Faial has a current population of around 15 040 inhabitants, mainly concentrated in the capital and the nearby towns of Flamengos, Feteira, Portela and Praia do Almoxarife, and on the north coast at Ribeirinha, Salão, Cedros and Cascalho. Horta is the seat of the Universidade dos Açores and in particular the department of oceanography and fisheries. The city also has an internationally renowned sports marina, where numerous yachts and other craft stop over on their voyages across the Atlantic. Sailors from all over the world have left pictorial evidence of their visit by painting murals on the quayside and seawall, leaving behind an authentic open air museum.
As in the rest of the Azores, the local economy has traditionally depended on two sectors, stockbreeding and fishing, and to a lesser extent, agriculture. Recent years, however, have witnessed the progressive growth of tourism and the development of new infrastructures, including several hotels and specialist accommodation, the botanical garden Jardim Botânico do Faial, which houses fine specimens of endemics and native species to the Azores, as well as other exotic species, and a visitors centre alongside Capelinhos volcano. Whaling was once an important activity until it was forbidden in the 1960s, but whale watching is now a major attraction for tourists, who also come to hike and to enjoy the beauties of nature.
Significant historical facts include the discovery of the Faial in the early 15th century and the subsequent arrival in 1468 of Flemish settlers, whose numbers rose to 1500 in just twenty years. The town of Flamengos, near Horta, takes its name from these early colonists. The airport rose to international prominence at the beginning of the 20th century, with the arrival of various intrepid aviators on their way across the Atlantic, as well as the aircraft of several important European and American airlines. As mentioned above, Horta port is equally renowned. It should then come as little surprise that Faial is one of Macaronesia’s most cosmopolitan islands.