View of the marina of Faro city located in the Algarve, Portugal. Among the many contenders in the Algarve region, Faro is definitely an underdog. Located in the heart of the Algarve, Faro is often overlooked as a holiday destination that many just consider a stopover on the way to one regions sun-drenched beach resorts. However, this underdog has an arsenal of charm and allure that give it an edge over its seaside competitors. The history of the city extends back before the Portuguese seized the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors. Both Faro and the Algarve region established its roots when the time of the Romans, Byzantines and Visigoths had ancient settlements and forts in the area. This extensive history is reflected in the architecture and historical remains scattered throughout the Faro’s cobblestone Old Town and surrounding areas. A tour of Faro’s significant landmarks is a wonderful way to learn about the city’s past and present. When you’ve had your fill of historical intrigue, Faro boasts a lion’s share of tantilising dining choices and boutique shops haven’t lost their authenticity. And if you still feel compelled to make a break for the beach, Faro offers one of the country’s most alluring beaches right off its coast. Faro, in its own right, makes for a fascinating and enriching city break. So whether you choose to make that your final destination for a long weekend or tack on a few extras days to your beach holiday to explore the city Faro is sure to exceed expectations. Discover the best of the city with our rundown of the best attractions, entertainment, restaurants and bars to enjoy. It’s a quick guide that ensures you will leave Faro rooting in its corner.


History

Faro Cathedral

Faro Cathedral is a one-stop shop of Faro’s unique and storied past. The site of the church once belonged to Roman forum, followed by a mosque and then lastly the Catholic cathedral. While the structure itself has undergone many changes and beatings thanks to outsider attacks and natural disasters, it is a true reflection of the different legacies that once laid claim to Faro. Visitors with an eye for architecture will appreciate the different cultural influences found within the Faro Cathedral. For sweeping views of the neighbouring Old Town and wetlands, we recommend climbing the steep steps up the cathedral’s tower.

Estoi

Eleven kilometres outside the city centre are the ancient ruins of Estoi. The Roman ruins here date back to AD100-200 are some of the largest and most well preserved in the whole of Portugal. They include Roman baths, a villa, a mausoleum, a wine press and a crumbling temple. There are also features such as columns and mosaics that have withstood the test of time. While there, be sure to also stop by the 18th-century Estoi Palace that is splashed with pink paint and includes a lush garden that makes a great retreat on a hot summer’s day.

Carmelite Church and the Chapel of Bones

faro church skulls One of the city’s most popular attractions is the slightly morbid ‘Igrega do Carmo’. On the outside the church seems perfectly normal until you walk in and are greeted by the skulls of over 1,000 monks. The gilded Baroque-styled church is renown for its ‘ Capela dos Ossos’ or bone chapel. The interior is decorated with the thousands of bones that were dug up from a nearby cemetery in the early 1800’s. The inscription over the door reads, “Stop here and think of the fate that will befall you-1816.” Suppose it was the Carmelite monks not-so-subtle-way of encouraging their congregation to show up every Sunday.


Food and drink

1. Restaurante 2 Irmaos

You probably won’t stumble upon 2 Irmaos unless you seek it out. Tucked discreetly off the main commercial centre, this restaurant is one of the oldest in Portugal. It was established in 1925 as a tavern but thanks to its popularity in the region, became a full-fledged restaurant several decades later. Diners here will enjoy an impeccable wine list and traditional dishes that have been carefully prepared in modern ways. It’s the perfect place to enjoy fresh seafood like grilled fish, prawn skewers or steamed clams while dining al fresco in the restaurants cheerful backyard garden. Website ¦ Address: Praca Ferreira de Almeida 15, 8000-156 Faro, Portugal

2. Columbus Cocktail & Wine Bar

Admittedly if you’re looking for a local dive bar, this place is not for you. However if you are looking for expertly crafted cocktails and a swanky outdoor atmosphere, then look no further. The exterior is set within a grand stone colonnade, and interior is dark and sultry. This cocktail bar is perfect for a summer’s night out with friends. If Columbus were a cocktail man, we bet he’d be impressed by the extensive list international cocktails that include Mai-Tais and Caipirinhas. Website ¦ Address: Praca Dom Francisco Gomes, 8000-168 Faro, Portugal

3. Faz Gostos

Considered the most elegant eatery in Faro, Faz Gostos delivers sophisticated Portuguese specialities at prices that won’t break the bank. The restaurant’s ambiance is refined without being pretentious and the menu highlights include game, grilled meats and succulent seafood. Website ¦ Address: R. do Castelo 13, Faro, Portugal


Outdoor splendour

Ilha Deserta

DsrtaCst-5459P Okay, while we think there is plenty to do within Faro city limits, who can resist a big beautiful beach? About seven kilometres off the coast of Faro lies the starkly beautiful Desert Island, otherwise known as Barreta Island. There is no better way to escape the bustle of city than hoping a ferry to Desert Island. The island is protected by the Ria Formosa Natural Park and along with the island’s remoteness is why you will feel like a true castaway on one of Portugal’s most breath-taking (and quiet) beaches.

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