Gateway to the Algarve, Faro is blessed with sun-kissed villas and a bustling student population that keeps local entertainment and nightlife scenes strong. Festivals and exhibitions are regular, with a key event in the summer months of the internationally popular motorcycle rally. Here bike enthusiasts from around the world light up the city with an exciting collection of rock music, parades and outrageous stunt riding displays.
As gateway to the Algarve, the sun-drenched region around Faro is full of whitewashed villas, hotels and beachside resorts. In the city itself, Hotel Eva (Avenida da República 1) is a lovely mid-range spot with a rooftop pool overlooking the marina. Most travellers abandon Faro for the coast, though. Many make a beeline for Albufeira, 45km west, where modernistic five-star CS São Rafael Atlantic Hotel (Sesmarias) has its own private beach. In the other direction, Tavira’s 16th-century Convento da Graça now houses the glorious Pousada de Tavira (Rua Dom Paio Peres Correia), boasting every modern luxury yet maintaining a historic character.
In Faro’s heart, Rua de Santo António and the streets surrounding it are pedestrianised and home to a range of clothing, gift and souvenir shops. There’s a daily market in Largo Mercado but the biggest regional market is Saturday’s Mercado Municipal (Largo Gago Coutinho) in Loulé, 18km north of Faro. Popular souvenirs include woollen items, Moorish-style pottery and other local crafts. Ceramics enthusiasts can also take a day trip 20km west of Albufeira to Porches Pottery (EN125), a famous hand-painted pottery workshop in Porches, where you can see artisans fashion traditional terracotta tiles, plaques and crockery, or even request your own personalised pieces.
From piri-piri chicken to salt-dried cod and fresh seafood washed down with local wines, there are many different flavours to tantalise your taste buds in the Algarve. In Faro itself, affordable and authentic Algarvian cuisine is served under the shadow of the cathedral in Sabores da Sé (Largo da sé 10). The long undisputed jewel in the Algarve’s gastronomic crown is Albufeira’s Vila Joya Restaurant (Praia da Galé), which even often allows four lucky guests into the kitchen to watch two-Michelin-starred chef Dieter Koschina at work. An exciting new competitor on the region’s haute cuisine scene is Ocean Restaurant (Vila Vita Parc) in Porches.
Faro International Motorcycle Rally
The roar of exhausts, the sound of rock music and the smell of leather invade Faro in the middle of summer. This is one of Europe’s biggest biker rallies, drawing tens of thousands of devotees to town for everything from tattoo contests to all-night bars, parades, a big biker fair and stunt riding displays.
Loulé International Jazz Festival
International jazz artists join Portugal’s top instrumentalists to perform a series of open-air concerts in Loulé’s historic Cerca do Convento do Espírito Santo. The programme ranges from traditional to contemporary jazz with wider influences.
Festa da Sardinha
The smell of thousands of sizzling sardines fills the air in the Albufeira parish of Olhos d'Água in August. Hordes of hungry visitors come to guzzle the freshly barbecued fish and to join in the festivities, which include fado music, fireworks and folk dancing.
Festa da Nossa Senhora da Orada
Albufeira’s biggest event honours the patron saint of local fishermen. It begins in a sombre mood with mass at Igreja Matriz and a procession to the beach and back, but quickly ups the tempo with parades, festivities and midnight fireworks.
Feira de Santa Iria
Faro locals really let their hair down in this nod to their patron saint, Santa Iria. The merrymaking centres on Largo de San Francisco, with a fairground, music, games, exhibition and crafts.