For many people Faro is merely the airport at which to arrive en-route to the more popular destinations in the Algarve and so doing they miss out on a uniquely characterful little city - it is, after all, the regional capital.
Its recorded history dates from Pheonician occupation in the 4th century AD, when it was known as Ossonoba. Located facing the formidable lagoon and island formation of the Ria Formosa the city was protected from the vagaries of the Atlantic Ocean but still accessible as a port. Thus it has always maintained a major commercial role which the Romans, then the Byzantines, the Visigoths and then the Moors appreciated, variously leaving their marks until Faro was taken back by the foundling nation of Portugal in 1249.
Silves, Lagos and Faro see-sawed for the title of the Algarvian regional capital for the next half a millenium until the 1755 eathquake, and its the resulting Tsunami destroyed most of the coastal towns. Faro was damaged by the eathquake but the Ria Formosa absorbed the destructive power of the Tsunami and so the region's municipal and episcopal administration settled there, and it has been the Algarve capital ever since.
This rich history is reflected in what is a beautifully elegant little town which doesn't suffer from the tourist hordes found elsewhere on the Algarve.
Albufeira has a very nice old center. But if you want to see the authentic portugal, there is not much left. In 1755 there was an earthquake this destroyed a lot. The main places in the south…