Faro, the region’s capital, is often bypassed in favour of the beaches. But we recommend stopping for a couple of days in the city, which boasts an attractive marina and a cidade velha (old town) of cobbled streets, sun-kissed squares and medieval buildings. Visit Igrejo do Carmo – a church which represents the oldest example of Rococo architecture in the area – and check out the macabre chapel made of 1,245 bones in the courtyard. The Museu Municipal showcases the city’s history from Roman rule and Muslim occupation to Christian conquest, and is well worth the trip.
Faro also has an exciting dining scene and an energetic nightlife. We recommend heading to one of the city’s restaurants serving traditional cuisine at candlelit tables, such as Se7e Padras or Dos Irmaos. There are lots of different options for post-dinner drinks, ranging from live music venues to upmarket cocktail bars.
The city is surrounded by some stunning landscapes. The flamingo-filled lagoons of the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa are right on the doorstep. Take a ferry through Ria Formosa and after 45 minutes you’ll arrive at Ilha Deserta, an uninhabited island and biodiversity hotspot which boasts deliciously empty beaches.