When my Airbnb host in Lagos asked when we were arriving from the airport, I thought, “How strange. I didn’t know there was an airport in Lagos.” There isn’t. He just assumed that I would be going straight from the Faro airport to his fabulous place in Lagos. And having spent two nights in Faro, I can see why he would make that assumption.
Faro is the definition of totally basic. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a dump because it’s too boring to be a dump. The best thing about it is how close the airport is to the city, less than 10 minutes by car.
The center is cute, with some interesting graffiti and a lot of places to eat. Pretty much all the popular areas with sidewalk cafes and restaurants are marked by these weird awnings that look like sails. If you happen to be in Faro sometime in March and you’re wondering why it’s a ghost town, look for the awnings and you’ll probably find other people. I can’t complain about the food and drink, because all the food in Portugal and particularly in the Algarve is fantastic. But the atmosphere definitely leaves a lot to be desired.
The most interesting thing to see in Faro is the marina, which is in the center of the city. And when the tide is low, it looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Like the earth ran out of water and the only things left are abandoned boats on a patchy bog and an unpleasant smell.
You can take a bus from city center to the beach that faces the Atlantic, which is basically a long sandbar. The other beaches near Faro are only accessible by ferry through the Ria Formosa nature reserve, which might be kind of interesting, except the ferries only run in the summer. And frankly, if what you’re after is a nice beach, you might as well save yourself the mission and take a bus two towns over to Albufeira.
There is some sightseeing in Faro like the Arco da Vila and the Cathedral of Faro, which you can tour for a couple of euro. Though even as a church enthusiast of sorts, I was underwhelmed by this one. But you can pretty much see all there is to see in an hour or two of walking around. They even have a free walking tour, so you don’t have to figure out what the three sights are yourself. It’s every day at 10:30 am and 3:00 pm.
There are only two adorable, unique things about Faro that I will remember long after the image of the totally generic churches have faded from my memory. One is that the storks in the area build giant nests on top of everything. So their churches and street signs all have bird nest crowns. If you’re lucky you’ll spot the stork hanging out in their top-floor suite.
The other truly amazing thing is that there are orange trees all over the place and at the beginning of March, they’re all primed for picking. They’re beautiful and just out in the open lining the little shopping streets and around the grounds of the Cathedral of Faro. It gives the city a fun burst of color that you can typically only see in farmlands.
Aside from that, it’s only worth stopping in for a bite and a beer before heading somewhere better in the Algarve. If I had to pick the best thing to do in Faro, it would be fly in and out of it.