More than 5 Million passengers use Faro airport every year to travel to the beautiful Algarve coast in Portugal – and usually bypass the city of Faro. That’s a pity, because Faro has a beautiful old town, quirky street art and great food! Read my Snapshot: Faro you should stop over in Faro before heading to the beaches of the Algarve and my tips how to do it!
Why you should go: While most of the travel to the Algarve is due to the recent development of mass tourism, the town of Faro has a long and proud history: It was settled first by the Phoenicians more than 2,400 years ago! Later, the Romans and the Moors all left their footprints, before the town became a commercial center during Portugal’s age of discovery to Brazil, Africa and Asia. That history has left Faro, with a beautiful old town that belies it’s small size of only 60,000 people today. The palaces and churches, the squares and small alleys make for a nice walk of discovery through town and are some of the best you will find along the Algarve. You’ll also see quirky street art on your walk, a modern contrast to this old town. And after the sightseeing, you can enjoy a quiet meal in one of the many cafes and restaurants with seating on the squares – a welcome break from the touristy eateries in the beach resorts! You can also shop at regular stores in the pedestrian area – instead of the tourist shops on the beach! So, if you are flying through Faro’s airport anyway, you might as well take a break and discover what Faro has to offer! And Faro is at its best after the day-trippers from the beach resorts leave and the town calms down, so stay a night or two in the city for a more local experience!
If you want a quiet beach without the mass tourism, Faro can deliver that, too. The town beach is past the airport, about 30 minutes from town by bus, and you’ll be able to enjoy a beach as beautiful as anything the Algarve has to offer – but without the crowds. I had the beach pretty much to myself after a walk of just 5-10 minutes from the bust stop!
Travel Tips: Faro’s old town is a short ride from the airport and to experience its charm, I recommend to stay in the heart of town and walk from there. The Best Western Dom Bernardo is a budget option a short walk from the center. The Hotel Faro is a more luxurious option in the heart of town, with a beautiful view from their roof terrace – great for a sunset happy hour! Hotel prices in Faro were lower then in the beach resorts, making them good value in my book!
The town is small and a walk through the old town to see the municipal palace, the old city gate or cathedral, will only take a few hours. It’s worth to walk down the many narrow alleys to discover beautifully maintained old houses with colorful doors or elaborate streetart!
The pedestrian area is well done, with cooling sails above your head, modern shops and many coffee shops and restaurants to take a break. While the food was better than in the beach towns, my favorite meal was at Santo Antonio, a quiet, local restaurant, away from the center and well worth the walk. They do get a lot of day visitors from the nearby beach resorts, so spending the night and going out in the evening makes for a much more quiet and peaceful visit!
The airport is a short ride from town by taxi or public bus and the bus station and train station are in the heart of town, making it easy to travel to any of the resorts along the Algarve coast from Faro. The trains are reliable and a quick way to reach the larger towns along the coast. Unfortunately, the train stations are usually a good way from the beach, so it’ll take some time. The buses run more frequently and take you closer to the beach, making for a good alternative. The most convenient way to see the Algarve is by rental car: the prices were very low during my visit, there are plenty of options and the streets are very good and well signed.
Check out my map below to get an idea of just how walkable Faro is – I hope you add it to your next Algarve visit!