Along zig zag streets of Faro fresh cuisine is part of the city’s scenic charm
FARO, PORTUGAL: Overlooked by many, but there are tons of reasons to stay in this compact, colourful and scenic city. The fresh cuisine, culture, and history combined with a climate than seldom drops below 15 degrees in the winter make Faro a European destination to keep coming back to at any time of year.
Charming and picturesque
The city’s winding streets lead to picturesque surprises around every corner. It’s easy to get lost but just as easy to find your way again as its compact size means nowhere is much more than a ten-minute walk away. It’s perfect for those who don’t want to drive. The zig zag streets are no accident: the former grid structure was redesigned so the curved streets provided ample defence during the battles to conquer Faro. It’s part of the city’s charm.
Stay. Above all, there has been an increase in tourism in recent years and a five star hotel is currently being built in the city centre. There are currently plenty of options: We stayed at the Boutique Hotel, located in the old town, features a terrace overlooking the city. Rooms from €60 a night.
Four star Hotel Eva is close to the marina and offers a health suite. Rooms from €80 a night. There are a number of guest houses for those travelling on a budget, such as 1977 Guest House, located on Travessa de São Pedro. Rooms from €20 a night.
Try the traditional Algarve dish Cataplana
Food, wine and song. A recent increase in tourism has led to more restaurants lining the cobbled streets. Popular Michelin starred restaurant Faz Gostos is celebrating its tenth year in the Algarve’s capital. It’s reasonable: around €55 per head for three course meal and wine.
For tapas, try the succulent pork cheeks and the fiery shrimps at Petisqueira 3 Em Pipa. If you’re after a wine bar with a difference, how about a tasting and smelling session at Epicur Take a sniff of the vials and if you guess right, you’ll win a bottle of wine. Or, head to Varandas for live music with a rooftop or grab a cocktail at the award winning Columbus Bar
Traditional Algarve dish Cataplana
It would be impossible not to mention the traditional Algarve dish cataplana, and there’s no shortage of restaurants to choose from. But for the richest experience, head to Aqui D’el Rey for an Angolan inspired dish, “prepared with love”. Take a seat for the evening and immerse yourself in this family restaurant, set in a medieval building with a roaring fire. Don’t expect fast food – a good cataplana takes around 45 minutes to prepare. Enjoy lovely food and scenic Faro!
Life before tourism. Half an hour’s drive or bus ride north (look for the São Brás de Alportel bus from Faro bus garage) will get you to the town of Estoi. Its main attraction is the palace, a rococo 19th century pink building bursting with colour and those distinctive blue azelajos tiles synonymous with Portugal. It’s recently been renovated to include a fine hotel: the Hotel Estoi has a spa and heated swimming pool on site but visitors are free to wander the palace and gardens. The town itself is a glimpse into Algarve life before the advent of tourism; prices are reasonable and the pace is relaxed. Be sure to visit the Roman villa of Milreu (entrance €2.00) with mosaics dating back to the 1st century AD.
Bear in mind buses run weekdays only and the Milreu villa is closed on Mondays.
Lagoon home to hundreds species of birds
Explore the water. The Ria Formosa Natural Park is one of the world’s largest protected habitats and great lengths have been taken to keep its ecology thriving. The rich landscape of lagoons is home to hundreds of species of birds, including flamingos and spoonbills. Take a tour around the islands on a boat with one of the providers on the harbour. Our captain with Islands4You took us to four islands and spoke in four languages. These stunning islands get busy in the summer – get there in the low season if you prefer a bit of solitude. Fans of nautical sports will find spots to surf, paddle board, flyboard and scuba dive around Faro.
Faro European Capital of Culture 2027
Capital of Culture. Teatro Lethes, the city’s outstanding cultural hub, has extended its programme of events. Its roster encompasses classical and contemporary music, theatre and dance, all of which hover around the very reasonable €12 mark. As Faro is a candidate for the European Capital of Culture 2027, it sets to showcase a dynamic sequence of events this year. Be sure to check out the programme and events and grab a ticket or two while you’re there.
More Algarve: Scenic Faro is a good start to explore Algarve. Another “secret” is Tavira, another fishing town on the coast. Certainly, not a big secret any longer.