A city waiting to be discovered
The capital of the Algarve is an ideal starting point for your holiday on the coast and has a lot more to offer besides.
Start with the Cidade Velha or old town, with its mediaeval walls and narrow cobbled streets, on the eastern side of the marina. You enter this district through the Arco da Vila to reach the Largo da Sé, lined with orange trees. You’ll see the cathedral in front of you. Inside you can admire intricate gilded carvings and decorated azulejos (tiles). During its chequered history the cathedral was ransacked and set on fire by the Earl of Essex’s men in 1596 and damaged in the earthquake of 1755. On a grislier note, one of its chapels, the Capela Dos Ossos, was built from the bones and skulls of over 1,000 monks…
Head to the Praia de Faro beach for some sun and sea. The beach is on a little island that can be reached by a road bridge and has two distinct sides: sea and lagoon. The side facing the sea has a wonderful stretch of golden sand, with a promenade behind it. The lagoon side is particularly popular for all kinds of water sports, including jet skiing. You’ll find a parking area directly behind the beach, as well as shops, bars and restaurants.
The city’s nightlife is mostly concentrated around the dozens of bars and clubs in the areas of Rua Conselheiro Bivar and Rua Infante Dom Henrique and the narrow alleys leading off from them. Things tend to get going at around 10 pm and many venues stay open into the early hours.
Unsurprisingly, the cuisine centres on the readily available fish and seafood, although you’ll also find tasty meat dishes on the menu. There is a wide range of eateries in the city itself as well as several overlooking the marina and the beach and ilhas or islands.
Beyond Faro with your car rental
It’s more than likely that you will have plans to drive off to the various popular beach resorts of the Algarve. There are, however, other places worth seeing, including inland towns and villages and even mountain resorts.
The village of Alte is around 34 miles away to the northwest along the A22 (toll payable). An unspoilt and peaceful getaway, its whitewashed houses and cobbled alleyways will charm you.
If hiking is your thing, head to the Serra de Monchique mountains, 55 miles northwest. You then have the option of driving across the range to the more remote parts of the western Algarve, through the peaceful countryside of hills and forests.
Tavira is an attractive town in the Algarve, around 24 miles to the northeast of Faro. It is celebrated for its fishing harbour, seafood restaurants and the beach scene on the nearby Ilha de Tavira.
Alternatively, just 10 miles to the north lies the pleasant town of Loulé, famous for its Brazilian-style carnival held in February.
Lagos is a great day trip destination: 55 miles to the west via the A22 road, it can be reached in just over an hour. It is surrounded by 14th century walls and is set on a river, with charming squares and picturesque churches. There are spectacular beaches close to the town and the nightlife is second to none.
If you’re self-catering and feel like cooking up some local fish dishes, head to the port of Olhão to the east of the city. The seafood on sale in the market couldn’t be fresher and you can also pick up an array of fruit and vegetables. Relax after all that shopping with a cold drink at one of the cafés dotted along the water front.