Faro is a sunny place and the view of Ria Formosa gives visitors an indescribable sense of freedom. Most points of interest are in Cidade Velha or “Vila Adentro”. It is an old urban center with more than 2 thousand years of history. A walled city where you will also find museums and terraces very inviting.
To get into Cidade Velha, the best place to start is Arco da Vila and goes to Arco do Repouso. Go on foot or on a motorcycle like I did, through the narrow streets. Stop once in a while, and you will feel the charm of this place. Come with us and discover this magical city through 10 points of interest that you cannot miss if you want to get to know Faro.
1. Vila Adentro and Downtown
The Islamic occupation is very present in Faro. Unlike other castles, the walls of the old city of Faro, now called Vila Adentro, are not at the top, but close to the marina, overlooking the Ria Formosa. The inhabitants made the walls their homes.
You should visit the main square where the cathedral is. Around it, you have restaurants, museums, galleries, among others. Vila Adentro has been the stage of Festival F, a music festival with a great impact on the city.
If you want to buy souvenirs, the downtown area is near Vila Adentro and is the perfect spot to do that. The inhabitants of Faro spend their daily lives along Rua de Santo António and parallels. This pedestrian area is very pleasant to walk because in the hottest days there are covers on the street to mitigate the sun. Not far there is the Regional Museum of Algarve where you can make a quick trip through the lands and customs of the region.
2. Ria Formosa Natural Park
Formed by 60 km of dunes, canals, islands, and islets, the Ria Formosa is one of the biggest points of interest in Faro. It is located between Praia do Ancão and Cacela Velha, being classified as a Natural Park.
Some of its islands have paradisaical beaches with white sand and crystal-clear waters. A natural oasis, difficult to resist. For those who like hiking, there are trails to know the local fauna and flora.
3. Barreta Desert Island
Here you find a vast sandy beach, if you go to the right, you have a pedestrian route of interpretation of the estuary and dunes. The route starts at the pier, over two kilometers until the cape of Santa Maria, the most southern point of mainland Portugal.
The path passes through a wooden walkway along the riverside next to the estuary. In addition to the landscape, you can see species that make Ria Formosa a true sanctuary for water birds. The route crosses the island, ending at Cape of Santa Maria, marked with an artistic installation.
4. Farol Island
It is located on Ilha da Culatra and owes its name because of the Cabo de St.ª Maria lighthouse. The lighthouse provides great scenic photographs.
5. Cacela Velha
Announced as the most beautiful beach in Portugal, in Cacela Velha it is possible to spend a day on the beach, almost alone. You will find a desert island with white sands and infinite shores. Around, in the only restaurant on the anchorage, you can taste the oysters and the shellfish from Ria Formosa.
6. Culatra Trail to Farol Island
This trail is one of the most beautiful in the Algarve. The route can be done starting at Culatra or the opposite. Culatra is part of Ria Formosa Natural Park. It belongs to a group of islands that separate the Ria Formosa from the sea.
The path starts at the beach and goes through a walkway that leads to the dunes. Taste here the razor clam rice or the typical stews. There are companies that sell cruises to the three islands for around 30 euros per person.
7. Faro Marina
Visit the marina of Faro located in the city center. Surrounded by a beautiful garden is enough reason for people to gather there. At night, some restaurants have live music and the crepe van, right in front of the marina, delights tourists.
Near, in Jardim Manuel Bivar, you can rest from your walks around the city. Also, be sure to take one photo at the spot where Faro is written in huge letters, on which tourists can sit, with the marina as background.
8. The Rest Arch
It constitutes one of the access doors to the medieval walls of the 12th century. This entry was reinforced by the Arabs in order to facilitate the defense of the city and avoid the enemy’s access.
Its designation is related to the Christian conquest of the city and to two legends. One tells that the troops of King D. Afonso III, after the conquest of the city of Faro from the Arabs, rested in this place; another story says that a Moorish daughter of an Arab governor, fell in love with a knight in the Christian army, so her father bewitched her and she lies here.
9. Faro Cathedral
Climb the tower to see the fabulous view of the city and the Ria Formosa. The staircase is narrow, but you won’t have to climb many steps. From here, go down to the estuary and exit through Porta Nova.
10. Spots to snack at sunset
The Castelo bar can be a good place to enjoy the sunset on a hot day. Vila Adentro or Tertúlia Algarvia are also great places to end the afternoon with a snack or a wine and if you want to go dinner to a good steakhouse, choose Faroon, the food is delicious.
Faro is an oasis of wonderful islands with a history full of legends.