"Faro - Historic capital of the Algarve" Faro by Willettsworld

Faro Travel Guide: 242 reviews and 789 photos

The foundations of Faro started in Roman times, when the town was called Ossonoba. During the 9th century it was the capital of a short lived princedom, ringed with defensive walls and later the name changed to Santa Maria, then to Harune. Finally in the middle of the 13th century Faro became part of Portuguese territory, completing the Christian reconquest of Portugal. In 1540, Faro was made a city and in 1577 became the site of the Episcopal Sé when the Bishop of the Algarve moved from Silves to Faro.

'Cidade Velha' - the oldest part of the city - is on the southern side of Faro marina. Walk through the arch (Arco da Vila) by the Algarve tourist information office at the end of the Manuel Bivar gardens and follow the narrow, cobbled street, into the tree lined Largo de Sé. Faro Cathedral, in the middle of the square, may not look very grand from the outside, but inside is another story - the intricate gilded carving, decorated tiles (azulejos) and works of art are well worth seeing. It originates from the 13th/14th centuries (although much of the inside decoration is 17th century) and, despite having to be repaired after being ransacked and set alight by the Earl of Essex's men in 1596 and damaged in the earthquake of 1755, still has the original doorway and two original chapels. Also within the Old City is Convent of Our Lady of Assumption which now houses the Municipal Museum which exhibits Roman finds such as columns, capitols, inscription stones, and other architectural pieces as well as large storage jars, Roman mosaics, busts, Roman pottery, paintings and sculpture. Outside of the city walls lie many nice churches, all but one of which, were closed when I visited one Sunday morning before I flew back home from the nearby airport (you can watch the low-flying planes come into land which spoil the calm and tranquility of the small city).

Located about 10km (6 miles) to the north of Faro is Milreu, a fine example of a major Roman villa that shows signs of having been continuously inhabited from the first to the tenth century AD. The main entrance was given a monumental style in the fourth century AD, while the peristyle and baths were embellished with mosaics depicting marine life and shells. Simultaneously, an imposing temple dedicated to a water god was built on the south side of the road and was, in the fifth century, turned into a paleo-Christian church.

Faro, capital city of the Algarve, offers so much more than just a landing point in Portugal. It is a city full of history, great shops, restaurants and cafes aplenty, theatres and galleries, great beaches and the Ria Formosa nature reserve on its door step. The central area is really quite compact with everything within easy walking distance.

  • Last visit to Faro: Sep 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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