Often regarded as the gateway to the Algarve, many pass through Faro without a second thought. But this ancient port city has a fascinating history and culture to discover, along with a wealth of shops, bars, and restaurants. Faro is a small coastal town and it is easy to see the main sites and the old town in just a few hours. Here we take a look at what to do in Faro if you only have one day to explore.
This itinerary could be done as a full-day excursion from one of the more popular beach resorts, such as Albufeira, or could be used to plan a day of adventure around your arrival and departure from the region. Faro International Airport is a short taxi ride from the city, and luggage can be stored in lockers at the train station while you explore.
Where is Faro: How to Get There
Getting to Faro for this one-day itinerary couldn’t be easier. Faro International Airport, also known as the Algarve Airport, is located just 4km to the west of the city centre. A large proportion of the Algarve’s tourists land here, with flights landing all day long from all the major European carriers.
There is also a train station near the centre which offers local services to other Algarvian towns such as Albufeira, Lagos and Tavira, as well as longer inter-city routes to and from Lisbon and beyond. Trains run all day, every day on the regional line, with two or three departures and arrivals from the capital each day as well.
You can also catch a public bus from Faro to regional towns in both east and western Algarve. The bus station is also located near the city centre. They take a coastal route, which can also easily be driven if you have your own vehicle or a pre-booked taxi transfer.
No matter your departure destination, Faro is well-connected and easy to get to. If you are travelling from somewhere beyond the Algarve, you may wish to stay overnight in Faro to get the best of this itinerary.
What to Do in Faro: Morning
Begin your day the Algarvian way with breakfast at Demo Urban Bakery (Padaria Urbana). Here, you can indulge in some traditional pastel de nata (custard tart) and other Portuguese specialities, along with a strong coffee to get you set up for the day ahead.
Follow breakfast with a stroll along the marina to reach the impressive Arco de Vila, an ornate gateway to the city’s Old Town. Redesigned in the Neoclassical era by an Italian architect, the gateway itself has a history dating back to the Moorish conquest of the city, with some ancient stonework still visible.
Admire the intricate bell tower, where storks like to make their nests, before taking a wander around the walled city’s cobbled streets. You can book a walking tour or just hit the hotspots by yourself.
You’ll find plenty of photo opportunities, from the colourful Muralhas de Faro (display murals located in front of the city walls) to the domineering Gothic tower of the famous Igreja de Santa Maria (Faro Cathedral). The cathedral is located in a beautiful square lined with orange trees. If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb this tower for a bird’s eye view of the city and lagoon.
Alternatively, simply check out the pretty architecture of the Old Town, from intricately tiled facades of local houses to the Baroque Igreja do Carmo, built in the 18th century. This stunning church is painted in the region’s favourite sunshine-yellow and white, while the interior features an eerie ossuary (Chapel of Bones) – quite the contrast! The skeleton lined vault was designed to remind worshippers of the transient nature of human existence.
What to Do in Faro: Lunch
For lunch, it’s worth checking out an authentic restaurant serving up Algarvian specialities from the prolific Ria Formosa. Here, shellfish line the protected waterbeds in abundance, leading to an array of delightable local dishes. Try the unassuming and locally-loved Portas de São Pedro, which is tucked down a side street off the pedestrianised city centre. It features a pretty courtyard with happy yellow walls and much-needed dappled shade from the midday sun. The menu features classic local cuisine with a twist – be sure to try the octopus and sweet potato!
What to Do in Faro: Afternoon
Once you’ve had your fill, you have three options for spending the afternoon. You can either head to the modern centre to go shopping, where you’ll find everything from popular European fashion designers to small boutiques selling local handicrafts. The main shopping area can be found down Rua Dom Francisco Gomes and the surrounding area, right behind the marina. It’s the ideal place to pick up locally-made souvenirs or just take advantage of the low Portuguese prices.
Alternatively, if you prefer to soak up as much culture as possible, you can check out Museum Municipal de Faro, also known as the Museu Arqueológico. Housed in a former convent within the old city walls, the museum details the interesting archaeological and architectural history of Faro. Dating back to 1540, the monastery-turned-museum also features exhibits from the city’s time under Roman and Moorish rule. This includes a breathtaking mosaic floor depicting the Roman God of Neptune that was discovered nearby.
Your final option for the afternoon is to take a boat ride around the Ria Formosa natural park. Wildlife-lovers will be in heaven here, with the lagoon often playing host to many unusual species of migrating birds. Boat trips to visit the protected landscape can be arranged directly at the marina and usually last two to three hours.
What to Do in Faro: Evening
If you’re spending a little longer in Faro or even staying overnight, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Head to the bars surrounding the marina for a cocktail at sunset, or check out the show from the pier, where locals like to hang out. As one of the largest cities in the Algarve, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from for a lively night out. We love Pigs and Cows for outstanding local cuisine in a vibrant atmosphere.