For my birthday this year, Nick surprised me with a trip to Faro in the south of Portugal!
I'll admit I didn't know much about Faro before this trip. Except that it's the capital of the Algarve, an area of Portugal that has long been popular among beachgoers and sun worshippers.
In fact, the Algarve is also known in more technical terms as Faro District. Since Nick and I are really not beach people, we tend to visit more inland areas of Portugal when we travel around the country.
During the three years that I've lived in Portugal, I had not been to the Algarve even once until this trip. What I discovered there really surprised me.
I found out that Faro is a great destination even if you don't like the beach. Or maybe especially if you don't like the beach! Because Faro doesn't really have one.
While there is a beach called Praia de Faro ("Faro Beach"), it's about 10 kilometers outside of town. What Faro does have, though, is a beautiful lagoon filled with barrier islands, a fortified old city full of history, and some pretty yummy vegan food!
In a future post, I'll talk about all the fun things to do in and around Faro. There's definitely enough here to keep you busy for two or three days.
This post you're reading right now, though, is all about where to eat in Faro. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it, so let's get into it!
Fully Vegan Faro Restaurants
There are currently three 100% vegan restaurants in Faro. All of them are very conveniently located in the city center, within easy walking distance of all the main attractions.
This vegan restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch and an à la carte menu for dinner. We visited at lunchtime, so we got the buffet.
The food was quite good, although there weren’t many dishes to choose from. Each day, they offer just two main dishes and a few salads.
Even so, it was a pleasant dining experience, and the chocolate cake with strawberries that I ordered for dessert was really scrumptious.
I was not at all impressed with the chocolate bars sold at the cash register, though. In fairness, the guy behind the register did warn me that they were made of carob (alfarroba) and not chocolate.
This happens a lot with desserts in Portugal, because carob trees grow in abundance here. Just make sure you know what you’re getting if you order something that looks like chocolate!
While I wasn’t blown away by the lunch buffet, I’d definitely like to come back for dinner sometime and try out their à la carte menu.
Mel & Limão
This one was my favorite fully vegan restaurant in Faro. The ambiance is very cozy, and it’s obvious from the moment you walk in that the people who run this place are vegan for the animals.
That being said, the menu is pretty small, with just a couple of main dishes offered each day. When we visited, the mains were a red curry and a dish of lentil croquettes. Both were quite colorful and well-presented.
As for the taste, both dishes were good, but the curry was not the least bit spicy, so don’t expect anything like a Thai red curry. In addition to the rotating selection of main dishes, Mel & Limão also serves burgers, pancakes, baked goods, etc. For me, the highlight of the meal was their red velvet cake, which was incredibly moist.
When you first enter this place, it appears to be really tiny, with just one table. Head upstairs, though, and you’ll find a spacious yet cozy seating area.
Again, the menu changes daily and is pretty small. This seemed to be a common theme for all the vegan restaurants in Faro.
Nick chose the stuffed sweet potato, while I had tomato rice with cauliflower and sweet potato chips. It was fine but could have used something a bit heartier to go with it, like legumes or tofu.
To be fair, they did have a burger and a seitan dish on the menu, which probably would have been more filling. They also offer several veganized Portuguese snacks and desserts, including empadas, rissóis and pastéis de nata.
For dessert, I ordered the arroz doce, which is a Portuguese take on rice pudding. Dessert was the best part of the meal for me, which again, seems to be a running theme here.
Vegetarian Faro Restaurants
Note that the vegetarian restaurant called Gengibre e Canela, which is listed in the Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook, closed down in mid-2019.
And another one, called Madalena, is still portrayed on HappyCow as a smoothie bowl place but seems to have been transformed into a late-night drinking spot.
So, there is currently just one vegetarian restaurant in Faro, and that's Vida Leve.
Vida Leve is open from 9 am to 7 pm, but it's mostly a breakfast place that specializes in açaí bowls. Since I'm not much of a breakfast eater, I gave it a miss. Their açaí bowls do look pretty good, though!
Actually, there IS one more eatery in Faro that I'm pretty sure serves exclusively vegetarian food, and that's Go Go Ice.
Go Go Ice
Primarily a frozen yogurt shop, Go Go Ice offers a healthy-ish take on ice cream. Their selection of frozen yogurt includes vegan flavors as well as flavors sweetened with stevia instead of sugar.
It was a little too chilly for frozen yogurt when I was in Faro in January, but I'm looking forward to trying this place when I return during the warmer months.
Go Go Ice also offers açaí bowls and a few savory dishes as well, plus a variety of plant-based milks for coffee drinks.
Vegan Friendly Faro Restaurants
In addition to the fully vegan and vegetarian restaurants, there are also several muggle restaurants in Faro that serve vegan food.
Does anyone else use the word "muggle" to refer to non-vegan things? No, just me?? If you’re a fellow Potterhead, let me know in the comments!
Anyway, back to the food. These vegan-friendly muggle restaurants include some juice bars, a couple of Mexican restaurants, and even a couple of very traditional Portuguese restaurants that have adapted some of their menu items to make them vegan.
In Lisbon, it’s very rare to find a traditional Portuguese restaurant with good vegan options, so I was surprised to see this in Faro.
Perhaps it’s because Faro doesn’t have nearly as many vegan restaurants as Lisbon does, so the restaurant owners feel more of a need to accommodate? In any case, it’s a very welcome change.
Nick and I just happened to stumble on this place while wandering through the old town, and it was our favorite Faro restaurant by far. It’s a bit more expensive than the others on this list but definitely worth the splurge, and perfect for a special occasion such as a birthday dinner.
The setting is magical, inside an 18th-century building that used to be an azulejos factory. Throughout the restaurant, the walls are covered with blue and white Portuguese tiles (azulejos) depicting scenes from Portuguese history.
While aquatic animals make up most of the menu, there’s a vegetarian section with five different dishes. And four of these looked like they could be vegan.
Even though it’s the most expensive veggie item on the menu, I definitely recommend ordering the vegetarian cataplana. This is a very traditional dish from the Algarve that’s cooked in a special clamshell copper pot.
Usually made with seafood, it originated with the fishermen of the region. When they went out fishing, they would bring along the cataplana pot and some tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. Then they’d throw those in the pot along with whoever they caught that day.
The vegetarian cataplana is made with chickpeas and tofu, in addition to the three base vegetables and a couple of others thrown into the mix. It was absolutely delicious, and I was thrilled to be able to taste a traditional dish from Algarve in a fully vegan version.
And the portion was huge! I always clean my plate because I detest wasting food, but even I had to leave some behind this time.
Hidden down a side street in the old town, this small restaurant specializes in gluten free and lactose free dishes. Many of their dishes are vegan, but keep in mind that vegans are not really the main clientele they are aiming to serve.
I actually loved the vegan ravioli I ate here, but … it wasn’t really ravioli. There was no pasta at all. Instead, they made little pockets out of zucchini to wrap up the filling.
Judging by the reviews I read, some people were pretty disappointed with the pizza here. If you order a dish that would normally contain gluten, just keep in mind that the gluten-free version may be quite different from what you’re expecting!
As long as you manage your expectations, you may really enjoy this place. Like I said, I loved my ravioli!
The cheesecake was a pretty big disappointment, though, but I find that’s usually the case with vegan desserts called “cheesecake”. That word is grossly overused by vegan restaurants, at least in Europe.
This is a cute little juice bar that also serves some sandwiches and salads that can be made vegan. It rained on our last day in Faro, so we just popped in here to get out of the wet and kill some time before lunch.
But of course, I still ordered a chocolate mousse as a pre-lunch snack. It was quite yummy, and the vegan apple pie here also gets good reviews. They do have plant milk for coffee too.
If you’re looking for something to take away, the hummus sandwich could be a good option, and they can also customize the salads to make them vegan.
I really wanted to eat at this place, but sadly they were closed for winter break until February. It’s a traditional Portuguese restaurant with a good-sized vegetarian section of the menu.
From what I’ve seen online, most of the vegan options are of the petisco variety. Petiscos are basically the Portuguese equivalent of tapas in Spain. Usually, you order a few of them to share among friends along with drinks.
Judging by their Instagram account, A Venda looks like a very jovial place that would make for a fun night out. It’s also a great place to try vegan Portuguese food, which, as I mentioned before, can be hard to find.
As the gateway to the Algarve and the only city in the region with an international airport, there are plenty of Faro hotels to choose from. Personally, I prefer staying in smaller guesthouses and B&Bs, as these are a lot more personable.
Well’Come to the Tiles House
Well’Come manages several properties in the old town, and we stayed at the one called Well’Come to the Tiles House. It’s a simple place with some quaint rustic features, like the bed headboard made from an old door.
There’s a cute terrace upstairs where you could have a drink, and guests also have free use of the shared kitchen
Several of the Well’Come properties seemed to all be on the same street, which is in a very central location. Staff were very friendly too, and if you need anything the reception stays open until 11 pm.
Lemon Tree Stay
If you’re traveling with a companion animal, this is the most highly rated of Faro's pet friendly hotels and guesthouses. They even offer pet bowls and a pet basket on request!
Also centrally located, the accommodation at the Lemon Tree Stay ranges from cozy double rooms with their own private terrace to more rustic “urban camping”. And each morning you can eat your breakfast under a real lemon tree.
But what really drew me to this place was the beautiful mural painted by well-known Portuguese street artist Frederico Draw.