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10 fun things to do in Faro in just one day

Things to do in Faro, Algarve, Portugal

From the old city walls you get a glimpse of how Faro must have been, looking out over the shimmering silver water of the Ria Formosa lagoon, towards the distant sandbanks that shelter the city from the force of the ocean. Within the Vila-Adentro, Faro’s old town, the houses are closely packed in narrow streets that changed hands between the Moors and the Portuguese over the centuries. Now of course the town has extended much further and there are attractive pedestrianised shopping streets to explore, with bars and restaurants to while away an hour or two in the shade.

Things to do in Faro

Before my visit to Faro I had the sense that this gateway to the Algarve region of Portugal is a place where visitors pass through Faro Airport on their way to their beach resort. But Faro certainly justifies a closer look, perhaps a day of your holiday or a weekend break. I visited with blogger friend Kathryn of Travel with Kat over a couple of days and here are some of the things to do in Faro that we enjoyed.

1. A walk along the harbour front in Faro

Let’s start our tour at the large free car park of Largo de Sao Francisco, since that’s where most people seem to park in town, and wander along the seafront promenade that runs under the old town walls. Although it looks like the sea, these calm waters are the lagoon of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, with the distant sandy islands sheltering the lagoon from the force of the sea.

A row of old wooden fishermen’s huts stand on the promenade, covered with graffiti but preserved when they decided to build more modern ones a little further along the path. The walk takes us past the row of ticket booths where you can book a boat trip out to the islands on the far side of the lagoon – we’ll come back to that later.

Read about where we stayed: Quinta do Lago Country Club – Luxury apartments in the Algarve, Portugal

Things to do in Faro - Walk along harbour in Faro

Walk along harbour in Faro

The Centro Ciência Viva do Algarve is a hands on science centre on the waterfront which could be the place to stop if the weather is unkind. Continue walking and you’ll reach the marina with small leisure crafts that are designed to potter around the sheltered waters of the river and Ria Formosa lagoon.

2. Beautiful buildings in Praça Dom Francisco Gomes

The walk brings us to Praça Dom Francisco Gomes, a shady square that faces the marina and is a hub for the fiestas and street markets to look out for when you visit Faro. Take a look at the beautiful decorative facade of the Banco de Portugal set along one side of the square. If you’d like ideas on what to do in Faro in the evening, you could stop nearby for a cocktail at the well known Columbus cocktail bar, set under the stone porticos of a historic building.

What to do in Faro - Banco de Portugal in Faro

Banco de Portugal in Faro

Along one side of this square is the Faro Tourism Information Centre, where you can get lots of helpful advice and check the times of the regular Portuguese guitar recital they hold upstairs. There are many beautiful old buildings to discover in this area, including the pretty Palacete Belmarco which was built in 1912 as the home of a prominent merchant and has been restored to look like a decorative tiered wedding cake.

You may also enjoy: 5 top things to do in Braga, Portugal

Faro attractions - Palacete Belmarco in Faro, Portugal

Palacete Belmarco in Faro

3. Stay at Quinta do Lago Country Club near Faro

I’ll just mention that if you are looking for accommodation near Faro, I can recommend the Quinta do Lago Country Club, a luxury apartment complex that’s around 30 minutes drive from Faro and 20 mins drive from the airport. The Country Club is set on the edge of the Ria Formosa nature park, just a few minutes walk from the beach and tidal lagoon that is a haven for birds and wildlife. Quinta do Lago is a luxury resort that has been developed in the last thirty years, with a relaxing atmosphere, plenty of sporting facilities and of course easy access to world class golf courses.

Quinta do Lago Country Club Bedroom

Quinta do Lago Country Club Bedroom

Most of the apartments are in shared ownership, so there is something of a family atmosphere with guests returning each year. Since not all the apartments are in use at any time, many are available for other guests to rent and enjoy, with a minimum stay of 2 nights in low season. The Country Club offers one, two and three bedroom self catering apartments, but with the benefit of hotel style service, including a reception, breakfast lounge, swimming pools and beautifully maintained gardens.

The apartments are decorated in Mediterranean style with marble flooring and pale colours that reflect the hot summer sun. The style of our apartment was classic and our two bedroom apartment had two bathrooms as well as a huge living room that gave out onto a ground floor terrace overlooking the gardens.

You may also enjoy: The best Algarve beaches and boat trips – Portugal

Quinta do Lago Country Club

Quinta do Lago Country Club

The Quinta do Lago Country Club is in the process of a renovation, with all the public areas having been completed and the apartments being gradually updated in the next couple of years. We loved the style of the new apartments which you can see in the photos, which were clean and contemporary with accents of calming turquoise blue and sea green. You can read my full review of Quinta do Lago Country Club here.

To book Quinta do Lago Country Club

Reservations for Quinta do Lago Country Club may be made directly through the website, or the English speaking reception staff will be happy to help you with your booking requirements.

Quinta do Lago Country Club Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Reviews on Tripadvisor

Address: Quinta do Lago Country Club, Rua das Palmeiras s/n Quinta do Lago, Almancil, 8135-024,

Phone: +351 289 352 352

You may also enjoy: The essential guide to Quinta do Lago

4. Shopping in Faro

So back to our day in Faro with a spot of shopping! We followed the pedestrianised street from the square down Rua Dom Francisco Gomes into Faro’s main shopping area, although apparently it’s a lot quieter since they built a new out of town shopping centre. It’s one of the places to visit in Faro for small shops and boutiques selling fashion, jewellery and souvenirs, with curving patterns in the tiled pavement and white shades strung like sails to give relief from the summer heat.

Places to visit in Faro - Shopping in Faro

Shopping in Faro

If you are looking for traditional Algarve souvenirs it’s worth a stop at the handicraft shop on this street (I think it’s Carapucinha & Carminho at Rua de Santo António 28) where we were drawn to the window displays showing the traditional Algarve chimney pots and the collectable Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage leaf ceramics.

You may also enjoy: An autumn weekend in Lisbon

Shopping in Faro for Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage leaf ceramics

Shopping in Faro for Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage leaf ceramics

5. Sweet treats in Faro

If it’s time for coffee, a good place to stop for traditional Portuguese sweet treats is at Pastelaria Gardy (Rua de Santo António, 16). There are tables inside and outside for waiter service but take a look at the cake counter for lots of traditional Portuguese cakes and sweets.

There are the delicious Pasteis de Nata custard tarts, but also more local sweets like the Dom Rodrigo balls made of sweetened egg yolk strands  covered with a crisp caramel coating, and the Bola de Berlim custard doughnuts that you find in every bakery. As is common in many traditional bakeries, you order your cakes at one counter and then take the ticket to a cash till by the entrance to pay for your order.

Read about where we stayed: Quinta do Lago Country Club – Luxury apartments in the Algarve, Portugal

Sweet treats in Faro

Sweet treats in Faro

6. Try the Cataplana for lunch in Faro

If there’s one dish that you must try in the Algarve, it has to be Cataplana, named after the hinged metal dishes, enclosing the ingredients that are cooked on top of the stove. Cataplana is a one-pot meal that is typically made with layers of fresh vegetables with pork belly and fish or seafood, depending on what’s available.

We tried our Cataplana for lunch at A do Pinto (Travesso Rebelo da Silva 13), a small restaurant tucked down the side streets that specialises in typical dishes from the Algarve. There were lots of variations on Cataplana and the Riz or rice dishes which are the Portuguese equivalent of Paella. These are normally ordered for two people and make a complete meal, although we struggled to finish the sharing dish, so one dish like ours would probably feed three people, depending on your appetite.

You may also enjoy: 5 cool neighbourhoods in Lisbon

Cataplana in Faro

Cataplana in Faro

We enjoyed our lunch in this small and stylish restaurant, where everything was clean and simple, served on wooden tables with a friendly smile and no ceremony. I think we tried Cataplana a Algarvia (€30 for two), which was a bit of everything, layers of beans, carrots, tomato and potatoes with clams, chorizo, fish and prawns steamed together to make a very tasty broth.

Read about where we stayed: Quinta do Lago Country Club – Luxury apartments in the Algarve, Portugal

7. A Walking tour of Old Town Faro

After lunch we took a walking tour of the old town with our guide Jessica from Portugal4U. They offer lots of different tours around Faro and the Algarve region, including walking tours to see the main Faro attractions, and food and wine tastings where you can meet fishermen, winemakers and chefs for an insight into the local cuisine.

Faro tourist attractions - Old Town Faro

Old Town Faro

The walled old city of Faro is known as Vila-Adentro and for many centuries most of the town’s population lived within these walls for security and protection from the raiders from the sea. There are several entrances into the walled old town and at the archway facing Largo de Sao Francisco, you’ll see tiled murals telling the story of how King Alfonso III expelled the Moors from Faro in 1249 to claim the city for the Portuguese.

Faro things to see - King Alfonso statue Old Town Faro

King Alfonso statue Old Town Faro

Afterwards he allowed any Moors who wished to stay in the town, so that peace was regained, and the Moorish quarter outside the old walls is where the shopping streets are today. There are a few restaurants within the old walls, especially in the square where you’ll see a statue to Alfonso III – look out for Tertúlia Algarvia who have an outdoor terrace on the square and serve traditional Algarve dishes.

You may also enjoy: The hidden Algarve on foot

faro things to see - Old Town Faro

Old Town Faro

8. Climb up the cathedral tower in Faro

Our wanderings through the old town brought us to the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Faro, which stands with a solid square stone tower and whitewashed walls, enclosing a courtyard full of orange trees to one side. There’s a small fee for cathedral entrance and to climb the tower, and from the terrace you get wonderful views over the old town and the lagoon.

Top things to do in Faro - Cathedral belltower in Faro

Cathedral belltower in Faro

As it was the late afternoon, the tower was bathed in golden light and we could clearly see the sandbanks that enclose the far side of the Ria Formosa lagoon and the reed beds that attract birds and wildlife.

Ria Formosa lagoon

Ria Formosa lagoon

The Bone chapel in Faro Cathedral

We also had a look around the interior of the cathedral which dates back to the 17th and 18th century, with side chapels lavishly decorated with gold and silver, as well as the traditional Portuguese blue tiles. Upstairs is a small museum which gives a view down on the whole Cathedral and the painted organ loft, with further rooms displaying the vestments and precious religious objects.

Faro Cathedral Photo Heatheronhertravels

Faro Cathedral Photo Heatheronhertravels

In the courtyard, there’s a curiosity of a small Bone Chapel, which is decorated with bones and skulls arranged in patterns on the facade, a smaller version of the well known Capela dos Ossos in Faro that you can find at Igreja do Carmo church.

Places to see in Faro - Bone chapel in Faro Cathedral

Bone chapel in Faro Cathedral

9. A Boat Trip on the Ria Formosa lagoon from Faro

Even if you only have a day in Faro, I would try to fit in a boat trip on the Ria Formosa Lagoon. There are a number of different boat trip providers on the waterfront near the Portas do Mar and fishermen’s huts that we passed by earlier under the city walls. Some of the boat trips are a simple ferry to and from Ilha Deserta, while others take you outside the lagoon into the Atlantic ocean to spot pods of dolphins.

Our sunset boat trip with Islands4you took us to the two main islands of Ilha Deserta and Ilha do Farol, with a hour’s stop at both for a chance for a drink in the café and a wander around. I particularly enjoyed Ilha Deserta, where are there are some cute fisherman’s huts, a cafe with views over the ocean and miles of unspoiled beaches since it’s basically one big sandbar.

Algarve things to do - Boat trip from Faro

Boat trip from Faro

Other than the café there’s no building here, so it’s an unspoiled place to visit if you just want to swim and relax on the beach. We returned to Faro at sunset, which was a magical time on the lagoon with the sky turning golden and the sea birds swooping in and out of the water. I can recommend the boat trip that we took with Islands4you, who have a kiosk at the Portas do Mar jetty and run a number of different boat trips that can be booked in advance. Our sunset boat tour cost €40 per person.

Ria formosa Boat trip from Faro

Boat trip from Faro

 

Because we were booked on a 3 hour boat trip, we decided to take the boat trip on a different day to our main look around Faro. However if you only have one day in Faro, you could easily spend the morning sightseeing, then take a boat trip after lunch for a relaxing afternoon excursion. Out of season it seemed easy enough to just turn up and find a boat trip, but I suspect that in high season things get quite busy. It might then be worth investigating the different options at the beginning of the day and make your reservation for the boat trip of your choice.

Read about where we stayed: Quinta do Lago Country Club – Luxury apartments in the Algarve, Portugal

10. A sunset drink at O Castelo in Faro

After a day in Faro and the afternoon spent on one of the islands in the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, what better way to end the day, than sipping an aperitif as the sun sets over the lagoon. I think we found the ideal spot in O Castelo, a bar and restaurant within the old town, with a terrace that faces the water perched at the top of the high stone walls.

Drink at O Castello in Faro

Drink at O Castello in Faro

I settled in here with my friend Kathryn from Travel with Kat who ordered a Porto Tonic, which turns out to be as popular here as a G&T would be back home, and very refreshing it was too! This place is all about the view and there’s a courtyard where they also do live music with Fado nights that you can enjoy over dinner. It was a magical end to our day in Faro, as the sky turned shades of burned orange, red and purple, and the the boats sped back into the marina.

Sunset in Faro from O Castello

Sunset in Faro from O Castello

Faro Portugal flickr

More information to plan your visit to Faro

DK Top 10 Algarve guidebookNeed somewhere to stay? We can recommend Quinta do Lago Country Club | Read our review of Quinta do Lago Country Club

You can find more information to plan your holiday in the Algarve at Visit Algarve Tourism site

There is information about holidays in Portugal at the Visit Portugal Tourism site

Looking for a boat trip or tour of Faro? Check out these Faro tours

Need a guidebook for the Algarve? We recommend the DK Top 10 Algarve Guide

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Things to do in Faro, Algarve, Portugal

My trip was sponsored* by Quinta do Lago Country Club who provided the accommodation stay, some meals and experiences mentioned.

* More info on my policies page

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    excursion to Mexico
    April 1, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I think it would be more fun if you do it with your family?

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 2, 2019 at 3:28 pm

      @Paseoours – Faro and the Algarve is a fantastic family destination!

  • Reply
    Lombok Wander
    April 5, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Wow.. Great sunset at Portugal !

  • Reply
    Izy
    April 9, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Wow, a one day adventure huh? I do not know if I can do all these in one day but will surely give it a try!
    Izy´s last blog post ..Planning a trip to San Diego? These are the best things to do

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 9, 2019 at 11:14 am

      @Izy I can recommend Faro – loved the Algarve in general

  • Reply
    Algarve Xcite Watersports
    April 13, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing the great post of your amazing tip in Faro. Water sports are famous for this place.

  • Reply
    Alix @A Hedgehog in the Kitchen
    April 29, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    This makes me want to go back to Portugal! The architecture is so beautiful and the food is just delicious!
    Alix @A Hedgehog in the Kitchen´s last blog post ..Things to do in Nantes France

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 30, 2019 at 11:52 am

      @Alix – those Pasteis de Nata are always a treat!

  • Reply
    WędrująceKropki
    June 28, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Faro for me is a beautiful and charming place. So many things to do and so many places to visit. I loved the most the old city behind the walls. On Sunday close to the marina you can find a market where you can buy hand made souvenirs and other things. If someone is looking for places worth to visit you can check my video from my travel to Faro with ENG subtitles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJZVWksbXRk

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