The Best Things to Do in Faro, Portugal

Stroll down cobbled streets as you admire Faros unique architecture before visiting one of the pristine beaches in the area
Stroll down cobbled streets as you admire Faro's unique architecture before visiting one of the pristine beaches in the area | © Philipus / Alamy Stock Photo
Siobhan Grogan

Pay a visit to Portugal‘s Faro to experience the beaches, architecture and charming cobblestone streets of the Algarve’s largest town.

Don’t just rush through the Algarve’s capital after your flight lands. The charming city of Faro is a destination in its own right – with a pretty old town, medieval walls, a sun-soaked marina and a jumble of cobbled streets lined with historical buildings. Beyond the capital, there is plenty to explore here: with wetlands, beaches, natural parks and even islands just off-shore where day-trippers can discover golden sands, alfresco restaurants and traditional villages. This is our pick of the best things to do in Faro.

Ria Formosa

Natural Feature

Tourists cross the water at the Ria Formosa from Cabanas Village to Cabanas Beach at Cabanas in the Algarve, Portugal
© Lewis Oliver / Alamy Stock Photo

A natural wonderland of marshes, white-sand beaches, pine forests and freshwater lakes, the Rio Formosa National Park is a tidal lagoon formed by barrier islands that stretches for 60km (37mi) along the coast of the Algarve. Nature lovers will be smitten by its hotchpotch of habitats that team with wildlife – but the area’s fishing villages, deserted beaches and hiking trails make this a must-visit area for all. A boat trip from Faro, Olhao or Fuseta is the best way to see it all efficiently.

Ilha do Farol

Natural Feature

Boats moored off beach of Ilha do Farol, Culatra barrier island, Olhao, Algarve, Portugal, Europe
© Stuart Black / Alamy Stock Photo

Hop on a ferry from Faro to this island paradise – part of Ilha da Culatra – to feel like you’ve suddenly zipped to the Caribbean. This small barrier island has all the tropical trimmings including bath-clear water, bone-white sand and acres of blue sky – but there’s more than beaches here. The island is also a dream for keen walkers, with a 3km (2mi) path that weaves through the dunes and feels like a real escape from it all.

Lighthouse Beach

Natural Feature

Lighthouse and beach of Ilha do Farol, Culatra barrier island, Olhao, Algarve, Portugal
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s not difficult to find the beach on Ilha do Farol, part of Ilha da Culatra and a short ferry ride from Faro. Walk straight to the 46m (29ft) lighthouse – which this part of the island is named after as farol is Portuguese for lighthouse – to find icing-sugar soft sands right under the red-topped tower. There are shallow, calm waters for paddling, parasols and sunbeds to rent, along with a smattering of cafes and bars for when hunger strikes.

Igreja do Carmo


Carmo Church, Largo do Carmo, Faro, Algarve, Portugal
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

This beautiful twin-towered baroque church was built in the 18th century and dazzles with its stained-glass windows, ornate wooden carvings and intricate altars. Head behind the main church building to see its spooky secret: the Capela dos Ossos, a small chapel in a walled garden lined with the bones and skulls of Carmelite monks exhumed from the nearby cemetery in 1816 – believed to be there to remind us that life on this earth is short.

Praia de Faro

Natural Feature

The Algarve, Faro Beach
© Mike Howard / Alamy Stock Photo

Often seen from the air by departing tourists leaving the city’s nearby airport, Faro’s main beach on Ilha de Faro is a golden sweep of sand between the sea and the lagoons of the Ria Formosa National Park. It’s a favourite among windsurfers and kitesurfers and also hugely popular with locals in the summer – so get here early to claim your spot on the sand or head to either end of the island for a quieter spot.

Castelo de Silves

Architectural Landmark

silves castle portugase algarve portugal
© Kevin Snelling / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s well worth the steep trek through narrow streets to reach this imposing castle overlooking the terracotta roofs of Silves village, around 45 minutes from Faro. Occupying a site first built by the Romans or Visigoths, the current red sandstone construction was built by the Moors who occupied the Algarve from the 8th to the 13th century. It’s now the best-preserved Moorish castle in Portugal – and a great half-day trip from the Algarve’s capital.

Cidade Velha

Architectural Landmark

Street in the Old Town (Cidade Velha or Vila Adentro) looking towards the Arco da Vila (town gate), Faro, Algarve, Portugal
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

Combine lazy beach days with a cosmopolitan city break in Faro by strolling the historic old town – with its medieval walls, 18th-century architecture, grand churches and cobbled streets winding past squares lined with orange trees, museums and pavement cafes. Start at the Jardim Manuel Bivar garden near the marina, then visit the medieval arches, Bishop’s Palace, 19th-century Town Hall and the 13th-century cathedral – and be sure to climb the tower for the best bird’s-eye-view of the city.

Tavira Island

Natural Feature

Aerial view of the Tavira Island beach, a tropical island near the town of Tavira, part of the natural park of Ria Formosa in Algarve region of south
© David Ribeiro / Alamy Stock Photo

Sun-worshippers should head straight to the postcard-perfect beach on this island – considered one of the best in the Algarve – for its blinding blue sea and seemingly endless stretch of powdery sand. Part of the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve, the small island is a joy to walk around with pine forests and sand dunes attracting all kinds of birds. Just remember not to miss the last ferry home.

Igreja da Misericórdia


Facade of Igreja da Misericordia, Faro, Algarve, Portugal
© Francesco Bonino / Alamy Stock Photo

This stately church – opposite the Arco da Vila – has taken a beating in its time. First built in the 16th century, it was destroyed by the town’s catastrophic earthquake in 1755, then later rebuilt on the same site as the baroque building that can currently be seen. It was designed in the shape of a Greek cross by Italian architect Francesco Xavier Fabri – who also designed Faro’s Seminario Episcopal and the Arco da Vila.

Culatra Island

Natural Feature

Portugal, Algarve: Katamaran ferry of Animaris arriving at Ilha Deserta in Nature Park Ria Formosa in Faro
© Cro Magnon / Alamy Stock Photo

Hop on the ferry and head to this tranquil sand bar island – which is part of the Ria Formosa National Park. The quiet tropical-style beaches are show-stoppers, of course, but don’t miss the traditional fishing villages where you can dine on rustic seafood dishes in the sun. There are no roads here so we’d recommend strolling the wooden walkways through the dunes between the two villages of Culatra and Farol with its distinctive lighthouse.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Faro, or give these top resorts a go. Inspire your Algarve itinerary with the top things to see and do in the region. And don’t miss out on the top bars in Faro.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.