Boasting sunshine 300 days a year, the capital of the Algarve region is fully kitted out to give you the best beach holiday you’ve ever had. A delectable combo of historic finesse, cultural exploits and authentic Portuguese charm, the city has tons more to offer than just its golden stretches of sand. With a relaxed, lazy lifestyle during the day and a buzzing social scene at night, Faro is certainly a city to be reckoned with. But what happens on those 65 days when the heavens threaten to open and (gasp), rain pours down? Here’s our guide for things to do on a rainy day in Faro.
Standing in the tree-lined Largo de Se square, the Roman Catholic cathedral is an iconic landmark in Faro. Built on top of the ruins of a 1251 mosque, the cathedral features myriad architectural styles and is home to a museum displaying several religious objects, paintings and garments. Climb up the dominating Gothic tower framing the centre of the building for panoramic views over the streets and lagoon. The impressive interiors match the styles of the 17th and 18th centuries with the wood-work, tiled panels and gold accents. The historic gem provides the perfect excursion when the beach is not an option.
Open since 1894, the second oldest museum in the Algarve is located in the cloisters of the 16th century Nossa Sehora Assuncao convent. The bulk of the archaeological display dates from the Roman period, featuring several inscribed stones, mosaics from the second century and a pair of marble busts of Emperor Hadrian and Agrippina. Showcased across three different rooms, the remaining exhibits focus heavily on religious art work collected from dissolved monasteries and churches around the city. The domed convent is home to the permanent exhibitions, the Ancient Painting and Enchanted Algarve and regularly hosts traditional fado performances.
Venture out of the centre for a half a day and explore the palace and decorative gardens at Estoi. Close to the Roman ruins, take the bus down the road to the neighbouring town and see what it has to offer. Built originally in 1840, the palace was renovated in the style of Rococo pastiche and painted in a distinctive shade of pink. Take a guided tour of the interiors and marvel at the frescos framed by lots of moulded stucco and wander through the terraced gardens with their monumental stairway and pavilions with blue and white azulejo panels. Restored and reopened as a heritage hotel, the palace is a nice way to see the region and delve into some of its cultural history.
Focusing on issues relating to biodiversity and nature, the interactive science centre provides the perfect escape from rain and is the ideal daytrip for families. Encouraging education for scientific knowledge, the natural history museum is a hive of animal activity with its touch pool and arachnid exhibitions. Get hands-on, hold scorpions and tarantulas if you dare and explore the fish and shellfish from the nearby nature reserve, Ria Formosa. Wander around the exhibition halls and learn about kinetic energy, tides, astronomy and tectonic plates. Since 1987 the centre has been delighting visitors so don’t miss out on this unique energetic experience.
Time to whip out the rainy day fund and hit one of Faro’s many shopping districts. Head to the western end of the city and spend the day at one of the largest shopping centres in the region. Forum Algarve has over 100 of your favourite high-street shops, 20 restaurants and 5 cinema screens to keep you busy. Modelled on the regional lifestyle, the centre is set out around an open air square that is regularly used for special events and activities. If you’re looking for something a bit more budget friendly, Designer Outlet Algarve is a ten minute drive from Faro airport. The discount shopping village is designed to have the look and feel of a typical Algarvian village and features over 50 brands. With its tiled facades, arched walkways, calcada streets and peaked chimneys, you’ll feel like you’re spending the afternoon in an authentically Portuguese town, not a shoppers paradise.
Just because you can’t sit on the beach, doesn’t mean you can’t look at it. Take the rain as an opportunity to hop in the car and tour the coastal towns of Costa Vicentina. Drive away from the ocean and explore the hilly villages inland. Be sure to stop at the spectacular Herdade dos Grous, a working estate producing award-winning wine and olive oils. Stay closer to home and visit the natural park of Ria Formosa and its series of saltwater lagoons. Once you get going, the possibilities are endless!
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Flights to Faro
- Lucy Norris
Check out the Try Somewhere New podcast to discover more things to do in Faro