After four years, we finally made it overseas again and this time we have little Evelyn in tow. Read more about our first family holiday to Faro in Portugal courtesy of Jet2holidays.
Over the last few years, it’s felt a little odd continuing to call myself a travel blogger whilst the majority of my time was spent, much like everyone else, at home waiting for the world to open back up. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been overseas, almost four years if I’m counting, and to be honest I’ve missed it. I’ve missed everything about travelling; whether it’s for months on end or just a few nights away, I’ve missed the feeling of discovering somewhere new.
Since those two nights in Bratislava for my stag-do (we won’t talk about that!), Emma and I got married, we extensively planned a honeymoon back to Melbourne and across to Queenstown in New Zealand only for it to be cancelled and, probably most life-changing of all, we welcomed our daughter Evelyn into the world. All of that was amidst Covid-19 so clearly it’s been difficult to plan trips overseas however, in March 2023, we were back in business with a three night city break to Faro courtesy of Jet2.
DISCLAIMER – I VISITED FARO WITH JET2HOLIDAYS WHICH MEANT THAT MY FLIGHTS AND CHOICE OF ACCOMODATION WERE COVERED BY JET2. ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED BELOW HOWEVER ARE MY OWN.
THREE NIGHTS IN FARO
Our first ever city break back in 2013 was with Jet2holidays to Budapest and thinking back now I loved how easy everything was to book. No messing around with adding luggage or making sure the hotel was the right one, we just booked one package and away we went.
Before travelling to Australia in 2017, we regularly used Jet2holidays for longer holidays and we had started to opt for booking flights and hotels separately for cost reasons. We also quickly realised we could easily do short city breaks with hand luggage only!
That was a long time ago now and our needs are so different with a one year old in tow. Whilst I am sure with great planning we could probably manage a trip away with hand luggage only with Evelyn, I’m not sure I’d want to take that risk. Nor do I want to spend time I definitely don’t have carefully (and meticuously) planning all of the separate aspects of a holiday. Anything that makes travel with a one year old easier I’m in.
That’s where Jet2 come in and do all of the hard work for you with great flight times, 22kg luggage and nice hotels in one package. For all of our family holidays moving forward I will be looking to use Jet2holidays.
Faro is the southernmost city in Portugal and is the capital of the Algarve region. The Algarve is widely known for its sandy beaches, fishing towns and Mediterranean climate making it a hugely popular holiday destination. Couple that too with highly regarded golf courses and this region of Portugal attracts a wide range of tourists; most of those on our flights were heading out to play golf (which also means you should expect many, many golf bags to come out first on the luggage carousel!).
Faro is often overlooked as a city destination in its own right despite all flights to the region going through its airport. It is only a small city but I found it completely charming and a perfect introduction to Portugal and the Algarve having never visited before. The tourist area of Faro has an Old Town complete with historic gateways and thick defensive walls, a palm-tree lined marina and plenty of great bars and restaurants. Faro is relatively quiet, at least it was in March when we visited, meaning that you can focus on enjoy the destination rather than stressing about crowds and all that comes with hordes of people.
The Hotel – 3HB Faro
Opened in 2021, 3HB Faro is the first five star hotel in the city and is in the perfect location to take in all Faro has to offer. The hotel’s urban style appealed to us and our room on the first floor was sublime. There were two single beds pushed together to make one huge sleeping space and Evelyn had her own little travel cot complete with duvet and pillow. The room had a complimentary Nespresso machine, complimentary water and soft-drinks which always set us up right for the day. Along with a calming decor and Molton Brown toiletries, this felt luxurious yet understated. If that makes sense.
The best feature of the 3HB Faro is its rooftop terrace complete with an infinity pool overlooking the marina and the Ria Formosa lagoon. There’s a small chill-out area with a firepit and, even higher still, another area where I imagine a bar opens up during the warmer months. Facing due west, this is the perfect location to watch the sun set.
I must mention the staff at the hotel were some of the most friendliest staff I’ve seen in a hotel before; each and everyone welcomed us (mostly Evelyn) with open arms and made sure that we had the best time. They even allowed us complimentary late check-out at 2pm which actually was a god-send with a late evening flight.
The hotel also has an indoor spa, little playpark (which was a nice and unexpected surprise) and two restaurants (though only one was open at the time).
If you’re looking to visit Faro anytime soon, I can’t recommend 3HB Faro enough especially when booking through Jet2Citybreaks.
We arrived in Faro about an hour late but we were swiftly taken across to the hotel thanks to a private transfer. It was super easy to organise the transfer directly with the hotel which to be fair was a great idea with a one year old. I had wanted to, as I often have done in the past, utilise public transport to get us into the city but that probably would have just been a disaster waiting to happen.
After checking straight into our room, we headed out for a wander around the marina and the Old Town. The impressive main gates to the Old Town, Arco da Vila and Arco do Repouso, weren’t difficult to miss as each and every journey through this area of Faro will likely start and end at either one.
Of course, it would have been rude not to have 30 minutes or so relaxing with a beer at Cantinho people watching at Arco do Repouso. To be fair we had ticked off a major life milestone in getting through Evelyn’s first flight! Sagres never tasted so good.
Back in the UK our life revolves around Evelyn and her ‘routine’ as well as our own 9-5 jobs. It quickly came to light that it is impossible to stick to timings and routine – we found that most restaurants close between 3pm and 7pm which meant we had to jump into a café to grab Evelyn some tea.
We took Evelyn back out after a bath so that we could could eat tea and what a tea it was. We went to O Recife Churrrasqueria which appeared to be a favourite of locals with police officers and paramedics turning up to grab their fill of Portuguese grilled chicken. It wasn’t hard to find this place, you could smell the chicken at least three streets away. We ordered a full grilled chicken (we chose spicy because why not) which came with rice and chips plus a salad – all for just over 20 euros. Wow, I loved the food here; it was a great introduction to Faro, to Portugal and to the food that’s on offer here.
Today was the day to rack up the steps and see all that Faro has to offer. Given that it was to be a relatively busy day, I had the great idea to fuel myself with not one but three of Portugal’s most famous national dish; pastel de nata. For those not in the know, pasteis de nata are egg custard pastry tarts served fresh from the oven and honestly I could eat them for breakfast and a snack each and every day.
The first place to visit today was the Igreja do Carmo and the Capela dos Ossos de Faro (The Bone Chapel). This twin bell towered church dates back to 1719 when construction began and, whilst the exterior is beautiful, it’s inside where the magic happens. The church, and particularly the interior, is said to have been funded by Brazilian gold and it’s easy to see that no expense has been spared. As you head through the church and out into a little peaceful garden, you’ll find the slightly creepy Capela dos Ossos. The Bone Chapel is, as you will have guessed, full to the brim of bones and skulls of over 1,000 Carmelite monks. Whilst the chapel was eerily silent, I could hear children laughing and playing not far away only to turn around the see the face of a small child peering through one of the glass doors. I’ve never jumped so much in my life. Turns out there is a school playground right next to the chapel and it’s probably a fun little game for the children to scare the living daylights out of unsuspecting visitors.
After that experience, we headed up to Faro’s municipal market for a wander around where the local’s purchase their daily food. There were many stalls with fresh seafood, pastries and tarts (obviously) and cured meats along with little cafes and bars which were surprisingly full. Whilst it feels like everything is 100mph here in the UK, it was lovely to be reminded just how slow life can be when you grab a strong coffee and watch the world go by. The exterior of the market was also a big draw for me in terms of photography as it was as Accidentally Wes Anderson as they come.
The difference now when visiting new places is that you have to factor in Evelyn’s needs and we didn’t want her couped up in her stroller for too long so we took her to the Jardim da Alameda Joao de Deus. A beautiful park to the south east of Faro’s centre with a space to play, relax and watch the peacocks roam. The 30 minutes or so that we spent here reminded me how much I would love for Evelyn to grow up somewhere with a warm climate where she can spend as much time as she wants outdoors.
For lunch, we returned to the Old Town to ‘Old Tavern’ for Tabua Queijos (a cheese board) and Chouriea Assada (roast grill sausage) followed by a visit to Igreja de Santa Maria, Faro’s cathedral. Some of the best views across the marina and the orange tree-lined square are from the cathedral’s bell tower. From there it was to the other side of the marina for drinks at the rooftop bar of the Eva Sense Hotel. I would dare say that the best views of Faro are from this rooftop.
We changed things up a little today and planned for Evelyn to eat with us at 7pm so we watched the sunset with a beer at Boheme followed by petiscos at Se7e Pedras. Essentially, pesticos are the Portuguese version of tapas and we ordered a few small plates to share between the three of us. My favourite were the slow cooked pork cheek bao bun and the lentil dish which I never thought I’d say. The decor was rustic and the food was all very creative – I would definitely come back here plus across the alleyway under the exposed lighting you’ll find Grain 864 which has plenty of beer options (and great tunes).
I got up early today for a 7am sunrise photo walk whilst the streets were quiet and the sun tentatively filtered through the buildings. This was such a peaceful way to start the day, no responsibilities just wandering with a camera in hand in silence. Well, apart from the early morning clatter from Faro’s flock of stocks. I got some good shots (well I least I think so) particularly of Palacio Belmarco; that beautiful pastel blue building in the soft light and no people!
Once we’d had breakfast, we set out for a much more chilled day given that we’d now walked the length of the city a good few times. As I have alluded to, Faro is a small city and this actually is a great thing as you’re not rushing here, there and everywhere trying to ‘tick off’ the highlights. I found we had plenty of time to relax, slow down and appreciate the city and appreciate time away with family.
With that in mind, we slowly walked to the other side of the marina so we could look across the Ria Formosa lagoon and watch a few flights come into land. The flight path here means that the planes are at such a low level you feel that you could reach out and grab them (not literally). By now, Evelyn would look up to the skies as soon as you asked her if she could see the planes.
I quickly nipped into Paco Episcopal de Faro opposite the cathedral as I’d read that there were impressive Portuguese tiles, called azulejos, on display. The tiles around the main staircase are quite obviously beautiful and well worth a visit just to see. Nothing here is on the scale I imagine that you would see in Porto or Lisbon but azulejos adorn the exteriors of many buildings (including homes) across Faro.
We visited Gama Rama Gallery and bought handmade mugs and a postcard sized piece of artwork. It was nice to support local artists and one of the pieces available to purchase reminded me of a song by The Wonder Years which explores the feeling of a lone house on a Portuguese street where all the others had been knocked down. The song is ‘It Must Get Lonely’ FYI. Incidentally, we later stumbled upon a lone house where the others next door had been knocked down and the song rung loudly in my head as I stood and took the moment in.
Lunch was at Xic where we shared an iconic Porto sandwich, the Francesinha, which was stuffed with ham, chorizo, steak and egg topped with a shrimp and plenty of francesinha sauce. The sauce was tomatoey / beery and the waiter added hot sauce too. Delicious if not very filling.
Despite being full up from lunch, it would have been rude not to experience the rooftop pool at 3HB Faro so whilst Evelyn enjoyed a nap I took the tough decision to enter the pool. Bearing in mind it was early March when we visited and 23 degrees, the pool was absolutely freezing. So cold that upon entering I think I was actually winded and struggled to breathe. Apparently seeing me over-reacting was an invitation for two others at the hotel to make their own attempts to enter the pool. They didn’t get in.
The day ended with a quick look round an Artists & Flea Market, cocktails at Columbus whilst the sun set and more petiscos at A Venda. Perhaps my favourite moment of the entire city break was at Columbus when Evelyn decided to take my hands and direct me straight to the playpark opposite which clearly she wanted to go in. She then proceeded to do the same to Emma. Watching her on this little swing looking back over at me just reminded me that life is absolutely beautiful.
Our final day seemed to come out of nowhere and we definitely did not want to think about having to return home. We wandered again, down streets we hadn’t been down hunting out more of Faro’s surprisingly good street art. We were told that the next city along the coast, Olhão, had an extensive collection of street art so I was a bit gutted not to have had time to jump on the coastal train. I guess it’s just another reason to come back to the Algarve region of Portugal!
After relaxing on our room’s terrace with Evelyn and then testing out the spa facilities, we made our way to A Fabrica for burgers (obviously I had to hunt out the best burgers in Faro). I had the bacon cheeseburger and opted for blue cheese sauce which was carefully poured all over the top of the burger. There’s no doubt that this was a knife and fork job. We got Evelyn her first burger too for just 8 euros which she did okay with. She would only eat the chips after they’d been dipped in the blue cheese sauce. I promise we do feed her fruit and vegetables!
As we waited for our private transfer to take us back to the airport, we had huge bowls of ice cream on the hotel’s roof terrace and geared up for a Sunday night flight back to the UK. Evelyn waved goodbye the entire journey to the airport – I’m not sure she wanted to go home!
Travelling with a One Year Old
That was a long read wasn’t it so if you’ve made it this far, thank you. I just wanted to sum up what it was really like to travel with a one year old. Honestly, and I know people will think I only talk positively on here, it was so much easier and chilled than I thought it would be. I built up in my head that the flights would be dreadful and I’d hate every minute due to sheer embarrassment. Three cheers for overthinking! Anyway, the key was keeping Evelyn occupied with plenty of books and new toys and trying to keep a cool head. There was only one occasion where Evelyn let out a quick five second cry when we told her she couldn’t steal the man in front’s baseball cap. I mean the passengers on that flight should think themselves lucky at just how chilled Evelyn is. Their faces as we walked along the aisle were hilarious; basically screaming please do not sit next to me.
Everything else across the weekend went extremely well so I am very grateful for Evelyn being so tolerant. Whilst she may not remember the break, we will and those memories will last a lifetime. Perhaps Evelyn will catch the travel bug too!
Hopefully what I’ve written here and the photographs I’ve shared make it clear that Faro is a destination that should be high up on your list! For the parents out there, if you’re nervous about taking your child/children on a city break – honestly just try it, I was nervous but I’m so glad to have had the opportunity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and if you do have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or drop me an email!