Faro, capital city of the Algarve, offers so much more than just a landing point in Portugal !
It is a city full of history, great shops, restaurants and coffees, theaters and galleries, great beaches and the Ria Formosa nature reserve on the door step, one of the national Seven Wonders, that allow you to do several activities, such as kite-surfing, canoeing, windsurfing, boat tours and birdwatching, ensuring unique moments in contact with nature.
The central area is really quite compact with everything in a small walking distance.
The foundations of Faro started in Roman times, when the town was called Ossónoba. During the 9th century it was the capital of a short lived princedom, ringed with defensive walls and later the name changed to Santa Maria then to Harune. Finally in the middle of the 13th century Faro became part of Portuguese territory, completing the Christian reconquest of Portugal.
Here’s some spots that you should visit:
Manuel Bivar Garden is a great starting point to visit the City. All the streets leading away from this beautiful garden.
The oldest part of the city called “Cidade Velha” is on the eastern side of this garden. You can look up and see the most iconic storks nests. They have many years there and delights everyone that pass by.
Walk through the arch (Arco da Vila), one of the 3 doors to enter in this old city, follow the narrow street, into the tree lined and at this point you are at Largo da Sé. This is the main square. Here you can find the statue of Dom Francisco Gomes do Avelar, who was a bishop of Faro in the 18th and early 19th century and now you can see the beautiful Sé Catedral de Faro, It is one of Faro’s most beautiful monuments. Inside is really huge and you can see a lot of golden details and sculptures, decorated tiles and works of art. It originates from the 13th/14th centuries, although much of the inside decoration is 17th century and despite having to be repaired after being ransacked and set alight by the Conde of Essex’s in 1596 and damaged in the earthquake of 1755, still has the original doorway and two original chapels. You can also climb up the bell tower by taking 68 steps. From the bell tower you have a breathtaking view over the surrounding area and the Ria Formosa.
Through the gate you can see the coast of Faro with lagoons and sandy islands. There you can get a ferry to some amazing islands or get a boat trip thought the calm waters of the “ Ria Formosa” lagoon watching the amazing wildlife.
There is another important square in the old town, called Praça Afonso III. Here you can see the statue of the Portuguese king Afonso III. Afonso III was the first king of Portugal. He expelled the Moors from the Algarve by conquering Faro in 1249. As a result, the Algarve became part of the kingdom of Portugal. (Afonso III was called the king of Portugal and of the Algarve, because it took a lot of time to conquer the Algarve to the morish). On the southern side of the Afonso III square you will find the Museu Municipal de Faro, also known as the archeological museum. The museum is housed within a former convent, called the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção. It was built from 1518-1523. The museum is a great place to learn about the history of Faro.
We also recommend you to visit the “Carmo Church”. It is also, one of the most beautiful churches of the Algarve. It was built in 1719, but the earthquake of 1755 heavily damaged it. The reconstruction of the exterior only finished in 1878.
Inside the Carmo Church you can find the bones chapel. The walls of this chapel are covered with human skulls and bones. It is kind of a surreal feeling to stand in a room which is made from human bones. Above the entrance of the bones chapel, you can find the text: stop here and consider, that you will reach this state too. This Chapel is undoubtedly the highlight of the Carmo Church, but at the same time one of the creepiest attractions of Faro.
About 11 kilometers above Faro (near the village of Estoi), you can also find the Palace of Estoi. This beautiful palace was built in the second half of the 19th century and has been turned into a hotel. It has now been restored and converted into a luxury hotel. Sleeping in this historical place can be an amazing experience. If you are not a hotel guest, you can still enter and walk around the building for free.
The interior, is decorated with tiled panels, stained glass and plasterwork. It really worth´s to see the beautiful and romantic tea rooms.
This Palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens, laid out in French style and containing fruit trees, palm trees, fountains and a number of sculptures and with hand painted tiles on the back of fountains.
It is really relaxing to walk around here. It is a great place to have a drink and watch the sunset.You can also take some beautiful photographs here.
Back at the Manuel Bívar Gardens in Faro, there’s nothing like a refreshing drink while you rest at one of the terraces along the estuary; an if it´s time for a meal, you must look for a restaurant to taste the gastronomic delights, like the fish and seafood cooked in a cataplana, a copper utensil typical of the Algarve, which is also believed to be of Arabic origin. As you move further away from the water front, the modern office and apartment blocks appear and the hustle and bustle of working Faro starts.
Faro can also be discovered by night as well, thanks to its massive student population that lights up every bar and plaza of the city, not to mention all the cultural activities you will be able to enjoy.
Visit Faro and live all the emotions that this city could bring to you.
The Old Town
The Ria Formosa Natural Park