Back in September, I flew to Portugal to meet an old friend. After not seeing each other for 4 years, we arranged a whirlwind 9-day trip through Portugal and Spain. The beginning of that trip included two days in Faro. For no other reason than it was close to Spain and why not include Portugal in our trip? While it was a relatively short visit, it was lovely nonetheless.

arco da vila in faro
art nouveau house in faro

You could easily spend more than two days in Faro, especially if you prefer laid-back holidays by the sea. I have a feeling I might return here one day, but only as a quick stop. This trip has convinced me that I need to do a road trip along the Algarve coast. There is so much to see in this region and you definitely need a car for it!

architecture in faro

This time around though, we focused on the center of Faro. The old town is pedestrian-friendly and you can spend hours strolling through the streets. Lined with colorful houses, it’s quite a beautiful sight. Faro was my introduction to Portugal and it left me anxious for more. The city center is quite tiny so it’s easy to see everything in a day or less.

pretty shopfront in faro
colorful faro

The buildings decorated with azulejo tiles looked like works of art. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough but I wanted more of those! Azulejo tiles have become what sets Portugal apart, a dominating feature in Portuguese architecture. Whether they’re building churches, houses, or public places, these ceramic tiles are the main component.

azulejo houses in faro

The very center of the city with all the shops has beautiful cobblestone pavements. They’re called Calçada portuguesa and are arranged in creative patterns, almost like a mosaic. I also found myself peeking into open doors whenever I would notice hallways with interesting tiles!

One of my favorite spots in Faro is Arco da Vila. This neo-classical archway leads into the old town and looks rather impressive. Especially when paired with blooming September trees! You will spot many different architectural styles in Faro. Gothic, baroque, and neo-classical, it’s a true melting pot of styles.

I even managed to find examples of Art Nouveau in Faro, the architectural style I’m always chasing in Europe. There might have been only a few of them but they were stunning. I could’ve stared at those details for hours!

art nouveau palace in faro

Benagil cave, the perfect day trip from Faro

After a morning of wandering through Faro, it was time for a little day trip. The famous Benagil cave is situated in Lagoa, 50 minutes away from the city. We booked a bodyboarding tour to the cave since it’s only accessible by swimming. Let’s just say that thanks to one big wave, this was an experience I will never forget! On our way back, we stopped by the magnificent Praia de Marinha. My only regret was not taking my camera with me and only having photos from my friend’s photos!

Where to eat

Our lunch spot was Old Tavern, a restaurant in the center of the old town. We enjoyed a refreshing octopus salad on the terrace. Shaded from the sun, it looked so inviting on that sunny Friday. The atmosphere is great and the owner is so friendly!

I was looking forward to dinner because we were eating at the restaurant A Venda. An extremely popular spot among locals, we had to wait a bit to be seated. But it was more than worth the wait! The food was delicious, the recipes unique, and the service perfect. The concept of sharing tapas dishes still left us feeling more than full. I still remember how good those zucchini with Escabeche sauce were!

My first taste of Portugal was Faro and it felt like a tease. You’ll find everything Portugal is famous for in this city but being small, it’ll leave you wanting more. A glimpse of Azulejo tiles, a bite of Pastel de nata, lots of friendly people, and an array of stunning beaches.

We had two days in Faro, but only technically. Arriving late on a Thursday evening and enjoying a full and busy Friday. If you’re in a hurry, you can spend one day in Faro and still see all its main attractions. We were already on our way to Seville on Saturday. I got up before sunrise and took one last walk through Faro. Remembering this visit now, I always see it as it was on that morning. The soft light over the colorful houses and streets empty of people. A city is never as enchanting as when you have it all to yourself at sunrise!

portuguese azulejo tiles in faro
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