Welcome to Faro, in central Algarve, Portugal! The capital of the Algarve and home to Faro Airport, the Algarve's only international airport, Faro is a city surrounded by island beaches and Ria Formosa nature reserve, it really is an extra special city!
Here you have the Airport, beautiful beaches and areas of historic and cultural interest, restaurants, nightlife, local events and lots more to do!
The foundations of Faro started in Roman times, when the town was called Ossonoba. During the 9th century it was the capital of a short lived princedom, ringed with defensive walls and later the name changed to Santa Maria then to Harune. Finally in the middle of the 13th century Faro became part of Portuguese territory, completing the Christian reconquest of Portugal. In 1540 Faro was made a city and in 1577 became the site of the Episcopal Sé when the Bishop of the Algarve moved from Silves to Faro.
Faro, capital city of the Algarve, offers so much more than just a landing point in Portugal. It is a city full of history, great shops, restaurants and cafes aplenty, theatres and galleries, great beaches and the Ria Formosa nature reserve on the door step. The central area is really quite compact with everything within easy walking distance.
'Cidade Velha' - the oldest part of the city - is on the eastern side of Faro marina. Walk through the arch (Arco da Vila) by the Algarve tourist information office at the end of the Manuel Bivar gardens and follow the narrow, cobbled street, Rua do Municipio into the tree lined Largo de Sé. Faro Cathedral, in the middle of the square, may not look very grand from the outside, but inside is another story - the intricate gilded carving, decorated tiles (azulejos) and works of art are well worth seeing. It originates from the 13th/14th centuries (although much of the inside decoration is 17th century) and, despite having to be repaired after being ransacked and set alight by the Earl of Essex's men in 1596 and damaged in the earthquake of 1755, still has the original doorway and two original chapels.
If you don't mind a bit of a climb, walk up the steps in the tower and get a tremendous view of Faro and the other buildings in the square - it's a good chance to get a birds eye view of the typically Portuguese pyramid shaped roofs (tesouro) on the 17th century Episcopal Palace (which is in the square facing the Cathedral.) The Palace is still the official residence of the Bishop of Faro so is not open to the public.
The building along the adjoining side of the square is the Episcopal Seminary that was built at the request of the then Bishop of the Algarve, Francisco Gomes de Avelar, during the 18th-19th centuries. The Bishop was also one of the main people (with the backing of the Marquis of Pombal), who did much to restore the city of Faro after the earthquake and his statue stands in one corner of the Largo de Sé.
Outside of the 'Cidade Velha', following the water front around the corner from Faro marina, is Porta Nova pier where you can get a ferry to the ilha beaches. We thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride through the Ria Formosa - about a 30 minute trip each way - gently pottering through the calm waters in between the marshy outcrops, spotting a few birds along the way and generally watching the world go by. Also a chance to get another view of Faro - from the seaward side.
The streets leading away from the Manuel Bivar gardens take you into a mainly pedestrianised, shopping area where the streets criss cross at various angles and cafés and restaurants sit around cobbled squares! As you move further away from the water front, the modern office and apartment blocks appear and the hustle and bustle of working Faro starts.
If you like shopping, don't miss out on Forum Algarve shopping mall - it's on the main road (EN125) approaching from Faro airport side of town. It's got a really good selection of shops, cafés and restaurants and the central square is open air. At Christmas, apart from a rather spectacular large silver Christmas tree, there was also an outside ice-rink!
Many visitors to the Algarve miss out on the delights of Faro as it is often a transitional place for arriving at the airport and moving on to the destination resort. However, it really is a worth a visit. If you wanted to explore the city before heading off to your resort, a taxi will cost around €10,00 and a bus is less than €2,00 from the airport.
Faro - History
Faro is the administrative centre for the whole of the Algarve region with a population in excess of 55.000 people. The city has both Arab and Roman ruins but most of the present attractive older buildings were constructed after the disastrous earthquake of both 1755 and 1532. The Moors who occupied the town in the 8th Century originally gave the city it the name of Ossónoba and developed it into a trading port until 1249. They were then defeated by the forces of Dom Afonso III. With the decline of the importance of the city of Silves this town took over the role of administration of the Algarve area. The Earl of Essex sacked the town in 1596 with his fellow crusaders on their journey to the Holy Land and the collection of books taken from the palace of the Bishop of Faro became an important part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. Another interesting point is that during the 500 years of Moorish occupation there were some Jewish inhabitants in Faro who were kept busy printing copies of the Old Testament.
Faro - Description
Particularly attractive is the old part of the city surrounded still by the Roman walls which date back to the 9th. Inside a spacious open square that was once the site of the Roman Forum is a 13th Century Cathedral that faces the 18th Century Episcopal palace. An interesting building is the neighbouring 16th Century Convent that is now turned into the home of the city’s archaeological museum. Within it is a section devoted to the Arab occupation. The "golden" church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is claimed to be the best example of gold-leaf woodwork in southern Portugal. It also contains the macabre spectacle of a chapel lined with the bones from over 1.200 monks! Next to the small boat basin bordering the Praça de Dom Francisco Gomes is a small Naval Museum composed of scale model boats and galleons showing the maritime history of the coast. There is also the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre which consists of a cemetery and a small museum. Much of the city is now composed of apartments and there are attractive shops and a particularly artistic theatre. Faro is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 17.000 hectares and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods.
The beach is almost 7 Kms distant from the city and is a long sandy spit reached by crossing a bridge not far from the International Airport. The municipal council has an active cultural department organizing different and various events during the year.
Faro - Nearby Locations
Near to Faro is the small town of Almancil where nearby can be found the church of São Lourenço de Matos renown for its 18th Century blue tiles.
To the north of Faro at the inland village of Estói there are some notable roman ruins of Milreu depicting a 3rd Century Roman home that enjoyed more comforts than some of the newly built villas in today’s world. The Parish Church was built in the 16th century on the site of a previous chapel. Here, may be found the Manor House know as "Palácio de Estoi" which is due to be converted into a Pousada. Further to the north of this village is the town of Santa Barbára de Nexe with a bronze age hilltop fort nearby.
The well-known developments of Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo, both five star holiday areas are located west of Faro. Together they provide 7 top quality golf courses, tennis centres, riding schools, hotels, holiday resorts and villas View all on Map of Faro Below.
View faro in a larger map
Information courtesy of general internet research and algarveuncovered.com, portugal-info.net, tripadvisor.com, algarve-guides.com and many more sources
Faro Central Algarve Portugal
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