Faro is where you will find the international airport that has served the Algarve so well since package holidays and charter flights have made it easy for visitors to book summer holidays. Faro’s latitude is such that although the weeks of summer are the high season, the climate is pleasant even in winter when more northerly places in Europe are experiencing poor weather and low temperatures.
It was in the 60s when foreign tourism began to develop. Before that, the Algarve was a place of small towns and villages where the economy was agriculture and fishing. Once it became popular, visitors found lovely south-facing beaches and excellent cuisine.
Faro acts as the Algarve’s capital, with a population of 40,000 but with another 20,000 living in the immediate area. It avoided the damage suffered by much of the Algarve following a 16th-century earthquake and the subsequent tsunami because of its location. The sand banks of the Ria Formosa lagoon were its saviour. After the destruction elsewhere, Faro became the capital, taking over from the westerly town of Lagos.
While holidaymakers arriving at Faro International Airport have plenty of choices of where to make their holiday base, there are good reasons to book accommodation nearby beyond simply being close to the airport. Read on and you will see some options for things to do in Faro.
- Faro, Portugal
- Best Tours
- 20 Things To Do In Faro
- 1- Enjoy Beaches And Caves
- 2- Take A Catamaran To Ria Formosa
- 3- Hop On Hop Off The Islands
- 4- Look Out For Dolphins
- 5- Watch The Aquashow
- 6- See The Birdlife
- 7- Sample The Local Wine
- 8- See The Sunset From A Boat
- 9- Kayak On The Waters
- 10- Go To A Salt Mine
- 11- Join A Food Tour
- 12- Hop On Hop Off In The City
- 13- Charter A Yacht
- 14- Cycle In Ria Formosa
- 15- Attend A Fado Concert
- 16- Segway Before Lunch
- 17- Visit Faro’s Museums
- 18- Spend A Day Shopping
- 19- Explore Capela Des Ossos
- 20- See The Ruins Of Milreu
- Faro: Ria Formosa Faro Islands Catamaran Tour – cruise around the islands and discover hidden beaches.
- Algarve Coast: Dolphin Watching and Cave Tour – a cruise for lovers of nature and marine life.
- Algarve: Private Yachts Rental – cruise around the Algarve like a rockstar! If you’re visiting as a group, it doesn’t cost as much as you might think.
20 Things To Do In Faro
1- Enjoy Beaches And Caves
The major attraction of Faro, and the Algarve in general, is the coastline, beach and clear blue waters.
Benagil Beach is a popular place with the added attraction of its cave that you can explore with a guide on a tour.
You will have plenty of time to look closely inside the cave with several photo opportunities and the beach and sea to enjoy.
This tour then goes on to Marinha Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of the country.
After around an hour here, it is time to return to Faro.
Recommended tour: From Faro: Benagil Cave and Marinha Beach Guided Day Trip
2- Take A Catamaran To Ria Formosa
Ria Formosa Natural Park is certainly somewhere you should visit, and there is a tour where you can do it aboard a catamaran.
There are departures from Faro throughout the day, with the route being via the Ria Formosa channels.
Along the way, you will stop at the islands of Farol and Deserta.
The Santa Maria Lighthouse on Farol is most impressive and you have time there to sample local cuisine.
The best feature of Deserta is the setting; rolling dunes and scenic landscapes.
If you are lucky, you may see a chameleon! You will learn more about the region from the guide and also have the chance to swim.
Recommended tour: Faro: Ria Formosa Faro Islands Catamaran Tour
3- Hop On Hop Off The Islands
You can decide your itinerary with the hop-on hop-off boat service, where you can choose how long to spend on the three barrier islands of Ria Formosa.
This is a region of unique flora and fauna.
Desert Island is the first stop, an uninhabited island where tranquillity is guaranteed.
Stroll around, look for fauna and swim in the clear waters.
Next is Farol Island, where the village has a seawall and lighthouse.
Beach bars will be happy to see you.
The third island is Culatra, with its fishing village.
Oyster farms here are visible at low tide, and their produce is exported worldwide.
Recommended tour: From Faro: Ria Formosa Hop-On Hop-Off Island Tour
4- Look Out For Dolphins
There are never any guarantees when it comes to wildlife sightings, but you would be very unlucky not to catch sight of a dolphin on a dedicated trip heading out to sea.
The other attraction out at sea is the chance to relax.
You can swim and lie back to enjoy the lovely coastline with its rock formations, caves and small beaches.
The crew will be on alert to look out for dolphins, and sharp eyes coming from daily experience out at sea should ensure you have a memorable day.
Recommended tour: Algarve Coast: Dolphin Watching & Cave Tour
5- Watch The Aquashow
Aquashow Park is the country’s largest such facility in Portugal.
It is very popular so buying tickets in advance is a good idea; you will avoid the queues.
There are several attractions as well as bars and restaurants to cater for customers.
There is something for all the family, including things, especially for young children.
Slides range from gentle up to over 100 feet (32 metres) high.
The Wild Snake is a ride into the dark, while the wave pool is very realistic.
Top Swing is a huge pendulum, while there are shows using birds of prey, exotic birds, and reptiles.
These are just a few examples of what to expect if you buy tickets to Aquashow Park.
6- See The Birdlife
Ria Formosa is tidal, so things change regularly each day.
The locals are involved in fishing and shellfish production.
However, someone else that benefits from this natural setting and the bounty it produces are the birds, some residents, and other migratory visiting year after year.
Birds of prey know the best season for the arrival of the migration, but they can find prey right around the year as well.
If you book a tour, you can expect to journey down numerous small channels seeing and hearing the abundant birdlife before heading back to Faro.
Recommended tour: Faro: Eco-Friendly Ria Formosa Bird Watching in Solar Boat
7- Sample The Local Wine
Quinta da Tôr is a family-owned winery you can tour, learning all about how to make wine and why the Algarve’s production is so good.
You will sample 4 different wines at this winery after your tour.
The climate is ideal for grape growing and seven types thrive.
Chardonnay, Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon are types that most will recognise, but you can also find Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Siria and Arinto.
The wine you will taste comes under these classifications: Classic, Oaky, Brave, Premium and Golden Algibre Wines.
Regional bread and olive oil go really well with all of the wines; both are served as you drink.
Recommended tour: Quinta da Tor Winery Guided Tour & Wine Tasting
8- See The Sunset From A Boat
A great time to visit the Ria Formosa lagoon sunset and boat trips are available.
The boats are solar-panelled, leaving the marina in time to get photos of the sunset from different places.
As you move along quietly, we will see plenty of species of birds in the marshy land.
There will be no more than 10 on your boat, allowing everyone to relax and enjoy the experience.
You will also get a new perspective of Faro Old Town to add to your photographs of the day.
Recommended tour: From Faro: Ria Formosa Sunset Boat Trip
9- Kayak On The Waters
Most tourists to the Algarve spend their time on the beach, relaxing and swimming, taking in the sun’s rays.
There is a leisurely activity on the water.
If you want a new experience or have even tried a kayak before, the Algarve’s clear blue waters are a great place to enjoy sitting just above the sea’s surface.
In the calm waters, kayaks are stable, safe, and comfortable.
You can rent a single or a double, the latter is perfect if you have any doubts about your skills and want help.
There is even one that will take two adults and a child.
Each rental comes with a safety jacket incidentally.
Recommended tour: Faro: Kayak Hire in Ria Formosa Natural Park
10- Go To A Salt Mine
If you have cruised the offshore waters, you will have been impressed with the rocky coastline, with the beaches often in front of impressive rock formations.
You can learn more about geology by going on a guided tour of the TechSalt salt mine.
You will hear about its history and how salt mining was important to the economy.
The tour involves going down to 230 metres (around 750 feet) below Loulé, which is less than half an hour inland from Faro.
The huge chambers you will visit were formed over 200 million years ago.
Recommended tour: Loule: TechSalt’s Rock-Salt Mine Tour
11- Join A Food Tour
Mediterranean cuisine is rightly world-famous, and the food served in the Algarve stands up to critical scrutiny.
A good way to learn more and sample different dishes is to take a food tour to different places in Faro, restaurants and more casual taverns.
The walk between the different places is also great fun, with a knowledgeable guide filling in the details of the food and the history of the Old Town.
You will get a drink in each of the places you visit, with as many as 10 different dishes to sample.
This is where the locals eat, and their favourite dishes are all there for you to taste.
The tour lasts around three hours, after which you will learn more about local history and Faro food.
Recommended tour: Faro Old Town Guided Walking Food Tour
12- Hop On Hop Off In The City
Faro has a special tourist train whose route takes you past all the significant landmarks and locations in the city.
These include the Igreja São Pedro, Zona Comercial da Baixa de Faro, Jardim Manuel Bivar, Igreja da Misericórdia, Sé de Faro, Teatro Lethes and Igreja do Carmo.
It also passes the Ria Formosa lagoon.
There is a commentary in several languages, providing facts on every place you pass.
A day pass to Carom allows you to get off and on wherever you wish with a published timetable available to know the train’s regularity.
The tour starts at Praça D. Francisco Gomes with stops at Jardim da Alameda, Ermida de Santo António, Mercado da Cidade e Igreja do Carmo in order.
Recommended tour: Faro Hop On Hop Off City Tour by Tourist Train
13- Charter A Yacht
Private charters are available along the coastline.
Why not experience a little luxury as you sail along? You will see the impressive rock formations with the crew able to answer your questions as you proceed.
There is time to swim and snorkel, although simply relaxing, and perhaps going to the solarium just as popular with passengers.
You can charter a whole boat and, within reason, decide on your own itinerary, taking in local advice.
There is an unforgettable experience of colours, smells, scenery and luxury.
Recommended tour: Algarve: Private Yachts Rental
14- Cycle In Ria Formosa
Ria Formosa is one of Portugal’s real natural wonders, an area of true biodiversity.
You can take a guide with you as you cycle around at your own pace, keeping your eyes open for its wonderful birdlife, including flamingos.
There are saltpans and beaches, home to a range of wildlife.
The area is protected, hence the richness of its wildlife.
The marshy area is equally impressive and home to other species of birds.
Before reaching Praia de Faro (Faro Beach), you will see numerous channels and islets.
It is time to relax with a drink, but there is time to swim before you return to give back your cycle.
Recommended tour: Faro Bike Tour through the Beautiful Ria Formosa
15- Attend A Fado Concert
“Fado no Museu” (Fado at the Museum) is a short concert involving players with a Portuguese guitar and viola.
While the vocalist sings in Portuguese, that does not detract from the enjoyment of such an event.
The songs talk about the history and culture of Portugal.
The event is in four parts beginning with a short film explaining the history of Fado Music.
It is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity incidentally.
The live Fado concert follows, and you will be invited to wine tasting with the chance to buy.
Once you have sampled the wine, you can visit the Museu Municipal de Faro to learn more about the city.
Recommended tour: Faro: Fado Show at the Municipal Museum
16- Segway Before Lunch
Temperatures rise in the high season, so perhaps hiking is for another time?
Alternatively, you can take some water and Segway to follow the numerous trails and paths that hikers follow in cooler times.
You can explore with the help of an experienced guide with your “transport” able to take you further than you would go if walking.
Quinta do Lago is an option, an expensive place that many celebrities frequent.
There is real opulence here; villas, restaurants and bars surround the nature reserve.
Lunch will be seafood, an obvious choice in a region rich in marine life.
Recommended tour: Ria Formosa National Park Segway Tour & Seafood Lunch
17- Visit Faro’s Museums
Faro is famous for its museums which are a great way to learn more about the region and its history.
The Maritime Museum is impressive, while the Centro Cultural de Faro is a stunning Art Nouveau building housing several art galleries, a planetarium, and a cinema.
The Museu do Faro is interactive, teaching visitors about the city and its history, employing fun games, films, and hands-on activities.
The Faro Archaeological Museum is free, the oldest archaeological museum in the Algarve.
It exhibits several things found locally, some over 3,000 years old including tools, pottery and even Roman coins.
The Faro Cathedral Museum is an option as well. Who knows? You may get a day of poor weather!
18- Spend A Day Shopping
Most tourists take back presents after their holiday.
When it comes to shopping, Faro has plenty of choices.
The city’s Malls include the Forum Algarve, the Forum Algarve Pavilhão, the Forum Algarve Center and the Forum Algarve Grand, where you will find plenty of quality.
The Forum Algarve is the largest, comprising over 200 stores, with plenty of big-name international brands.
The Forum Algarve Center is probably the choice if you want a more affordable option; there are still over 100 stores.
19- Explore Capela Des Ossos
The Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones), alternatively, the Capela dos Mortos (Chapel of the Dead) is unique in Faro.
It is on a limestone cliff, with legend believing it to be haunted.
Several visitors have claimed over the years that they heard voices there, while others claim to have seen lights moving around at night inside the chapel.
You can get inside; if you do, you will see several intricate carvings.
20- See The Ruins Of Milreu
This region was part of the Roman Empire in ancient times.
The best reminder of that? Milreu, an ancient settlement!
The ruins of Milreu are still in decent condition to the extent they provide a good idea of life back in those days.
If you head there, you will find locals happy to take you around, explain the different parts, and answer your questions.
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