Most travellers pass through Faro, the gateway to southern Portugal, on their way to a resort. But savvy travellers will stick around to sample the town’s rural charm, reasonable prices, buzzing nightlife – and excellent restaurants.
Cataplana (fish stew) is one of the delicious dishes you’ll find on restaurant menus in Faro | © Avel Shah / EyeEm / Getty Images
1. Restaurante 2 Irmãos
Nestled inconspicuously on a bustling square just north of the commercial centre, Restaurante 2 Irmãos (Two Brothers) is both Faro’s oldest restaurant and among the oldest in Portugal. Previously an old welder’s shop, it began as a tavern in 1925 that attracted bartering merchants. By the 1960s, its bar snacks had become famous across the Algarve, and due to popular demand, the wine bar became a full-fledged restaurant. Today, Restaurante 2 Irmãos features beautiful azulejo tiles with wooden decor to give it that airy, open feel. Come here for a trip into Portugal’s past, where you’ll sample the same simple pleasures that delighted earlier travellers. Don’t leave without trying the steamed clams, percebes (goose barnacles) and mackerel alimados, as well as the finely grilled catch of the day.
2. Alameda Restaurant and Rooftop
A short walk from Faro’s Old Town, this restaurant is one of the city’s hottest openings. This stunning rooftop venue opened in December 2018, and chef Rui Sequeira aims to offer a fine regional-dining experience from his home city. Here, sample authentic Algarvian dishes with a creative and exotic twist, all exquisitely and aesthetically curated by the chef, in an elegant space. Skip the sangria and watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace with a bottle of refreshing Whispering Angel rosé.
A visit to Faro wouldn’t be the same without experiencing some of the best seafood at one of the island’s beachfront restaurants, and Estaminé is widely praised for being the best. You have two choices once you reach Faro Marina: either take the ferry to Ilha do Faro or a private boat taxi to Ilha Deserta. Take the latter to enjoy a delightful lunch at Estaminé. Surrounded by rare birds and with jaw-dropping panoramic views of the lagoon, there can be few more superb and tranquil places to dine.
If you head to Ilha de Farol – the perfect beach spot – reserve a table at À-do-João the minute you arrive on the island. It offers a typical Portuguese beach-shack vibe, complete with an oceanview terrace that looks over the Ria Formosa lagoon, and some of the freshest seafood ingredients, all with an excellent price-to-quality ratio. If you come with a large group (maximum of 10 people), they’ll offer a special group menu that includes freshly caught fish-of-the-day dishes and mango mousse dessert. If you’re with a smaller group, make sure you order the clams drenched in white wine and garlic and chilli prawns, which are finger-licking good.
5. A Venda
If there were such a thing as a hidden gem in the Algarve, then this would be it. Tucked in an unassuming, narrow alley in the centre of Faro, this small, cosy and alternative restaurant feels like stepping into a 20th-century Portuguese living room, complete with old-school decor and centuries-old home-cooked recipes to match. Try traditional Portuguese favourites such as boquerones (marinated white anchovies) soaked in olive oil and sardines baked in sea salt, which are freshly caught every day.
L’Osteria’s mission is to be “the Italian restaurant of the Algarve”, and it’s not far off. This cute, award-winning establishment, facing directly onto the marina, is a hidden gem, and with its trademark Mediterranean pasta dishes and fresh ingredients, your trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit here. Right in the heart of Faro, it’s a great spot for a romantic, candlelit dinner. Although any time is a good time to visit L’Osteria, if you happen to be in town for its gourmet Menu della Casa, then you’re in for a treat. This special menu rotates every month, offering a host of “culinarily inspired special creations” made with lots of love. When you’ve finished your meal, keep the mood alive by sipping on a cocktail at the Columbus Cocktail & Wine Bar, which is steps away and a favourite watering hole among the local crowd.
7. Restaurante Ria Formosa
Named for the lagoon that separates the city from the Atlantic, Ria Formosa is hidden on the fourth floor inside the Hotel Faro, facing directly onto the marina. With its panoramic glass walls, complemented by a roof terrace in the summer, this is the perfect spot to take in the breathtaking vistas of both the Old Town’s towers and the islets of the lagoon. A top choice for local business people, the Ria Formosa offers a mixture of traditional fare and contemporary dishes. Favourites include thin slices of jamón ibérico, salt cod risotto and honey-marinated duck confit.
8. Se7e Pedras Restaurante and Wine Bar
Located right in the heart of Faro and with a cosy wine-cellar vibe, Se7e Pedras is a local favourite. Come here with a group of friends or for date night to revel in traditional Portuguese dishes with a contemporary twist. Each plate comes in tapas-style portions so that you can mix and match, and all are accompanied by an extensive Portuguese and Spanish wine list. Make sure to order the roasted goat’s cheese and the tasty assortment of traditional custard- and almond-based desserts – the tarte de amendoa is a must-try.
9. Taco y Tequilla
Tucked away in the backstreets of Faro, Taco y Tequilla is the perfect place to start for a night out on the town and offers the ultimate Mexican experience. Think shots, sombreros and plenty of good vibes. Fajitas in all forms are the favourites, but there’s also a range of vegetarian-friendly dishes, which can sometimes be a rare find in Faro. On Saturdays, the restaurant offers a stellar live Mexican band that is bound to get you in the spirit. It’s also super family friendly – just skip the margaritas for its non-alcoholic cocktails.
10. Wax RestoBar
You could easily while away hours at Wax RestoBar, which is located slap bang on Praia de Faro. This beach shack takes inspiration from the fishermen who call this place home. Enjoy a range of snacks and freshly caught seafood dishes with a glass of vino or sangria in hand. Its relaxed atmosphere attracts local surfers who bring with them the wave of a new generation, mixing the authenticity of its traditional fishermen with a hip, young vibe. Expect to mingle with the residents and make new friends here among the pleasant vistas of the beach.
Charlotte Peet contributed additional reporting to this article.