Love Faro sign in the Faro Old Town marina

Faro Old Town: Quick Guide to The Capital of The Algarve (2024)

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Last Updated on: 16th February 2024, 08:54 am

Are you wondering whether Faro Old Town is worth visiting?

Then this is the right blog post for you!

While planning our Portugal road trip, we were also curious whether it was worth spending a few days in the capital of the Algarve.

However, I’m super glad we did! I think Faro is widely underrated as a whole and we absolutely loved staying in Faro Old Town for a few days.

This charming city offers a rich history, vibrant entertainment, excellent shopping, and delicious local cuisine.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the nearby beaches or explore the natural beauty of the Ria Formosa, Faro has something for everyone. Just make sure to determine the best time to visit the Algarve based on what you want to see and do.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to Faro Old Town, highlighting its top attractions, best restaurants, and stunning beaches.

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover the historic charm of Faro Old Town, dating back 2,000 years.
  • Marvel at the beautiful Arco da Vila, the entrance to the old town.
  • Explore the cobblestone streets and landmarks of Faro’s historic center.
  • Visit Faro Cathedral, a stunning blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Mannerism styles.
  • Learn about Faro’s history at the Municipal Museum and marvel at the Bone Chapel at Igreja do Carmo.

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We loved walking around the cute streets of Faro Old Town

Why Visit Faro Old Town?

Faro Old Town is worth visiting for its charming historic streets, ancient architecture, cultural sites, and a glimpse into traditional Portuguese life, making it a captivating destination for history and culture enthusiasts.

Where is Faro & How to Get to Faro Old Town

Faro Old Town is nestled on the enchanting southern coast of Portugal, right in the heart of the Algarve region.

As the regional capital, it’s equipped with the primary international airport in southern Portugal, offering convenient access for travelers. Faro serves as the ideal launchpad for exploring the Algarve, and you’ll discover budget-friendly flights to this charming town.

Strategically positioned, Faro Old Town makes it easy to explore the entire Algarve and visit other coastal destinations such as Lagos, Tavira, and Albufeira.

A mere 1.5-hour drive to the west takes you to the Algarve’s westernmost point, Sagres, famous for its stunning beaches and rocky coastlines. In just an hour’s drive to the east, you’ll reach the Spanish border.

For a seamless exploration of the Algarve, renting a car is your best bet. Thanks to its international airport, Faro is among the top destinations in the south for car rentals.

We recommend using Discover Cars if you’re renting a car while in Faro!

Alternatively, public transportation offers a cost-effective option, with Faro’s extensive train station providing direct connections to various Algarve destinations. The town also enjoys excellent bus connectivity to nearby attractions, such as Ria Formosa Park and Praia do Faro Beach.

Uber and taxi services are other affordable choices for exploring the Faro area, thanks to its availability.

Faro Old Town also makes parking a breeze. There’s a spacious free parking lot adjacent to the city walls, offering easy access for all types of travelers, including campervan enthusiasts. In fact, many find it to be an ideal spot for wild camping during their Algarve adventures.

We first tried to park here just behind our hotel (Hotel Faro & Beach Club) but found free parking the next day.

Where to Stay in Faro Old Town?

When we explored Faro’s Old Town, we had the pleasure of staying at the exquisite Hotel Faro & Beach Club.

This charming 4-star boutique hotel sits right at the heart of the Old Town, offering a perfect blend of comfort and proximity to all the historical treasures. With a splendid rooftop bar that provides panoramic views of the town and the Ria Formosa, it’s an ideal place to unwind after a day of exploration.

The quaint streets, delightful cafes, and historical sites were just steps away from our doorstep, making our stay in Faro’s Old Town an unforgettable experience.

If you’re looking for a place that embodies the essence of this beautiful town, Hotel Faro & Beach Club is an excellent choice.

I loved admiring Old Town Faro from our window at Faro Hotel & Beach Club.

Things to Do in Faro Old Town

Here’s what you should add to your Faro Old Town itinerary:

Discovering Faro’s Historic Charm

Faro, the capital of the Algarve, is a historic city that carries traces of various civilizations. The city’s rich history dates back over 2,000 years and is influenced by the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, and Moors.

When you visit Faro’s Old Town, you’ll be transported back in time as you wander through the ancient walls, cobblestone streets, and historic landmarks.

The Phoenicians were one of the earliest known civilizations to settle in Faro, followed by the Romans, who left behind remnants of their presence, such as the ancient walls and mosaics. The Visigoths, Byzantines, and Moors also played significant roles in shaping Faro’s history and left their architectural influences throughout the city.

Exploring Faro’s historic charm is like stepping into a time machine. You can stroll through the narrow streets, marvel at the ancient architecture, and imagine what life was like in the past. It’s a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the different cultures and civilizations that have shaped Faro into the charming historic city it is today.

Influences in Faro’s History

CivilizationPeriodArchitectural Influences
Phoenicians8th to 7th century BCAncient walls
Romans2nd century BC to 5th century ADMosaics, ancient walls
Visigoths5th to 7th centuryEcclesiastical architecture
Byzantines6th to 7th centuryEcclesiastical architecture
Moors8th to 13th centuryArabic-style architecture

So, when you visit Faro’s Old Town, take the time to immerse yourself in the city’s historic charm.

Discover the architectural influences of the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines, and Moors, and appreciate the rich tapestry of history that has shaped this remarkable city!

Love historical towns and villages? Then you definitely need to visit Obidos while in Portugal!

Some of the many beautiful buildings we found in Old Town Faro.

Marveling at Arco da Vila

When visiting Faro Old Town, one of the architectural gems that you must see is Arco da Vila.

This beautiful arch serves as the entrance to the historic center and is a prominent landmark in the city. Built in the 19th century in the Italian neoclassical style, Arco da Vila stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and architectural heritage.

As you walk through Arco da Vila, you’ll be greeted by the old stone-built walls that have witnessed countless centuries of history. The arch features a magnificent medieval horseshoe arch from the Moorish period, adding to its charm and appeal.

You’ll also notice a captivating statue of St. Thomas Aquinas and a charming bell tower, offering a picturesque view of Faro’s historic center.

Discovering the Italian Neoclassical Style

The Italian neoclassical style, reflected in the design of Arco da Vila, emerged in the late 18th century as a revival of classical Greek and Roman architecture. This style prioritizes symmetry, simplicity, and clean lines, creating a sense of elegance and grandeur.

Arco da Vila’s intricate details and harmonious proportions showcase the beauty and timeless appeal of the Italian neoclassical style.

Visiting Arco da Vila is not just a journey through Faro’s history, but also an opportunity to appreciate the architectural beauty that the city has to offer. Take your time to marvel at the craftsmanship and immerse yourself in the ambiance of this historic landmark.

It’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed during your visit to Faro Old Town.

Beautiful greenery on the other side of the arch.

Exploring Faro’s Old Town

Faro’s Old Town, also known as Cidade Velha, is a captivating area filled with cobblestone streets, landmark buildings, museums, and charming squares. It is the heart and soul of the city, where centuries of history come alive.

One of the must-visit spots in Faro’s Old Town is Largo da Sé, a picturesque square lined with orange trees.

In Largo da Sé, you’ll find the impressive Bishop’s Palace, a majestic building that dates back to the 16th century. This architectural gem is a perfect example of Renaissance architecture and is home to the Episcopal See of Faro.

Adjacent to the Bishop’s Palace is the ancient cathedral, a stunning structure that showcases a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.

Exploring the streets of Faro’s Old Town is like stepping back in time. As you wander through its narrow alleys, you’ll encounter charming squares, quaint shops, and cozy cafes. Take the time to explore the hidden corners and let the city’s history unfold before your eyes.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply looking to immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of Faro’s Old Town, this is a place that will captivate you.

Wander the streets of Old Town Faro to discover some delightful historic structures.

The Bishop’s Palace and the Ancient Cathedral

The Bishop’s Palace is a fascinating place to explore, with its grand halls, beautiful courtyards, and intricate details.

Step inside and admire the opulent interiors adorned with ornate frescoes and impressive artwork.


Faro Cathedral

Faro Cathedral, also known as Igreja da Sé, is a must-visit attraction in Faro Old Town.

This historical gem was built in the 13th century and showcases a captivating blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Mannerism architectural styles. As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by the awe-inspiring beauty of the elaborate gilded wood altars, intricate columns, and stunning Portuguese azulejos (tiles).

Exploring Faro Cathedral allows you to immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural heritage of the region. The combination of different architectural styles creates a unique visual experience, with each element telling a story of its own.

Take your time to appreciate the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into the construction of this historic landmark.

Highlights of Faro Cathedral:

  • The intricate Gothic rose window is adorned with delicate tracery and ornamental motifs.
  • The Renaissance-style main chapel features a stunning altarpiece decorated with gold leaf.
  • The Baroque organ is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and musical excellence.
  • The Mannerist cloisters, with their elegant arches and serene atmosphere.

Climbing up the bell tower of Faro Cathedral offers a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.

From this vantage point, you can admire the charming red-tiled rooftops, the sparkling waters of Ria Formosa, and the lush greenery of the Algarve landscape. It’s a truly breathtaking sight that shouldn’t be missed.

Architectural StylePeriod
Gothic13th-15th century
Renaissance16th century
Baroque17th-18th century
Mannerism16th-17th century

Delving into Faro’s History at the Municipal Museum

The Faro Municipal Museum, located in the 16th-century Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, is a treasure trove of Faro’s rich history.

This fascinating museum offers a captivating journey through the city’s past, showcasing artifacts from its pre-historic, Roman, Moorish, and medieval periods. From ancient tools and pottery to intricate Roman mosaics, the museum provides valuable insights into Faro’s cultural heritage.

Discover Pre-historic Artifacts

One of the highlights of the Faro Municipal Museum is its collection of pre-historic artifacts.

These relics paint a vivid picture of the earliest inhabitants of the region, including tools, weapons, and everyday objects. Visitors can marvel at the skill and creativity of these ancient civilizations, gaining a deeper understanding of Faro’s roots.

Admire a Remarkable Roman Mosaic

A standout feature of the museum is a stunning Roman mosaic depicting the sea-god Oceanus.

This intricately crafted artwork showcases the skill and artistry of the Roman civilization that once thrived in the area. Visitors can appreciate the detailed patterns and vibrant colors of the mosaic, offering a glimpse into the ancient Roman way of life.

Explore Islamic and Medieval Artifacts

The Faro Municipal Museum also features a collection of Islamic artifacts from the Moorish period, offering a glimpse into the city’s Moorish heritage.

Intricate ceramics, textiles, and jewelry showcase the skill and craftsmanship of Islamic artisans of the time. The museum also houses medieval religious artworks, including sculptures and paintings, highlighting the city’s rich medieval history.

The Unique Bone Chapel at Igreja do Carmo

When visiting Faro’s Old Town, one attraction that stands out for its macabre beauty is the Bone Chapel at Igreja do Carmo.

This baroque church is known for its remarkable display of skulls and bones, creating an eerie yet captivating atmosphere. As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by the sight of over 1,000 monks’ remains arranged in intricate patterns, showcasing the artistic and religious beliefs of the time. It’s a truly unique experience that offers a glimpse into the rich history and traditions of Faro.

Exploring the Bone Chapel

The Bone Chapel, also known as Capela dos Ossos, is a small chapel located within the Igreja do Carmo complex. Its walls are adorned with carefully arranged skulls and bones, creating mesmerizing patterns and designs.

As you wander through the chapel, you’ll be struck by the artistic skill and meticulous attention to detail that went into creating this macabre masterpiece. The eerie ambiance is further enhanced by dim lighting and the faint scent of incense, adding to the overall experience.

A Historical and Spiritual Symbol

The Bone Chapel holds historical and spiritual significance, representing themes of mortality and the transient nature of life. The display of bones is a symbolic reminder of our mortality and the importance of reflection on the brevity of human existence.

The chapel serves as a poignant reminder of the impermanence of life and the need to appreciate each moment we have. It is a place for contemplation, allowing visitors to reflect on the cycles of life and death.

Visiting the Bone Chapel at Igreja do Carmo is not for the faint of heart, but it offers a unique perspective on Faro’s history and culture. It is a testament to the artistic talent and religious devotion of the past and provides visitors with a thought-provoking experience they won’t soon forget.

Quick Facts about the Bone Chapel at Igreja do Carmo

LocationIgreja do Carmo, Faro’s Old Town
Architectural StyleBaroque
Number of BonesOver 1,000
Historical SignificanceSymbolizes mortality and the transient nature of life

Exploring Beyond Faro Old Town

When you visit Faro, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the stunning islands that surround the city. Although they are not in Faro Old Town, you’re likely to catch the bus or a boat to one of these islands from the marina in Faro Old Town.

The Faro islands, including Ilha do Farol and Ilha Deserta, offer pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, creating the perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.

On Ilha do Farol, you can immerse yourself in a tranquil atmosphere, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The island is known for its long stretches of golden sand and picturesque lighthouse, which provides a beautiful backdrop for a leisurely stroll along the shore. Whether you want to bask in the sun, take a refreshing dip in the sea, or simply enjoy the peace and serenity of the island, Ilha do Farol is a must-visit destination.

If you’re seeking a more remote and secluded beach experience, Ilha Deserta is the ideal choice.

As its name suggests, this uninhabited island offers a true escape from civilization.

With its untouched landscapes and peaceful ambiance, it’s the perfect place to connect with nature and disconnect from the outside world. Take a leisurely walk along the pristine beach, listen to the soothing sounds of the waves, and embrace the feeling of serenity that comes with being surrounded by untouched natural beauty.

Ilha do Farol has the cutest little holiday homes on the beach.

Exploring Ria Formosa Natural Park

Ria Formosa Natural Park is a stunning wetland area that stretches along the Algarve coast, offering a unique and enchanting natural experience.

With its intricate network of canals and lagoons, the park is a haven for bird watching, especially for those interested in observing aquatic birds. The diverse ecosystem of Ria Formosa supports a wide range of bird species, making it a paradise for bird enthusiasts.

Exploring Ria Formosa Natural Park by boat is one of the best ways to appreciate the park’s beauty and immerse yourself in its tranquil atmosphere. As you navigate the canals and lagoons, you’ll have the opportunity to spot a wide variety of bird species in their natural habitat.

Keep your binoculars handy and be prepared to be captivated by the sight of elegant wading birds, colorful ducks, and graceful flamingos.

Beyond bird watching, Ria Formosa also offers the chance to discover other fascinating aspects of its ecosystem. From the rich plant life to the abundant marine wildlife, there are endless wonders to behold.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Ria Formosa Natural Park is a must-visit destination in Faro.

We went on a private boat tour to explore the Ria Formosa and visit the islands.

Soaking up the Sun at Faro’s Beaches

When it comes to a beach getaway, Faro has some stunning options to offer.

The city is not only known for its rich history and cultural heritage but also for its beautiful beaches that cater to every preference.

One of the most popular choices is Praia de Faro, a picturesque stretch of coastline that is easily accessible from the city center. With its golden sand and clear waters, this beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying water sports.

Whether you prefer a vibrant beach close to the city or a serene island escape, Faro has beaches that will cater to your desires. Soak up the sun, take a dip in the refreshing waters, or simply enjoy the picturesque surroundings.

With Faro’s beaches, you can truly unwind and make the most of your visit to this beautiful coastal city.

We spent some time on the beautiful Faro beaches.

Faro Old Town FAQs

Is Faro Old Town worth visiting?

Absolutely, Faro Old Town is a must-visit gem in the Algarve region. Its charming historic streets, lively atmosphere, and cultural richness make it a delightful destination.

Is there an old town in Faro?

Yes, Faro boasts a captivating Old Town, brimming with history, character, and enchanting architecture.

What is the name of Faro’s old town?

Faro’s Old Town is often simply referred to as “Faro Old Town.” It’s the historic heart of this coastal town.

What was special about Faro?

Faro is celebrated for its rich historical and cultural heritage, vibrant atmosphere, and the remarkable Ria Formosa Natural Park, a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Where is Faro Old Town?

Faro Old Town is located in the southern coastal region of Portugal, right in the heart of the Algarve.

What is Faro famous for?

Faro is famous for its stunning Old Town, historic architecture, lively ambiance, and its gateway status as the Algarve’s capital. It’s also renowned for the remarkable Ria Formosa Natural Park, a paradise for birdwatching and nature exploration.

The view from our window at Faro Hotel & Beach Club.

Visit Faro’s Old Town

As you conclude your visit to Faro Old Town, it’s hard not to be captivated by the charm and allure of this historic city in the Algarve. With its rich cultural heritage, intriguing landmarks, and stunning beaches, Faro Old Town has something for everyone.

So whether you’re drawn to history, natural beauty, or exciting nightlife, Faro Old Town in the Algarve is a destination that won’t disappoint. Experience its unique blend of attractions and make memories that will last a lifetime.


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