Faro is the capital of the Algarve and the main getaway to the region — it is also a historic and culturally rich city surrounded by unspoiled beaches and Ria Formosa natural reserve.
From taking a long walk in the Old Town to visiting the fantastic Bone Chapel, or enjoying the city’s nightlife, let’s take a tour of some of the best Faro attractions.
— TAKE A WALK IN ARCO DA VILA
When you visit the Old Town, you can’t miss the opportunity to admire and walk through Arco da Vila.
Arco da Vila is a monumental arch that replaces the Arab gateway to Faro’s Old City, which was partially destroyed by an earthquake, in 1755. The new arch was built by the Italian architect Francisco Xavier Fabri and was inaugurated in 1812. It is one of the finest examples of Italian neoclassical style in the Algarve.
Inside Arco da Vila, you will find the old stone-built walls on both sides and the medieval horseshoe arch from the Moorish period only on the right side. On top stands a statue of St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of Faro.
— LOSE YOURSELF IN THE OLD TOWN
Faro has a long and rich past. It was occupied by the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, and Moors, who in the 9th century fortified the city with a ring of defensive walls. Featuring lovely cobblestone streets, museums, roman passages, captivating churches, distinguished tiled houses, lively squares, and cozy cafes, Faro’s Old Town is a “city” within the city.
One of the places you can’t miss is Largo da Sé: a picturesque square where you’ll find the 19th-century Town Hall, the 18th-century Bishop’s Palace, and the ancient cathedral. Basically, a melting pot of baroque, gothic, and other architectural styles. Don’t miss the beautiful Teatro Lethes, or explore shops and boutiques nestled in historical buildings.
— VISIT THE MUNICIPAL MUSEUM
If you are passionate about history and old civilizations, you have to visit the Municipal Museum. Located in the Old Town, Faro’s Archeological Museum is housed in the 16th century Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção. The collection is closely linked to Faro’s history, since the time the city was called Ossonoba.
It has artifacts from the pre-historic, Roman, Moorish, and medieval periods, including a gallery of religious artworks and paintings from the 20th century. The highlights include the mosaic of sea-god Oceanus, the bust of Emperor Hadrian and Agrippina, and 9th-13th century Islamic artifacts.
— THE AMAZING BONE CHAPEL
Carmo Church is one of the most beautiful churches in the Algarve. The twin-towered baroque church built in 1719 was heavily damaged by the 1755 earthquake. The reconstruction of the exterior, only finished in 1878, was sponsored by Brazilian gold.
Carmo Church’s interior has intricate and gilded carved altars with numerous cherubs, but what brings most of the visitors to this place is its extraordinary Bone Chapel. The bones and skulls of over 1000 monks fill every available surface of the chapel and are displayed in different geometric patterns. The “Capela do Ossos” is, undoubtedly, one of the best Faro attractions.
— FARO AND ITS VIBRANT NIGHTLIFE
Faro has some lovely restaurants, classy rooftops, spirited bars, and vibrant nightclubs. Most of them are located in the city center, but you can also find some of them in the Old Town. When the sun goes down, the pedestrian-only street Conselheiro Bivar becomes the hottest nightspot in the city and attracts locals and tourists. Definitely, a great atmosphere. Lodo Osteria and Aperitivo Bar are great options. But if you are in the mood for an elegant cocktail bar with excellent drinks, good music, and a striking view of the Old Town, Columbus is the place to go.
— RIA FORMOSA: A NATURAL BEAUTY
Often overshadowed by the Algarvian beaches, Ria Formosa Natural Park is one of the best places for outdoor activities. Its maze of canals, freshwater lagoons, marshes, and barrier islands stretches 60 km along the Algarve coast through the municipalities of Loulé, Faro, Olhão, Tavira, and Vila Real de Santo António. While sailing through the beautiful channels of Ria Formosa, you will learn about the hundreds of native birds and their migrations between Europe and Africa.
— LEARNING AT “CENTRO CIÊNCIA VIVA”
Located in the old Algarve Power Station, it features permanent and temporary exhibitions, a greenhouse, laboratory, aquariums, garden, and a rooftop, where astronomy activities are held regularly. The Science Centre provides a range of educational and fun things to do and see for the whole family. Kids can observe and even touch sea creatures, or cook with solar energy. At the same time, adults can have a drink on the rooftop, while taking in the Ria Formosa Natural Park’s striking views.
The perfect place to go with kids, on a rainy day
— TIME TRAVELLING AT PALÁCIO DE ESTÓI
Palácio de Estói is one of a kind, and one of Faro’s attractions you can’t miss. Located in the village of Estói, 10 Km from Faro, you will find a unique neo-Baroque and neo-Rococo styles palace with gorgeous French-inspired gardens.
The palace features many luxury rooms, a foyer with antique paintings, glimmering gold leaf and ornate plasterwork commissioned by the palace’s original owner, the Viscount of Estoi, and a delightful pavilion covered in blue and white tiles with unparallel stairways.
Built-in 1840, it was recently converted into a hotel. But if you aren’t a guest, you can still visit some of its saloons, or walk around the garden.
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