Oft- overlooked Faro is ready for a moment. Known to many as merely a gateway to the slow-life pleasures of the Algarve, this culture-stuffed city is luring inquisitive travellers to explore within the mosaic-paved streets that run between terracotta-topped houses and crumbling remains of Roman rule.
Medieval walls chaperone Faro's pretty old town, and beneath lies an elegant tangle of cultural fusion. Wonderful 8thcentury Moorish heritage mixes with a post-earthquake style as seen in the Se cathedral, a patchwork of centuries-old renovation. The cathedral bell tower is a beacon for the city and from it, views of Faro stretch out. The harbour with its neat rows of boats on the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, the all-natural Ria Formosa’s lagoons flitting with migratory birds and the promise of deserted beaches beyond.
Closer to home, the many terracotta-tiled buildings reveal a portrait of the Portuguese way of life. Orange trees line shady squares where coffee and pastel de nata are taken in earnest and sunsets are reserved for chilled beats and Portuguese gin on rooftop bars. At cobbled street-level the thrum soulful of Fadocarries on the breeze alongside a cuisine that draws heavily from the sea. Garlicky clams are piled high, platters of mussels, oysters and lobster tumble over each other and a rich fish stew swims with prawns. Faro may well be the gateway to the beaches of the Algarve, but you should try and make a pitstop here and soak up the pre-coast culture. Head in the other direction and discover the sleepy port of Olhão.
Faro is a city that surprises, built up on layers of tumultuous history, yet remains steadfastly outward looking with a welcome buzz ready to enfold visitors looking for stylish authenticity.