This statue can be found in the small square outside the former Convent of Our Lady of Assumption which now houses the Municipal Museum. Afonso III (1210-1279) was the fifth king of Portugal and is best known for defeating the Moors in Faro in 1249.
This worthy-of-a-visit museum is housed in the 16th century former Convent of Our Lady of Assumption which is located on the southern side of a small square behind the cathedral. It exhibits many Roman finds such as columns, capitols, inscription stones, and other architectural pieces as well as large storage jars, Roman mosaics, busts, Roman pottery, paintings and sculpture. Very well done museum that's housed in a beautiful building.
Open: 10am-7pm Tues-Fri, 11.30am-6pm Sat & Sun. Closed Mondays. Admission: €2 but was free when I visited on Sunday morning.
Located on the southern side of a small square behind the cathedral, this former convent was built for Capuche nuns in 1519 by Queen Leonor (third wife of King Manuel I). Despite being damaged by the British Earl of Essex in 1596 and the earthquake of 1755, it remains one of the best examples of the first Renaissance period in the Algarve. With the advent of Liberalism in the early 20th century, is passed into private hands until 1960, when it became a cork factory. It's now home to the Municipal Museum of Faro that includes various collections of paintings, sculpture, and archaeological remains from Roman and medieval periods.
The Ria Formosa is a nature reserve lagoon that stretches between Faro in the west to Tavira in the east, covering an area of 170 km². It contains 6 islets with 5 being natural and the 6th being artificial that was opened with the purpose of allowing easier access to the port of Faro. As it is a nature reserve it is a stopping place for hundreds of different species birds during the spring and autumn migratory periods. You can take boat trips from the Marina around the lagoon are simply just view it from the western side of the city walls that encircle the old city.
This huge building is located on the northern side of the cathedral in the Old Town and dates from 1585 although most of the original building was trashed by British troops in 1596. It serves as the headquarters to the Diocese of the Algarve.
This square lies outside the entrance of the cathedral, and as well as the cathedral, is dominated by the Bishops Palace (built in 1585) on its northern side and the Episcopal Seminary (built in 1789) on its western side. The statue facing the cathedral is that of Bishop Francisco Gomes de Avelar (1736-1816) who devoted his life and fortune to the improvement of Faro, largely through the construction of monuments and other buildings of public interest.
Located in the centre of the Old Town, this strange looking building is dominated by its strange bell tower which is the only part left to survive from the original Romanesque-Gothic structure when it was built in 1251. It is believed that the cathedral was built on the site of a Roman temple, then a Visigoth cathedral and then a Moorish mosque before being built just two years after the Christian reconquest of the city. The cathedral was then handed over to the Order of St James before being enlarged from 1321 during the reign of King Dinis (1279-1325). It was then changed again in the 15th century before being plundered and burned by the British troops of the 2nd Earl of Essex in 1596. The cathedral was then rebuilt with a rebuilt chancel around 1640 and its organ was installed in 1715. Earthquakes in 1722 and, of course, the big one in 1755 damaged the cathedral yet again yet it still remains a remarkable building.
Along with Faro's Cathedral, this magnificent archway is one of the city's landmarks. It is the main archway into the north of the Old Town and built over one of the medieval gates of the ramparts. It was built in the 19th century by the Italian architect Francisco Xavier Fabri by the request of the Bishop of the Algarve, D. Francisco Gomes do Avelar.
Located just to the north of the Old Town opposite the Jardim Manuel Bivar, this church was built in 1581 on the site of the former Hermitage of the Holy Ghost which had existed since the reign of King Manuel I (late 15th century). The church is built according to a centralised plan of a Greek cross and is said to feature some magnificent altarpieces inside but it was closed when I visited. The Mercy Hospital was built beside the church in the 19th century but this has since been closed down.
Surrounding the Old Town of Faro, the city walls date back to the late Roman period although most of the walls date from the 9th century when the city was under Moorish control. The Moors were defeated by the forces of the Portuguese King Afonso III in 1249 and the walls were re-strengthened. The walls are best viewed from outside the old town on the southern and eastern sides as there's a thin strip of green grass and trees that separate the walls from the large car park.
This museum is housed inside the Monasterio de Nossa S. Ra da Assuncao. This dates from the 16th century.
Here you can see various archaelogical finds; a large Roman mosaic and a collection of paintings.
The monastery has a nice two storey cloister with a shrub maze at the center.
Chapels crammed with skulls would not be high on my 'to-do' list but my husband was particularly keen to see this one. As it's attached to the Igrega do Carmo described above it wasn't any extra trouble and like the church there was no entry charge. Again, I'm not sure if this applies in high season but the entire time we were in Faro, we didn't have to pay an entry fee to any of the buildings we visited.
The Capella dos Ossos ( Chapel of Bones) is at the back of the church and serves to remind us of the brevity of human life. But humans these days being very hard to frighten, everybody just wandered around taking close ups of the skulls and showed no signs of being affected in any way by the gruesome sight. In fact it wasn't really gruesome or scary at all, just walls and ceiling covered with skulls that in the distance looked like stones. I didn't find this at all interesting but if you've never seen a Capella dos Ossos, then you might enjoy it.
Igrega do Carmo is everything the guide books say and more. For some reason, we had a hard time finding Largo do Carmo, ( possibly the ugliest Largo in Faro ) and by the time we got there I was exhausted. The fact that the church itself was closed didn't help but miraculously, five minutes later the doors opened and we had this riot of Baroque excess all to ourelves for a while. This church fulfilled all my expectations of Portugese Church Architecture : intricate carving, gorgeous tiling and an altar of almost celestial golden beauty. The gold is Brazilian and this church is claimed to be the best example of gold leaf-woodwork in Southern Portugal ( photo 1). Outside it looks quite austere which makes the interior all the more surprising and exciting (Photo 2). On our way back to the town centre we visited the Church of Sao Pedro which has some very fine examples of massive murals all done in the traditional blue azulejos.
Sao Pedro is just across the square from Igrega do Carmo, so you can visit them both, one after the other.
Faro's Cathedral is described quite rapturously in several of the books I've read but inside and out, I found it a little disappointing. There are several treasures, especially in the side chapels but I find the claim of 'The best example of Baroque carving in The Algarve' a little difficult to accept. Inside, I loved the stained glass windows, bordered by azulejos (photo 3)and the tiled ribbed vaulting, (photo 4) but was not tempted to linger too long. Outside it's a bit of a mish mash with only the surviving main doorway and bell tower, looking remotely cathedral-like. This of course is because the original building was mostly destrioyed during the British attacks of 1596 and the great Earthquake of 1755.
Outside is the large expanse of Largo da Se, much too big and irregularly shaped to be called a square. Built on the site of the old Roman Forum, it's a fabulous space, housing the Cathedral, the Bishops Palace and the Town hall and lined all round with Orange trees bursting with fruit and colour ( photos 2 & 5). A great place to amble round and take close up photos of oranges. Colourful, beautiful and very Portugese, don't miss Largo da Se.
As mentioned in the previous tip, Faro's Old Town is entered and exited by two magnificent arches. On entry the walls are not very visible, except when you turn to look back but at the other end, near the remains of the Castle, they have been restored, to quite an impressive level ( photo 2). Only parts of the original 9th century Roman fortifications remain but the restoration is quite tasteful and in places, the height and yellow blocks, reminded me of the walls of Jerusalem ( photo 3). The effect of the walls and the castle ruins peeking overhead is best observed from the water and can be seen quite clearly in Photo4. One of the most endearing things about Faro is the storks nesting on high buildings. On the Arco da Vila there are several nests and this is repeated on almost every tall building in the area. Not having a zoom lens with me, I have no good pics of the storks but if you click on Photo 5 , you will see a stork nesting on the rooftops.