Capital of the Algarve since 1756, the city of Faro in southern Portugal may not have the typical tourist attractions found elsewhere in the region but behind its sleepy population of just over 50,000 lies thousands of years of history waiting to be discovered by the visitor.

Although there was a prehistoric settlement in the area, solid records of the city (then known as Ossonoba) can only be traced to the Roman occupation of Portugal. Both the Empire and post-Empire periods proved extremely prosperous for the settlement, becoming a prominent part of the Iberian Peninsula under the later Visigoth rule from the 3rd century AD through to the Moorish takeover in the 8th century. Trading names from Ossonoba to Santa Maria and Harune before finally settling on Faro, the city was finally incorporated into Portugal after Alfonso III’s defeat of the Moors in the 13th century.

Despite suffering earthquakes in 1532 and 1755, as well as a sacking at the hands of the Earl of Essex in 1596, the city has retained much of its beauty and continues to provide an alternative avenue for those wanting to see the best of the Algarve and Portugal.


The finest architecture in the city is located in the old town of Cidade Velha, itself accessible through the fabulous neo-classicist Arco da Vila gate (built in 1812 as a replacement for the destroyed medieval gate). Once inside, the first port of call should be Faro Cathedral, formerly the site of a pagan Roman temple. Although only the tower and doorway remain from the original 13th century building, the structure still represents the finest in 15th and 16th century architecture. The interior is equally impressive, filled with marble statues and paintings, while climbing to the top of the tower provides a marvellous panoramic of the whole city.

More uniquely, the 18th century Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is exceptional for its adjoining, and somewhat disturbing, ‘chapel of bones’. Literally constructed from the bones and skulls of roughly 1,200 monks unearthed from the cemetery, it offers an insight into Franciscan religious practice in Portugal.

Faro is blessed with nine museums and three galleries. Among these you can find the Naval Museum, a celebration of Portuguese maritime exploration, the Ethnographic Museum and, most importantly, the Municipal Museum on the Praca Alfonso (notable for the fabulous 2nd-3rd century AD Roman mosaic unearthed in the city).

Situated within the Ria Formosa Lagoon, an especial attraction of Faro is the massive nature reserve contained within. Guided boat tours depart from Porta Nova and offer a convenient way of seeing the flora and fauna of the region, with over 30,000 birds on show.

Although beaches aren’t the focal point of Faro, the Praia de Faro is located some 7km from the city. Moreover, the Ilha de Barreta is accessible via the aforementioned guided tours from the Porta Nova.

Myriad festivals are held in the city throughout the year. The major religious festival is the Feira de Santo Iria, held in October and an occasion for music, dancing and plenty of good food.


The main areas for shopping are the Rua Santo Antonio, the Rua Francisco Gomes and the Forum Algarve. As well as high-street stores, you can find local craft outlets specialising in rugs, pottery and traditional clothing.

A daily market is held in the Largo do Mercado but a larger market is held monthly in the same location.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Faro is packed with places to eat, but a particularly good selection is situated down the Rua de Santo Antonio. One of the finest establishments for local cuisine is the Ocean Restaurant in the Vila Vita Pare. Alternatively, pop down to Albufeira for some Italian or French dishes.

Being a university city, Faro is not lacking on the nightlife front. The Rua Conselheiro Vivar, Rua do Prior and Rua da Madalena are all great spots for bars and clubs. The Upa Upa Café is especially popular with tourists and locals alike.

Tourist Information

Faro Tourist OfficeRua da Misericórdia, 8-128000FaroTel: +351 289 803604


Faro is served by Faro Airport, some 7km from the city. Buses and taxis can be used to reach the city itself. International and domestic connecting flights are available to limited locations in the continent.

Among the airlines that operate to and from British locations are Easyjet, Jet2, Ryanair, British Airways and TAP.

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