I've spent the past few years of my life working out of Faro airport in Portugal. I tend to deal with a lot of tourists who've come to explore the Algarve coast to the east and west. But, as people are always asking me about what there is to see in Faro itself, I thought I'd write a quick guide for anyone who's thinking of coming here. If you book airport shuttles in Faro I may even get to tell you in person!
One of the places you've probably heard of is the Old City. It's not the easiest place in the world to access in a airport shuttles, but Faro is like that sometimes. The reason for this is that the whole area is still surrounded by a Roman wall. Luckily it's easy to get into on foot, and once you're inside there's a spacious open square that used to be a Forum back when the Romans used it. Nowadays there's a Cathedral that is still over 700 years old, and if you're feeling a little macabre you can have a look inside the Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo which is lined with the bones of over 1,200 monks...
If that thought hasn't sent you running back to Faro airport, then Portugal's finest nature reserve (in my opinion) will keep you hanging around. The Ria Formosa lagoon is over 17,000 hectares big and lies just off the shoreline of Faro. Though it may seem a little expansive and underwhelming at first, it attracts hundreds of types of birds during the Spring and Autumn and can be a lovely place to relax in the sun. It's particularly beautiful in the summer when you can take boat trips out to explore the area and watch the sunset reflect off the water.
A similar distance outside of town (about a 20-minute drive) are the luxury resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo. Now, I'd say that about half the people who book airport shuttles in Faro are looking to head out to these two resorts. Usually they're mad on Golf or Tennis or Horses or just looking for a bit of an all-inclusive retreat. It's easy to see why, as they're pretty lavish places and if you're looking for high-end tourism I can't really imagine anywhere better.
Back in Faro, there are all the things you'd normally find in a city to keep you entertained. The shopping areas are well stocked, and the architecture of the centre makes it a pretty enjoyable experience even if you're not the most eager shopper in the world like me! There's also a particularly good theatre near the centre that I'd recommend visiting if you have a spare evening and fancy imbibing the culture.
Personally though, if you do one thing after you've arrived at Faro airport, transferred to your hotel and freshened up, I'd recommend heading down to the harbour. Portugal, as you already know, is a sea-faring nation. Because of this there's still a strong fishing industry based around the coastline. If you head down to the shore you can watch the locals fishermen mending their nets and look out towards the sea and the Ria Formosa lagoons. There are some gardens in the nearby square and a few cafes around the area too. It's not the most exciting place in the world, but if you get talking to some of the locals I think you'll get a real flavour for Portuguese life that you might not find elsewhere.
So there you go, hope that has helped a little. Have a read around a see if you like the flavour of the city. There's definitely more to the place than just Faro airport; Portugal's beauty is in the atmosphere, the climate and the culture and I think this may be one of the best places in the country to experience them.