The Administrative Capital of the Algarve:
Faro has been the administrative capital of the Algarve since 1756. The word Faro comes from Farum which was taken from the last part of the name of a past Moorish governor. When the Moors ruled Faro, they renamed the town in the 11th century after one of their princes, Muhammad bin Said bin Harun, the town’s governor from 1026-42.
Faro’s Cultural Heritage
During prehistoric times Faro was a fishing village. But like many European towns and cities, Faro’s turbulent history includes invasions and conquests by many powers, including the Visigoths, the Moors, the Romans, the Spanish and the English, giving Faro its present rich cultural heritage.
Each invading power left its imprint on Faro, some more positive than others. Although remnants of the ancient city walls are still standing, sacking and destruction by invading forces and the big 1755 earthquake have caused the city to be rebuilt many times over and today the finest buildings mainly date from the late 18th and 19th centuries.
The Old City
The centre of Faro can be easily explored on foot. From the small harbour the city fans out and you’ll find the compact old city to the southeast. The historic area is well preserved and is set within the ancient walls. Walk through the Arco da Villa and you’ll come to Largo da Sé, a peaceful square lined with orange trees. Here you’ll find Faro’s Sé, the 18th century seminary and bishop’s palace (Paco Episcopal) which is still in use, but closed to the public and the Museu Municipal. You can exit the old city through an archway which opens out to the waterfront.
The pedestrianised street of Santo Antonio, north of the old city, is an interesting mix of modern and traditional shops, restaurants, cafes, including Gardy, Faro’s best coffee shop.
If you’re desperate for a Big Mac, you’ll find McDonald’s at Rua Conselheiro Bivar, 23-27. What’s more, you’ll be able to have beer and wine with your hamburger – believe it or not! This is an enticement to get Portuguese parents to bring their kids in. Next to McDonald’s is Das Sandes, one of the rare sandwich shops. The Portuguese are apparently not fond of sandwiches which they call “desperation food”.
Faro airport is close to the city centre and is the gateway for holidaymakers who fly to the Algarve. There are a large number of budget airlines flying into Faro, especially from the U.K. If catching the bus in from the airport, the central bus station is right on the waterfront, next to the Maritime Museum. Faro’s highway and train station also provides easy access to Lisbon.