48 HOURS IN...

Faro, Portugal

This port city near the tip of southern Europe is full of ancient wonders – and the perfect place to enjoy a glass of Lagoa

Click here for 48 Hours In... Faro map

Why go now?

The capital of the Algarve is an excellent gateway to Portugal's south coast and Spain's Costa de la Luz, but few people bother to explore this attractive port. Faro's history dates back to Roman times, and the city has retained considerable character and charm.

Touch down

You can fly to Faro from 19 UK airports on a range of full-service and low-cost airlines. Thomsonfly (0870 1900 737; www.thomsonfly.com), Monarch (08700 40 50 40; www.flymonarch.com) and easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) offer the widest range of options, while British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow and Gatwick. As a result of the fierce competition, off-peak return fares can be available from as little as £60.

A taxi from the airport into the city centre will cost €8-9 (around £6), and takes about 10 minutes. Buses 14 and 16 (00 351 289 899 740; www.eva-bus.com) link the airport with the stop on the street outside Faro's bus station close to the town's railway station. Airport buses run at least once an hour, sometimes more frequently, from 7.08am to 9.17pm (8.07pm at weekends). Tickets can be bought on the bus and cost €1.50 (£1.10).

Get your bearings

Faro is focused on its small harbour, around which are a couple of hotels and a few cafés. The oldest, walled, part of the city is at the southern end of the harbour; the pedestrianised shopping area is to its east. The tourist office is handily located between the two, at 9-11 Rua da Misericorda (00 351 289 803 604; www.visitalgarve.pt). It opens 9.30am-7pm daily until 30 September, 9.30am-5.30pm Monday-Friday during the rest of the year.

The city has its own beach area, the Praia de Faro, but this long, sandy spit lies well to the west, beyond the Formosa River and the airport; you can reach it on buses 14 and 16, which also serve the airport.

Check in

Accommodation in the centre of Faro is limited compared with the resorts strung out along the coast, but there are two good choices on the harbour. Hotel Faro is at 2 Praca Francisco Gomes (00 351 289 830 830; www.hotelfaro.pt), and Hotel Eva is very close by at Avenida da Republica (00 351 289 001 000; www.tdhotels.pt), perched on top of the bus station (1). Both hotels have similar rates: double rooms from €125 (£89) including breakfast, rising to €144 (£103) from July to September. A cheaper alternative is to head out for a night by the beach. The Estalgem Aeromar at 1 Avenida Nascente (00 351 289 817 542; www.aeromar.net) has doubles starting at €65 (£46) including breakfast.

Take a hike

The Arco da Vila is a 19th-century replacement for one of the original city gates, cut into the walls that were first built by the Muslims in the 9th century. Go through here, and follow the cobbled Rua Rasquinha up to the left, past tiny courtyards and orange trees. Turn right at the far end into the Largo do Don Afonso, a broad expanse dominated by the statue of the 13th-century king, Afonso. Continue south as far as the Largo do Castelo to see the remains of Faro's 9th-century castle. Then return to the cathedral, which is referred to as Se and dominates the old city. Built on the site of the Roman forum, it is a dark but spacious building of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Inside, the chapels are decorated with the blue-and-white tiles so typical of Portugal and storks can often be found nesting in the bell towers. There is a small museum in the gallery, and across the courtyard is a chapel. The cathedral opens 10am-6pm Monday-Saturday in summer, until 5pm in winter, admission €3 (£2.15). There is no charge on Sundays, when it opens for mass only (at noon).

Take a view

For an excellent view over the city, and across to the beach and the mudflats beyond, climb to the top of the Belvedere tower that is attached to the cathedral (7). Admission is included in the price of the ticket for the cathedral, and the tower's opening hours are the same; there is no admission on Sundays.

Go to church

At the Carmo church on the Largo do Carmo (00 351 289 824 490) is a prominent, twin-towered building whose ornate interior is typical of the Baroque period. Its most surprising feature is the chapel of bones, a small sanctuary across a garden from the main building, whose walls and ceiling are studded with human bones and skulls, apparently as an acknowledgment of human mortality. Mass is held in the church at 8.30am every Sunday; if you want to see the chapel, it opens 10am-1pm Monday-Saturday, and 3-5pm Monday-Friday, until 6pm from May to September. Admission to the chapel is €1 (£0.70).

Lunch on the run

This close to the southern tip of Europe, no one rushes the midday meal – indeed, most of Faro seems to take a civic nap between around 1.30pm and 4pm. Forego the cafés and restaurants immediately around the Largo do Don Afonso and head down Rua Trem to the square at the bottom. The Taberna Modesto is a family-run enterprise, and in the summer months they put a makeshift grill outside. Don't worry about the menu: just point to the sardines browning on the barbecue, and they will be served with a delicious salad and boiled potatoes. These, along with a carafe of wine and a coffee, will set you back €9 (£6.40).

If a printed menu makes you feel more confident, join the crowds sitting at the pavement tables of Pastelaria Gardy at Rua Santo Antonio 16, which serves cakes, pastries and tarts.

Window shopping

Faro's main shopping street is Rua de Santo Antonio, where mainstream outlets like Mango and Zara are mixed with a collection of smaller boutiques. A handful of pedestrianised streets around Santo Antonio, lined with shops and cafés, make this a pleasant area to browse. For a more concentrated retail hit, Forum Algarve is a shopping mall between the city centre and the airport, containing a selection of predictable high-street names.

An aperitif

The marina is an ideal place to watch the sun go down, as you sip a glass of red Lagoa wine (Lagoa is regarded by many as the wine capital of the Algarve), or a bottle of Cintra beer. The Café do Coreto (12) has the perfect location in the middle of the waterfront.

Dining with the locals

Faro e Benfica on the harbour (00 351 289 821 422) serves fresh fish and seafood, as well as Portuguese specialities such as cataplana, a mixture of shellfish, meat and vegetables. There are tables outside, with views across the harbour towards the town centre. Meat-lovers will find more choice along the harbour at the Restaurante Ginasio Clube Naval (00 351 289 823 869), which also has a first-floor terrace overlooking the Formosa River.

Sunday morning: take a ride

Faro is protected by a coastal lagoon, the Ria Formosa Natural Park, as well as several islands. Boat trips (00 351 918 779 155; www.ilha-deserta.com) into the park, including a stop on the Ilha Deserta leave the jetty just beyond the railway line to the south of the marina at 11am and 3pm and last two and a half hours; tickets cost €20 (£14.30). There are also several ferries a day to the Ilha Deserta, for a return fare of €7 (£5).

Out to brunch

A beachside brunch is a good way to while away any Sunday, although you will need to wait until noon before they open the doors at O Costa, at 7 Avenida Nascente at the Praia de Faro (00 351 289 817 442). There is no special brunch menu, but the scrambled eggs – cooked with either mushrooms and smoked ham, or asparagus and prawns – make good breakfast dishes.

Write a postcard

Relax on the sand while you pen your greetings to the folks back home. If you feel fortified after a hearty brunch, walk along the beach towards the north-west (head to the right as you stand facing the ocean) until the crowds thin out and you can find a secluded space in which to pitch your beach towel.

Cultural afternoon

Housed in a former convent in the middle of old Faro, the Municipal Museum (16) in the Largo do Don Afonso (00 351 289 897 400; www.cm-faro.pt) is Faro's cultural highlight – and the ideal place to finish your visit. Exhibits include Roman and Islamic artefacts, but the real treasure is the beautiful Renaissance cloister around which the convent was built. The museum opens 11.30am-6pm at weekends from June to September (10am-7pm Tuesday-Friday); from October to May, it opens 10.30am-7pm at weekends and 10am-6pm Tuesday-Friday. Admission is €2 (£1.40).

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
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

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right