The Ria Formosa Lagoon attracted human occupants from the Palaeolithic age until the end of pre-history. During that time a settlement grew up that was named Ossonoba. Ossonoba was an important town during the period of Roman occupation and, according to historians, the forerunner of present-day Faro. From the 3rd century onwards and during the Visigothic period it was the site of an Episcopal see.
With the advent of Moorish rule in the 8th century Ossonoba retained its status as the most important town in the south-west corner of the Iberian Peninsula. In the 9th century it became the capital of a short-lived princedom and was fortified with a ring of defensive walls. At this time the name Santa Maria began to be used as opposed to Ossonoba. Later the town was known as Harune.
After a traumatic period attributable to the political and military fragility of the town’s Moorish rulers, in 1249 Faro became part of Portuguese territory, thus completing the Christian conquest of what is now Portugal. The Moors were defeated by the forces of the Portuguese King Afonso III in 1249.
In the centuries that followed Faro became a prosperous place, thanks to its geographical position, its safe harbour and growing trade, in salt and agricultural products from the interior of the Algarve, increased by the voyages of exploration known as the Discoveries. At this time the town had a large and active Jewish population: the first Portuguese book was printed locally on the Jewish community’s initiative at the end of the 15th century. Recognising the town’s growth, in 1499 King Manuel set in motion major changes to the urban fabric, with the construction of new facilities — a hospital, the Espirito Santo, church, a customs house, a slaughterhouse and so on, outside the city walls and along the coast.
Lagos was elevated to capital of the historical province of Algarve in 1577 and remained so until 1756, the year following the destruction of much of the town by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The earthquake damaged several areas in the Algarve, where a tsunami dismantled some coastal fortresses and, in the lower levels, razed houses. Almost all the coastal towns and villages of the Algarve were heavily damaged, except Faro, which was protected by the sandy banks of Ria Formosa lagoon. Since then Faro has been the administrative seat of the region.
In 1596 Faro suffered a severe mauling at the hands of raiding soldiers led by the Earl of Essex; Essex’s men sacked the city, then set it alight, damaging its fortifications and its churches, they seized the library and the bishop of Faro.
The 17th and 18th centuries were a period of expansion for Faro. A new series of battlements were built during the Wars of Restoration, 1640-1668, enclosing the urban area and tracts of arable land in a huge semi— circle facing the Ria. The city remained within these confines until the end of the 19th century. After years of steady but unspectacular growth, its expansion has accelerated significantly in the last few decades.
The construction of an international airport on the outskirts of the city in 1965 made Faro a hub for tourist traffic across the region. Other items of infrastructure which have had a positive impact on the economic, social and cultural life of the city are the University of the Algarve and the Conservatorio Regional (Music Regional College), both of which have their headquarters in Faro and attract students from the rest of the region and from other parts of Portugal, and the district hospital.
With its rich artistic heritage and many museums, hotels, restaurants and other facilities, not to mention the many attractions offered by the surrounding area, from the long beaches of Faro and Culatra Islands to the important Roman ruins at Milreu, Faro is also a city, with a strong vocation for tourism. Many tourists come here to enjoy the city’s beautiful sandy beaches and general seaside attractions, with the Praia de Faro beachfront especially notable. Also popular and full of life is the harbour front, where a selection of waterfront cafes and pricey yachts await. Overlooking the harbour is the character-full Old City, where the majority of Faro’s most historic buildings are located. Property is available in and around this area for rent and sale in the style of apartments, townhouses and villas.
Particularly attractive is the old part of the city with its quiet, cobbled streets and its 16th, 17th and 18th century buildings, still surrounded by the Roman walls which date back to the 9th Century. Inside a spacious open square that was once the site of the Roman Forum is a 13th Century Cathedral that faces the 18th Century Episcopal palace. The city has both Arab and Roman ruins but most of the present attractive older buildings were constructed after the disastrous earthquake of both 1532 and 1755. An interesting building is the neighbouring 16th Century Convent that has now been turned into the home of the city’s archaeological museum. The “golden” church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo is claimed to be the best example of gold—leaf woodwork in southern Portugal. It also contains the macabre spectacle of a chapel lined with the bones from over 1,200 monks.
The well-known developments of Quinta do Lago and Vale de Lobo; both five star holiday areas are located west of Faro. Together they provide 7 top quality golf courses, tennis centres, riding schools, hotels, holiday resorts and villas. Property is available for rent or sale in and around these luxury developments, close to all amenities, in the style of townhouses, villas and apartments.
One of the many qualities of Faro is its proximity to a range of attractions that lie just outside its walls. Faro is home to the Ria Formosa lagoon, which is a protected National Park and nature reserve. The lagoon covers over 170 square kilometres of land and, over the spring and autumn hundreds of different species of birds can be spotted on the lagoon, stopping on the their way north or south. The Serra de Monchique Mountains come complete with countless scenic hiking trails; are too located just outside Faro. If a traditional property, or exclusive private property located in a rural setting is something you would be more interested in then we have property in and around these areas for rent or sale and to suit all budgets.