The capital of the Algarve in the south of Portugal, Faro stands proudly as one of the most authentically ‘Portuguese’ of the country’s larger cities. A cultural hotspot, the city celebrates its heritage all year round, hosting various concerts and festivals. Its nightlife is bang on trend and the city’s bars pulsate with a mix of traditional and contemporary music that filters out into the streets from the early evening into the small hours. One of the main attractions here is the beach, situated 7 kilometres from the city centre. The sand stretches for miles and the many resorts along this stretch of coastline are popular with travellers, though it is rarely crowded (parking, however, remains a problem so plan ahead!). As well as a serving as a beach getaway for the wind- and rain-weary traveller, Faro is a historic city brimming with culture. The predominant Moorish and Roman influences that have shaped the city over the years can still be seen today, in the architecture, the many museums and the mores and traditions of the city and its inhabitants.
For those wanting to delve straight into the history of the town and the surrounding area, the Faro Archaeological Museum (Convento Nossa Senhora da Assunção) is a particular highlight. It showcases, amongst other items, a Roman mosaic and a collection of Moorish curios, as well as an impressive series of paintings charting the history of the area in its varying styles, from Italian to Portuguese. In the Largo do Carmo square, the Capela de Ossos is a more unusual but no less interesting choice - a part of the chapel was built out of human bones by Carmelite monks. Legend has it that the monks hoped to shock visitors into realisation of their own mortality and be thereby encouraged to live a life without sin.
Like Porto and Lisbon, Faro has an old town at its heart. Look out for the entrance to the east of the Faro Marina. Once a Roman Forum, the main square is now open and surrounded by pavement cafés, museums and intricate buildings. The most iconic of these is the Cathedral, which stands opposite the eighteenth century Episcopal Palace. The cathedral’s tower is open to visitors and the views from the top over the city and the coast out onto the sea are very much worth the climb. Or, to enjoy the city at street level, this is the perfect place to wander the pedestrianised boulevards, grab a quick pastry or a coffee and do a spot of boutique shopping in the shade of the palm trees and sunny awnings that line the streets.
For a change of scene, there is another option. Just off the mainland, the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve offers a haven for wildlife lovers and is the perfect daytrip destination. Spread along 60km, this network of lagoons and islets houses a variety of rare bird species as well as bountiful flora and fauna. The sultan chicken, an extremely rare bird with blue-tinted feathers and bright red talons and beak, is the icon of the island and a small population live here amongst the sea thistle and sand cacti. Boat tours can be booked from the marina.
Last Edit by ASchilz on 2/10/2011 EDIT NOW >>