There’s more to Faro than sun, fun and cheap flights. Drag yourself off the beach and find your own adventure in this bustling student town.
For many tourists, Faro will pass in a blur as they’re bussed from the international airport to their air-conditioned hotel resorts. While there’s no denying the appeal of the Algarve weather (or the excellent golf), it would be a shame to miss this small but ridiculously friendly town.
Prices for food and accommodation remain very reasonable, especially if you rent a room or cool, tiled apartment from a local and steer clear of the tourist traps on the marina that offer all-day breakfasts and ‘authentic’ Portuguese food. One specialty you shouldn’t miss is bacalhau, or dried salt cod, washed down with a cold glass of vinho verde - the sparkling ‘green’ wine that tastes even better al fresco.
When you’ve had your fill, take a boat and explore the gorgeous Ria Formosa nature reserve that stretches along the tip of Portugal into Spain. Closer to home, the small but beautifully formed Cidade Velha – the Old Town - is perfect for aimless wandering and people-watching. Don’t miss the macabre Chapel of Bones, to the side of the elegant Carmo Church, where the human remains are piled up to the arched ceiling. Less famous, but equally worth a trip, is the town’s Jewish Cemetery. Like the echoes of Moorish architecture, it’s a reminder of the town’s rich, diverse – and sometimes violent – history.
But Faro isn’t a town stuck in the past. The big student population means that on warm nights the narrow alleys leading off the Rua Conselheiro Bivar and Rua Infante Dom Henrique are buzzing with a young laidback crowd who are never in a hurry to get home. So leave the golf courses and sun-loungers to the blue-rinse brigade, and join the party.