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Due to the Ria Formosa’s location and diverse ecology, many early human occupants migrated to the area of Algarve. One of the first settlements to arise from the here was Ossonoba, a crucial town during the Roman occupation that developed into modern-day Faro.
The Visigoths lived here from the 3rd century BCE until the Moors took over in the 8th century. At this time, Faro was the most important port city in the region. The town took on the name Harun, which is where the current name Faro gets its name.
In 1249, the Moors’ reign ended with the defeat of King Alfonso III in 1249, when the region became part of Portuguese territory.
The city thrived as the economic port city of the Algarve region, and in 1596 the Earl of Essex invaded the town and captured the library of the Bishop of Faro. The books taken were later relocated in the University of Oxford’s library.
Despite its prominence, Faro did not become capital in the area until after the 1755 earthquake destroyed nearby Lagos. Faro was protected from a destructive tsunami by the sand banks of Ria Formosa lagoon.
Today, Faro has established itself as the primary location in the region with an international airport built in 1965 and prominent educational institutions like the University of the Algarve and the Music Regional College.
Due to its rich art and culture as well as its agreeable climate and location, Faro has developed a strong tourist economy.
The warm months are the best time to spend a weekend in Faro, a historic and attractive beach destination on Portugal´s southern coast.
Visitors can choose between great shopping locations, reading in street-side cafes, visiting some of the famous monuments, or taking a water taxi to some of the various islands and their picturesque beaches.
So don´t wait and book the next flight to Faro before it is too late.
Cobblestone streets, a cathedral and other antique buildings near the town´s main square make for a pleasant trip back to the past. The cathedral is said to be built in the same place as a Roman temple, a Moorish mosque, and a Visigoth church. The famous Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção was built in the 16th century. Guests will also pass under the Acro da Vila, which is a baroque entrance to the old town.
The most impressive church in Faro is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and its Chapel of the Bones. The baroque church and its two towers are impeccably symmetric, and the inside features gold ornaments from Brazil. The Chapel of Bones made from bones of monks from the 19th century captures the attention of most visitors. The purpose of the construction was to provide people with a perspective of a mortal life, and encourage them to live a life free of sin.
This museum is actually inside the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção and provides all the necessary historical evidence from the region. The building was a bit battered after a large earthquake in 1755, but it has since been restored. Some attractions include Moorish artefacts, Portuguese furnishings and ceramics, and ancient paintings. The main attraction is the charcoal drawing done by legendary artist Paul Gaugin.
The Museu Maritimo sits in one of the most beautiful parts of Faro alongside the harbour, city gardens, trendy cafes, and ritzy yachts. The museum itself is not particularly large, but it is very informative. Visitors can learn about the local historical fishing techniques and see model boats, naval ships, and other interesting Portuguese maritime artefacts. The Rua Comandante Franciso Manuel is close by and has a great walkway between the city walls and beachfront.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
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This natural reserve is a popular destination for most holiday vacationers. Boat trips leave from the old town dock in Faro and take around two to three hours as they show off the lagoon’s unique landscape in between Faro and the Spanish border. Boats also stop off on one of the islands that are actually dunes piled up by tidal changes. The trips are open daily, with prices determined by the season.
Beautiful sandy beaches are perhaps Faro’s biggest tourist magnet. Located on the south-western side of the city, just off the coast on the Faro Island, the Praia, or Faro Beach is the best spot in the Algarve region. The beach is characterized by seafront and lagoon varieties, and abundant restaurants and gift shops make it a comfortable tourist destination. Visitors can also take a summer ferry to more secluded beaches through the marshlands to the picturesque Ilha da Culetra and Ilha Deserta.
The harbour front features much of Faro’s nightlife, daytime lounging, and gastronomic pleasures. Visitors can soak up sun and lots of drinks in one of the cafes or bars along the water. This is a great place for people and fancy boat-watching. Those looking for an evening stroll can also walk the promenade with many other tourists and locals.
Located in the western region of Algarve, the Serra de Monchique mountain chain is just 90 kilometres from Faro. Visitors can spend a little more and rent a car, or they can take one of the regular local buses that make daily trips. The area has numerous different hiking trails, yet the main attraction might be the Monchique town itself. Visitors can shop around the different artisan stands and the local market. For total relaxation, head to the Caldas de Monchique health spa and thermal waters nearby.
For a comfortable and modern stay, try the Hotel Faro. This hotel has a combination of new and contemporary rooms along with suites, a restaurant, bar and a spectacular terrace that overlooks the Ria Formosa and old town historical section. The hotel is also located just blocks away from the major historical tourist sites.
Those looking for the ultimate lodging escape can find solace in the Monte do Casal hotel, formerly an 18th century home placed in an incredible garden with lakes and waterfalls. The hotel lies just outside of the small town of Estoi, and has a renowned restaurant, tranquil spa, a botanical garden, and two outdoor heated swimming pools. This place has a unique vibe that is most present during relaxed dinner party evenings.
For an affordable yet comfortable option, many tourists flock to the São Sebastião de Boliqueime Hotel Algarve. This hotel is in a modern facility and is perfect for a more economic family atmosphere. Located in Boliqueime, the hotel has a bar, a breakfast spot, and an outdoor swimming pool. Each room is also equipped with satellite TV, Internet access, and heating and air conditioning.
The cosy Hotel Santa Maria is located in a renovated building smack in the centre of Faro. The rooms have all of the basics (television, telephone, Internet, and a safe). The friendly staff provides reception desk service 24 hours a day.
For more information about choosing an appropriate hotel in Faro check out other options online.
Faro has a strong public transportation system that transports tourists throughout the Algarve region. You can take EVA buses, trains, and even water taxis to some of the more remote and beautiful beach destinations.
The Faro International Airport is located just 6 kilometres away from the city centre. Guests can rent cars and pick them up directly at the airport, or take a taxi for about €8. The more scenic way to and from the airport is by train or bus.
The train offers a relaxed and quiet trip directly to the centre of Faro. Visitors can take this bus from the capital city of Lisboa by way of the Alfa Pendular. The trip lasts around three hours and prices range between €20 – 28. In the case of buses, EVA transports provides service in and around the surrounding areas of Faro. The best bet is to ride one of the urban trains to get in and around town.
Faro car hire is fairly popular because some great destinations lie outside the reach of common public transportation. Most of the main car rental companies are in Faro Airport, and have clear signs once outside of the airport arrival hall.
For some of the finest food in the region, many tourists visit Monte Do Casal (Cerro do Lobo, Estoi). Located in a beautiful antique country house, this restaurant offers the ultimate relaxing setting and great French cuisine. Popular dishes include the Medley of Salmon, Smoked Swordfish, or the Duo of Quail’s eggs on Bubble with Hollandaise sauce. Desserts include various flambé sides, and call to see if the live guitarist is playing.
Feast on great local food at Flôr da Ameixa (Lagos e Relvas, Alface). This restaurant is just outside of Estoi and has great service, affordable prices, and some of the best grilled fish and meat in the region. With a laidback décor, tourists share their dining experience with local regulars. Great dishes to try include the Chicken Piri Piri with potato chips and the famous grilled pork.
For the local spin on ethnic cuisine, try Marrakech (Escanaxinas, Almancil). Serving typical Moroccan food, this restaurant has a fancy and intimate atmosphere, which is great for a romantic evening. The interior has incredible colours, tiles, and mosaics to provide the authentic setting, as belly dancers entertain. One favourite dish is the chicken and almond Pastille, followed by a mint tea for dessert.
A relaxed restaurant not too far out of town is the O’ Pescador (Praia da Falesia). This attractive spot has great seafood dishes with al fresco dining. The crustacean platter is mouth-watering, or try local favourite like the Cataplana. The great food and romantic setting make it a good date place.
Yellow fever vaccinations are required for travellers over one year old who are coming from an endemic area such as central Africa or northern South America. Water is drinkable but has a bad taste of chlorine. Good options are Luso and Pedra bottled water.
The health infrastructure varies. Some parts of the country have completely non-existent facilities, while most of the main towns have sophisticated and developed services. It is recommended to ask the local Social Security centre for a European Health Insurance Card.
In case of emergency, call 112. Some good local clinics include Santa Maria Hospital (21) 780 50 00 or Saint-Louis hospital (21) 321 65 00.
Crime has recently increased in many larger Portuguese towns. Tourists should take care in the districts of Alfama, la Baixa, Bairro Alto, and St George’s. It is advised not to walk alone at night, or to have many expensive items like jewellery on your person. Do not leave personal belongings in parked vehicles and do not walk on the beach at night. Make photocopies of all important travel documents in the case they get lost.
Transportation systems in Portugal are safe, but if you hire a car beware of undisciplined drivers. Drug possession is punishable by law, and it is good to know that southern Portugal has a moderate risk of earthquakes.
The Atlantic Ocean can be pretty wild at time, with strong currents and crashing waves a potential risk for weak swimmers. Stick to supervised beaches and look out for any warning flags planted on the beach.