Travel advice for Faro, the capital of the Algarve Portugal with the third largest international airport in Portugal, the gateway to holidays in the Algarve: Ilha de Faro & Ria Formosa, weather, accommodation, marina, beaches, university, historical old town, leisure, shopping tips, restaurants & bars, points of interest, surroundings, folklore, events,…
Faro is a city (cidade) and municipality (concelho) in the Algarve. It is the seat of the district of Faro and the capital of the Algarve, the southernmost region in continental Portugal. Since 1979, Faro has been a university city (University of Algarve). The International Airport of Faro is the third largest in Portugal with more than 5 million passengers per year.
Faro location and access
Getting to Faro
Faro is situated on the western edge of the natural reserve of the Ria Formosa. This unique lagoon system stretches from Cacela Velha near Tavira in the eastern Algarve to Quinta do Lago west of Faro. The peninsula de Ancão, better known as Ilha de Faro, is the westernmost link in the chain of islands and peninsulas separating the lagoon from the open sea of the Atlantic Ocean. When the planes approach Faro, passengers get a stunning aerial view of this magnificent.
Faro International Airport was opened in 1965. The number of passengers carried per year is far in excess of 5 million, making the airport the third largest in Portugal. Flight time to Faro from many European destinations is no more than three hours. During the winter month the number of direct flights to Faro is significantly reduced so that a stop-over in Lisbon may be required.
Dual carriageways connect Faro to the A22, which leads, in an easterly direction, to Spain and in a westerly direction to Lagos. The journey to Lisbon is about three hours. Please note, that since 2011, the A22 motorway has been subject to tolls.
Faro train station is situated a short walk from the city center. The Linha do Algarve, a single track railway, runs from Lagos to the border with Spain. The journey to Lisbon is about three hours. EVA Transportes operates a network of efficient bus routes across the Algarve, to Lisbon and to Seville in Spain. Its terminal is in the centre near the marina and the railway station.
Hotels in Faro and surroundings
Compared to the popular holiday destinations, the range of top hotels in the capital of the Algarve is limited. Two 4 star hotels, Hotel Eva and Hotel Faro, are situated on the small marina close to the historical old town. They offer outstanding views to the lagoon landscape of the Ria Formosa, Faro International Airport and the surrounding city centre. The railway station of the Linha do Algarve, connecting the major cities in the Algarve with Lisbon, and the bus terminal of Eva Transportes are within walking distance.
The Pousada Palacio de Estoi is a place of special beauty. The former Rococo palace of the viscount of Estoi, a village north of Faro, has been transformed into a small hotel with great ambience, combining modern comfort with the charm of carefully restored historical architecture. Pousadas de Portugal is a chain of smaller hotels, operated by the Pestana Group, located in places of special historic or romantic interest.
Faro sports and leisure
What to do in Faro
The barrier islands, Ilha de Faro and Ilha da Barreta (also known as Ilha Deserta) have white sand beaches that stretch for miles on the sea side behind a beautiful landscape of dunes. The estuary provides numerous opportunities for water sports and other activities. It is a favorite destination for boating excursions and for discovering the extensive flora and fauna of this area. The port of Faro, near the Jardim Manuel Bivar is only suitable for small boats as its proximity to the Algarve railway line limits the height for access to the berths.
The Algarve Stadium, built for the European Football Championship in 2004, is close to the A22 motorway between Faro and Loulé. The arena can hold more than 30,000 people. Every year the final of the Algarve Cup takes place here, one of the world's most prestigious women's football tournaments outside the European and world championships.
The nearby golf courses of Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Vilamoura, located within the so-called 'Golden Triangle' have a reputation as some of Europe’s best golf destinations.
Shopping and gastronomy in Faro
Forum Algarve and the municipal market of Faro
As you approach Faro you find Forum Algarve, one of the largest shopping centers in the region. Open every day, Forum Algarve offers a wide range of shops and restaurants over two floors and has a very popular supermarket. There is plenty of free parking.
Early morning is the best time to buy fish and seafood fresh from the boats at the Mercado Municipal (municipal market) in the city center. In the same building you can also find the Loja do Cidadão to help foreigners and locals with bureaucracy. The building also has a spacious underground car park.
Due to the European Football Championship being held locally, the pedestrian zone between the Jardim Manuel Bivar and the city center was renovated and decorated with a new walkway. This is a renowned shopping area with plenty of restaurants to enjoy as well.
Faro, an international capital of motorcycling
Folkfaro: Since 2003, folklore groups from all over the world have been invited by the Folklore Group of Faro and Faro Council to come and take part in this Festival. For nine days, they delight audiences with an authentic folkloric program. Hundreds of artists from several countries, musicians, dancers and actors play on various stages in the city and the surrounding area. The event culminates with an emotional Sunday Mass at a church in Faro.
International Biker Meeting Faro: The city boasts as an international capital of motorcycling. Every year in July thousands of bikers from Portugal and abroad roar into Faro for a week partying. The meeting, organized by the Moto Clube de Faro, culminates with a spectacular parade on the Sunday.
Feira de Santa Iria. It is one of the most traditonal fairs in the entire Algarve and take place in October.
Actual weather and weather forecast fo Faro
Actual weather conditions may significantly differ in the various locations due to the winds on the Atlantic coast. Therefore we are publishing more specific and detailed weather data and 72h weather forecast for selected spots on the Algarvian coast, including wind speed and direction, altitude of waves and rating for surfers as a special service to our visitors interested in water sports. According to our own experience, and based on judgement of the locals, this is the most accurate weather information currently available for the Algarve.
Tide table for the Algarve coast
Surf & wave forecast provided by the Hydrographic Institute of Portugal:
- Significant altitude
- Average direction
- Peak periods
- Wind direction and strenght
Weather in the Ria Formosa near Faro:
Surroundings of Faro
The surroundings of Faro: Ria Formosa, Estoi and Sta. Barbara de Nexe
The Ria Formosa Nature Reserve marks the outskirts of Faro which lies on the western edge of this unique landscape. The protected landscape has abundant wildlife and is of great ecological value. A barrier of islands and peninsulas separates the lagoon system from the open sea. The westernmost link of this barrier is Ilha de Faro, more correctly named Peninsula de Ancão, because it is linked to the mainland. A single lane road bridge near the airport connects the inhibited peninsula to the mainland.
Towards the east lies Ilha da Barreta, also called Ilha Deserta, because the island is uninhibited. During the summer a ferry boat commutes between the pier on the promenade near the historical old town of Faro and the island. The southernmost point of the Portuguese mainland, Cabo de Santa Maria, is located on the island at N 37º57'0", W 7º53'17". A navigable shipping channel between the island and the neighbouring Ilha da Culatra, marked by a mighty lighthouse, connects Faro to the Atlantic.
The village of Estoi north of Faro is renowned for the rococo palace Palacio de Estoi, built by the former Earl of Estoi. After a phase of restoration and opulent remodeling, this splendid building now houses the Pousada de Faro. Close to Estói, Milreu Ruins are amongst the most important remains of the Roman presence in the Algarve, classified as a national monument. What is to be found there today is the remains of a luxurious rural villa, transformed into a prosperous farm in the 3rd century,
Santa Bárbara de Nexe with its attractive rural scenery is a popular residential site among ex pats and also a popular area to own a second home. The surrounding hills offer wonderful panoramic view to the sea. The A22 motorway, which leads to Lisbon and Spain, and also Faro International Airport are both with easy reach.
History of Faro
Faro: from the Phoenician colony Ossónoba until today
The origins of the city of Faro date back to the 7th century B.C., during the Phoenician colonization of the western Mediterranean coast. The name of the village was then "Ossónoba". Under the Roman Empire is was known as "Oppidum Ossónoba" and became one of the most important markets for wine, fish and olive oil. During the reign of Emperor Augustus, the region became part of the province "Lusitania" of the Roman Empire. Vestiges of that era still visible are the ruins of Milreu near Estoi, and traces of the ancient Calçadinha Romana in São Brás de Alportel. This ancient route for the movement of troops began in Ossónoba and led north to Beja in the Alentejo.
Under the Visigoth reign, the city was called Santa Maria de Ossónoba; in 714 AD, the Algarve was conquered by the Moors, whose reign lasted five hundred years. The name Faro is thought to date back to the 11th century and Ibn Harun, who built a principality here. In 1249 Afonso III reconquered Faro. A large mosaic on the Arco do Repouso, one of the gateways to the Old Town, recounts this remarkable event. Thanks to the Jewish community the first Portuguese book was printed here in the 15th century. In 1540, Faro was elevated to a city and in 1577 the seat of the Bishop of the Algarve was transferred from Silves to Faro.
The 1755 earthquake and subsequent tsunami did not devastate Faro in the same way that it did Lagos, which then was the capital of the Algarve. For this reason, the following year, the administrative power was shifted to Faro.
Since the start of tourism in the second half of the last century and especially following the opening of the airport in 1965, Faro has steadily improved its facilities. Currently, Faro Airport is one of the three largest in Portugal.
Municipality of Faro
The parishes of Faro are: São Pedro e Sé (Faro), Conceição e Estoi, Montenegro and Santa Bárbara de Nexe. In 2011, the population of the municipality was over 64 000, which equates to an increase of ten per cent compared with 2001.