48 Hours In: Faro

The capital of the Algarve has much to offer visitors, including an atmospheric old town, lively bars and great fish restaurants. Cathy Packe explores Portugal's south coast gem



Click here for
48 Hours



In...Faro map

Why go now?

Faro is often treated as a mere gateway by sunseekers heading towards the beaches and golfers heading for the fairways. But the capital of the Algarve is a delightful destination in its own right, with plenty to offer for a short break – especially in September, when the weather is still warm but most of the crowds have gone home.

Touch down

Links are excellent: Aer Lingus (0870 876 5000; aerlingus.com) from Gatwick and Belfast; Bmibaby (0905 828 2828; bmibaby.com) from Birmingham, Cardiff and East Midlands; British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) from Gatwick; easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet. com) from Belfast, Bristol, East Midlands, Liverpool, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Newcastle; Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com) from Exeter; Flyglobespan (0871 271 9000; flyglobespan. com) from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow; jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) from Blackpool and Leeds/Bradford; Monarch (08700 40 50 40; flymonarch.com) from Birmingham, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester; and Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Bournemouth, Prestwick, Stansted and East Midlands.

A taxi from the airport to the city centre costs around €12 and take s about 10 minutes. Buses 14 and 16 (00 351 289 899 740; eva-bus.com) take a little longer, and run roughly once an hour from outside the terminal, depositing passengers on the street across the road from the bus station (1). Tickets can be bought on board, and cost €1.65.

Get your bearings

Faro's focus is the harbour; everything else is within easy striking distance. To the north is the railway station (2); east is a pedestrianised quarter, full of shops and cafes; to the south is the original walled city. To the west, beyond the airport, is the beach area, Praia de Faro – a long sandy spit that faces out towards the Atlantic. You can get reach this stretch of seaside from the centre on the airport buses, 14 or 16, and staying on until the end of the line, a journey which takes about 25 minutes from the harbour.

The tourist office (3), handily located at the bottom end of Rua da Misericordia (00 351 289 803 604; visitalgarve.pt), opens 9.30am to 7pm daily.

Check in

Faro's two main four-star hotels dominate the harbour area, and there is little to choose between them in terms of facilities or cost. The Hotel Eva (4) at Avenida da Republica 1 (00 351 289 001 000; tdhotels.pt) has double rooms for as little as €102, including breakfast, although until the end of September, expect to pay €150.

Close by, at Praca Don Francisco Gomes 2, the Hotel Faro (5) (00 351 2899 830 830; hotelfaro.pt) offers double rooms from €103, €151 in high season. These rates include breakfast, as well as a boat trip into the Ria Formosa Natural Park. A highlight is the rooftop bar and restaurant, which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The hotel is installing a small spa, to be in operation by next summer.

Three blocks inland, with an excellent location and an attractive interior courtyard, is the Residencial Algarve (6) at Rua Infante Don Henrique 52 (00 351 289 895 700; residencialalgarve.com). En-suite doubles with air-conditioning start at €48, including breakfast.

Take a hike

Explore the old walled city. Start by making your way through the imposing Arco de Vila (7), a 19th-century replacement for the original, ninth-century gateway. The wall, large sections of which still surround the old city, was built by Muslim conquerors anxious to repel an attack by a Christian army.

Stroll up the street in front of you to reach the heart of the area: the cathedral, or Se (8). The original temple dates from the 13th-century and was built on the site of the Roman forum of Ossonoba. The €3 admission to the complex includes entrance to the cathedral itself, the museum of religious artefacts and relics upstairs, the bone chapel in the courtyard and the stumpy bell tower, the 68 steps of which lead to the best view in town: a panoramic vista that encompasses the red tiled roofs of the town, boats bobbing in the estuary, distant planes landing and taking off and, on the horizon, the beaches of the Algarve. The cathedral opens only 10am-1pm on Saturdays, but 10am-6.30pm from Monday to Friday (until 5pm from October to March).

Outside, leading off a sprawling square, is a choice of cobbled streets, all offering fascinating glimpses of everyday life: courtyards, pots of flowers, washing hanging out to dry.

Wander down the Rua do Trem, stopping perhaps to look at the current exhibition of paintings in the Galeria Trem (9) (00 351 289 804 197) at the far end, and to breath in the smell of sardines, grilling over a barbecue, which often wafts across the square from the Taberna Modesto (10). From here the city slopes gently down towards the sea. Turn left and admire the most impressive section of the walls, and the Arco do Repouso gate (11).

Lunch on the run

You may already have been enticed by the barbecued sardines at Taberna Modesto (10): fish, potatoes, salad, dessert and a drink set you back just €12. If not, stay in the old city and grab a table at the Cidade Velha (12), tucked against the walls of the cathedral, for a good selection of omelettes, salads and sandwiches.

Cultural afternoon

Before you leave the old city, head towards the Largo do Don Afonso, named after a 13th-century king whose statue dominates the square. Here you will find Faro's cultural highlight, the Municipal Museum (13) (00 351 289 897 400). Located in a former convent built around a lovely Renaissance cloister, it contains exhibits related to the city's Roman and Islamic heritage.

The museum opens 10am-7pm Tuesday to Friday (until 6pm October-May); and 11.30am-6pm at weekends, 10.30am-5pm in winter. Admission €3.

Window shopping

The pedestrianised centre of Faro is also its commercial hub. At its heart is the Rua San Antonio, whose fashion offerings include branches of Zara and Mango at opposite ends of the street. But for a real local experience, head to nearby Praca Ferreira de Almeida and the Supermercado Garrafeira Rui (14) (00 351 289 821 586). Although it has a few groceries, it stocks an astonishing collection of Portuguese wines, the cheapest selling for almost nothing, the most expensive costing around €4,000 for a bottle of port. The owner will point out his oldest bottle, a madeira made in 1795, and will also advise on interesting and unusual wines to buy.

An aperitif

The locals come out late – typically 10pm onwards – for an evening's drinking, which is likely to take place in one of the many bars in Rua Conselheiro Bivar or the neighbouring Travessa Jose Coelho. But if you prefer your drinks to be served a little earlier, order a well-chilled white port, a typically Portuguese aperitif, from a harbourside bar: either the Clube Naval (15), or the ice cream parlour close by, both of which have lovely views of the harbour and the city.

Dining with the locals

There is no shortage of good restaurants in Faro. For fish, try the long-established Faro e Benfica (16) (00 351 289 821 422), overlooking the harbour, where main courses cost around €14. In the old town, the Mesa dos Mouros (17), near the cathedral, serves cataplana, the Portuguese speciality, whose name describes the cooking dish and the meat or seafood steamed inside it. And for a typically local experience, it is hard to do better than the popular Adega Nova (18) at Rua Francisco Barreto 24 (00 351 289 81 34 33), where main courses start at around €6.

Sunday morning: go to church

The Igreja do Carmo (19) is a wonderfully ornate baroque structure, whose prominent twin towers dominate the skyline. Mass is held here every Sunday at 8.30am. But you will need to visit on a different day if you want to see the church's most curious attraction. In a courtyard, accessible by going through the vestry, is the bone chapel, a small sanctuary whose walls and ceiling are studded with human skulls and bones in acknowledgement of man's mortality. The chapel opens 10am-1pm Monday to Saturday, and 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday (until 5pm in winter); admission costs €1.

Out to brunch

There are few better places to contemplate the day ahead than the Cafe Coreto (20), on the water's edge in front of the Jardim Manuel Bivar. A hearty breakfast omelette will cost you €7, scrambled eggs on toast cost €7.50.

Take a ride

To reach the beach at Praia de Faro you could hire a bike from the office on the ground floor of the Clube Naval building (15) (00 351 918 720 002; formosamar.pt) on the harbour. Alternatively, there is sometimes a bike-rental kiosk at the bottom of Rua 1 de Maio (21). Charges start at €2.50 an hour, €12 for a day. The ride out to the beach takes about an hour at a fair pace.

The Icing on the cake

The sand spit and islands that protect the coastline around Faro comprise the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a marshy area teeming with birdlife. This can be explored by taking a trip on one of the traditional wooden boats used until recently by the local fishermen.

Trips are operated by Maritimo Turistico (00 351 918 779 155), and offer a variety of options. For a brief glimpse of the area, take the 45-minute trip into the estuary, which costs €10.

Longer excursions depart daily throughout the year, and offer the chance to stop at the uninhabited Ilha Deserta, as well as the island of Culatra, with its lighthouse and small settlement of fishermen's cottages. Tickets can be bought from the office on the ground floor of the Clube Naval building (15). Boats depart from the jetty by the Porta Nova (22).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
Arts and Entertainment
arts + entsWe have created an infogaphic that looks back over the previous incarnations of the Doctor
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition