Faro is a city worth considering if you’re thinking of moving to the Algarve. It’s the capital of the region (technically called Faro region rather than the Algarve), and also the largest city on the Algarve as well (although the population isn’t huge: around 65,000 people). That doesn’t mean you should expect high rises and commercial skyscrapers: Faro’s architecture is characterised by fishermen’s cottages and other small buildings with a faded glamour feel.
The city centre is walkable and many parts have been pedestrianised, although many of the narrow streets have equally narrow pavements. Along these streets you’ll find plenty of cafés, restaurants, and bars to whittle away an afternoon in. If you’d prefer to actually get out and see and to do things, Faro has plenty to offer from cathedrals and historical buildings to boat trips along the Ria Formosa.
Faro is overlooked by most tourists visiting the Algarve, who usually go to the beach towns of the Central Algarve, which could make it a good place to live. In fact, the whole of the Eastern Algarve is that little bit quieter than the Central Algarve and probably isn’t as popular as the Western Algarve.
What Faro lacks, and probably what puts many tourists off staying there, is a beach that you can easily walk to. Praia de Faro is easily accessible by car, around 15-minutes drive, but otherwise you have to take a bus or ferry to get there. The bus takes less than half an hour, and there are regular services throughout the day, but not being able to stroll down to the beach is a bit of a downside.
Praia de Faro isn’t the only beach near Faro and, if you’re willing to take a boat, you can easily get to less touristic beaches like Praia de Farol and the very deserted beaches on Ilha Deserta. Taking a boat isn’t actually a chore: a boat trip through the islands near Faro is one of the top things to do in Faro.
Faro isn’t the only city on the Algarve: there’s also Portimão, which has a slightly smaller population. Faro is arguably the prettier of the two and neither offer very easy access to the beach (the city of Portimão is around 2 km from the nearest beach, Praia da Rocha). Portimão does offer easy access to the West Coast, which is probably the most beautiful part of the Algarve, but Faro has the Ria Formosa and is close to the Spanish border. Although neither city is particularly big, they are two of the only cities on the Algarve. If you’re looking for a city in this part of Portugal, it’ll probably be between these two.
Photos of Faro
Pros & Cons
- Less touristic than many coastal towns on the Algarve (although it does still attract its share)
- Easy access to Spain (A day-trip to Seville is easily doable)
- Good train service than goes to the far east of the Algarve (Vila Real de Santo António) and as far as Lagos in the west. Bus connections are good too
- Easy access to Faro Airport (which mainly has flights to Northern European countries like the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands)
- No beach within walking distance of the town (but you could live closer to the beach, if you wanted)
Things to do in Faro
- Explore the Ria Formosa – Take a boat or a paddleboard and explore the beautiful Ria Formosa, an area of outstanding beauty and one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal.
- Go island hopping – The islands near Faro are beautiful, and worth taking the time to explore. You can get a ferry out to most of them, and several have beaches where you can spend the day.
- Capela dos Ossos – A chapel where the walls and features are made from bones. This isn’t everyone’s taste, but it’s definitely a change from many of the other churches that you can visit.
- Visit the beach – Whether it’s a ferry trip to one of the islands like Ilha da Barreta (also known as Ilha Deserta) or Ilha da Culatra, or a short journey to Praia de Faro, there are several beaches within a stone’s throw of the city.
Supermarkets & Shopping
As the largest city on the Algarve, Faro has plenty of shopping options. You’ll find most supermarkets here, including Continente, Pingo Doce, Lidl, Aldi, and Auchan. There’s also a great regional market, Mercado Municipal de Faro.
For those searching for British food items, The Food Co. in Almancil stocks thousands of items from Tesco. Alternatively, there are Iceland Overseas stores a little further afield in Guia and Portimão.
There are two malls in Faro: Forum Algarve, which is very close to the city centre and MAR which is closer to Almancil and around 20 minutes drive. Here you’ll find plenty of clothing shops (e.g. H&M, Berksha, etc.), a supermarket, and cinemas. MAR is the newer of the two and is popular because it has a Primark and is close to IKEA.
Events in Faro
- Alameda Beer Festival in Faro – A beer festival, which takes places annually in July, and has more than 100 different types of beer to sample.
- Festa da Ria Formosa – Faro’s main seafood festival, which celebrates all of the great seafood that comes from the Ria Formosa, takes place every year in July (often spilling over into August).
- FolkFaro – A lively cultural festival that celebrates traditional music and dance. FolkFaro takes place during the beginning of August.
- Feira dos Doces, Frutos Secos e Bebidas Regionais – Taking place at the end of August, this festival showcases the regional dried fruits, regional drinks, and desserts.
- Feira de Santa Iria – A 400-year old festival with religious origins, today this festival is characterised by ferris wheels, rides, and craft and food stalls. Feira de Santa Iria takes place every year in October.
Faro has good public transport. As it’s the main city on the Algarve, it is a transport hub which means that you can easily get a bus to many towns in the rest of the Algarve without having to connect. Local bus information can be found on eva-bus.com. You can also easily get a longer distance coach to other parts of Portugal, such as Lisbon or Porto, as well as to other international cities. Bus ticket and timetable information can be found on Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt is also a good source of discounted bus tickets, both in Portugal and internationally.
Faro also has a train station. From here you can travel across the Algarve trainline, which connects Lagos in the West with Vila Real de Santo António in the East. Train tickets and timetables can be found at cp.pt.
Finally, although it’s not public transport, Faro also has its own regional airport, Faro Airport. As the region is very tourism-focused, flights tend to be to locations like the UK, Ireland, and Germany, but that is enough for many expats living in the Algarve. Seville Airport is also a few hours away as is Lisbon Airport, although Lisbon is perhaps slightly easier to get to as you can take the train from Faro to Lisboa-Oriente and then the metro to the airport.
Faro sounds charming with all the fisherman homes. It is in the region of Portugal we missed, driving north from Seville (Spain) and entering Portugal near Evora. From there we went to the coast, then all the way north to Spain again.
Yes, it definitely has its charms. You'll have to come back to Portugal again 🙂
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We are visiting Faro over the new year, but have read that it's a ghost town at that time. Will there be anything to do or places to eat
I wouldn't say a ghost town, but things can be quiet around Christmas and the New Year with New Year's Eve being a big exception). Faro is quite quiet in winter anyway (although maybe not by Algarve standards - it's the capital city here).
Most shops will be open and most of the museums and cultural attractions will be as well (although they might close on the 31st and 1st). If you're looking for a peaceful and very non-hectic break, it could be a nice time to visit.
As for restaurants, you'll have plenty of options most days. The exception is January 1st when most Portuguese restaurants will be shut. You won't starve though: there are normally 1 or 2 open, and there's always the back-up option of a Chinese as well.