Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Faro, Portugal
Faro View slideshowThe busy industrial town and port of Faro (altitude: sea level), chief town of its district in the south of Portugal, lies at the north end of a lagoon dotted with saltpans and islands.
Fruit, cork and fish are shipped out through its small, sheltered harbor. Its airport (7km/4.5mi southwest) has made it the focal point of the whole of the Algarve's tourist trade, especially since a new, three million passenger capacity terminal was opened. Despite the nearby beaches Faro is no holiday resort as such, and its immediate vicinity is lacking in comfortable hotels with adequate grounds. A devastating earthquake in 1755 robbed this originally Moorish city of many of its major buildings but the center is quite inviting, with many 18th and 19th C. houses.The main attraction of any stay in Faro is its good shopping. Some of the smaller streets in the center around the Rua de Santo António, east of the Praça de Dom Francisco Gomes, have been made pedestrian precincts and offer plenty of restaurants and cafes to relax in.
Praça de Dom Francisco Gomes
The Praça de Dom Francisco Gomes to the northeast of the harbor is a good starting point for a tour of Faro. The obelisk erected in 1910 commemorates the diplomat Ferreira d'Almeida, who was born in Faro and who, during his period of office as minister of naval affairs, founded a naval college and promoted the fishing industry.
Jardim Manuel Bivar
Peace and quiet can be enjoyed in the Jardim Manuel Bivar, to the south of the square. This garden with its attractive flower beds, tall palms and jacaranda trees is a favorite haunt of the elder citizens of Faro who sit here and watch the world go by. On the east side of the park stands the Igreja da Misericórdia, a 14th C. church that was restored after the 1755 earthquake.
Arco da Vila
At the south end of the Jardim Manuel Bivar stands the Arco da Vila, an arched gateway built by the architect Francisco Xavier Fabri, surmounted by a bell tower and a statue of Faro's patron saint, St Thomas Aquinus. Through the gateway lies the very attractive historical center of Faro, part of which is still surrounded by a 13th C. wall.
The center of the Old Town of Faro is dominated by the Cathedral. Large parts of the originally Gothic church were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and rebuilt later; of the original building only the tower and a south window remain. Overall, the cathedral presents elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.The pleasing interior is light and almost basilica like. The nave has three aisles separated almost imperceptibly from one another by three slender pillars. Above the choir is a coffered barrel vaulted ceiling. The Capela de Santo Lenho to the right of the chancel contains the tomb of António Pereira da Silva, Bishop of the Algarve from 1704 to 1715.
In the square in front of the cathedral, the Largo Sé, stand the town hall (Câmara Municipal) and the Bishop's Palace (Paço Episcopal). The long west wing was added to the original building in the 18th C.
A few hundred meters south of the Cathedral, on the Praça Afonso III, stands the Archeological Museum, housed in the former convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunçao, a house of St Clare founded in 1518. In addition to the exhibits (especially finds from Milreu), the two story cloister is particularly worthy of attention. Other rooms grouped around the cloister house the private collection of the diplomat and art lover Ferreira d'Almeida, including mainly 19th C. paintings but also portraits, silver and glass.
Igreja de Sao Francisco
The church of St Francis, on the spacious Largo de Sao Francisco, is reached through the Arco de Repouso. The 17th C. church once formed part of a Franciscan convent, now occupied by the military.
Museum of Regional Ethnography
The Museum of Regional Ethnography, just north of the Franciscan church, affords an insight into the way of life and folk art of the local people.
Address: Praça da Liberdade, 2, 8000-164 Faro, Portugal
The harbor commander's office in the north of the harbor houses a Maritime Museum. The exhibits provide a background to seafaring and fishing in the Algarve.
Igreja de Sao Pedro
To the northeast of the Museu Maritimo the church of St Peter stands on the Sao Pedro (St Peter's) Square. It is dated originally from the 16th C.
Igreja do Carmo
To the north of St Peter's Square lies the wide Largo do Carmo, dominated by this twin towered Baroque church.
Chapel of Bones
Through the sacristy is a cemetery and the Capela dos Ossos, which was dedicated in 1816. The vaulted ceiling and the walls are made of human skeletons.
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in the center of Faro where visitors can refresh themselves after a tour of the town. The most traditional of these is the Cafe Aliança on the Praça Francisco Gomes (corner of Rua 1° de Maio), which opened in 1908.
Address: Praça D. Francisco Gomes, 26 8000 - 168 FARO, Portugal
Praia de Faro
Northwest of the town, beyond the airport, on an offshore island connected to the mainland by a bridge, stretches the extensive sandy beach of Praia de Faro.
Estói, a town typical of the Algarve hinterland, lies 12km/7.5mi north of Faro. It is known mainly for the Palácio de Estói, a palace built in the late 18th C. Visitors are not allowed inside. It is surrounded by an attractive small park. The gardens, which were laid out in the 18th and 19th C., are on several levels and lavishly decorated with azulejos and busts. Tiled steps lead down to the lower part of the gardens, with a grotto which is completely covered in mosaics from nearby Milreu.
At the western end of Estói, by the road leading to Santa Bárbara de Nexe, near the village of Milreu, lie the remains of a Roman town. Archeological digs were undertaken here as early as 1877. In Roman times Milreu was a "summer residence" for well to do families from Faro, then known as Ossonoba (Milreu is also sometimes called by this name). The remains of a Roman villa and thermal baths decorated with mosaics have been unearthed; they probably date from the A.D. first century. The walls of an early Christian church are relatively well preserved.
On the south coast of Portugal is the seaside town of Almancil. The town has developed into a tourist destination catering to northern Europeans, particularly travelers from the United Kingdom. Almancil has many restaurants, hotels, and cafés as well as nearby activities such as golfing.
The little country town of Silves (altitude: 85m/280ft), situated on the Rio Arade (Rio de Silves) 11mi northeast of Portimao and surrounded by forests of corkoak, was once the Moorish city of Xelb, capital of the AlGharb, and as such, with its 40,000 population at that time, was an intellectual and cultural center that rivaled Granada in splendor and influence. Silves no longer presents itself as the large town it once was, however, now it is just a sleepy little place, although with some historically significant buildings which attract large numbers of day visitors. However, restaurants and cafes are rather few and far between.HistoryThe town is believed to have been founded by the Phoenicians, and was ruled by the Moors from the first half of the eighth C. until its recapture from the Moors by Afonso III in 1242. It became the see of a bishop, but after the transfer of the see in 1580 to the new capital, Faro, and the destruction caused by the 1755 earthquake it sank into obscurity and insignificance.TownscapeSilves is still an attractive oldworld little town, presenting a charming picture with some venerable and handsome burghers' houses.
Castelo dos Mouros
Diagonally opposite the entrance to the Castelo dos Mouros stands the Gothic Cathedral, or Sé, built over a mosque in the 13th C. and subsequently much altered, containing the tombs of a number of crusaders.
Igreja da Misericórdia
The Igreja da Misericórdia opposite the cathedral has fine Manueline windows.
A few hundred yards south of the cathedral the Archeological Museum in the Rua das Portes de Loulé was opened in 1990. Most of the exhibits are from Silves and its surroundings. A Moorish well was integrated into the museum building.
Address: Rua das Portas de Loulé, 14, 8300-139 Silves, Portugal
Cruz de Portugal
The 16th C. Cruz de Portugal at the eastern exit from the town is an example of Manueline stone masonry, rare in this region. It is a white limestone wayside cross, 3m/10ft high, with Christ on the Cross on the front, and a Piéta on the back.
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