Book a room at the Hotel Eva (00 351 289 001 000; www.tdhotels.pt) for spectacular views across the marina to the sea. It is one of only two four-star hotels in the city. The 13 suites and 135 rooms are comfortable and functional with doubles starting at €136 (£97) from July to September.
Its competitor is on the other side of the marina, the newer but smaller Hotel Faro (00 351 289 830 830; www.hotelfaro.pt). It has 60 rooms, with doubles starting at €109 (£77) from July to September.
For some of the best cooking in the Algarve, try Camane, on Avenida Praia de Faro (00 351 289 817 539), regarded by locals as one of the top five restaurants in the region. Have the cataplana, a Portuguese dish named after the hammered copper pan (brought to the area by the Moors) in which it's cooked. What's in it is up to you, though seafood is usually the main ingredient. Choose from a monkfish and prawn fondue, €39 (£27) for two, stone bass with macaroni and clams, €50 (£35) for two, or pork with clams, €35 (£25) for two. A delicious array of side dishes is also available, ranging from fried eels from the ria Formosa, €14 (£10), to steamed oysters, €25 (£17). Wash it down with a bottle of Lagoa Porches, €14 (£10).
Head for the ria Formosa's lagoon, a large wetland area that attracts birds migrating between Europe and Africa. Hundreds of species of birds stop by on the sand and mud flats and freshwater and salt-water marshes. The lagoon is also home to crustaceans, fish, reptiles and otters. Boat tours are available year round on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (00 351 917 811 856).
Don't miss the old city, which is easy to explore on foot. There are three areas of interest within its historic walls - Vila Ardentro, Mouraria and Barirro Ribeirinho, each marking a different period of Faro's development. The main draw is Se Square with its 13th-century cathedral, 18th-century Episcopal palace and neighbouring convent - now home to the archaeological museum (00 351 289 803 604; www.rtalgarve.pt). The cathedral boasts some of the best examples of baroque carving in the Algarve, as well as remarkably intricate tiling and decoration. In the courtyard, you'll find the imposing Arco da Vila, dating from 1812, with its horseshoe gate and Moorish walls. The "golden church" of Nossa Senhora do Carmo (00 351 289 824490) has the best example of gold-leaf-decorated woodwork in southern Portugal. Its chapel is lined with the bones of more than 1,200 monks.
Best cultural attraction
Lethes Theatre at 58 Rua de Portugal (00 351 289 820 300) occupies the former church of the Jesuit College, founded at the end of the 16th century and transformed into a theatre in 1843. The Lethes puts on jazz festivals, plays and musical performances. The theatre reopens on 15 September with a dance festival.
Tiles, lace, towels and the native tipple, port, are all worthy souvenirs. Buy them in Faro's pedestrianised centre, the main drag of which is the Rua St Antonio. Marvel at the Forum Algarve (00 351 289 803 604; www.rtalgarve.pt). The three-sided, Moorish-influenced construction that houses the shops is more interesting than the global high-street selection inside.
Most of the clubs and bars can be found on Rua do Prior. Try Fashion Kafe, Millennium III, Quata-Sabada, Koppus Klub or Che6. But remember, the party starts after midnight.
How to get there
The author travelled to Faro as a guest of TAP Air Portugal (0845 601 0932; www.tap-airportugal.co.uk), which flies from Heathrow to Faro from £126 return.
EasyJet (0871 7 500 100; www.easyjet.com) flies from Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Belfast and East Midlands from £52 return.
Monarch Scheduled (08700 406 300; www.flymonarch.com) flies from Luton, Gatwick and Manchester from £130 return. A summer service operates from Birmingham.
Jet2 (0871 226 1737; www.jet2.com) flies from Leeds and Manchester from around £170 return.
From the airport, take bus 14 or 16 (www.eva-bus.com) to the city's bus terminal. Buses run every 35 minutes, take 20 minutes and cost €1.20 (85p) one way.Reuse content