of Faro or simply online in advance.

Faro boat trips Ria Formosa

I sailed through the area around sunset on a solar-powered electric boat: this tour. It’s a nice idea, but I would book a different boat trip next time. It is wonderfully quiet sailing (if you ignore the planes flying over). But the environment remains somewhat the same: a swamp with some birds such as spoonbills, storks, and seagulls. So maybe you can find more variety with another boat tour. There should also be a lot of flamingos, and there are also greener parts. There are plenty of options!

Island hopping in Faro

Just off the coast of Faro are a few islands in the Ria Formosa area. You can visit them, and the easiest way is by boat. With this catamaran tour, you will visit Ilha Deserta, Ilha do Farol, and Ilha da Culatra. But there are more:

To the beach in Faro

Unfortunately, the center of Faro and Praia de Faro beach are not within walking distance of each other. But it’s easy enough to get to the beach. The Bolt taxi will take you to the beach for €10 to €15, and buses should also run during the summer months. Another option is the ferry, which only costs €3. You get on here in Faro. A Bolt taxi quickly becomes an economical choice if you are hitting the beach with several people.

It is a lovely beach in September. Not too busy, but lively. I pay €18 at Bel’mare for two beach beds with a parasol in the first row. The second and third rows are slightly cheaper. I enjoy the sun, the Bob Marley music, and a nice poke bowl on the beach. Across the street is the Bel’mare Gastrobar (Google Maps location) if you prefer to eat at a table.

Watch the sunset at LAB Terrace – Sunset Bar

Check the time the sun sets and ensure you are at LAB Terrace – Sunset Bar near the harbor an hour before. This is the place to be for the sunset in the city. If you arrive later, it is virtually impossible to get a seat. It’s not very idyllic though – unfortunately! The bar is directly adjacent to the railway, and the planes fly over the Ria Formosa area. But it is enjoyable. Both locals and tourists like to come here for a drink at sunset.

Google Maps location

Tip! Are you hungry? I have collected a few fun addresses for breakfast and dinner in Faro.

How long do you need in Faro?

If you limit yourself to discovering the city, a one-day visit is enough. If you also want some time on the beach or the islands, take two days to visit Faro.

Rent a car in Faro

You don’t need a car for Faro itself. Everything is easily walkable. But you may want to rent a car for the rest of your stay in the Algarve. In that case I recommend comparing your options at Discover Cars.

I spent my first two days in Faro and rented a car on day three to explore the rest of the Algarve. A Bolt taxi from the airport to the center of Faro only costs €6.50 (in 2023). That worked out cheaper for me than renting the car longer. So make that calculation for yourself! 

Spend the night in Faro

One of the most popular hotels in Faro is Lemon Tree Stay. It is often fully booked well in advance. And I completely get it. It is a nice small-scale hotel with a relaxed atmosphere and a lot of personal attention. Upon arrival, I am offered a drink, and the hotel employee goes through all the information about the hotel and Faro in detail. The rooms are small but cheerfully decorated. There is a kitchen that you can use. The refrigerator contains wine and other drinks you pay for in cash – in good faith. You can eat your breakfast in the courtyard, under the lemon tree. There is also a small roof terrace.

View availability and prices.

If the Lemon Tree Stay is fully occupied, you can visit Lemon Tree Urban Camping. It’s right next to the Lemon Tree Stay. I really like the concept, so I slept one night in the hotel and one night at the urban campsite. The open space next to the hotel has been cleverly used by erecting six wooden tents. They are cordoned off with privacy fences , with locks. Here, too, you have a guest kitchen, and the shower room is shared but immaculate. You get earplugs, which are necessary: ​​planes fly over incessantly from 6 am.

View availability and prices.

Faro Lemon Tree Urban Camping: double bed in tent

More Portugal inspiration?

  • Accommodation. All-time favorites: Booking.com and Campspace. Would you rather stay in a hostel? Check Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. Try WithLocals for experiences with Portuguese locals. Book your ‘free’ walking tours with Freetour.com or GuruWalks, and try bike tours with Baja Bikes.
  • Attractions and museums. Interested in a 5% discount on museums and other attractions? Use this discount code at Tiqets: KIMOPREIS22
  • Car rental. If you want to compare prices, check out Discover Cars or Rental Cars.
  • Flights. Compare all your options! Be sure to check out Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
  • Guidebooks. I love paper guidebooks to flip through. Buy them at Amazon.
  • Money. Your debit and credit cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.   
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? Maybe Expedia or CheapOair has a good option.
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high calling and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Train and Bus Travel to Portugal with Busbud. And reserve buses and trains on the go with 12Go or Omio.
  • Yoga retreat. Or maybe treat yourself to a yoga retreat in Portugal.

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