Expat Guide: Faro – Capital of the Algarve

As the Algarve’s capital and a thriving university town, Faro is a top destination for expats and tourists alike. This charming old town features natural parks, long sandy beaches, and areas of historic and cultural interest. Faro is inhabited by about 60,000 people and covers a total area of 78 square miles. The city has an attractive marina, dramatic rock formations, and thriving nightlife. In winter, it is a beautiful corner of Southern Europe with plenty of cafes, restaurants, and cultural attractions of rare value.


The town was founded by the Romans. Its original name was Ossonoba. From the third century, it was the site of an Episcopal Sé. Faro became the capital of a princedom in the ninth century, and its name changed to Santa Maria than to Harun. When the Moors were defeated by the Portuguese in the 13th century, the town became part of the national territory. Due to its convenient location and secure harbor, Faro was a prosperous urban center.

The city flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the massive earthquake in 1755, its religious buildings and historic monuments were ruined. Almost all the coastal towns of the Algarve were damaged. Since then the city has been the administrative seat of the region and grown dramatically. Faro has retained its traditional character and charm.


This historic town is home to the University of the Algarve. It also features great shops, theaters, art galleries, and fine restaurants. The Old City (Cidade Velha) features a small harbor and a citadel Warhammer 40k. This area is beautiful and pedestrian-friendly, featuring traditional buildings with Iberian and Moorish-influenced architecture. Many houses and historic buildings are decorated with azulejos – colorful ceramic tiles that often show images or geometric designs.


From medieval cathedrals to historic museums and sports facilities, Faro has something for everyone. There is plenty to do for entertainment, including several theaters and shopping malls, nature watching, boat trips, and magnificent gardens. The 13th century cathedral is a landmark of the city and one of the most sumptuous monuments of the old town. It features beautiful paintings, ceramic tiles panels, marble inlaid work, and sculptures.

Another popular attraction is the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre. This historic building is home to over 100 graves in Sephardi style. Outside the Old City is Porta Nova pier, which offers boat rides and other leisure activities. The beaches of Faro are the reason why most visitors come to the Algarve. Praia de Faro, the main beach of the city, is ideal for families with children. Other famous attractions are the Viva Science Centre, the City Hall, and the Rio Formosa.


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