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The Insider Guide to Faro, Algarve

Faro Pousada Palácio de Estoi.
Faro Pousada Palácio de Estoi.
  • Where to stay, what to do and eat around the capital of the Algarve

The Algarve's capital, with its old town and port, not only offers visitors an authentic flavour of southern Portugal but also stunning beaches, a unique natural park, and plenty of choice for hotels and restaurants.

STAY:

The Magnolia Hotel

Creative and colourful hotel where hip 1950s motel Americana meets contemporary Mediterranean chic. This stylish enclave for millennials and the young at heart has been completely remodelled and is now part of the neighbouring Quinta do Lago estate. The bright rooms are simple yet focus on quality, like 5-star standard beds, linens and huge plush towels.

There's a heated all-season swimming pool with cocktail bar where you can chill to the tunes of the resident DJ; get active thanks to the tennis court, free bicycles for exploring the area and well-equipped gym; or alternatively, relax in one of the holistic treatment rooms with a spa therapy.

The Magnolia Hotel is in an excellent location to enjoy all the leisure, dining and elite sports facilities of the Algarve's Quinta do Lago, as well as the charm of Faro.

Faro Pousada Palácio de Estoi

The Faro Pousada, found 10 kilometres from the city in the village of Estoi, is an easy transfer from the international airport, and only a few minutes' drive off the motorway from Spain.

This Baroque 18th-century palace, modelled on Portuguese royal residences, was once an extravagant aristocratic home, and is now a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It's a splendid blend of contemporary guest rooms and suites with beautiful neo-rococo public spaces within the restored palace. There's a large outdoor infinity pool, an indoor heated pool, spa and gym.

The Palace is worthy of a visit, if only to explore its classical gardens with fountains, a romantic grotto and spectacular 'azulejos' tile work.

Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort

Spectacular gastronomic, wellness and golf resort, just half an hour from Faro. It's the only Anantara hotel in Europe. Anantara's unique approach to hospitality offers guests an immersive experience of Algarve culture, food and design. Everywhere are creative and stylish reminders of the Algarve, from art, handicrafts and cuisine. In addition to upscale rooms and suites, there is a destination spa, gourmet dining, both family and adults-only swimming pools and superb sporting facilities. The adjacent Victoria Championship Golf Course, designed by Arnold Palmer, hosts the Portugal Masters each year, and is among some 30 courses in the area. There is a free Tuk-Tuk shuttle to the restaurants and nightlife of Vilamoura's marina.

EAT:

Pastelaria Coelho

Anyone who has a sweet tooth will delight in the cakes and treats of the Algarve. This Faro eatery however is more than just a cake shop; it has a dining area popular with locals, with a menu of traditional dishes and seasonal produce like fresh fish with boiled potatoes. Sounds simple but tastes oh so good.

EMO Restaurant

This fine-dining destination restaurant within the Anantara Vilamoura Resort pairs a gourmet tasting menu with Portuguese wines - and a stunning view across the Victoria golf course.

Estaminé

Eat in glorious isolation at this striking, contemporary fish and seafood restaurant on the Ilha Deserta island, in the heart of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Panoramic windows offer views out across the unique, protected landscape.

Gigi's Beach Bar

Cool yet understated beach bar secluded within the sand dunes of the Quinta do Lago beach. Popular place for a seafood lunch of catch of the day with hot piri-piri sauce.

Bovino

One of the dozen restaurants at Quinta do Lago, Bovino is probably the finest steakhouse in the Faro area. As well as the excellent choice of cuts, there is fish and seafood from the grill too, and a smart cocktail bar.

DO:

Bike tour

The Ria Formosa natural park and surrounding trails are ideal for exploring by bike. Visitors can rent from the Bike Shed at The Campus, Quinta del Lago, and head out to discover rare wildlife and striking landscapes.

Discover a Secret Beach

The idyllic island of Ilha da Barreta or 'Ilha Deserta', within Faro's acclaimed natural park has one of the area's best beaches. Take the shuttle boat or small ferry from Faro and spend the day chilling in the sun, eating great seafood and maybe even enjoying an eco-tour of this tiny island.

Spice Spoons

This Epicurean experience takes cooking classes to the next level. Spend the morning with one of Anantara's expert chefs visiting the lively farmer's market at Loulé, purchasing fresh produce, then returning to the resort's show kitchen to help prepare a sensational lunch - using a traditional cataplana, the Algarve hammered copper cooking pot that dates to Moorish times.

Old Town Faro

It's rewarding to explore Faro. Within its medieval fortressed walls, the 'Cidade Velha' old town, with a rich architectural heritage, together with the revitalised port offer interesting historical sights and authentic local places to eat.

For something unique, and slightly macabre, visit the Chapel of Bones, 'Capela dos Ossos', built from thousands of monk's skulls and bones from the neighbouring cemetery.

BUY:

Ceramics, cork and basketware

The Algarve has a diverse heritage in traditional handicrafts which remains vibrant today. Ceramics are of course the notable product to buy. A visit to Porches, west of Faro offers the chance to be immersed in the pottery culture of the area. Alternatively visit the local markets, such as Loulé for high quality basketware, as well as leather and cork products.