Explore ninth-century Faro Castle in the old town and then head down the coast to the sandy beaches at Quarteira or Praia da Luz. Enjoy cataplana fish stews, then party in Albufeira's lively bars. Tee off on some of Europe's best golf courses, explore Moorish Silves Castle and relax in Monchique's mountain spa.
Set a mile inland on Portugal's southern coast, Faro has been an important city to the Romans, Moors and Spanish, and today is the gateway and capital of the Algarve region. Between the city and the sea is the watery landscape of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, home to a multitude of birdlife. Around the marina, you'll find Faro's old-town districts of Arco da Vila, Mouraria and Bairro Ribeirinho, home to the city walls, Faro Castle and Faro Cathedral. Beyond the old town, you'll find the New Town, boasting 15th-century hermitages and Neoclassical residences.
Wander the streets of Faro's old town, taking in the 19th-century Arco da Vila monumental archway and Faro Cathedrals rich mix of Tuscan and Baroque architecture. Walk around the city walls and Faro Castle, built between the ninth and 17th centuries. Cool off in the shaded Manuel Bivar Gardens and seek out the curious Chapel of Bones, home to the skeletons of more than 1000 monks. Head west of Faro for sandy beaches from Falsia to Praia da Rocha, or book a few rounds of golf at the courses around Vilamoura.
Come back to Faro's city centre to appreciate the city's link to the sea at the Maritime Museum, and visit the Antonine Museum, housed in a 14th-century hermitage and dedicated to St Anthony. Take your binoculars to spot purple heron at the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. Take kids to see the dolphin shows at Zoomarine theme park in Guia and indulge in retail therapy at AlgarveShopping nearby. You'll need a car to explore further afield, including the Moorish Silves Castle. Take a picnic to Cabo de So Vicente, the westernmost point of mainland Europe.