Faro, on Portugal’s Algarve, is a feast for the senses. The city encapsulates the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the full 200km of the Algarve all in one central location. Nestled on the edge of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, Faro is protected from the Ocean by a series of sandspits creating lagoons and wetlands to one side and sandy beaches flanking the Atlantic to the other.
Couple these with the city’s historic Old Town centre, sophisticated marina and surrounding pine-clad greenery and you have the perfect setting. Faro’s gastronomy is as rich and varied as its landscape, with modern restaurants and cafés serving innovative flavours nestled alongside old world bodegas serving local wines by the glass accompanied by salt cod specialities and a series of ocean-inspired tapas.
Begin your gastronomic tour of Faro by checking into the Hotel Faro on the edge of the Old Town where you will awake on your first morning to take breakfast in the hotel’s large top-floor restaurant to breath-taking views of the city and its surroundings. To one side you will appreciate the rooftops and spires of the Old Town while to the other the wetlands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park spread out to join the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The hotel serves a hearty and varied breakfast to match the view, with a range of buffet options, fresh fruits and freshly prepared dishes to order.
Head out to the beach on Ilha de Faro for some relaxation and a chance to acclimatise yourself to the wonderful Portuguese sunshine. Here you can sink into a sunbed, take a swim in the warm waters or indulge in some watersports to work off the excesses of the morning’s breakfast or indeed, work up an appetite for more lovely Algarvean food at lunchtime.
There are several excellent restaurants located on the Ilha de Faro, providing the perfect shaded retreat from the midday sun and a chance to sample some of the area’s renowned fish and seafood. Cod dishes – or bacalhau – are very popular throughout southern Portugal thanks to the prevalence of the Atlantic coastline.
Traditionally salted in order to preserve it, especially at sea, many restaurants still serve it in the same form today. Prawns, octopus and squid are all very popular both as starters and main courses and razor clams are a speciality. Try a razor clam stew or a mixed seafood and fish stew for a meal that packs a real Portuguese punch and leaves you clamouring for more.
Back in central Faro at the end of a long day, food may not be the highest on your agenda but you will almost certainly need a snack to see you through until morning. This is when the city’s delightful cafés and tapas bars come into their own. The Old Town is full of quirky little eateries offering freshly prepared snacks and tapas such as blood sausage, locally grown olives and fresh grilled prawns, perfect for washing down with a cold glass of Superbock, the famous Portuguese pale ale, or some pale port wine, a popular alternative to the better known ruby and tawny varieties.
Take a quiet meander through the streets of the Old Town to finish off your evening or head down to the marina area for cocktails in a sophisticated setting by the waterfront before retreating to your hotel to sleep of the excess.
When you awake, try an alternative to the traditional hotel buffet and head instead to one of Faro’s welcoming bakeries, or padarias, where you can enjoy a delicious morning coffee surrounding by the sights and smells of freshly baked break. Treat yourself to one of Portugal’s most famous foods, a mouth-watering pastel de Nata – a rich custard cream tart with a caramelised top. Once you start eating these it is hard to stop, but try to limit yourself to two to leave room for some lunchtime gastronomy.
Spend some time sightseeing in the Old Town to work up an appetite before stopping off for lunch. There is a whole spectrum of restaurants to choose from in and around Faro city centre to suit every taste and budget. If you are lucky enough to be here on a Sunday, try the traditional Sunday set menu offered by many of the traditional restaurants, a wonderful combination of a British Sunday roast combined with the best of Portuguese culinary touches.
Spend your afternoon exploring the local area on foot, by car or on a boat tour of the wetlands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park before heading back to the sands again in your evening finery for Portuguese-Asian fusion, some ambient dance music and delicious cocktails at Suigeneris – the perfect end to a tour of Faro’s food and gastronomy.