Day Trips to Faro

Many holidaymakers fly into Faro airport and make their way to their onward destination without much thought for what the capital of the Algarve might offer.

However, we think you should give it a second look as this typically-Portuguese marina city has an enticing old town, excellent shops and cafe culture as well as a strong nightlife scene.

Indulge in history

To the east of Faro marina is the oldest part of Faro, called Cidade Velha.

It boasts well-preserved medieval buildings that house museums, and cobbled streets lead to the impressively-decorated Largo de Se Faro Cathedral. Inside you’ll find intricate gilded carving, decorated tiles called azulejos, and old pieces of art. You can also scale the tower to get far-reaching views over the whole of Faro.

An intriguing place to visit, at the rear of the Igreja do Carmo church you’ll find a chapel made of human bones called Capela dos Ossos – or the bone chapel.

Built by Carmelite monks in the early 19th century, over 1000 bones of earlier monks were exhumed from the overcrowded cemetery and used on every surface. The focal point is a complete skeleton covered in gold that hangs at the front of the chapel.

By the water

The marina is the focal point of Faro and you’ll find some shops and good cafes and restaurants here that take advantage of the views of the yachts and across the water to the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Although Faro has its own great beach, beyond the marina at Porta Nova pier you can catch a ferry to the Ilha – or island – beaches. The pleasant 30-minute journey passes through the Ria Formosa waterways and will take you to one of three island beaches, with varying degrees of seclusion.

Shopping, dining and nights out

The heart of Faro’s shopping district is Rua de Santo Antonio, which runs back from the marina through the city.

Here, you’ll find chic boutiques and shops that flow onto the surrounding streets. Everything is within easy walking distance, and among the shops selling fashion, perfume and cosmetics, wine and home furnishings, there are many open air cafes to stop off and refuel at.

After some shopping, you could grab lunch in one of Faro’s varied restaurants or park yourself on a bench in Manuel Bivar Gardens. Situated between the marina and the Arco da Vila arch it has pleasant terraces, palm trees and walkways to relax among.

And if a full day exploring hasn’t worn you out too much, make a night of it at one of the many bars concentrated around Rua do Prior. As Faro has a high student population, nights out here are young and fun, although as a city, there’s lots of choice for quiet drinks too.

Getting there is easy

If you’re staying in one of the nearby resorts of Tavira, Albufeira or Vilamoura, you don’t even have to make a whole day of it as travelling to Faro will take less than an hour by public transport.

You could lounge on the beach by morning then head into Faro for lunch and a mooch. The bus or train will cost less than €8 but if you’re planning on staying on for drinks, check bus timetables as, for example, the last bus back to Tavira is around 10pm.

Culture and nature

On your way in from Tavira, east of Faro, you might be tempted to stop at the beautiful Ria Formosa Natural Park, a 60-kilometre network of lagoons and islands. Its vicinity to Faro means you can have a day of nature and culture combined.

Or, in contrast, if you’re heading in from the west, the Forum Algarve shopping mall is on the way. It has two floors of shops including classic European fashion stores like Lacoste and Bershka, plus a cinema. This side of Faro also houses many of its largest nightclubs.

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