The scarce sunlight and coldness in the Northern Europe during winter is a nice excuse to go to Southern European countries, such as in Portugal and in Spain. There are many cities along the southern coast of Portugal and Spain that offer shelter for people who seek nice winter weather without getting out of Europe. One of them is Faro Portugal, the focus of this blog. Faro Portugal is the capital of Algarve region located in the Southern most part of Portugal, close to the border of Andalusia, Spain. Faro Portugal is our cheapest way to enter Southern Europe. In addition, as a family with young kids, we felt it is safer to go to Faro (or in any other Southern European cities) as compared to Marrakesh or Fez in Morocco in the North Africa. Of course, when the kids are a little bit older, we will definitely bring them to Morocco.
In choosing which cities to go in the South of Europe, there are many considerations for travellers – costs, timing of booking (last minute or few months in advance), activities you want to do, and so on. Before coming to the Netherlands, I always want my travel to be planned in advance and to be well prepared. Only when I live in the Netherlands that I become easy going on trips, such as doing last minute bookings (as you see in my previous blog about our trip to Ardennes) and just going on the flow of situations. Of course, being easy going and prepared at the same time is still the best combination of being a traveller. Preparation is important during travel while sticking too much to an agenda could be frustrating if things did not go according to plan. Part of me being easy going led to a last minute booking to Faro Portugal. We started this trip on the 1st of January, which is nice kick off for 2020. Below you will find reasons why it is attractive for single, couple, or family travellers to come to Faro Portugal and what are the things to discover in this city.
Why you should consider going to Faro Portugal during winter?
1. Going to Faro Portugal is cheap.
The first consideration why we ended up going to Faro is due to the costs of travel in this city. As compared to major cities in Southern Europe such as Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon, Faro is a small city. This could probably the reason why the cost of flying here is cheap. It is easy to find cheap flights going from any Northern European airports, such as in Eindhoven, Weeze, and Dusseldorf. Low costs carrier like Ryan Air, Transavia, and Easyjet have their flight operations in Faro. In our case, we booked Transavia and for a family of four, we only paid less than 80 euros. The baby age 0-2 years old costs 28 euros which actually has higher price compared to a seat sale for adults. Despite our last minute booking, it is still surprising to see last minute cheap deals.
The accommodation in Faro is also cheaper as compared to close cities in Spain such as Seville and Malaga. We stayed in Residencial Condado (4 of us) for two nights for only 77 euros! The hostel offers free coffee/tea and allows visitors to cook by themselves. Of course, there are many hotels to find in the neighborhood, but if you are a budget traveller, this hostel is definitely recommended especially for family. Shopping in the supermarket of Faro could also let you buy many things. Dining in a restaurant is of course tricky, but in general cheaper than Netherlands Germany, or Belgium! The restaurants appetizers are normally cheap, for instance 0.50 euro cent for bread, butter, olives, or nice pate made of sardines and fish!
2. Faro has warm temperature and loads of sunshine.
Since Faro Portugal is in the Southernmost part of Portugal and is close to Africa, this place is definitely warmer and has more sunshine compared to Northern European countries. The average winter temperature of Faro is between 8-16 degrees, which is higher as compared to 0-6 degrees average winter temperature in the Netherlands, for example.
3. Faro and Portugal in general is surrounded by beaches.
Faro is surrounded by many beaches being a coastal region of Portugal. Just 5 minutes from the airport, you can go to the Praia de Faro (Faro beach). Just 30-40 minutes drive from Faro you can also reach the beautiful coast of Albufeira. And of course, you can even drive further going to Lagos beach to see its beautiful coastline, cliffs, and hidden caves. Going by public transport can cost you more time, thus you should only visit nearby beaches when you stay longer in Faro. Also take note of the fact that delays happen in the public transport and some people in the South are easy going with this. For instance, we tried to go by train going to Albufeira station and the delay was 1.5 hours! If you only stay in Faro Portugal for 2-3 days, exploring the city and its beaches could be the best itinerary.
4. Faro Portugal offers seafoods at affordable prices.
If there is something you should not miss when visiting Faro, it is their seafoods! In fact, it is not only in Faro but also in many coastal cities of Portugal. Since these places are close to the sea, locals and visitors can enjoy the abundance of seafoods offered by many restaurants. The cheapest that you can get are mackerel and sardines. For only 6 euros, you can have a main dishes composed of these fish. Of course, you can also try other fish such as tuna, swordfish, hake, and other seafoods. These are freshly cook using local way of cooking and therefore a good way to taste the Portuguese culture.
5. In general locals in Faro are genuinely warm and helpful.
We were happy to see that locals in Faro are quite warm even they don’t know you personally and are quite helpful even without asking for help. For our three days of stay in Faro Portugal, we encountered many situations where people helped. For instance, the chef of the restaurant, where we ate dinner, helped my husband to remove the bones of fish on his meal. The chef noticed that my husband is not used to eating fish with bones. Oops, in the Netherlands, most of seafoods are already cleaned meaning there is no bones, shells or other unnecessary thing that hampers the eating. Also, whenever we enter or leave the train, people always offer us help in bringing up or down our wagon. Finally in a restaurant, a local old guy who is also a customer, asked the waiter to quickly look after our order and assist us, knowing the we are foreigners in the place. In only a span of three days, we witnessed this genuine helps. Of course, not everything is perfect in Faro, Portugal. There might still be some theft or robbery. In other cases, some beggars are roaming around the city asking for money.
6. Faro Portugal is a beautiful old town.
Faro is just a small city that can be toured in one day. Of course, it is possible to stay for 2-3 nights for a more in-depth experience. The whole streets are made of cobble stones. Inside the city center, you’ll find its beautiful old town, which is facing the coast. Outside the city center you will find a mall which is nice to visit in case of bad weather. The city has a mixed of Christianity and Moorish influences as you will see in its architectures. There are also abundant orange trees full of orange fruits in public places. If you are tempted to pick up the orange from the tree, I am warning to more than once. This orange is not really appealing to the human taste due to its extreme sourness! Oops, yes we are guilty of trying it! 😉
Given the beautiful face of Faro, it does not give justice to only tell about its beauty. Outside the main city, you will find buildings that are not properly maintained. Many of them are already crumbling due to time and there are some vandalism (perhaps arts for others) in these buildings. Having these sites give an impression that there is still a big difference between the rich and the poor in Faro Portugal (and most in the Southern Europe in general).
7. Faro is a good entry point to enjoy the rest of the travel in Portuguese and/or in Spanish coast.
As I mentioned earlier, Faro is our entry point to tour the Southern Europe. From Faro, you could go to different directions. Either you explore more the other side of Portugal by going to Lagos, Porto, and straight to Lisbon or tour the Andalusian region going to Seville, Malaga, Garanda, Cordoba or Gibraltar. We did the last one, but we missed Cordoba and Gibraltar. Still it was a very beautiful experience because we witnessed the other side of Spain. Being a catholic country, it was nice to see the Moorish/Islamic influences in Andalusia. At the same, driving on the coastal road are one of a kind experience for us!