A giant red love heart at the start of giant black lettering reading Faro sitting on the pavement in front of a marina full of small boats.

Things to do in Faro

Faro is the charming capital of Portugal’s Algarve region where there are so many things to do! Faro is sometimes overlooked by tourists flocking to the more famous beaches and resorts along the coast, but I recently spent 3 weeks in and around Faro and there are so many awesome things to do in Faro that I wish I had more time! It’s a treasure trove of culture, history, and natural beauty and offers a plethora of activities that appeal to every type of traveller. I’m excited to share my experience so you can make the most of your visit. So let’s dive into the best things to do in Faro, Algarve – where the sun kisses the sea, and adventure awaits at every corner!

Orange and purplish-blue horizontal streaks across the sky as the sun sets behind the Faro marina. In the background are larger boats, some with masts, and a palm tree, while the foreground has eight small, coloured boats lined up next to one another.
Sunset at Faro marina, Algarve, Portugal

1. Do a walking tour of the Old Town

I’m a big fan of the free walking tours often offered in tourist destinations. On my most recent trip, I’ve tried to do a walking tour of the old town on my first day in each new place I’ve visited. It’s a fantastic way to orient myself with the city, and to get a local’s perspective on the history, culture, and customs of the area. Local tour guides are also a wealth of information about the best places to eat, drink, shop, and play, so take advantage of their expertise and ask lots of questions. 

Years ago, walking tours could be kinda dull, but they seem to have evolved a lot and my recent experience has been awesome. Every local walking tour guide on this trip has followed up with me afterwards, emailing through a heap of local information and recommendations. It’s been a super-useful resource for the newest restaurants and cafes, but also suggestions about how to maximise local public transport cards etc.

There are several ‘free’ walking tour groups operating in Faro, and most leave twice a day (morning and afternoon) from just in front of the Tourist Information office (Rua de Misericordia, 8) – next to Arco da Vila.

2. Faro Beach

Faro boasts several beaches, but the best beach in Faro (and the easiest one to access) is Faro Beach (or Praia de Faro in Portuguese). It has the river on one side – part of the beautiful and unique Ria Formosa area – and the wildly refreshing Atlantic Ocean on the other side. The sand is pale golden and fine, the ocean is azure blue, and the coastline stretches for almost as far as the eye can see. It’s a really lovely spot.

There is plenty of parking near Faro Beach if you’ve rented a car. Alternatively, you can catch the bus from the Proximo bus terminal near the marina; just tap a credit card on the machine near the bus door, or pay the driver in cash.

Faro Beach has a number of restaurants, cafes, bars and ice cream shops very near the car park in front of the main part of the beach. You can get a lovely seafood lunch, a cold drink, or a snack to eat in, or to take away so you can enjoy a picnic on the beach.

The other beaches in the Faro area (like the gorgeous Ilha Deserta) are only accessible by boat. Public ferries leave from the waterfront area just to the south of the marina and can be reasonably priced, depending on the option you choose. The Husband and I visited in March so it was still a little cool. We opted for a 4-hour boat tour and spent about 45 minutes on each of three beaches. Just be aware that because the beaches are somewhat remote, there are not services out there, so take your own shade (if you’re going in hot weather), sunscreen, water and snacks.

White capitalised lettering reading Praia de Faro on a low stone wall. There are some palm trees in the background.
Praia de Faro / Faro Beach, Faro, Portugal.

3. The Chapel of Bones (Capela Dos Ossos)

One of Faro’s most intriguing sights is the Chapel of Bones (or Capela dos Ossos), located next to the Carmo Church in the big square just up from the Old Town. The walls and ceiling of this small chapel are adorned with the skulls and bones of over 1,000 monks. The idea is that the bones serve as a poignant reminder of life’s transience and that – when it all comes down to it – we’re all very much the same on the inside. The Chapel of Bones is a must-see for anyone interested in history, religious relics, and the macabre. The experience of a visit is fascinating as it offers a unique moment of introspection, but to be honest, it is also a little bit creepy. If you’re travelling with children, have a look at my photo and decide if it’s suitable for the kids.

The Chapel of Bones costs a couple of Euros to get in, but gives you access to the Carmo Church and the Chapel of Bones itself.

Tip: There’s also a toilet inside the church complex – public toilets can be few and far between, so it’s good to know where you can find one!

The inside of a small chapel - the walls and ceiling of which have been segmented into 1000 boxes. Each box is filled with the skull and bones of a monk.
Inside Faro’s Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos)

Day trips from Faro

Faro is centrally located in the heart of the Algarve, so it’s the perfect base from which to explore the region. The Husband and I rented a car (see Tips below) for several days and it was a great way to get quickly and easily to lots of fabulous places in the Algarve. Below are some Algarve day trip suggestions based on my experience:

  • Tavira is 35 minutes’ drive east of Faro. Tavira is a very pretty town with a beautiful old town that is well worth wandering around. (Just avoid the little tourist train that runs around town – I didn’t like it at all!)
  • Vila Real de Santo Antonio is 50 minutes east of Faro and is notable because it’s the first Portuguese town over the border from Spain.
  • Albufeira from Faro is 45 minutes’ drive west. Albufeira is a beautiful coastal town (city!) with a booming tourist industry. It’s notable for its night life, candy-coloured buildings, and striking coastal rock formations.
  • Algarve Benagil Cave. Just 50 minutes’ drive west of Faro is the Algarve’s Benagil Cave – a spectacular natural beauty that is a must-see on a day trip from Faro. You can see Benagil Cave – an ocean formed rock cave – either from the sea or from above. To see it from the sea, you’ll need to book a boat tour (there are loads in the area), or walk to it from the carpark above the beach. It’s a relatively quick and easy walk, but it is tricky to see right down into the bottom because there is a safety rail around the entrance. However, there are spectacular views over the Algarve coast from the little walk along the coastline.
  • Silves is 50 minutes west from Faro and – in my opinion – offers a totally different vibe from other towns in the Algarve region. Silves is a little more inland and so doesn’t have the beach culture that much of the Algarve has. As such, it’s quieter and less touristy. Great old castle to explore and a gorgeous old town.
  • Carvoeiro. Just 55 minutes west and it’s all happening in Carvoeiro! It’s a pretty town with great beaches and a fabulous boardwalk that runs for kilometres along the coast. Carvoeiro has lots of tourists, and heaps of bars, restaurants, shops and cafes.
  • Portimao is great for its old town, marina, and beaches that are just 55 mins west of Faro.
  • Lagos. One hour west of Faro lies Lagos – the third biggest city in the Algarve. I did an excellent walking tour around Lagos with a small group (see Tips below) and learned so much about lovely Lagos. You’ll definitely need a fully day in Lagos (or more, if you have time!).
  • Bordeira lies 1.25 hours north-west of Faro. Bordeira has beautiful beaches that seemingly stretch on forever!
  • Sagres (and Cape St Vincent) – Boasting mainland Europe’s most south-westerly point is Cape St Vincent in Sagres, 1.5 hours west of Faro. From here, the next stop is Canada!!
Looking up from inside a sandy-bottomed ocean rock cave with a circular hole in the top through which light is visible, and out two entrances in the side through which the flat, turquoise ocean is visible.
Algarve – Benagil Cave – Portugal

Day Trips from Faro Tips

  • I rented a car through Nice Rent and I was super-impressed with the small, family owned and run business. I have absolutely no affiliation with Nice Rent (and they don’t know I’m mentioning them), but based on my own experience, I recommend that you contact them as your first point of enquiry.
  • My Lagos walking tour was called “Free tour Lagos History, stories, tales, with a local – small groups” run by a lovely man called Artur. If you can internet search for Artur’s tour and get yourself on one, you won’t regret it.

Fado in Faro

No visit to Faro is complete without experiencing a Fado concert. This traditional Portuguese music genre, known for its soul-stirring melodies and poetic lyrics, offers a deep dive into the country’s heart and soul. Various venues in Faro host Fado nights, providing an intimate setting to experience this UNESCO-listed cultural heritage.

Lethes Theatre (Teatro Lethes)

Faro is home to the Lethes Theatre (or Teatro Lethes), one of the oldest theatres in Portugal, which some believe to be haunted. Whether you’re there to catch a performance or to explore its mysterious aura, the theatre is a fascinating place with a rich history and gorgeous architecture.

Lethes Theatre hosts some truly fantastic performances – from kids’ theatres to dance recitals and even music for Oscar Wilde. If you get a chance to see a performance there, I highly recommend it.

Municipal Museum

The Municipal Museum, housed in a 16th century convent is usually a must-see for visitors to Faro. However, unfortunately for me, it was closed for renovation while I was there, so I could only look at it from the outside. I believe, however, that it offers a deep dive into Faro’s cultural heritage, housed in a 16th century convent. The collections inside range from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary art, offering a comprehensive overview of the region’s history and cultural evolution.

Rent a bike, scooter, or segway

For a fun twist on sightseeing, consider renting a bike, scooter, or segway. These rentals offer a quick and eco-friendly way to navigate Faro and its surroundings, allowing you to cover more ground than on foot. Glide along the Ria Formosa, or venture further to discover hidden gems within and outside the city.

A giant red love heart at the start of giant black lettering reading Faro sitting on the pavement in front of a marina full of small boats.
I love Faro!

Boat Tour

Faro is the gateway to the stunning Ria Formosa Natural Park, a series of saltwater lagoons and islands that form a beautiful sanctuary for birds and marine life. Boat trips from Faro’s marina offer an excellent way to explore this natural wonder, with options ranging from leisurely cruises to exciting kayak tours. It’s an essential experience for nature lovers and those looking to capture the perfect sunset photo.

Shop til you drop

There are lots of shopping options in Faro – your biggest decision will be what to buy and from where!

  • Traditional produce markets every Sunday morning outside Carmo Church.
  • Art and craft markets near the marina (most days in high and shoulder season).
  • Large shopping malls like the Forum Algarve and Marina Shopping. Both include lots of fast food dining options, and there’s a good cinema at Forum Algarve, too.

Dining and Nightlife

After a day full of adventures, Faro’s culinary scene is the perfect way to wind down. Whether you’re craving fresh seafood (there’s plenty!), traditional Portuguese dishes, or international cuisine, you’ll find loads of dining options to satisfy your taste buds. As night falls, the city’s bars and clubs come alive, offering the perfect opportunity to mingle with locals and fellow travellers alike.

Some of my favourites from Faro Old Town include:

  • Cafe Algoa on Rua Alexandre Herculano. A local cafe with local prices – a real gem!
  • Amore Mio. Touristy but central, good food and decent prices.
  • Sol & Jardim. Also touristy but great local seafood dishes. Huge restaurant so can cater for larger groups.

So, folks, that wraps up my recommendations of things to do in Faro, Algarve! I have no doubt you’ll have a fabulous holiday in fantastic Faro, and I hope you’ll come back and let me know what were your favourites, and what you think I should add to the list.

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