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Top 10 Things to do in Faro

Our Top Ten things to do in Faro - Don't leave until you've experienced the best Faro has to offer

The city of Faro hasn’t always been part of Portugal. Up until the 13th century is was part of the Moorish kingdom when they were driven out by the Portuguese. Many parts of the city still bear testament to their occupation and it makes for a more North African feel to the city than other Portuguese cities. Over the centuries Faro has had its share of disasters with its destruction by the Earl of Essex in the 16th century and by a series of strong earthquakes in the 18th century. Each time the city has rebuilt and carried on proudly. Despite being just the arrival point for many holidaymakers, the city has much to offer the visitor and here are ten recommendations.
1 Capela dos Ossos
Capela dos Ossos
For those with a liking for the macabre, visit the Capela dos Ossos, The Chapel of Bones!! Here, within the Igreja de Nossa Sehore, the chapel, constructed in the 19th century has its walls lined with the skulls and bones of the dead. Not for the faint hearted! For those of a more delicate constitution, the church’s gilded Baroque altar is popular with visitors that travel worldwide to see it and the church’s bell tower.

2 Se Cathedral
Se Cathedral
Probably the cathedral with the shortest name in the world Se cathedral was once the site of a mosque. Converted to a cathedral after the expulsion of the Moors, the building is famed for its decorative tiles added in the 17th and 18th centuries. The oldest and most beautiful of the tiling can be found in the Capela do Rosario.

3 Igreja de Sao Franciso
Igreja de Sao Franciso
If tiles are your thing then another fine example is to be found in the Igreja de Sao Francisco. The church is dedicated to the life of St Francis of Assisi and again has a beautiful Baroque style to the building. However, what attracts the visitors in their thousands are the church’s tiles laid out to tell the life story of the saint.

4 Museu Municipal
Museu Municipal
With its history, you’d expect the city to have many museums and the best of them is the Museu Municipal. Housed in a converted convent, originally built in the 16th century there are a number of noteworthy displays including a collection of Roman artefacts found locally at one o the farthest extents of the Roman Empire. There are also a number of fine Roman sculptures and statues. Looking at them in a city that seems so far from Rome, one gains an understanding of the scale of the empire.

5 Museu Maritimo
Museu Maritimo
Portugal was a great seafaring nation and had a number of early explorers famous to school children across the world such as Henry the navigator and Vasco da Gama who is credited with discovering India and setting up Portugal’s Indian colonies in Kerala and Goa.  Faro’s maritime museum celebrates their voyages and discoveries through models of the ships that took them around the world. Little known to most tourists, but documented clearly here, is the journey of Portuguese explorers down the Congo River in Africa in the 15th century.

6 Museu Ethografico Regional
Museu Ethografico Regional
I always like to find out something of the culture of a destination I visit and I found the Museu Ethnografico Regional fascinating for its displays on the culture of the region. There is information on local folklore, and the development of the industries of the region together with acknowledgements of how Moorish influences are still present in aspects of dance, music and dress. Go beyond the beaches, bars and clubs of the region and find out more about where you are. It’ll make for a very rewarding few hours.

7 Loule
Just a little outside of Faro, you’ll come to the pretty village of Loule, famed for its rooftop landscape of plaster chimneys. Whilst here you should visit the Igreja Matriz, renowned for its beautiful Gothic architecture then wander up to the Moorish Castelo, now a historical museum built on the ruins of the former Moorish castle. Here you’ll find out why the Moors considered Spain and Portugal so important and discover the history of a much overlooked empire.

8 Sao Bras de Alportal
Sao Bras de Alportal
If you’ve had enough of towns and cities, head off for a day to Sao Bras de Alportal. Here you can walk amongst tranquil beautiful scenery where figs and almonds grow in abundance. Roadside stalls will supply you with the local produce to give you energy for your efforts. There’s nothing better than the rich sweetness of freshly picked figs or the soft crunch of fresh almonds.

9 Arco da Vila
Arco da Vila
At the end of the road leading into Faro’s Old Town stands the Arco da Vila. The gate was originally constructed as an arched gateway with a bell tower atop and a statue of the city’s patron saint, St Thomas Aquinas. Almost uniquely, it has stood up to many devastating earthquakes which have hit the city with little or no damage.

10 Old Town
Old Town
With such a rich history, you’d expect to find an atmospheric old town in the city and you’d be correct. The Cidade Vella is crammed with tourists and locals visiting the handicraft markets or just wandering around looking at the old buildings, many of which show signs of the city’s Moorish ancestry. For those that get frustrated by the hustle and bustle of the streets, many little cafes welcome you with coffee, cakes or cold drinks until you are ready to begin your exploration again.

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