a guide to Faro, Portugal: what to do + where to eat in Portugal’s southernmost city

Faro is Portugal’s southernmost mainland city and, though I’m known for creating maps and conducting research on any area I’m traveling to, I arrived in Faro without a single clue as to what to do, where to eat, or how to make the most of my time there. Luckily for me, the city revealed itself to me during my leisurely three days there. While there’s less to do and see than other Portuguese cities, Faro is walkable, filled with friendly faces, and extremely affordable. I’d say it’s definitely worth a stop if you want a more relaxed vacation.

This post is a quick guide for all those headed to Faro as clueless as I was so that you can go there with some sense of what to do and where to eat.


read on for my guide to faro, portugal


A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO DO IN FARO

getting to Faro

The easiest way to get to Faro from outside of Portugal is to fly. RyanAir is one of the many budget airlines that provides affordable flights. If you are already in Portugal, I suggest using the fantastic train and bus system. For €15 {USD $16.77} you can get a bus across the country and even over into Spain.

ECO TIP: Those of you flying should consider offsetting your carbon emissions! Yes, certain airlines do this for you, but most budget airlines do not. I use ClimateCare.org.

…from the airport

There is a bus from the airport to the city that makes various stops and costs €2.35 {an odd amount to have in cash, I know}. Instead of spending money on an Uber or local taxi, take the bus. Taking the bus will also help the planet a bit!

A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO DO IN FARO

getting around Faro

FLASH SCOOTERS- Download the Flash app to rent electronic scooters with the click of a button. This reminded me a lot of the Lime scooters in Auckland.

BY FOOT- Faro is a quaint city that is easy to get around on foot. In fact, this is my top recommendations for those visiting. There are so many side streets and cobblestone alleyways you don’t want to miss! Walking all over will ultimately lead you to the best backstreet spots.

CAR- If you are doing the traditional road trip across Portugal, Faro may be a bit of a pain. Parking is extremely limited and can be costly. Many of the hotels, AirBnBs, and hostels inside the old city don’t accommodate parking, so you’ll have to find some further away. It’s not impossible, but it is a nuisance and an extra expense.

A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHAT TO DO + WHERE TO EAT IN FARO

When to visit faro

A quick Google will tell you that the best time to visit Faro is in September, because temperatures are cooler and the summer crowds have dispersed.

I visited in early June when the weather was sunny and temperatures peaked in the 30°Cs {almost 90°F}. While it was definitely hot in the afternoons, the mornings were pleasant and the evenings were cool thanks to the sea breeze. There weren’t very many tourists at all in Faro during my time there, so I got prime weather without the major crowds.

IS FARO, PORTUGAL WORTH VISITING?
A GUIDE TO FARO: WHAT TO SEE + WHERE TO EAT IN FARO, PORTUGAL

what to see + do

Despite being a small place with a reputation for having little to do, I felt like my time in Faro struck a great balance between work and play. I was able to meet some projects deadlines and see the city thoroughly in that time. Three days was an ideal length of time to enjoy the city at a {very} leisurely pace.

take a {kinda} free walking tour

Our free walking tour with Marcel was a fantastic introduction to the city. I’d been on free walking tours previously, and always find them a nice way to get stuck into a new place if you aren’t sure where to start or haven’t done any research {like I didn’t for Faro}. There’s no need to book in advance, just turn up at 10 AM and look for the person with a red umbrella. There’s no need to book online in advance, but you should bring some cash so that you can tip your guide. Tips are this tours only source of funding and it’s run entirely by locals, so being generous is not only kind but helpful to the local economy.

A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO SEE

snatch views from the clock tower at Faro cathedral

The Faro Cathedral is a stop all by itself, but the really impressive bit to me was the viewpoint from the clock tower. The cathedral was constructed in the name of the Virgin Mary, the image of whom can be seen all over the city of Faro.

STORY TIME: When the Moors came to Faro and took over, they threw a statue of the Virgin Mary into the lagoons around the island that is now the historic part of Faro. Almost immediately, the fishermen of the town stopped catching any fish. The remaining Catholics of the town went to the Moorish leaders and told them that they believed the town was being punished for the act of vandalism. Scared of losing their livelihood, the Moors retrieved the statue from the water and placed it back on top of the gateway arch of the city. It’s said that as soon as Mary was back overlooking Faro, the fishermen caught an abundance of fish and the town never ate so well.

OPENING HOURS: there are no official opening hours posted online or at the church site, but our tour guide on the free walking tour said it’s typically opened after 2 PM

visit the Museu Arqueologico

The Museu Arqueologico used to be a convent. In fact, from the outside you can see a tower with thin slits around it. At the time, Catholic nuns were not allowed to be seen outside of the convent so that they wouldn’t tempt the men of the town— particularly the priests and monks. The nuns were allowed to look outside through the slits in the tower that were designed so that they could see out but no one could see in. Today, the convent has been converted into a large museum spanning two levels and multiple rooms. There is Portuguese art, artifacts from the Moorish and Roman occupations, and other bits of antiquity that will give you more insight into the vast history of Faro.

TIP: Most museums are free on Sundays in Portugal, so plan any museum-going for then to save yourself cash

OPENING HOURS: Monday through Friday 10 AM - 7 PM, Saturday and Sunday 11:30 AM - 6 PM

A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHAT TO SEE AND WHERE TO EAT
A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT AND WHAT TO SEE
A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT AND WHAT TO SEE

check out the chapelle des ossos {the bone church}

This 18th-century church has a beautiful, beautiful interior, but the chapel behind the main church building is what you’ll find extra interesting. While the bone church in Kutná Hora I visited was more of a memorial, this bone chapel is considered art and is meant to serve as a reminder of our mortality.

OPENING HOURS: there are no official hours of operation posted

A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO SEE

where to eat

There are quite a few eateries in the area. Like most cities, those closer to the main street up-charge for the same food that you can find other places a little further from the center for less money and of better quality.

O Seu Café

This little hole-in-the-wall café was recommended to me by the guide on my Faro Free Walking Tour. The café menu is almost entirely in Portuguese, so come prepared with either an understanding or the language or with a good handle on cross cultural gestures. Locals believe that this place serves the very best pastel natas in the city, and after trying my fair share in Faro, I’d say they’re right.

OPENING HOURS: 8 AM - 2 AM, seven days a week

Papaya

The food here is affordable and healthy— a double win for travelers in the area. It was so nice, in fact, that I had breakfast there two of the three mornings I had in Faro. I opted for the juice of the day and organic walnut/raisin toast drizzled in olive oil the second day, and the same toast with an espresso on the first. Both were delicious, filling, and set me back around 3. The café is also plastic free, using paper straws and recycled paper napkins. Gluten-free, vegan, and organic menu items make it a more inclusive place to eat.

OPENING HOURS: 8 AM - 8 PM, seven days a week

Maktostas

I tried the classic Portuguese “rusk” here. The cheese rusk, which was essentially a grilled cheese sandwich only better, was simple yet satisfying. I only got the half order and it was enormous by any person’s standards, however, I think the waiter knew there was no way I could ever finish the full portion rusk, which is approximately the size of a clipboard and requires its own special plate. The menu has a whole sub-menu dedicated to meaty rusks here, so carnivores should come hungry.

OPENING HOURS: 9 AM - 2 AM, seven days a week

demo urban bakery

While this place is a little more pricey than other bakeries further away from old town, Urban Bakery is delicious and still relatively affordable. I had a slice of pizza that would have easily fed two people. The woman behind the counter tried her best to help me in English, but ultimately we relied on gestures to make up for my lack of linguistic abilities.

OPENING HOURS: 7:30 AM - 8 PM, seven days a week

OTHER PLACES THAT WERE RECOMMENDED THAT WE DIDN’T MAKE IT TO:

  • l’Osteria

  • Álef Burger Bar

  • Pigs + Cows

A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO SEE
A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHAT TO SEE + WHERE TO EAT IN FARO
A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO SEE IN FARO

where to stay

I stayed at a sweet little AirBnB near the old town, with a beautiful balcony, fully serviced kitchen, and a large, shared bathroom. It wasn’t much to look at, but I highly, highly, highly recommend it for the balcony and location alone. Plus, Diana was the best host. I had full privacy and she left me a little tile magnet as a token from my visit to the city. There are hostels and hotels throughout the city, but I almost always opt for an AirBnB for that “piece of home” feel. Also, since I had a kitchen, I was able to make a few meals and enjoy them on the balcony which unintentionally saved me an extra bit on my food budget!

PSST…use this link to get $30 off your first AirBnB stay!


shop my {ethical} faro looks below


need help navigating? don’t worry, i’ve made a map


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A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO SEE IN FARO
A GUIDE TO FARO, PORTUGAL: WHERE TO EAT + WHAT TO DO