Ultimate Guide to Faro: Where to Stay, Eat, & Play

Welcome to Faro, the vibrant heart of the Algarve! Nestled on Portugal’s southern coast, Faro is a treasure trove of culture, history, and natural beauty waiting to be explored, from the charm of the Cidade Velha (Old Town) to the wonders of the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Let us introduce ourselves! We’re Formosamar, leaders in sustainable, environmentally friendly Ria Formosa boat tours and outdoor activities in Faro. The heart of Ria Formosa is on Faro’s doorstep, so our city is the perfect base for exploring this wetland of international importance.

But there’s far more to Faro than Ria Formosa! That’s where this guide comes in. If you plan to visit Faro soon, you can find the essential information you need for your stay here.

Scroll down to get started — and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

Where is Faro, Algarve?

First, let’s find our bearings. Faro, the capital of the Algarve region, is conveniently located in southern Portugal. Its namesake airport, Faro Airport (FAO), is the region’s primary international airport, serving as a gateway for travellers from around the world. It’s located around 3km (1.8 miles) west of the city centre. We look at transport options in Faro later in this guide.

Faro’s prominent location on the Algarve coast means that it’s steeped in centuries of history dating back to Roman times. Our city’s rich cultural heritage is evident in its well-preserved architecture — including Roman, Moorish, ‘Southern Modern’, and more.

Whether you’re arriving by air, sea, or land, Faro welcomes you with open arms and promises a truly authentic Algarvian experience that you will never forget.

Are you planning to explore even more of the Algarve after your time in Faro? Check out our Guide to the Towns in the Algarve when you have finished here! It includes introductions to Lagos, Tavira, Olhão, and more.

Where to Stay in Faro

Wondering which part of Faro to make your home away from home? Various corners of our city will appeal to visitors of every kind, including:

Cidade Velha (Old Town)

Experience the charm of Faro’s historic centre by staying in Cidade Velha. Narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and quaint squares lined with bars and restaurants await you here. And don’t forget the imposing city walls dating back to the 9th century! Choose from boutique hotels, guesthouses, or charming apartments tucked away amidst centuries-old architecture.

Doca de Faro (Faro Marina)

For a taste of the nautical life, consider staying near Doca de Faro. Wake up to stunning views of bobbing sailboats and yachts, and enjoy easy access to waterfront restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops. In the summer, it’s also typical to find free outdoor performances and concerts here too. This area offers a range of accommodations, from upscale hotels to budget-friendly hostels.

Both the Old Town and Faro Marina are home to some of the best things to do in Faro at night.


You will find most of Faro’s shops, cafes, restaurants, pastry shops, and banks downtown, so it’s a popular place for tourists to stay. The streets here, like those in the Old Town, are paved in the traditional, distinctive calçada style. Café Aliança (considered Portugal’s third oldest cafe) and Pastelaria Gardy (home to exceptional croissants) are both located here.

You’ll find a diverse selection of hotels, ranging from luxury boutiques to budget-friendly options, all within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and attractions.

Montenegro and Quinta do Eucalipto

Escape the crowds and unwind in the tranquil neighbourhoods of Montenegro and Quinta do Eucalipto. Located outside the city and only a stone’s throw from the airport, these areas offer parks, green spaces, serene streets, and a peaceful retreat that is ideal for families with kids.

Aside from hotels, you can rent villas with gardens and swimming pools, perfect for a carefree Algarve holiday.

Islands and Praia de Faro

For a truly unique experience, why not stay on one of Faro’s picturesque islands? From welcoming hotels to rental houses, there’s something for every taste and budget. Wake up to the sound of waves lapping against the shore and spend your days exploring pristine beaches and nature trails.

Best Things to Do in Faro

Now that you know where you might stay, it’s time to focus on the best things to do in Faro! Let’s start planning your fun-filled days.

Ria Formosa Boat Tours

No visit to Faro is complete without exploring the breathtaking beauty of Ria Formosa Natural Park. Join one of Formosamar’s guided Ria Formosa boat tours and cruise through this UNESCO-protected wetland, home to a diverse array of bird species, salt marshes, canals, and barrier islands.

Over 200 bird species have been recorded in the park, so it’s no surprise that bird watching is among the most popular activities to enjoy here. If you’re looking for an unforgettable avian experience, we think you’ll love our Ria Formosa Birdwatching Boat Tour and Birdwatching Guide to Ria Formosa

It’s impossible to cover everything this special place has to offer in so little space, but that’s what our Essential Guide to Ria Formosa Natural Park is for! Be sure to read it when you have finished here.

Boat Trips to the Islands in Ria Formosa

Ria Formosa is home to numerous picturesque islands that are the epitome of a relaxing, slow-paced break on the Algarve coast. These enchanting islands include Ilha Deserta (also known as Ilha Barreta), Ilha do Farol, and Ilha da Culatra. Ilha Deserta translates to English as “Deserted Island”, a perfect name for this uninhabited island whose only development is Restaurante Estaminé. What’s more, Ilha do Farol and Ilha da Culatra are at either end of the same island.

Whichever option you prefer, you’ll be treated to pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and opportunities for snorkelling, swimming, and sunbathing.

Our Boat Tour to Deserta and Farol Islands in Ria Formosa is the perfect way to spend some time in these enchanting places. We also offer private shuttles to Ria Formosa islands for the ultimate convenience.

We even head out into the open ocean beyond Ria Formosa on the Marine Life and Dolphin Watching Boat Trip from Faro.

Read our blog How to Choose the Perfect Algarve Boat Trip to help plan your adventures! 

Ria Formosa Islands Boat Tours

Private Ria Formosa Boat Tours

For a more personalized experience, consider booking a private boat charter from Faro with Formosamar. Customize your itinerary and explore serene channels, secluded beaches, and secret spots inaccessible by land. With a knowledgeable captain at the helm, the possibilities are endless. This option is perfect for large groups and families.

Stand-Up Paddleboard Rental in Faro

With our Faro paddleboarding rentals, you can channel your inner adventurer and glide your way through Ria Formosa’s scenic waterways. On a stand-up paddleboard, you are at one with the water, providing a more intimate connection with nature, not to mention a great workout!

Ria Formosa’s waters are famed for their tranquillity, so you should find navigating them relatively easy. This spectacular lagoon is best seen from the water, and on a paddleboard, you can explore at your own pace. 

Kayak Rental in Faro

Our kayak rental in Faro also allows you to explore the wonders of Ria Formosa on an independent adventure — and all from a seated position mere centimetres above the waterline.

On a kayaking adventure, you can explore Faro’s coastline and Ria Formosa from a different perspective. Navigate narrow channels, venture into hidden lagoons, and marvel at the diverse marine life that calls this area home.

Looking for a guided experience? We also offer a fun-filled kayak tour in Ria Formosa led by a local, knowledgeable guide. 

For even more ideas and inspiration, head over to our blogs The Best Ria Formosa Activities as Recommended by Locals and The Best Watersports and Boat Tours in Faro.


Faro Bike Hire and E-Bike Rental

Discover Faro on two wheels and pedal your way through the city’s charming streets and scenic countryside. With bike hire and e-bike rentals in Faro available, you can explore at your own pace and uncover hidden gems around every corner.

No matter which model you choose, you have the freedom to explore more of our city, visit beaches, or hit the nearby trails EcoVia Litoral and Via Algarviana.

Explore Faro’s Old Town

Last but not least, simply strolling through Faro’s captivating Old Town is a pleasure in itself. Admire architectural marvels like the Cathedral of Faro, Arco da Vila, and Igreja Matriz São Pedro, then lose yourself in the labyrinthine alleyways and hidden squares. Take your time and soak up the atmosphere. 

If love is in the air, you may want to know that we include this activity in our list of romantic things to do in Faro.

Best Places to Visit in Faro

Now, let’s move on to specific places that we think are worthy of any Faro itinerary.

Sé Catedral de Faro (Cathedral of Faro)

Marvel at the grandeur of Faro’s Cathedral, a truly resilient building dating back to the 13th century. After two major earthquakes and a devastating English raid, only the tower, its main doorway, and two chapels remain from the original construction in 1251. The stunning interiors you can find today are from the 17th and 18th centuries.

You can climb to the top of the bell tower for panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Arco da Vila

Pass through the majestic Arco da Vila and enter Faro’s historic centre in style. This ornate arch, built in the 19th century after an earthquake in 1755, serves as a gateway to the Old Town and offers a glimpse into the city’s rich, layered history.

Inside the passageway, you can find remnants of previous structures — including ancient stone walls and a medieval horseshoe arch from the Moorish era — that the current gateway was built over.

Taking in Old Town gems like Arco da Vila and Sé Catedral de Faro are some of the best budget-friendly things to do in Faro.

Igreja São Pedro (Church of Saint Peter)

The plain exterior of Igreja of São Pedro hides an exquisite interior, adorned with intricate woodwork, gilded altars, and beautiful azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles). Entrance is free, although you can donate if you please.

Igreja do Carmo and Bone Chapel

Pay a visit to the Church of Carmo, an 18th-century structure with twin bell towers and a charming baroque facade. But there’s a truly unique attraction hidden away here: the Bone Chapel. Decorated with human bones, with over 1,000 skulls alone, this macabre masterpiece serves as a solemn reminder of the fragility of life.

We included this striking sight as one of our picks for fun things to do in Faro in just one day.

Chapel of Bones
A vertical shot of a mirror inside of the Chapel of Bones in Evora, Portugal

Centro de Ciência Viva do Algarve (Algarve Life Science Centre)

Engage your curiosity and explore the wonders of science at the Algarve Life Science Centre. With interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and live demonstrations, it’s fun for the whole family. The staff here are warm, welcoming, and knowledgeable, and they speak English!

Other Cultural Attractions in Faro

From museums and galleries to theatres and cultural centres, Faro offers a wealth of cultural experiences waiting to be discovered. Explore the Municipal Museum, attend a performance at Teatro Lethes (or simply admire its beauty), and browse contemporary art at the Faro Municipal Gallery.

Best Beaches in Faro

If you’re visiting Faro, you simply have to spend some time on one of our beaches. Our blog 5 Best Beaches in Faro takes a deeper look into some of our favourites, which include:

Praia de Faro

Praia de Faro is our city’s most popular, and it’s easy to see why. With its golden sands, clear waters, and stunning views of the coastline, it’s the perfect spot for a day of sunbathing and swimming.

Situated on a sandbar that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Ria Formosa, this long, gorgeous sweep of sand stretches for around 5km (3.1 miles).

Praia da Ilha da Culatra

Discover a slice of paradise on the secluded shores of Praia da Ilha da Culatra. Slightly more developed than Ilha Deserta below, you can find numerous cafes and restaurants to retreat to when needed. The beach itself is quiet and clean with soft white sand. The dazzling azure water is simply made for swimming!

Praia da Ilha Deserta

Get off the beaten path and discover the unspoiled beauty of Praia da Ilha Deserta. With its remote location and untouched landscapes, it’s the perfect escape for nature lovers and solitude seekers.

The island is only accessible by boat. Our Boat Tour to Deserta and Farol Islands in Ria Formosa makes the journey easy and enjoyable.

Praia do Farol (Lighthouse Beach)

Bask in the beauty of Praia do Farol, located on the picturesque Ilha do Farol. With its iconic lighthouse, golden sands, and calm waters, it’s a haven for beach lovers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Praia do Ancão

If you’re looking for a stunning secluded beach to relax on away from the crowds, Praia do Ancão is calling your name. It’s harder to reach than most of the other beaches on this list, but it’s always worth the extra effort. But be aware, there aren’t any cafes or restaurants here, so you will need to bring your own food and drink.

Praia da Quinta do Lago

A short distance along the coast from Praia do Ancão, Praia da Quinta do Lago offers a luxurious experience. The nature reserve surrounds the beach, creating an exclusive, secluded feel. You will also find high-end amenities such as sun loungers and parasols on the golden sand. And when the time is right, head to a nearby bar or restaurant for a refreshing cocktail or delicious gourmet meal.

hings to Do in Faro at Night

Looking for the best things to do in Faro at night? You’re spoilt for choice! Of course, every visitor has their own unique interests, needs, and preferences, and we can’t cover them all here. However, the following picks are great starting points for families, couples, and groups of friends.

Faro Marina is Great for Families

Spend quality time with your loved ones at Faro Marina, where you’ll find a variety of family-friendly activities and entertainment options. From ice cream parlours and waterfront restaurants with terraces to Jardim Manuel Bivar and its Pirate Playground, there’s something for all ages to enjoy in this bustling part of our city.

Couples Can Enjoy Bars and Sunset Cruises

Indulge in a romantic evening with your significant other at one of Faro’s intimate wine bars or rooftop lounges. Sip on fine wines, sample local delicacies, and soak up the enchanting atmosphere as you watch the sunset over the city. Columbus Cocktail & Wine Bar is just one highlight in downtown, but there are many more fun and modern places to visit too.

Alternatively, you can optimise your twilight experience on our Sunset Boat Trip from Faro. With complimentary sparkling wine and a romantic atmosphere, watching the sun drop below the horizon in Ria Formosa will become one of the highlights of your holiday.

Groups of Friends Can Eat Local Food and Dance the Night Away

Dance the night away with your friends at one of Faro’s lively nightclubs and bars, including First Floor, Twice, and Prestige Dance Club. From trendy cocktail lounges to pulsating dance floors, the city comes alive after dark with music, laughter, and good vibes.

Be sure to visit a local, authentic restaurant too! There’s no better way to connect with Faro and the Algarve than by trying its mouthwatering cuisine. You can find some recommendations for where to eat in Faro in the next section.

Sardinhas Assadas

Where to Eat in Faro

Our city, like the entire Algarve, has a rich maritime heritage. It’s no surprise, then, that seafood is at the heart of our culinary scene. And when you add the bounty of other fresh and delicious ingredients our region is known for, delectable dishes are the only outcome!

Everyone has their personal tastes and requirements when it comes to food, so only you can say for sure what places you will like and those you should best avoid. Our blog What Foods Should I Try in Southern Portugal? is a great introduction to the kind of meals and ingredients you can expect to find here.

For now, some of our picks for the best places to eat in Faro include:

  • Tasca do Ricky
  • Taberna ze-ze
  • À do Pinto
  • Esboço
  • Afecto
  • Vó Bela
  • Tertulia Algarvia

This barely scratches the surface of the culinary delights you can find in Faro. And in addition to local fare, you can also find exceptional international cuisine, from sushi to Indian food.

When you’re on one of our Ria Formosa boat tours, don’t be shy about asking our team for their favourite recommendations too!

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Faro?

We have a blog called What is the Best Time to Visit the Algarve? which answers this question in more detail than we can here, so be sure to read it when you have finished this guide. But, broadly speaking, Faro enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers, making it an ideal year-round destination. 

Spring and autumn are particularly pleasant, with warm temperatures, clear skies, and fewer crowds. The summer heat brings peak tourist season, with long days perfect for beach outings and outdoor activities. Winter offers mild temperatures and festive events, making it a great time to explore Faro’s cultural attractions and culinary delights. Read about the best things to do in the Algarve in winter for more inspiration.

How to Get Around in Faro

We have previously created a detailed transportation guide called Getting Around in the Algarve. It’s filled with local insights and recommendations for your stay. It covers the information below in more detail:

  • Rental Car: Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore Faro, the surrounding areas, and the best off-the-beaten-path places in Portugal at your own pace. Several reputable car rental companies operate at Faro Airport, offering a wide range of vehicles to suit your needs. We strongly recommend booking your vehicle before arriving.
  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available throughout Faro and offer a convenient way to travel short distances or reach destinations not served by public transport. Look for licensed taxis with meters and official markings.
  • Public Transport: Faro boasts an efficient public transport system, including buses and trains, that connect the city with neighbouring towns and villages. Purchase tickets from kiosks or onboard vehicles and consult schedules for departure times and routes.
  • Bike Rentals: For a more eco-friendly and active way to get around Faro, consider renting a bike or e-bike. Browse our bike hire and e-bike rentals in Faro and start exploring on two wheels.

While Faro Airport is 3km west of the city, the journey between the two by road is 7km. This typically takes around 10 minutes by car or taxi, or 20 minutes by bus.

mountain bike trail

Don’t Miss Out on Our Ria Formosa Boat Tours!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this Ultimate Guide to Faro and hope that it’s inspired you to visit our beautiful city. If you want to make our Ria Formosa boat tours a central part of your holiday, browse our full range of excursions and find the perfect fit for you.

If you have any pre-booking questions for us, please get in touch for all the answers you need.

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