By Darren Griffiths

18 Best Things to Do in Faro, Portugal

8th July 2023

Faro is southern Portugal’s main entry point for tourists and backpackers and in this article, you’ll find the very best 18 things to do in Faro. The city is located in the Algarve region and is alive with culture, history, and wildlife. This, combined with the exciting buzz of visitors traveling through and locals going about their daily lives makes Faro a fun place to visit.

Faro’s alluring streets are lined with open-air cafes and bars which transform into a vibrant nightlife after the sun goes down.

There are plenty of things to do in Faro that will appeal to anybody and everybody, and it is also the ideal city to use as your base for day trips.

Faro is a charming and inviting city that provides an authentic and delightful Portuguese experience. Check out these best things to do in Faro and day trips too!

1 – Explore the City Walls of Faro Old Town (Arco da Vila)

If you’re visiting Faro for the first time, you’ll be able to see many of the best Faro tourist attractions just by wandering out of your hotel and through the cobbled streets of the Faro Old Town for a few hours.

Arco da Vila, Faro, Portugal
Arco da Vila, Faro, Portugal

The old town is found within the ancient city walls, many parts of which you can still see today. There are three parts of the city walls that are particularly worth seeking out.

The first is the Moorish Gate, the Arco da Vila. The second is the Casa do Arco do Repouso, and the third is the Arco da Porta Nova. These are the medieval archways that gave entrance to the old town.

Of these three arches, the Arco da Vila is the most impressive. It’s a monumental neo-classical archway built in the 19th century but you can still make out the Arabic doorway that let traders enter the city from the sea.

The Arco da Vila is considered one of the most important Moorish pieces of architecture in Portugal.

Once you’ve found these three medieval gates, you deserve a drink at a bar atop the city walls, canned the Castelo Bar. On Mondays, they have Fado performances.

For an alternative way to see the town, why not try out this guided segway tour of Faro! 

2 – Faro Cathedral (Largo da Sé)

Faro Cathedral is another of the best things to do in Faro in the old town. Like many buildings in Spain and Portugal, Faro Cathedral is built on top of a 13th-century mosque.

Faro Cathedral Azulejos, Faro, Portugal
Faro Cathedral Azulejos, Faro, Portugal

In fact, the mosque was a very early building on the Moorish reconquista of Faro and began in 1251, but almost like a fortress rather than the light and soaring buildings, we think of as Cathedrals in other parts of Portugal and Europe.

It has a few amazing features – for a start, it’s the biggest church in the whole Algarve region. Second, it has some wonderful acoustics and some artistic treasures in its altars and azulejos (the beautiful glazed tiles made in Portugal).

There are lots of other things to see including cloisters, chapels, a garden, and the Museum of the Cathedral. You can climb the Tower and the Bell Tower.

3. The Bone Chapel

The Capela dos Ossos, or Bone Chapel, is a small chapel that you can find in a wall of one of Faro’s picturesque churches, the Igreja do Carmo.

Capela dos Ossos, Carmo Church, Faro, Portugal
Capela dos Ossos, Carmo Church, Faro, Portugal

This 18th-century church holds the bones (including the skulls) of over 1200 monks. The bones of the monks were originally buried at a friar’s Cemetary until 1816 when they were moved to the Bone Chapel.

The Igreja do Carmo is a very good example of Portuguese baroque architecture with lovely gilded woodwork, stained glass, and painted tiles.

Creepy and beautiful – another old town attraction to check out when visiting Faro for the first time.

4 – Scuba Diving

Not all of the best things to do in Faro are on land! Faro is a perfect place to go diving. Hidroespaço Dive School and Dive Centre offers classes for beginners and several different experiences for all levels of divers.

Scuba Diving is one of the best things to do in Faro, Portugal
Scuba Diving is one of the best things to do in Faro, Portugal

If you have never been diving before, the center offers beginner classes to teach you everything you need to know.

Once you feel confident being underwater, or if you already have your diver’s license, you can then experience and explore shipwrecks and natural and artificial reefs

There is also an intriguing underwater archaeology site, as well as the world’s largest community of seahorses in the Rio Formosa.

5 – Kayaking Ria Formosa

Another top-rated thing to do in Faro is to go explore the Ria Formosa by kayak. The Ria Formosa is a natural park and has recently been voted as one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal.

Kayaks on the banks of Rio Formosa, Portugal
Kayaks on the banks of Rio Formosa, Portugal

It is sheltered from the sea by 5 barrier islands and 2 peninsulas. During your exploration of the Ria Formosa, you are likely to see a variety of aquatic birds, chameleons, sea horses, and the rare Portuguese water dog.

You don’t have to have any experience to enjoy this kayak tour and you can choose from a duration of 2.5 hours, a half day or even a full day.

The Ria Formosa combines wetlands, canals, islands, marshes, and barrier islands for one of the many unforgettable things to do in Faro, Portugal. 

Click below for more information!

Alternative Rio Formosa Tours:

If a romantic sunset cruise is more your style then book this Colours of Ria Formosa: Sunset Boat Trip in Faro!

Or how about a Faro Bike Tour through the Beautiful Ria Formosa!

6 – Castle of Silves

This castle is thought to have been built during the Roman period and is highly popular with history lovers. It is one of the best-preserved castles in Portugal.

The town of Silves with its castle, Portugal
The town of Silves with its castle, Portugal

This red sandstone castle overlooks the town of Silves. The town was an important trading and cultural center before the battles between the Christians and the Moors broke out.

The town was victim to bloody battles and deadly skirmishes for control over this important area which lasted until 1249. Today, the castle is open daily for you to walk around and explore.

Hopefully, you don’t scare easily, as the castle is rumored to be haunted.

7 – Lighthouses

Lighthouses always evoke feelings of power and safety. The Cabo de Santa Maria was built on Culatra Island in 1851.

Cabo de S. Vincente Lighthouse, Portugal
Cabo de S. Vincente Lighthouse, Portugal

It stretches 46 meters (150 feet) into the sky and its powerful light reaches 46 meters out to the sea.  The Cabo de S. Vincente Lighthouse is one of Europe’s largest lighthouses and has been operating since 1846.

It reaches 86 meters (282 feet) in height and its light reaches 32 nautical miles. Seeing these stoic lighthouses is a perfect day trip from Faro, and you can enjoy the stunning coastline while driving to see them.

8 – Dolphin Watching

Getting out into the open ocean to see these magical creatures is another top-rated things to do in Faro.

Dolphin-watching tour, Faro, Portugal
Dolphin-watching tour, Faro, Portugal

This 2-hour boat tour will get you up close and personal with dolphins and other beautiful sea creatures. Dolphins are super intelligent and extremely playful and love to put on a show and swim around the boats.

On this exciting tour, you will also be able to explore and swim in the jaw-dropping caves and grottos that line the Algarve coastline.

The Algarve waters are beautifully blue and alluring and are perfect for swimming.

Click below for more information!

9 – Walking Tours

Another way to explore the Ria Formosa is by taking a guided walking tour through the marshes and pinelands.

Marshes of Rio Formosa, Portugal
Marshes of Rio Formosa, Portugal

This 3-hour tour gets you up close and personal with rare birds and other interesting wildlife. Your tour guide will also provide interesting local knowledge about the area’s history and culture.

Starting above the lagoon, you will follow your guide down to the woodlands where you will hopefully get the chance to see the elusive chameleon and the Purple Swamphen, which is the symbol for the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

You will also get to see and talk to locals working at the salt flats and clam farms.

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10 – Pirate Ship Cruise

Pirates are infamous throughout history and we all love to hear the legends and stories of these legendary outlaws. There are some ‘piratical’ things to do in Faro, and being on board a pirate ship is at the top of the list!

Pirate ship cruise, Faro, Portugal
Pirate ship cruise, Faro, Portugal

Take a trip back in time and pretend to be a pirate aboard this historic pirate ship, and set sail to explore white sand beaches, magical swimming grottos, and caves.

There is a bar on board, of course serving rum, to make your pirate experience even more authentic. And of course, you will get a chance to walk the plank for a revitalizing swim in the sea.

This pirate ship cruise takes you past the beautiful beaches of San Rafael, Castelo, and Praia da Gale and out into the open Atlantic where you get a great view back to the coastline of southern Portugal.

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11 – Garden of Alameda Joao de Deus

This park is a wonderful place to walk through or have a picnic in. There are brilliantly colored peacocks walking all around the park, adding a little something extra to your visit.

Garden of Alameda Joao de Deus, Faro, Portugal
Garden of Alameda Joao de Deus, Faro, Portugal

There is also a free mini golf course available to the public in the mornings. The park also features fountains and free workout equipment and plenty of play areas for kids as well.

This park is the perfect place to sit back with a good book or empty journal as there are various shady or sunny spots to relax in.

12 – Cape St. Mary

Described as being in the middle of nowhere, Cape St. Mary is endlessly beautiful and super secluded. if you’ve had a few days exploring Faro Old Town, you might want to head out of town and spend some alone time on the golden sandy beaches

Cape St. Mary, Faro region, Portugal
Cape St. Mary, Faro region, Portugal

There is a 2.5-km boardwalk to follow as you stroll along the beach. You can spend hours here without seeing another person. You can collect seashells or go for a peaceful walk or an invigorating run.

You can go for a revitalizing swim in the sea or soak up the sun and solitude on the beautiful white sand beach.

Cape St. Mary is the southernmost point in continental Portugal and is a highly recommended place to visit.

Cape St. Mary can get “crowded” in the summer seasons but the pristine beaches here make it worth the effort at any time of year.

13 – Milreu Roman Ruins

These ancient ruins have been classified as national monuments and comprise a temple, mausoleum, and industrial and commercial areas.

Milreu Roman Ruins, Portugal
Milreu Roman Ruins, Portugal

The ruins were discovered in 1877 and still feature some maritime mosaics on the walls. The ruins are a great way to venture back in time and see what Roman life used to be like.

There is also a museum on site to learn even more about Roman history. It is the perfect day trip from Faro for anyone who loves history and is especially fun for kids.

14 – The Islands

Faro is well known for its islands. Enjoy a 5-hour boat ride and visit Deserta, Farol, Culatra, and Armona Islands.

The wonderfully coloured waters between Faro and its islands
The wonderfully coloured waters between Faro and its islands

On Deserta Island you can enjoy a peaceful walk along the pristine beach, and on Culatra you will experience one of the most important fishing communities in Portugal, where you can learn about the local clam farms and oyster beds.

You will also have time to explore the rest of the islands as well as go for a refreshing swim in the sea. Keep your eyes open for sea creatures and aquatic birds.

Click below for more information!

15 – Museo Maritimo

Being a sea town, Faro has a wonderful museum dedicated to the area’s history with the sea. The museum is made up of 3 rooms and is the perfect place to visit while in Faro, especially with kids.

Museo Maritimo, Faro, Portugal
Museo Maritimo, Faro, Portugal

You can see models of fishing boats, fishing equipment, and peculiar things of interest that have washed up on the shores of Faro. The museum was created in 1910 and is one of the interesting things to do in Faro.

The museum is open Monday through Friday and is free for children under six.

16 – Faro Municipal Museum (Museu Municipal de Faro)

The Faro municipal museum also features three rooms depicting artifacts from the Roman Period, the Iron Age, Latin, and Islamic cultures as well as ancient paintings and mosaics.

Faro Municipal Museum (Museu Municipal de Faro)
Faro Municipal Museum (Museu Municipal de Faro)

The museum explains a lot of local history and is often not crowded, which creates a nice, quiet learning experience. Located in Old Town, this museum is perfect for a relaxing afternoon out of the sun. 

The museum offers free entry on Sundays.

17-Day Trip to Gibraltar

This unforgettable day trip from Faro Portugal to the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar will be the highlight of your trip.

The Rock of Gibraltar, Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar, Gibraltar

Take a boat to the Strait of Gibraltar, where you can explore caves that were formed during the ice age and other prehistoric attractions.

You will also get to see the rare Barbary Apes that make the rock of Gibraltar home. There is ample time to explore the area, as well as a scenic drive.

There is an additional experience you can add to the package that allows you to explore St. Michael’s Cave which sits nearly 1,000 feet above sea level.

Click below for more information!

18 – Praia de Faro

If you are only in town for a few days and want to make sure you see Faro’s main attractions, then you need to see the stunning beaches of the surrounding area.

Praia de Faro, Faro, Portugal
Praia de Faro, Faro, Portugal

The Praia de Faro (Faro beach) is considered the best in the Faro region, and one of the nicest long stretches of golden sand on the Algarve Coast.

Lovely Praia de Faro is just past the international airport, so you can get the bus that shuttles between the old town and Faro Airport airport.

It features 5km of soft sand beaches along one side, with lagoons and mud flats on the opposite side.

This beach is a secret amongst the locals and can only be reached by a single road bridge. The beach is super laid back and has some little beach bars to relax with a drink and people-watch.

You can soak up the sun on the beach or try your hand at surfing. The beach can get crowded in the summertime but it is also a guarded beach and is perfect for families.

We think this is probably the best of the free things you can do on a short visit to Faro.

19. Forum Algarve

Like the Municipal Museum above, Forum Algarve is a great place to head to when it’s too hot or wet outside.

Algarve Forum, Faro, Portugal
Algarve Forum, Faro, Portugal

The Forum is a large open-air shopping mall that has an outdoor children’s play area and plenty of restaurants. It also has a cinema and is pet friendly.

Forum Algarve is near the international airport.

20. Ciência Viva Do Algarve (The Algarve Life Sciences Centre)

Ciência Viva Do Algarve is a hands-on natural science center full of fun things for kids to do on hot or rainy days.

The arachnid exhibit will freak out or fascinate your kids and the Touch Tank has starfish and other creatures found in the Rio Formosa Natural Park.

You’ll find the Ciência Viva Do Algarve in a historic building in the city centre.

Final Thoughts

While most people just travel through because of the airport (don’t forget your Faro airport transfer), there are loads of day trips and things to do in Faro. Enjoy exploring! 

Related reading:
Check out the other best towns and places to visit in the Algarve
And all the best things to do across the Algarve region