10 reasons you should visit Faro:
- sights are a mix of old and new
- they have e-bikes
- food is cheap
- local beer is good
- sun is warm
- sand is soft
- people are friendly
- they give good tips and directions
- home of port wine
- you might meet our ibis friends Frank and Liz and a dog called Snoopy
Faro is the southernmost city in the Algarve region of Portugal. Somewhere I’d never heard of before. Somewhere I didn’t know I was going until a few days before we got there. Why? Surprise! It was our 2 year anniversary and I was excited to defrost in a much warmer place than London for a few days.
We flew directly into Faro from London with RyanAir on a Friday night. January 2016. It was 11pm when we arrived at the hotel (approx 3 hour flight) but it was worth it for an early start on Saturday.
At the check in, one of the hotel receptionists was showing a guest all the nearby party places on a map. The thought flickered in my mind for an instant but I was happy with the decision to stay in once we saw the beautiful room including a king size bed covered in red lollies in a heart shape. We made some loose plans for the weekend then had a restful sleep. So quiet here!
Saturday: E-biking, Faro Beach, Ludo, and eating our way to Japan
At breakfast we saw the guest from last night who was getting the party area tips. He told us about a few cheap deals so we kept those in mind for our own party planning later.
We set off to explore Faro and got as far as one block away before being drawn in by the magnetism of an e-bike shop. We love them so much thanks to our tour as e-bike virgins in France. I think of them as a lazy person’s bicycle, or a motorbike without the need for a licence. They are battery powered and the press of a button gives you a boost along or up the hill. These bikes weren’t as fast as the ones in France but they were still much better than a normal bicycle! I didn’t come here to exercise! Plus the guy we hired them from was super friendly and helpful.
So off we went with our map. We soon found ourselves wondering if we were on the right track because we were mighty close to a railway line and having to manoeuvre our bikes across a narrow pathway parallel to the railway line. But of course the e-bike shop guy was right and we finally saw our turn off thanks to a hotel landmark.
Strangely we then ended up cycling all the way around the airport and at this point I was thinking, all I’ve seen of Faro is the airport. Beach please! I no longer doubted Harry’s map reading skills when we finally made it to Praia de Faro, otherwise known as Faro Beach. The beach itself is actually an island and we had to cross a narrow one-way bridge to get there.
Cardigan off! The sun is out! The sand is between our toes! London who? We locked up our bikes (including batteries as advised) and made our way up the beach. People were walking their dogs, and others were embracing the sun on their face, seated on their knees, face tilted upwards, eyes closed and not moving. Perhaps meditating. Perhaps half lizard.
Our friendly receptionist from the hotel had recommended we try the ‘big toast with toppings’ at Wax. As it was winter and therefore quiet, we scored the best seat in the house. Front and centre. The sun had much more warmth here than the sun in London. We celebrated with a few local beers and gave the toast a shot. Not bad. Very reasonable prices. I spent the rest of the time at Wax taking 100 photos of the dogs on the beach. The star was a Shar Pei puppy who posed for us with the waves crashing in the background. We spent some time relaxing outstretched on the sand before heading off for more e-biking adventures.
We didn’t get far before seeing the turn off for Ludo. Ludo had been described to us as having beautiful views and many people walking, running and riding their bikes. They were not wrong. I was very grateful for the e-bike as whilst the view of the Ria Formosa lagoons were stunning, the dirt path itself is quite a few kilometres long.
On our map we’d seen a place called salt mountain and we were determined to find it. In our quest we found a golf course and rode our bikes around puddles large and small like professional bmx riders. Or at least I thought so. The battery on Harry’s bike was getting low so we decided to turn back. The thought of actually having to peddle with energy! Funnily enough on our way back along the Ludo path, we could see salt mountain. It wasn’t that impressive thankfully.
We got as far as the edges of the airport when the battery on Harry’s e-bike ran out. I was secretly glad that mine still had power! Turns out after a lot of peddling and almost making it back to the e-bike shop, there was still some power left in it. You just need to turn it off and back on again. Tip for new e-bike riders!
It was time for a beverage so we went into a supermarket (supermercado) near the hotel There was so much to choose from it was overwhelming. So much so that we walked out and decided to explore Cidade Velha (Old Town) while the sun was setting. Among the old buildings and walls which included a church, museum and houses, we walked along cobblestone paths and found orange trees, a not so friendly black cat, a very friendly grey cat, a dog, restaurants and more and more ibis nests.
Okay, now time for a beverage. We went to a bottle shop we’d seen earlier on our journey towards the e-bike shop. Our choice of wine as per usual was made by the attraction to the label. A frog. It was a very nice white wine. We took the opportunity while we were there to taste one of their ports, seeing as Portugal is the home of port wine. Our hotel balcony was the perfect place to enjoy the frog. It was small, cosy and private and if you stood up to look out over the edge, you could see the marina.
On our way out to dinner, the hotel receptionist gave us a few tips on local restaurants. Of course they tried to tempt us into dining at their restaurant, though it was mostly seafood which we weren’t in the mood for. He mentioned a Japanese restaurant nearby that I remembered seeing on our taxi drive to the hotel on Friday night. Japanese is Harry’s favourite so off we went! It is an absolute must. All you can eat, 11.90 euros each. Really good quality and tasty Japanese food! We enjoyed copious amounts of spring rolls, miso soup, gyoza dumplings, duck, teriyaki chicken, chicken and pineapple, sesame balls, pumpkin cakes, other stuff I can’t think of, and ice cream. Plus a bottle of wine to celebrate how cheap and amazing this restaurant was.
The final tip for the night from our friendly hotel receptionist was the local Irish bar. It’s Irish characteristics extended as far as Guinness on tap, green light and a flag tucked away in a high corner. There weren’t many seats on the ground floor so we hovered around with a drink in hand until a few seats became free. A short while later we saw ‘the party guy’ from our hotel who when I caught his eye said, “how do I know you?” He soon realised and acknowledged us but we all happily remained at opposite ends of the bar.
Finally the band came on! We’d seen them playing darts earlier and Harry has a suspicion that they were the band. Their name was “The Originals” and ironically (or probably the point), they played covers that got everyone joining in and tapping their toes. It was getting rowdy and we were winding down so we enjoyed a slow walk home with full bellies in tow.
Sunday: Snoopy, O Castelo Restaurant and a puppy chihuahua
Our flight was mid afternoon so we had the morning to do any final exploring. We really enjoyed the Old Town so went back for a wander around to see what else we could find.
On the outside of the walls, we found a cool photo backdrop that looked more like we were in Texas than anywhere else. Then the exercise equipment. Harry always has to have a go on random park exercise equipment and it didn’t take me long to join him. We were doing sit-ups (as you do in Faro on your holiday) when we met Snoopy! He was sniffing with joy and heading our way so I outstretched my arms towards him. He came bounding over but there were so many exciting smells he wasn’t interested in me for long! So the owner came along, picked him up and put him on my lap. Snoopy was so cute in his little vest! We heart snoopy!
We’d stumbled across O Castelo restaurant earlier and decided to go there for lunch. It has amazing views and I imagine it has an amazing vibe in summer. On the way in we walked past a bar and stage that were covered up, on the outside of a large square area which would be perfect for dancing! We started with a coffee and worked our way onto lunch as soon as it ticked over to lunch serving time. Very nice! Jet skis and boats zoomed past and we could see kites quite far out near some sand dunes. You can take tours out there and in fact if we were staying longer we would have definitely done this. It’s a pretty good deal, 25 euros including lunch depending on which tour you take.
In our final moments exploring Faro, we filmed a short video for the final piece of the Vlog puzzle. It was perfect timing that we met the smallest dog in the world, a puppy chihuahua. Name unknown. Bless. He was so happy!
If you’re looking for a weekend away, you should definitely consider Faro. It’s not super commercial yet and it forces you to unwind. Check it out before everyone else does!