The 10 Best Sights to Explore in Faro
The Algarve’s administrative center, Faro, often goes unnoticed by many tourists visiting the southern regions of Portugal. Most tourists come to the Algarve to visit the heavenly beaches, which Faro surely has a lot of. This is one of the reasons why the city has grown significantly in recent years, coupled with the state investing in services, and the presence of an airport that makes travelling easy. So there is nothing to stopping you from visiting the sights in Faro on your trip to this region.
Faro has managed to keep its history alive through the years. All over the town, there are countless monuments, museums, churches and monasteries, giving the town an atmosphere of antiquity. The lovely old town is also ideal for a stroll or a shopping trip. In this article, we have compiled a list of the top 10 sights in Faro that you definitely need to visit when you’re here.
1. The Sé de Faro
The Cathedral of Faro is located in the center of the city, on an orange square with some small trees. It was built by King Alfonso III after the reconquest of the town on the remains of an Arab mosque and dates back to 1251. The Cathedral is a composition of distinct architectural styles associated with the transitional period from Romanticism to Gothic, and with the Renaissance. The only part that is left of the primitive original church is the imposing tower with a portico at the entrance. Its third building, now in ruins, was never finished.
The interior was decorated in the 16th century. Here, you will also find the Catedralesco Museum, displaying a variety of beautiful liturgical objects, images, paintings and religious attire. In the gothic chapel you can admire the 17th century tiled ceiling and its wonderfully decorated presbytery. Make sure not to miss the wooden organ painted red with its Chinese symbols. From the top of the medieval tower, you will enjoy a magnificent view over the walled town on the Algarve shore.
2. The Municipal Museum of Faro
This was the second museum built in Algarve. The Infante Dom Henrique Archaeological Museum was inaugurated in 1894, 500 years after Prince Henry the Navigator’s birthday and dedicated to the hero of Sagres. The first installations took place in the town hall building. In 1912, the property was handed over to the church of the former convent of St. Anthony of Capuchos who owned the premise up until 1969 when it moved to its present-day facility.
Some of the most significant objects are a Roman mosaic from the 2nd and 3rd century, the imperial busts of Hadrian and Agrippa, as well as a collection of epigraphs from Ossonoba. Another brilliant collection includes paintings from the 16th to the 19th century that formerly belonged to the Algarve temples, most of them depicting religious scenes. There are also paintings of similar significance by 20th century artist Carlos Porfírio, featuring local legends. In 2002, the Faro Municipal Museum became part of the Portuguese Museums Network.
3. The Palace of Estói
The origins of the palace can be traced back to an aristocrat who died shortly after the onset of the construction of the building in 1840. José Francisco da Silva bought the palace with the aim of completion, which became a reality in 1909. Thanks to this achievement José Francisco da Silva was appointed Viscount of Estói. The palace was designed by the Architect Domingos da Silva Meira with a delicate taste for sculptures. The interior of the palace is a beauty to behold with details of stucco and pastel.
There is a garden full of palm and orange trees that complements the palace’s rococo style. On the lower terrace, you will find a pavilion with blue and white tiles, the Waterfall House with a copy of The Three Graces carved by Canova. On the upper terrace, there is a larger pavilion with stained glass windows and tiled niches with illustrations of nymphs. The palace itself is currently used as a hotel, but the garden is open to anyone after being recognized as a property of public interest in 1977.
4. The Faro Bone Chapel
The Chapel of the Bones (Capela dos Ossos) is a small but fascinating chapel just behind the beautiful Carmo church. It is fascinating because the walls and ceiling are covered with the bones of thousands of skeletons in a symmetrical pattern. The bones belong to monks that once served the city. They were exhumed from the Faro cemetery in the 19th century to create more space.
It is designed such that when you step into the chapel, you literally get a sense of the skulls staring at you from every surface. The Chapel of the Bones is one of the most bizarre and gruesome attractions in Faro. This may come off as creepy but it will leave you in awe.
The Chapel of the Bones and the Carmo Church with its impressive baroque façade are some of the best tourist attractions in Faro – located only a short walk away from the port.
5. The Faro City Center
The Rua de Santo Antonio is a traditional Portuguese sidewalk with decorative mosaics in the city center. It is one of Faro’s popular pedestrian-friendly areas. Shops, restaurants and regional patisseries line the street, as well as various charming cafés. A trip to Faro would be considered incomplete without visiting this alluring spot.
6. The Vila Adentro
Tourists always look forward to a great culinary experience, and within the walls of the old Vila Adentro, you will get a taste of the Portuguese cuisine. There are several entrance doors, but chances are that your tour will begin at the emblematic Arco da Vila – the main entrance that separates the old town from the new part of the city.
7. The Sunset in Faro
To round off your itinerary, we recommend going to the Bar do Castelo late in the afternoon. Here, you get to enjoy the magical sunset over the Ria Formosa with a good drink – creating the perfect backdrop for unforgettable moments and breathtaking photos!
8. Watching Sea Life: Dolphins and Turtles
The Dolphin Watching and Marine Life Tour (duration: approximately two hours) is an excellent opportunity to spend some of your time at sea and enjoy the wildlife. Learn about the biodiversity of the local sea while enjoying the ocean wind and Algarve weather.
The tour starts off in calm waters and then heads about eight miles out into the open sea. You will follow the coastline, enjoy beautiful views and pass through the barrier islands of the Ria Formosa and the Cabo de Santa Maria. There are several possible species of Dolphins that can be spotted, but the common dolphin and the bottlenose dolphin are the most popular ones.
Some seabirds such as the Northern gannet, Balearic shearwater and Mediterranean gull, as well as several species of storm petrel can also be watched. Not to forget, seagulls are also a very common sight. You might also see other kinds of marine animals such as turtles, the ocean sunfish, and sharks. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to spot some species of whale, for example, the harbor porpoise and the minke whale.
9. Ria Formosa: Kayak Tour through the Ria
One of the best ways to explore the Ria Formosa is by kayak. This way, you will get a direct view of the Ria’s water, take in its scent and different environments.
The Ria Formosa is a beautiful nature reserve in the Algarve, full of life and vegetation. With an area of 18.400 hectares and a length of 60 km, it also includes the municipalities of Loulé, Faro, Olhão & Tavira. The park is the habitat of hundreds of species and is therefore an extremely valuable place.
The kayak tour lasts two hours and is wonderful for anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of nature and the thrill of wildlife up close.
10. Tours through the Ria Formosa: Bird Watching
The Ria Formosa is the last of our top 10 sights in Faro. It is another beautiful and unique area for bird watching. The park is a very quiet place and serves as a habitat for hundreds of species. For those who are a little more adventurous, the kayak tour mentioned above is also excellent for bird watching.
Our Recommendation for Your Stay in Faro
There are many ways to explore the beauty of Faro. Faro has something to offer for everyone: Whether you love history, animals or the beach and swimming, you will never be bored in Faro. We recommend going on a traditional boat trip, which also doubles as an opportunity to watch birds and dolphins. Faro is a really beautiful place with lots of different things to do. We just told you all about the top 10 sights in Faro. You have to experience the beauty of Faro at least once.