10 Things to do in Faro, Portugal
Contrary to popular belief, Faro, the capital of Portugal’s southern Algarve region – what most people only see as a stepping stone to the “real Algarve,” – is worth your time. I lived there for half a year, and it was one of the best times of my life. I put together a list of things to do and see in this gem of a town.
1. Sculpture (yes, just “one”)
One of the first things you see after arriving is a group of sculptures right outside the airport, which look like statues of… yourself? Staring and pointing at the sky. This is the work of Portuguese sculptor, Teresa Paulino, entitled Os Observadores (The Watchers), representing people from different walks of life watching the planes in the sky. Somehow, this sculpture has always amazed me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. It’s so relatable, and yet you can easily brush it off.
Faro Free Walking Tours offers tours twice a day, at 1100 and 1500, hosted by locals. I always recommend free walking tours, because it’s a great way to get to know the city with someone who actually knows the city versus wandering around on your own. Also, the whole concept of free walking tours is that in the end, you pay what you thought the tour was worth. In my experience, free tours have never disappointed, whilst some of the paid tours I’ve done have ended in regret.
3. Pasteles. Sweets. Pastries.
The Portuguese are known for having a sweet tooth. We recommend Gardy (R. de Santo Antonio 16), as they’ve been around for over 60 years. Their croissants, pastel de nata, and other pastries are a-mazing!
4. Visit a chapel made of bones
The Igreja do Carmo is an 18th-century Catholic church that is known to house a chapel of human bones – the real remains of over a thousand monks! Creepy? Yes. Especially considering two things: 1) right outside the chapel is a sign stating: Pára aqui a considerer que a este estado hás-de chegar, which roughly translates to “Stop here and think of your own fate,” and 2) right outside the chapel hall is a Kindergarden. Yes, so it’s very possible you hear children laughing while you’re inside the chapel. Creepier? Absolutely. Entrance fee is 3 Euros.
5. Check out the municipal market
The municipal market, a lively place in the mornings, filled with locals purchasing fresh fish, great produce or even just have a good old garoto (espresso with milk). It’s definitely an interesting place to check out and walk around. Great vibe!
6. Catch a live show
If you’re lucky, The Threw might be performing at Café do Coreto right in front of the marina, in which case you’ll get to enjoy live music in a great environment! This trio from Brazil gives the city such great vibes, especially on hot summer evenings, attracting almost all the tourists and even locals in town. Buy a Sagres or Superbock from Café do Coreto, and enjoy it on the lawn. Maybe get up and join other people dancing.
7. Portuguese Food
It took a while for us to love Portuguese food, because it’s quite different than the flavors we have in American and Asian culture, but eventually it grew on us! We highly recommend Restaurante Chefe Branco (R. de Loule 9), which is a few minutes away from the center, but has probably the best Portuguese food in Faro. We used to walk by this place all the time, and it is almost-always packed full of people (which is a good sign!). Portuguese staple dishes in this region are: bacalhau (com natas!), bifanas, cataplana, and anything with seafood! Meals are usually served with soup, bread, a drink of your choice and dessert!
8. Explore the islands!
You read that right – islands! Ok, so maybe it’s not like going island hopping in southeast Asia or whatever, but it’s still a cool thing to do. One of the highlights of Faro is the Ria Formosa, which is bordered by four different islands: Culatra, Farol (Lighthouse), Desert, and Faro Island (which is Faro Beach), of which the first three are boat-accessible. Note that these ferries are usually only available from mid-May to the end of summer. Find the schedule from Faro to Culatra, Farol and Faro Island here, and from Faro to desert island here.
I’m gonna be 100% transparent and tell you guys that I have not visited the islands, apart from Faro Island (of which I may be a resident because of how often I’m there), BUT check out these great websites that have wonderful information about how to get there, where to eat, etc.:
Faro island aka Faro beach (praia de Faro) or Ilha de Faro – call it what as you wish, I refer to it as “PARADISE,” is the only “island” accessible by car or bus from the city. Geographically speaking, it really is an island, connected to the mainland by a single road bridge. The beach itself is around 5km long, and the island boasts various restaurants, bars, holiday homes, and “secret surf spots.”
9. Take a surf lesson
No one speaks of Faro as a top surf destination, except for the people who have been there. Now it may not be as nice as the super popular Portuguese surf destinations such as Ericeira or Sagres, but surfing here just has a special oomph of some sort – something magical about it. Maybe it’s the people, or the xxx kilometers you have to walk to get to the secret surf spot. But it’s not my job to explain all of this to you. I’ll leave that to my wonderful family at Amar Surfing Academia. Trust me on this one. If you end up taking a lesson… let me rephrase that – when you take your lesson, tell them we send our love xoxo
10. Watch the sunset
In the evenings, when you walk past the marina towards the Rio Formosa, you’ll come across a sort of boat landing/loading dock. I don’t know if this place even has a name, but you’ll know when you get there, because people will just be around with friends, sitting down, probably with a beer in hand. This is where you should plop yourself down to watch the most beautiful sunset in town – also where you might just decide to never leave this beautiful town!
Any other things you’d add to the list? Leave us a comment below – we frequent Faro whenever we can, and would be down to try something new.