Portugal has many amazing cities, and arguably one of the best of them is Algarve’s quaint capital, Faro. Often overlooked because of its famous neighbors, there are a lot of things to do in Faro with all of its natural beauty and cultural vibrance. Faro is just as worth visiting as the nearby towns of Albufeira and Lagos.
It’s so easy to get lost in the elegance and tranquility of Faro. Tourist attractions include picturesque beaches, stunning architecture, historic sites, and many more. Whether you visit Algarve in the winter or in the summer, you’ll enjoy it just as much.
There are also simply so many attractions in Faro that you won’t run out of things to see and do. Hike through the wild cliffs and caves, or just relax at the beach. Explore the villages, towns, and cities along the coast. Take in the historical sights, visit museums, and discover the old town.
If you’re planning on heading down to southern Portugal any time soon, I’ll show you the best things to do in Faro so that you can make the most out of your itinerary in the Algarve.
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Plan your trip
But first, is Faro worth visiting?
If you’re considering visiting Faro, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth the trip. There are so many amazing places to see on the Algarve so Faro can easily become a transit destination. Yet, it’s a popular destination in Algarve, and there are thousands of tourists visiting every day.
If you’re looking for a lot of excitement, Faro will likely be a lot of fun as there are a lot of things to do. Some Faro tourist attractions, however, might be a little too busy for you if you’re looking for a slower paced travel.
If that sounds like you, you might want to base yourself in quieter places like Tavira or Olhao. With that being said, you should have a look at some of these things to do in Faro because you might change your mind.
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Things to do in Faro, Portugal
Get a great view of Faro
Before heading to Faro, kick off your trip with a breathtaking view by visiting the Fort of São João do Arade in the nearby town of Lagoa. The medieval fortress perched atop a cliff overlooks the city, and climbing to its top will reward you with panoramic views of the terracotta rooftops and white-washed buildings of Faro.
Explore Old Town Faro
From there, we can continue on to one of the best attractions in Faro. Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to several medieval streets and the Moorish castle.
Step back in time and explore narrow winding streets lined with whitewashed buildings and red-tiled roofs. Wander through the alleys and passages, soak up the atmosphere and try some delicious local foods and drinks.
Be mesmerized by the Faro Cathedral
Suppose you’re wondering where to go and what to do in Faro from Old Town. In that case, you can visit the Faro Cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos (Tower of the Clerics), and the Torre dos Meninos (Tower of the Children).
The Faro Cathedral, built in the 13th century, is one of the biggest and most impressive cathedrals in Portugal. It’s also the biggest church in all of the Algarve and is a great place to visit for its architecture, artistic treasures, and impressive acoustics.
The cathedral is home to some of the most beautiful and intricate carvings in all of Portugal. The cathedral is also one of the most photographed attractions in Faro, so you’re sure to find photos of it all around the city.
You can climb all the way to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the city. The views are absolutely stunning, so be sure to go up early or late in the day to avoid the crowds.
Meanwhile, the Tower of the Clerics, built in the 16th century, is the highest point in Faro and offers fantastic views of the city and the surrounding area. The Tower of the Children, also known as the Tower of Lions, is a watchtower as well that was used by the city’s watchmen.
Travel in time through Faro’s ancient ruins
There are two ancient ruins near Faro worth exploring: Milreu and Aljezur. The former was an ancient Roman settlement, and the latter was a Município (town).
The ruins at Milreu are well preserved, and they give you a good idea of what life was like in the area during Roman times. You can take a guided tour of the ruins, which will provide you with a better understanding of how the Romans lived.
For a different kind of exploration, head to the Faro Cliff Railway, a narrow-gauge railway that runs along the side of the 400-meter-high cliffs.
It’s the oldest funicular in Europe, and the journey to the top gives you stunning views of the coastline and the city of Faro. Things to do include relaxing and spending the whole afternoon, especially since tickets are moderately-priced.
Witness the Torre do Tombo
If you fancy a bit of history, this is a must-see! For something a little more active, you can also hike up to the Torre do Tombo (Tower of Bells), a ruined medieval watchtower on the top of the cliff.
Alternatively, take a cable car up to the top for even better views of the town and the ocean below. You’ll gain 360-degree views of the city and the ocean below.
Go on a boat trip!
Visit the Igreja do Carmo
The Igreja do Carmo is one of the most beautiful churches in the city. It has a unique octagonal design that hasn’t been copied since it was built in the 1200s.
The church is well-known for its carvings, some of the most well-preserved in Portugal. The church is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and it’s one of the best examples of Manueline style in the country.
Take a picture at the Arco de Vila
One of the most exciting things to do in Faro is to visit the Arco de Vila, a medieval arch that was once part of the city walls.
The arch is now a popular tourist attraction, and it has a variety of shops and restaurants that line its narrow streets. There are also several museums and churches in the area, so keep your eyes open for more sights to discover.
Get close to nature
If you want to get even closer to nature, hike to the top of the Pendente Natural Park, a protected area of ancient oak trees, and enjoy the view of the town and the ocean from up close.
Soak up the sun and the silence, take in the bird’s-eye views of the city and the ocean, and let the sounds of the city fade away.
Another popular hike is the Ludo Trail, which takes you through Ria Formosa Natural Park where you have the chance to see large groups of flamingos among other interesting bird species.
There are so many things to do. Faro’s Botanical Gardens are also an excellent spot for a stroll, with more than 1,000 varieties of plants and trees from all over the world, if you want to take a break from some of the other things to see in Faro.
People-watch at Largo da Se
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do in Faro, people-watching and enjoying some drinks in the Largo da Se is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Made up of more than 1,000 intricately carved limestone tablets, the Largo da Se is one of the largest public squares in the Algarve.
The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings, and it’s a great place to just chill and enjoy some of the best food in the region without spending a lot.
Hike the Serra de Faro
Serra de Faro is one of the most popular hiking areas in Algarve, and for a good reason. The highest peak in the mountain, Fajã de São Tiago, is a beautiful cliff formation that reaches a height of approximately 500 meters.
The most popular trail to the Fajã de São Tiago begins in Faro and takes around three hours to complete. You might want to hire a guide if you want to take the hike because while the trails are easy to follow, they can be hard to find.
Take a tour to see some of the most beguiling natural wonders near Faro
Get lost in Faro’s many museums
If you’re not into walking or hiking, these Faro attractions should definitely be on your list. The Faro Maritime Museum features an impressive collection of boats from around the world.
The Centro Cultural de Faro is a beautiful Art Nouveau building that houses several art galleries, a planetarium, and a cinema.
The Museu do Faro is an interactive museum that teaches you about the city and its history through fun games, films, and hands-on activities.
The Faro Archaeological Museum is another good place to visit, and it’s free to the public. It’s the oldest archaeological museum in the region, and it features a collection of finds from the area that date back more than three thousand years. You’ll see pottery, tools, and even a few Roman coins. It’s well worth visiting while you’re in Faro.
If you want to spend a few hours in one place, visit the Faro Cathedral Museum, a museum showcasing the history of Faro. The best part? It’s completely free!
Discover the spooky Capela des Ossos
Your Faro places-to-visit list should definitely include the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), also known as the Capela dos Mortos (Chapel of the Dead).
The Capela dos Ossos is a chapel built into the side of a limestone cliff. Legend has it that the chapel is haunted. Many visitors have reported hearing voices and seeing lights moving around inside the chapel at night.
You can climb inside the chapel to better look at the structure, which is decorated with intricate carvings.
Relax in Praia de Faro
Praia de Faro is the main beach in Faro, arguably one of the best beaches in Algarve, and it’s where most visitors end their day.
The wide, white-sanded beach is usually jam-packed with people soaking in the sun and going for a swim. It’s also the best spot to take in the sunset.
On a clear day, you can see the 12 apostles on the coast of Morocco from the top of the cliff. The beach is the longest in the Algarve and is lined with palm trees and the typical whitewashed houses you’ll see in the old town.
There are several small crescent-shaped beaches that are good for sunbathing, and the water is usually calm. Several surf schools offer half-day and full-day surfing lessons, so if you’re a beginner, you should definitely consider enrolling.
If you want to get even closer to the water, rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard and explore the coastline.
You can also rent a chair and umbrella to spend the day on the beach. In the evening, you can catch a few performances on the beach or head to one of the bars and restaurants that have been built right on the sand.
Cruise the Ria Formosa Natural Park
Journey through the Ria Formosa, one of the most scenic waterways in the Algarve, and explore the sand-blown beaches, remote islands, and mangrove forests.
It takes you along the coast of the Ria Formosa, the largest saltwater river in the Algarve, past the barrier islands, like Tavira island, Culatra island, and Armona island.
The water is a beautiful blue color, and you can often see dolphins, porpoises, and even whales while on tour. You can see the coastline change as you sail between the small villages and parks of the Algarve.
There are several different ways to enjoy a cruise on the Ria Formosa. You can take a narrated cruise, which will take you along the Ria Formosa from the Marina do Gerês to the Marina da Ponte do Guadiana, or you can take a private tour, which is led by an experienced guide and includes some free time in the villages and parks on the waterway.
During the journey, you’ll cruise right past the Faro Lighthouse and explore several inlets and tunnels along the river.
Looking for a taste of live-sports-watching adrenaline? Faro’s got some spots for you to enjoy as well. If you want to catch a soccer game, visit the Estádio do Marítimo, a historic stadium that has been renovated and hosts football games and concerts.
If you’re more into rugby, head to the Estádio da Mata Real, which has a retractable roof and can host up to 20,000 spectators.
Get hooked on Faro nightlife
As the sun sets, head to the Avenida Almirante Reis for some of the best nightlife in Faro. You’ll find bars, clubs, and restaurants along the wide avenue, which is lined with palm trees and beautiful buildings.
The best way to see the nightlife in Faro is on foot. The city is known for its lively bars and pubs, and there are plenty of options for drinks, live music, and dancing. There are also several clubs and bars along the beach, so you can enjoy the music and the view simultaneously.
Shop ‘til you drop
One of the best parts about visiting Faro is the shopping. The city is home to several upscale shopping malls, including the Forum Algarve, the Forum Algarve Center, the Forum Algarve Grand, and the Forum Algarve Pavilhão.
The Forum Algarve is the largest shopping mall in the region, and it has more than 200 stores, big-name brands included. The Forum Algarve Center is a more affordable option, with more than 100 stores.
Where are you heading next?
What to do in Faro as a responsible traveler
Avoid unethical animal tourism in Faro
Unethical animal tourism is found pretty much everywhere, and unfortunately, the Algarve is no exception. There are several animal attractions like a zoo marine and a zoo in the region, and it’s easy to get lured into it with excellent marketing tactics, especially targetting children.
One of the best ways to keep your animal tourism ethical while in Faro is to avoid visiting the Zoo and Zoomarine where dolphins are kept captive for tourists’ amusement. They offer swimming with captive dolphins.
As World Animal Protection puts it, dolphins are not smiling and happy when you’re hanging onto them in a tiny pool. It’s simply the shape of their face.
Truth is, Dolphins silently suffer from depression of not being able to swim freely, to be with their families, and to be in a way too small tank for their natural behavior.
In general, any activity that includes wildlife in cages, tanks, acting in shows, doing tricks, interacting with tourists, and other activities that are not natural behavior for them is unethical.
Fortunately, there are so many amazing opportunities to see dolphins in the wild in Faro. Ethically.
You can check out some of them here:
Take nothing and leave nothing
While it’s true that the town is definitely breathtaking, there is no excuse for taking away resources as souvenirs from the natural attractions of Faro.
This includes leaving sand and seashells on the beach. Removing it disturbs the eco system.
Things to see and things to do are so abundant that you can leave Faro with just awesome memories and great pictures.
However, there are also a lot of ethical souvenirs for sale that you can buy to support local businesses, to commemorate your visit to Faro.
Appreciate local culture (and the locals as well!)
When you travel, always keep this in mind – you are a visitor! This means you have to be respectful of the culture and environment of the area you’re visiting. You should refrain from doing anything that could cause offense to the locals or visitors to the area.
Final thoughts on visiting Faro
I hope this post has given you a good idea about what to do in Faro (and what not to do.) As you can see, there is no shortage of activities in Faro that will suit any type of traveler so I hope you found enough exciting things to look forward to your vacation.
It’s definitely worth spending a couple of days in Faro before venturing to other places in the Algarve.
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