The small city of Faro stands near the coast in southern Portugal. It is the capital of the Algarve region. Faro is a university city and a transport hub, but it is as a tourist centre that it is best known. Millions of visitors arrive in the Algarve via Faro's international airport, which stands three miles to the west of the city. Not so many stop to explore Faro itself, but you're hiring a car in Faro, it's easy to investigate its under-rated sights and surroundings. And a car makes it much easier to get to the beach – it's six miles from the city centre.
Start your explorations at the heart of Faro's Old Quarter. You'll find atmospheric cobbled alleyways leading beneath traditional wrought-iron balconies, opening into shady courtyards with open-air cafes. Among orange trees and old stone archways, you'll stumble upon friendly bars, quaint galleries and quirky old churches, like the Capela de Ossos. This early 19th-century chapel's interior walls and pillars are covered with human bones, the remains of monks who were originally buried underneath it. Look out too for Faro's chunky gothic cathedral, neo-classical local government building, baroque city hall, and the municipal museum housed in a former convent. Explore the peaceful waterfront marina and ferry piers, the Faro art gallery, and a surprisingly lively assortment of nightlife venues. To the south of the city, you'll find the Ria Formosa lagoon – a nature reserve comprising curling tidal waterways and grassy sandflats. It's a great spot to take boat trips and spot migratory birds and dolphins. To reach the beaches on the island on the far side of the lagoon, though, you have to take a ferry. At least that means they are wonderfully quiet and non-commercialized when you get there.
Opening hours:Mo-Su 0600-2400
Opening hours:Mo-Su 0800-1900
Address:Estrada do Aeroporto, Algarve