Last updated on September 10, 2021
Faro is an incredible city with so much wonder, beauty, and culture to enjoy. But it’s often overlooked by tourists, many of whom travel to Faro Airport on their way elsewhere. It’s a shame both for tourists and the locals of Faro as this charming waterfront city is undeniably one of the best cities in Portugal.
There is so much to do and see in Faro itself, and the city is also considered the gateway to the Ria Formosa nature park, a stunning area full of saltwater lagoons and wildlife.
Behind this park you will also find the sandbar islands and some incredible beaches that should never be missed on a trip to southern Portugal.
The best part, however, has to be that Faro is a largely local city, meaning it has yet to be dominated by resorts. Instead, you can enjoy authentic experiences made for the locals.
Whether you visit Faro for a day or for a weekend, your itinerary will be filled and your adventure sated if you follow this guide:
Top Things to See in Faro, Portugal
Once you fly in, stow your luggage at the airport and get ready to explore Faro to its fullest:
The Igreja do Carmo Church
Infamous for being the “bone” chapel. This incredible site is not one to miss, though it is also not for everyone. If you have young children or don’t intend ever to see a human skull in person, then this isn’t the place for you. If, on the other hand, you are interested in seeing this unique church, make sure it’s on your list.
The Old Town
It seems every city in Europe has an old town, and this is where the tourists usually flock. Where else can you see a piece of the past and enjoy some stunning architecture?
The Ilha Deserta
This remote sand bar is not populated, but incredibly beautiful. These beaches are some of the most pristine and magnificent of their kind in southern Portugal. For a quiet day in nature, there is no better place to go.
Top Things to Do in Faro, Portugal
There is a lot to do in Faro beyond just walking and exploring the city and all that it has to offer. From parks to beaches, to beautiful palaces, here are the top things to do:
Get Back to Nature in Ria Formosa Park
This natural reserve is full of lagoons and wildlife, making it great for those who want to add some adventure to their trip. You can go kayaking, bird watching, or even snorkelling.
Explore Faro’s Blissful Beaches
A visit to Portugal isn’t complete without visiting the sandy beaches, and that is true for Faro. Just beyond Ria Formosa are stunning beaches of soft sand and beautiful water, but you aren’t stranded in the middle of nowhere. There is a bus service connecting these beaches to the city centre, and a wide variety of great cafes and restaurants to allow you to make an easy day of it.
Spend a Day Trip to Estoi
Though not in Faro, it is fairly close, which is why any visit to Faro must include a visit to Estoi as well. This beautiful palace is a stunning site to see, and has gardens and the palace itself for you to visit and enjoy.
A great way to see all that Faro has to offer is to make it your home base while you explore the region further. That way you can see all the beauty and enjoy the authentic experience Portugal can offer.
Top Things to Eat in Faro, Portugal
When visiting Portugal, you absolutely must take full advantage of the seafood, though the country itself offers so much more than gems from the sea. Soups, in particular, are very popular in Portugal, so don’t turn your nose up to them even if it feels too hot for such a dish. Portuguese chicken is also world-renowned, and there is no better place to get it from an authentic Portuguese town like Faro.
Some other top dishes to try include:
Francesinha – A Portuguese version of the croque-monsieur
Carne de Porco à alentejana – Clams, pork, and potatoes fried together.
Bacalhau à liberdade – One of the many popular cod dishes in Portugal
Fresh octopus / Grilled aardines / Codfish cakes / Roast beef / Pataniscas de bacalhau / Fried bread and egg sides
In short, whether you love fish, meat, or vegetables, you are sure to have something to your liking in Portugal. The fresher you can eat your food, the better it will be, so try to keep an eye out for fresh meals and know what is in season when you visit. Some sea life cannot be fished during certain times of the year (when it is breeding season), so you won’t be able to either get the food cheaply or get it fresh.
You also shouldn’t be too stuck on eating just seafood, because though it might be surprising Portuguese foods mostly revolve around meats and stews, rather than what comes out of the sea. Seafood can even be quite expensive, so do be prepared when you visit and instead try a variety of traditional dishes instead.
Getting Around Faro, Portugal
One of the best ways to travel around Faro and Southern Portugal is via car, so be sure to rent one from the airport before you head out.
This will give you the ability to explore to your heart’s content, and also give you more time to add Faro into your itinerary on your way. Of course, there are also buses, coaches, and trains to get you where you need to go if you cannot or don’t want to drive.
Faro is so much more than the airport on your way to the southern part of Portugal. It is a beautiful city with an authentic vibe, incredible food, and amazing beaches. With so much to do and see here, it is a mistake to miss this city, so include it in your itinerary even if it’s just for a day, and in return, you will get a taste of what Portugal is really like.