Add a more authentic experience to your trip to Faro by visiting these local places that most tourists never get to see. As the capital of the Algarve, Faro is a popular entry spot into the region that's famous for its vibrant nightlife and amazing resorts. 

    Forget all you know about the Algarve, ditch the tourist brochures you’ve read, and skip the main attractions everyone talks about. This is about showing you the real Faro, the one that its residents know and love. If you want to explore Faro like a local, check out our guide to off-the-beaten-track spots in and around the city.

    1

    Cidade Velha

    Explore every street of the old town

    Cidade Velha, Faro Old Town, is the birthplace of the city. One of its main attractions is the cathedral, but almost every street, corner and building is worth exploring and observing as they reflect the city’s history and traditions and the way that people live.

    Surrounded by the remains of the old city wall, the Old Town is accessed through 3 medieval arches – Arco da Vila, Arco do Repouso and Arco da Porta Nova – all worth a look for their old-world charm. Walk through Arco da Vila and you’ll quickly notice the Arabian remains. The cobbled streets and white facades, with the overlapped houses bringing some North African vibes. When done exploring, try the regional cuisine at one of the local restaurants inside the old town.

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    2

    Igreja do Carmo

    Not your typical stained-glassed church

    Igreja do Carmo is a local church in Faro Old Town. Although it’s one of the town’s most important monuments, the church is often bypassed because the main attraction for visitors is the unusual Chapel of Bones (which has dozens of human bones), located behind the main church building.

    This twin belfry church showcases an imposing baroque façade and inside you’ll find intricately carved gilded wood altars worth a detailed observation. Also known as Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo, the church overlooks the Largo do Carmo with its distinctive cobbled paving. Behind the church, you’ll find a small garden where the Chapel of Bones sits.

    Location: Largo do Carmo, 8000-148 Faro

    Open: Weekdays from 9am to 5pm (open until 6pm in the summer), Saturday from 9am to 1pm

    Phone: +351 289 824 490

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    3

    Jardim Manuel Bívar

    Join the locals for a drink on one of the park's cafe terraces

    Jardim Manuel Bívar is one of the Faro’s most striking outdoor spaces. Located between the dock and Arco da Vila, the city park is surrounded by trees, cafe terraces and traditional cobbled sidewalks. It’s a meeting point for locals of every age and a privileged place to enjoy the landscapes of the Ria Formosa.

    The park is quite busy during the day, mainly with families and locals enjoying day-to-day activities. At sunset, it’s an excellent place for an evening walk or to hang out on the cafe terraces after a hot summer day. Winters are mild in Faro, so you can visit Jardim Manuel Bívar year-round. Depending on the season, you’ll find a range of local events taking place at the park, including book fairs, markets, outdoor concerts and exhibitions.

    Location: Praça Dom Francisco Gomes 12, 8000-269 Faro, Portugal

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    photo by Kolforn (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    4

    Rua de Santo António

    Stroll along the cobbled pavement of this busy street

    Rua de Santo António is a pedestrian street that connects downtown Faro with the most modern part of the city. A lot of the local’s daily life revolves around this street, where modern and traditional shops coexist. It usually sees very few tourists, providing an authentic view of everyday life in Faro.

    Rua de Santo António has many interesting buildings and local shops, but make sure to look down and appreciate the street's magnificent cobbled pavement, which is a work of art in itself. You can do this while you have a refreshing drink or a traditional pastry at one of the many open-air cafes.

    Location: R. de Santo António, 8000-442 Faro, Portugal

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    5

    Zona do Ludo

    Go for a walk or a bike ride and enjoy nature’s charms

    Zona do Ludo is a great option if you’re looking for an outdoor experience in Faro. Located between the airport and the Quinta do Lago, this area is great for a bike ride or a walk far away from downtown Faro's city traffic, noise and touristy spots.

    Zona do Ludo's natural environment attracts ducks and flamingos, which makes it a great spot for birdwatching. Pause, close your eyes, take a deep breath and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature.

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    6

    Teatro Lethes

    Faro’s centre of culture

    Teatro Lethes is one of the oldest theatres in the country, founded in 1874. It’s one of the most important cultural symbols of Faro and a place you don’t want to miss if you enjoy cultural activities.

    Even if you’re not in the mood to see a play, you won’t regret visiting the building. The outside of this historic theatre may not be very appealing, but don’t let that put you off. It hides an amazing interior, with a splendid painted ceiling, exquisite wooden carvings and plush velvet, that will make you feel like you’re back in the 19th century.

    Location: R. de Portugal 58, 8000-281 Faro, Portugal

    Open: Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 6pm (on show days also open from 8pm to 9.30pm).

    Phone: +351 289 878 908

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    7

    Mercado Municipal de Faro

    Experience an authentic Portuguese local market

    Mercado Municipal de Faro, the main market in the city, is one of the best places to get in touch with Faro’s local people. This covered market has a huge range of local products, mainly fresh fish and seafood, fruit and vegetables. Wander around the hustle and bustle of the locals and shop for fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables. 

    It’s a friendly place, so take the opportunity to engage in conversation with the local vendors – you’re guaranteed to hear some good stories. Mercado Municipal de Faro also has stores and public services, as well as a few restaurants where you can enjoy regional cuisine.

    Location: Largo Dr. Francisco Sá Carneiro 52, 8000-233 Faro, Portugal

    Open: Daily from 7am to 11pm (market stands close at 3pm)

    Phone: +351 289 897 250

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    8

    Centro Interpretativo do Arco da Vila

    Learn about Faro’s history and traditions and enjoy the views

    If you’re interested in learning about Faro’s historical background and how it evolved to the present day, you can’t miss a visit to the Centro Interpretativo do Arco da Vila. This museum was founded to showcase the history of Faro and traditions of the local people.

    The Centro Interpretativo do Arco da Vila sits in one of the town’s most emblematic historic buildings. From there, you can enjoy a great view of the Old Town and Ria Formosa – observe the details of the monument’s clock and belfry.

    Location: R. da Misericórdia 8, 8000-269 Faro, Portugal

    Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm

    Phone: +351 289 870 827

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    9

    Sardinha de Papel

    Find exclusive souvenirs and design pieces at this unique store

    Sardinha de Papel is one of the most original stores in Faro. More than just a place of retail, it's a cultural space that hosts concerts and art exhibitions. Take a look at all the furniture – each has wheels so that the layout of the store can easily be changed to adapt to whatever is going on that day.

    Sardinha de Papel is a community organisation that's largely based on the cooperation between the producers and the vendors, with mutual benefits. You can find unique designer handicrafts, objects and clothing, furniture, design pieces, recycled objects, and second-hand items. It’s a great place to shop for some authentic souvenirs of Faro that you won’t find in typical tourist shops.

    Location: R. Conselheiro Bivar 83, 8000-255 Faro, Portugal

    Open: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7.30pm

    Phone: +351 966 655 941

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    10

    Centro de Ciência Viva do Algarve

    An interactive science centre that kids will love

    If you’re visiting Faro with children, the Centro de Ciência Viva do Algarve is a great place to go and enjoy some quality fun time. It’s an oceanic and space science museum with a lot of activities for kids, but it’s also interesting for adults, especially if you're curious about science facts.

    The interactive space is rather compact but large enough to house an exhibition dedicated to the sea, a coral aquarium, workshops and a laboratory where kids can engage in the different activities. You can also interact with different aquatic animals. Centro de Ciência Viva do Algarve has a cybercafé and an area dedicated to astronomy activities.

    Location: R. Cmte. Francisco Manuel 41, 8000-250 Faro, Portugal

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday–Sunday from 11am to 6pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +351 289 890 920

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    photo by Kolforn (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Anabela Peixoto | Contributing Writer

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