Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game
Faro is the gateway to the tourist- and expat-friendly region of Algarve in Portugal’s far south, site for the only new stadium built for Euro 2004.
Stage for two unremarkable group games and a goalless draw between Holland and Sweden, the Estádio Algarve has been relatively underused since.
Soon rejected by Faro’s flagship club of Farense and Louletano of Loulé – the 30,000-capacity arena is in no-man’s-land between the two – the Estádio Algarve managed to find a willing tenant in Gibraltar.
The British enclave 400km away is one of the most recent additions to the European football family – although not FIFA’s. With its Victoria Ground not up to the mark to host Euro 2016 qualifiers and its panoramic Europa Point Stadium not yet built, UEFA’s newest members relocated to the Algarve to take on the likes of Ireland, Scotland and Germany.
Though Algarve resorts such as Portimão and Vilamoura are filled with foreigner-focused bar and restaurants broadcasting Premier League matches, the domestic game here was never particularly strong. A map of the 2015-16 Primeira Liga teams reveals that the one furthest south was Setúbal, just outside Lisbon.
This changed when SC Farense gained promotion to the Primeira in 2020, the first such achievement in nearly two decades. Based at the renovated Estádio de São Luís, the club’s home for the last century, the Lions of Faro were immediately relegated to the Segunda to finish in a mid-table spot in 2022. The stadium has its own bus stop on line 3 north-east of town.
Enjoying greater success of late, based at the other main tourist resort in the region, Portimão an hour’s drive away, Portimonense have managed to retain top-tier status since reaching the Primeira in 2017. For decades, however, the Algarve derby between Portimão and Faro was a lower-tier affair, the black-and-whites of Portimonense having last played in the top flight back in the 1980s.
While impressive developments to the stadium infrastructure in Gibraltar have allowed its improving national side to move back to the Rock, Portugal are playing more internationals at the Estádio Algarve. Undefeated there since the showcase opener with England in 2004, a 1-1 draw featuring a rare goal from centre-back Ledley King, A Seleção have shown the likes of Luxembourg, Panama and Latvia no mercy at the much-maligned stadium.
Early in the year, the world’s top women’s national teams descend on Faro and surroundings to compete in the prestigious Algarve Cup, played in the late-winter sunshine of February. Record winners are USA and the more attractive fixtures, including games involving hosts Portugal, are staged at the Estádio Algarve.
Arriving in town, local transport and timings
Where to Drink
The best pubs and bars for football fans
Faro’s main bar hub is near the marina and bus station, particularly pedestrianised Rua Conselheiro Bivar. Right in the heart of it, Piper’s Irish Pub offers regular live music, TV sports and Guinness. Later on, the nearby Guess Club is good for cocktails, DJs and… um… Rage Against the Machine tribute bands.
If you’re here with the family, the Spot Café opposite the Forum shopping centre is the ideal venue.
Where to stay
The best hotels for the stadium and city centre
The four-star Hotel Eva is not only the swishest place in town, with prime marina views, a health club and rooftop pool – it’s right by the bus terminal for the match-day service when the Estádio Algarve is in use. Also nearby and more for the budget-oriented, the Residencial Avenida is basic but clean, cheap and convenient.
Just off the main avenue facing the marina, close to the bus station, the Algarve Hostel has private room as well as dorms. Behind Faro train station, the two-star Afonso III is more modern in style but eminently affordable.
In the same bracket, French chain cheapie the Ibis Faro is handy for the airport but not for a downtown stay. Finally, for an upscale beachside getaway, the four-star Hotel Faro has a gym, spa, panoramic restaurant and airport transfer service.