Top 5 sights for first-timers
Sé de Faro was built in 1251, but mostly destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. The tower gate is original but most of the rest is a reconstructed mishmash of styles: Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance. There are some fine azulejo tiles and you can climb the bell tower for views.
Largo da Sé
Faro Municipal Museum
This interesting museum is housed in the beautiful Renaissance Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção. Exhibits of particular note include a Roman mosaic of Neptune as well as Roman statues excavated from the site nearby in Estoi.
Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção
Igreja do Carmo & Capela dos Ossos
The baroque church of Igreja do Carmo leads to the sinister Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), which is cheerfully decorated in monks’ bones acting as a ‘memento mori’ (reminder of the inevitability of death). These gruesome building materials were disinterred from a nearby cemetery.
Largo do Carmo
Arco da Vila
Built by an Italian architect, this 19th-century arch was built over one of the city’s medieval gates. The statue of St Thomas Aquinas is also Italian. Inside retains the horseshoe gate that was part of the Moorish walls.
Rua da Misericórdia
This is a long spit of white sand, edged by turquoise-blue lagoon on one side and sparkling Atlantic Ocean on the other.
Ilha da Culatra
Top 5 sights for old hands
Ria Formosa Natural Park
This beautiful protected area covers 18,000 hectares, a seaside landscape that encompasses lagoons, sandbanks, saltpans, dunes and islets. It’s a great place for cycling, walking, boating and birdwatching.
Part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, this 10-kilometre, white-sand beach is one of the most remote-feeling along the coast. The sandy island is the most southerly point of Portugal, and is accessible via boat from Faro during the summer months.
Faro Jewish Heritage Centre
The Jewish Cemetery has beautiful marble gravestones and a small museum that houses a recreated synagogue.
Museu Regional do Algarve
With implements and artefacts from peasant life, this museum illustrates how life used to be in the area, with evocative exhibits such as an old wooden milk cart.
Praça da Liberdade 2
Faro’s Mouraria (old Moorish quarter) is an interesting place to wander, with decorated facades adorning mainly 16th- to 18th-century buildings. Examples include Palacete Belmarço, Casa da Antiga Rua do Pestana and the oldest café in the city, Café Aliança.
In the centre of town, the best shopping streets to head for are Rua de Santo Antonio and Rua Vasco da Gama, which have a mix of boutiques and souvenir shops. Forum Algarve (Estrada Nacional 125) is a large shopping mall that offers plenty of shops selling clothing, accessories, cosmetics and electronic goods, as well as a huge supermarket that’s good for picking up local foodstuffs.
Every second Sunday of the month, there’s a general market in Estoi, while Faro holds a flea market (Algarve Stadium car park) every first and third Sunday. For local ceramics and basketware, head to the famous Saturday morning local market at Loulé (Rua Nossa Senhora da Piedade), 17 kilometres northwest of Faro.
As a student town and tourism hub, Faro has a lively nightlife, with bars clustering along Rua de São Pedro, Rua Infante Dom Henrique, Rua Conselheiro Bívar and Rua do Prior. In the summer months, the marina is also a great place to go for a drink, with views overlooking the glittering water and bobbing yachts. In the Old Town, O Castelo (Rua do Castelo 11) has a fantastic setting with views over the Ria Formosa.
Another great choice for drinks is Columbus (Praça Dom Francisco Gomes 13), a perennially fashionable spot, serving up cocktails under the arched arcades opposite the marina. The First Floor Club (Rua do Prior 39) is a popular choice to get the party started, while to catch live music and dance till dawn, the Cidade da Música (Rua do Prior 21) is a good bet.