FARO - ILHA DESERTA
WHERE ALGARVE´S TRAVEL BEGINS
WELCOME TO FARO
With its international airport, impressive shopping centre and ring of high-rise apartments, FARO boasts something of a big city feel. However, the central area is a manageable size, boasting attractive mosaic-paved pedestrianized streets and marina-side gardens, while its university contributes to a lively nightlife, during termtime at least. In summer, our boats run out to some excellent beaches.
Originally a Roman settlement, the city was named by the Moors, under whom it was a thriving commercial port, supplying the regional capital at Silves. Following its conquest by the Christians, under Afonso III in 1249, the city later experienced a series of conquests and disasters.
Sacked and burned by the Earl of Essex in 1596, and devastated by the Great Earthquake of 1755, it is no surprise that modern Faro has so few historic buildings. What interest it does retain is contained within the pretty Cidade Velha (Old Town), which lies behind a series of defensive walls overlooking the mudflats.
The heart of the town is an attractive pedestrianized shopping area on either side of Rua de Santo António, where you can find innumerable restaurants, cafés and bakeries – the latter stocked with almond delicacies, the regional speciality. Most of the pavement restaurants have similar menus and similar prices; if you’re prepared to scout around the back streets, you can often find cheaper, though without the accompanying streetlife that makes central Faro so attractive. If are willing to taste the flavors of the best tradicional algarvian cuisine, we suggest you to visit the Estaminé Restaurant at the Deserta Island.
Faro Cathedral or "Sé" was first built atop the site of a Roman forum turned mosque sometime after the area reverted from Muslim to Christian rule in 1249. Today, with its mix of Renaissance and Baroque influences, Faro Cathedral offers the visitor mostly artistic delights, especially its seventeenth and eighteenth century tiling andgold leaf decoration.Sé itself (Mon–Sat 9am–12.30pm & 1.30–5pm, Sun open for Mass at 10am & noon; e1.50) is a squat, white mismatch of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, all heavily remodelled after the 1755 earthquake. However, there’s fine eighteenth-century azulejo tiling inside, while you can climb the bell tower for views over the old town and the mud flats beyond.
THE OLD TOWN
The only part of town to have survived the various violent historic upheavals is the Cidade Velha, or Vila-Adentro (“town within”), an oval of cobbled streets and bright–white buildings set within a run of sturdy walls. The houses are fronted by decorative balconies and tiling, with an antique shop, café or art gallery. The most central entry is through the eighteenth-century town gate, the Arco da Vila, next to the turismo. From here, Rua do Município leads up to the majestic Largo da Sé, flanked by the cathedral and a group of palaces – including the former bishop’s palace – and lined with orange trees.
Arrival, information and transport Flights land at Faro’s international airport (flight information (+351)289 800 800), 6km west of town, where there’s a bank, ATMs, post office and tourist office (+351)289 818 582), as well as shops and restaurants. A number of car rental companies also have offices at the airport. There are no direct public transport services to other resorts from the airport, which means heading first into central Faro.
A taxi into the centre of town (15min); there’s also a twenty-percent surcharge between 10pm and 6am, and at weekends. Local buses #14 and #16 also run from the airport to the centre (25min), (departures roughly every 45min, 7.15am–8pm; buy tickets on board). Both stop outside the bus terminal in town and, further on, at the Jardim Manuel Bivar (“Jardim” on the timetables) by the harbour. Faro’s bus terminal (+351)289 899 760) is on Avenida da República, behind and beneath the Hotel Eva, just back from the marina.
The Infante D. Henrique Archaeological Museum and Lapidary is located in the former Convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Our Lady of Assumption). Abandoned after religious orders were banned in 1834, the convent even ended up being used as a cork factory throughout much of the 20th century.
In 1960, conversion work began turning it into a Museum. The collection is mostly made up of local archaeological finds dating from the pre-historic through to the medieval with a major emphasis on the Roman. The Roman collection features pieces from the Milreu Ruins: the Ocean mosaic, two tombstones with inscriptions referring to Ossonoba and busts of emperors Agripina, Hadrian and Galien.
There is also a sizeable collection of religious art including 17th and 18th century paintings, some tiling and the diverse range of decorative objects on display in the Ferreira de Almeida Room. The chapel which was part of the original convent retains its original structure. Now used as an auditorium, it is only open to the public when events are taking place.
Largo Afonso III, nº 14
Phone: +351 289 897 400 Fax / +351 289 897 419