Despite having been to Portugal’s Algarve region dozens of times, I’d never visited the city of Faro beyond landing at the airport. On my latest visit to the area, Thomas and I decided we’d take some time to check out the city itself.

We’d hired a car for our trip and drove the 30-minute journey from where we were staying in Vilamoura to the Old Town of Faro.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Faro, really. If I’m being honest I wasn’t really expecting that much, given that most tourists in The Algarve skip it completely. I guess I just imagined it would be a working city, with not much beauty or interest.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Old Town of Faro is absolutely adorable and really well preserved. In Portuguese, it’s called Vila Adentro and it dates back hundreds of years.

We entered the Old Town via one of the three remaining gates that lead to the oldest parts of the city. It’s a rather grandiose and wonderful thing to wander under this neoclassical structure and into the ancient streets.

Much of this area is pedestrianised and really peaceful to walk around. The only thing I would say is – the cobbles on the streets have shifted a lot over time and are pretty uneven in places. Make sure you wear comfy walking shoes and watch where you’re stepping.

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The gorgeous cathedral

Within the Old Town, you’ll find some gorgeous architecture. There’s the medieval Cathedral, which houses a gold altar within and which you can climb to the top of for spectacular views out to the ocean.

The cathedral sits within a large, open street that is cobbled and lined with trees. Aside from the focal point of the cathedral, the buildings around it are also beautiful and there are statues, archways and plenty of Instagram-worthy spots.
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In this area you’ll also find the municipal musuem, governors palace and dozens of pretty little buildings that appear now to be houses.

You’ll also find the rather interesting bone chapel, Capela de Ossos. Yes, BONE CHAPEL. It’s a small chapel built using human bones and decorated with bones too. Inside there are bones from over 1,000 people who were exhumed from Faro’s overcrowded cemetery in the 19th century. The bones (including skulls!) are arranged in ornate patterns inside. It’s a rather different attraction! 

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Can I move into this dreamy house?!

My best advice to discover the Old Town of Faro best is simply just to wander round. Don’t worry about a map or getting lost – just walk and take it all in. 

One glorious thing about the fact most visitors to The Algarve don’t bother to visit Faro is that it’s wonderfully quiet. There were only a few other people around the day we visited and it was so refreshing. It was so nice to stroll around in a peaceful setting admiring the architecture, stopping for photographs whenever we wanted (which was often!). 
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There are also quite a few lovely cafes, bars and restaurants within the Old Town. You’ll find them dotted around the maze of streets. They’re the perfect place to sit and enjoy the relaxed vibe of this historic area.
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So, instead of bypassing Faro in favour of the more popular spots in The Algarve, make sure to spend some time there. You won’t regret it.

Have you visited Faro before or have you bypassed it when visiting The Algarve?