For most tourists Faro will be nothing more than the airport for their Algarve holiday. But this provincial capital should be on everybody’s must see list.

And its easy, whether you choose to travel by train or by bus, all roads lead to Faro. If you have a hire car you will be pleased to hear that theres lots of parking and not a meter in sight.

Visit the capital of the Algarve province and find a side of Portugal different to anywhere else on the southern coast. There’s a style here which is conspicuously different, relaxed but reserved, untouched by the commercial hand of tourism and best described as provincial Lisbon.

Faro is a city whos geographic position has not been a blessing. When the Algarve boomed with the demand for canned fish to feed the troops of two world wars, Faro watched from behind its tidal channel. Later when tourism boomed along the Algarve coast, Faro lay stranded on its mud banks.

The importance of Faro is as the capital of the Algarve province. The civil governor and all the other government offices so honoured in this mecca of bureaucracy are based here. The business of government blesses Faro with a permanence and stability apart from the seasonal rush of tourism.

Stroll beneath the palm trees which line the old harbour wall to arrive at a gate into the old walled city. Narrow streets lead to a square set with orange trees. By custom the oranges were sold for the poor of the city and it was a crime to take the fruit.

The square is dominated by the mass of the cathedral, solid and square giving no hint of the dazzling interior.

A narrow lane past a wildly over priced antique shop leads through a narrow gate in the city walls to the pier from where ferries cross the tidal lagoon to the beaches of Faro island.

After exploring the old historic city return to the present day pedestrianised city centre where it is a delight to sit and watch the world go by at a pavement café.