Lagos is a cultural and vibrant town situated in the western Algarve. Many Portuguese travel to the Algarve for their annual holidays as it hosts one of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe. The large limestone rocks along with the turquoise waters makes it an exceptional place to visit.
We initially arrived in Lisbon by flight, which was then shortly followed thereafter by a 3 hour long train ride. We arrived in Lagos exhausted, but this beautiful little town soon awakened our senses.
Lagos has a stunning natural setting with wonderful beaches and within walking distance of the old walled city replete with winding cobbled lanes and picturesque piazzas. It's simply adored by everyone since it's suited from families to partygoers. Above all, Portugal is blessed with a wonderful climate as the summer months tend to be long and warm. Our most memorable experience was in fact the food, as we indulged into some of the tastiest local dishes from freshly caught fish to their mouth-watering grilled chicken. Most importantly, it's surprisingly cheap compared to many other European destinations.
If you are planning to visit, here are a few things to add to your itinerary:
This is obviously the main reason everyone travels to the Algarve for their holiday destination. Tourists and locals alike head down to the beautiful coastline to find a perfect sandy beach with crystal clear blue waters and stunning colourful cliffs. Within walking distance from Old Town Lagos, you can find some of the most Europe’s most outstanding beaches you can possibly imagine.
Praia Dona Ana from Central Lagos is a 25-minute walk to the beach which is accessible by local transportation as well. The beach is one of the most stunning beaches on the Algarve coastline and our personal favourite. It's enclosed by high sandstone cliffs and golden sands. A nice selection of shops and cafes are at your disposal at the top of the cliffs and a small restaurant on the beach for food and drinks. You can access the beach via a steep footpath and stairway, and parking is limited behind the beach.
Meia Praia is the largest beach within the vicinity of Lagos and one of the longest of the Algarve. It’s a short walk across the harbour bridge and passed the train station. In addition, it’s the most natural beach stretching over 4 km and ideal for long walks and joggers. It’s also very suitable for families with snack bars and restaurants.
Praia da Batata is the closest beach to Lagos town center and is known as the local town beach. The Praia can get very crowded but don’t be alarmed as there are all the amenities like beach chairs, water activities, bars and cafes. In addition, what makes this beach even better is the magnificent sight of the cliffs and the large fortress Forte da Ponta da Bandeira up ahead.
Praia do Camilo and its 200 steps take you down to this sheltered cove. Surrounded by picturesque cliffs, this little beach is popular with local residents and snorkelers. Also, a hand-dug tunnel connects to the other side of the beach. Found at the top of the hill, you can eat at the popular restaurant O Camilo specializing in freshly caught seafood and serving tasty local dishes.
Praia de Porto de Mos is to the south-west of Lagos and second largest in Lagos. It’s a beautiful sandy bay with many waves, which makes it suitable for surfing.
Please note that the sea temperature can sometimes vary. It can sometimes be cooler since the Algarve is in the Atlantic Ocean as opposed to popular belief that it’s found in the Mediterranean.
GROTTOS & CAVES BOAT TOUR
If one thing we can suggest for everyone to must do is a boat tour to Ponta da Piedade, which is truly fantastic. There are many services available to book a tour. We took our small boat ride from the harbour with one of the locals, as it is the least expensive option. We explored wonderful caves, grottos and stone arches that nature sculpted over the years in different shapes and sizes. The colourful cliffs provide a beautiful contrast to the turquoise waters below and provide great eye appeal. Our tour guide even caught a squid for dinner!
Another option is to go on foot by passing the lighthouse.
Our tour guide mentioned how the caves take the form of animals and other fantastic shapes.
Leave your car and prepare to walk through the magical streets of Old Town Lagos. This was definitely our favourite part of Lagos and we think you will agree. The area is filled with restaurants, cafes, hotels and shops as you stroll into the many cobbled alleyways (1.5 km long). This part of town is the most picturesque of the region with beautifully decorated piazzas and age-old churches that compliment it. It’s very family-friendly during the day and early evenings. There are also many bars and pubs for the late night partygoers. In addition, the average sightseer can find many attractions, like the Santo Antonio Church (only standing church from the 1755 earthquake) and the Dr. José Formosinho museum. Old Town definitely has vibrant ambiance and the perfect place to find a spot to sit, eat and drink. The one thing we enjoyed the most was the large array of restaurant options. We absolutely loved every meal but we strongly suggest you order the following dishes: Bacalhau, Piri Piri Chicken and their famous Sardines. Don't forget to end your meal with a Pastel de Nata or a Gelato!
Recommendation: You must try Gelato-Crema & Cioccolato which is located on the main street. This tiny little shop serves amazingly high quality ice cream. Perhaps the best gelato you will ever taste!
With a gorgeous long boardwalk and a draw bridge to cross, the Lagos Marina is a great spot where the crowds gather. The Marina is one of the nicest parts of Lagos and it’s located right beside the Old Town and the train station. It’s great for strolls as you watch the beautiful rows of sailboats and yachts. In the centre, two floors of facilities are at your disposal with shops, restaurants and large resorts to stay. Many tour stands are found here as well.
Recommendation: Head to Adega da Marina for the best food in town. The barn-style restaurant has the tastiest food in town at the most affordable prices. Expect line-ups during peak hours and unless you know where to look, you might just miss it.
LAGOS SLAVE MARKET MUSEUM
The slave market opened in 1444 and became Europe’s first slave market. It was here where the first slaves were captured and transported from Africa and sold throughout Europe. Prince Henry the Navigator whose statue appears in the middle of the square plaza and the monarchy profited greatly during their expeditions. The building now holds a museum with ancient findings and houses an art gallery on the ground floor. This building is easily recognized by its arched doorway.
At one point, up to 10,000 slaves were being shipped from Africa every year just to meet Portuguese demand alone.
The long walls and gate which span 1.5 km were built in the 16th century for military purposes circling the city. Take a nice long stroll on the beautiful trails that take you along the walls until you reach the gates (called Porta de São Gonçalo) with a watchtower on either side. The nice walk is quiet and enjoyable.
In the 17th century, fortifications were added and necessary to defend the important naval city and Governor’s Castle against intruders. Despite most of the city being destroyed during the earthquake in 1755, amazingly the walls have remained intact with only some minor restorations.
Also, pick up and snack on some figs off the park trees at no extra charge!