Faro is the administrative centre for the whole of the Algarve region with a population in excess of 55.000 people. The city has both Arab and Roman ruins but most of the present attractive older buildings were constructed after the disastrous earthquake of both 1755 and 1532. The Moors who occupied the town in the 8th Century originally gave the city it’s name of Ossónoba and developed it into a trading port until 1249. They were then defeated by the forces of Dom Afonso III. With the decline of the importance of the city of Silves this town took over the role of administration of the Algarve area. The Earl of Essex sacked the town in 1596 with his fellow crusaders on their journey to the Holy Land and the collection of books taken from the palace of the Bishop of Faro became an important part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. Another interesting point is that during the 500 years of Moorish occupation there were some Jewish inhabitants in Faro who were kept busy printing copies of the Old Testament.
Particularly attractive is the old part of the city surrounded still by the Roman walls which date back to the 9th. Inside a spacious open square that was once the site of the Roman Forum is a 13th Century Cathedral that faces the 18th Century Episcopal palace. An interesting building is the neighbouring 16th Century Convent that is now turned into the home of the city’s archaeological museum. Within it is a section devoted to the Arab occupation. The “golden” church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is claimed to be the best example of gold-leaf woodwork in southern Portugal. It also contains the macabre spectacle of a chapel lined with the bones from over 1.200 monks! Next to the small boat basin bordering the Praça de Dom Francisco Gomes is a small Naval Museum composed of scale model boats and galleons showing the maritime history of the coast. There is also the Faro Jewish Heritage Centre which consists of a cemetery and a small museum. Much of the city is now composed of apartments and there are attractive shops and a particularly artistic theatre. Faro is also the home of the Ria Formosa lagoon, a nature reserve of over 17.000 hectares and a stopping place for hundreds of different birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods.
The beach is almost 7 Kms distant from the city and is a long sandy spit reached by crossing a bridge not far from the International Airport. The municipal council has an active cultural department organizing different and various events during the year.
Near to Faro is the small town of Almancil where nearby can be found the church of São Lourenço de Matos renown for its 18th Century blue tiles.
To the north of Faro at the inland village of Estói there are some notable roman ruins of Milreu depicting a 3rd Century Roman home that enjoyed more comforts than some of the newly built villas in today’s world. The Parish Church was built in the 16th century on the site of a previous chapel. The attractive Manor House know as Palácio de Estoi has been converted into a Pousada. Further to the north is the town of Santa Barbára de Nexe with a Bronze Age hilltop fort nearby.
The well-known developments of Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo, both five star holiday areas are located west of Faro. Together they provide 7 top quality golf courses, tennis centres, riding schools, hotels, holiday resorts and villas.
Faro Airport Transfers Algarve with Perfectomorrow.