The provincial capital of the Algarve, Faro is a busy city through which thousand pass en route to the nearby beaches and busy resorts along the coast. However, it is worth stopping over, if only for a few days, to explore this charming and authentically Portuguese fishing port which boasts numerous sightseeing opportunities most of which are to be found in its quaint old town. Faro’s old town consists of three distinct areas – Vila-Adentro, Mouraria and Bairro Ribeirinho, each of which marks a stage along the city’s development and history. Moreover the city is conveniently located to reach numerous appealing day trip destinations situated close by.
The Old Town referred to as Cidade Velha or Vila Adentro can be accessed through an 18th century gate called Arco da Vila and is home to a number of Faro’s attractions. Its narrow cobbled streets are pleasant to explore on foot. Situated in the heart of the Old Town is Faro Cathedral, boasting an impressive collection of baroque artwork. By climbing to the top of its tower you will get terrific views of both Faro and the nearby coastline.
For Faro’s most macabre attraction head to Carmelite Church (Igreja do Carmo) and its Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos), whose walls are decorated with the bones and skulls from over 1,200 monks!
Arguably Faro’s most noteworthy museum is the archaeological Municipal Museum which is housed in a former 16th century convent
However, most visitors to this part of Portugal come here for the beaches and although the city itself is surround by salt marshes and therefore doesn’t have a beach within walking distance, not far way are several options for those seeking some sun drenched beaches. A convenient 20-minute bus ride from Faro is Graia de Faro, which boasts a long golden stretch of sand. Alternatively, for a more remote beach destination take the ferry (from Porta Nova ferry pier) to Ilha da Barreta, a pretty little island covered in wild flowers and offering another long sandy beach. Lastly, one of the most rewarding excursions is a guided boat tour through the Ria Formosa National Park salt marshes. Also departing from Porta Nova ferry pier your guide will point out the most interesting flora and fauna. The tour goes out as far as Ilha da Barreta (mentioned above) which is well worth visiting. As one might expect these destinations are far busier during the summer months but nevertheless merit exploring for their unexpected natural beauty.
You’re unlikely to need public transport to get around Faro as the main tourist sights are centrally located as are most hotels. However if you visit some of the beaches mentioned below then the bus network will come in handy. Tickets can be bought on board. From the railway station you can board several regional services which run along the coast to some places worth visiting. Lastly go to Porta Niova ferry pier, just next to the old town, for the Ilha Deserta ferries mentioned below.