Lagos (pronounced Lagoosh) is a city of 31,000 people (2011) in the Algarve, in the south of Portugal. It is dominated by up to 50-m-high cliffs made of limestone and sandstone. The city is located at the mouth of the Bensafrim river, it has a beautiful old town with narrow streets, many pubs and restaurants.
The settlement history of the region around Lagos goes back to the Neolithic Age. Evidence for this can be found in the numerous menhirs, such as the Menir da Cabeça do Rochedo.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the port of Lagos was the starting point for numerous expeditions. A slave market developed in the city. The slaves were transported to Portugal from the Nigerian city of Lagos.
During an earthquake in 1755, the city was devastated by a huge tidal wave.
Today the small town of Lagos is a district town, the district of Lagos also includes the smaller towns of Bensafrim, Luz and Odiaxere. Typical for this "rocky Algarve" are strong waves and strong winds coming from the Atlantic from the west.
To get to Lagos from Faro – to where many fly in from all over Europe - you take the A22 and it's about a 1-hour drive (rather fast). You also can take the 125 west, the older road, that takes you through about half of the western Algarve. The 125 brings you closer to some of the interesting towns and villages of the Western Algarve. These include Albufeira, Carvoeiro, Ferragudo, Porches — with the famous Porches Pottery — Alvor, Praia da Rocha, and then Lagos.
From Sagres (pronounced Sagresh) almost the most Western point in the Algarve you take the 125 east and drive through Salema, Burgau and Luz (pronounced Loosh). These small towns are beach communities that are undergoing massive construction to house retirees from the UK and Germany and to a lesser extent from the rest of Europe. English is very common although the number of Americans is small. The drive takes about 30 minutes at reasonable speed.
To get to Lagos by train from Lisboa, take the train to Faro and get off in Tunes, a few stops before Faro. Then take the train to Lagos. The schedules are timed so that you only have to wait a few minutes.
Lagos is a small city; you can pretty much walk everywhere. There is a bus and a train station to take you to other cities (Silves, Faro) and taxis are abundant. Walk to the beautiful sandy golden beaches.
There is a great variety of things to see; The city centre is sculped with traditional architecture and colours from the region. Beaches vary in shape and style from long sandy beaches to almost private ones hidden by cliffs. Ponta da Piedade is a beautiful spot with a nice lighthouse from where you can make boat tours to the natural caves. The harbour in the morning is full of activity, if you like to wake up early don't miss it. Also the fish market is an interesting spot.
The old town and the small beaches around Lagos are worth seeing. You should also see the cliffs, either on foot from the cliff path or from the boat. The old fortress at the port entrance is also worth seeing. An exhibition is housed inside.
- 1 Forte da Ponta da Bandeira. Coastal fortification to control the entrance to the port.
- 2 Igreja de Santo António.
- Mercado de Escravos (Slave market), R. da Sra. da Graça 26.
- Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel), Igreja do Sao Sebastiano. There is a small bone chapel on the side of this church, and one of several in the Algarve region (others at Faro and Alcantarilha). You may have to pay €2 to enter the chapel, the bell tower and the church, but the view from the bell tower is worth the price.
- 3 Farol da Ponta da Piedade.
- Museu municipal
Lagos has things to do for just about anyone, from the relaxing beaches to the exciting dolphin tours.
- The Mountain Bike Adventure, Rua Porta Da Vila. The Mountain Bike Adventure provides all types of guided mountain bike rides in the Algarve. All the guides are qualified mountain bike instructors and they have rides to suit every level and fitness. One of the most popular being a ride starting at the highest point of the Algarve (902 m) and descending nearly to sea level. They also provide a shuttle service on the mountain for the brave. From €30.
There is the Praia da Batata in Lagos (right across the main road) which is an absolutely beautiful location. Walking along Estr. da Ponta da Piedade a few hundred metres before the lighthouse, (after passing a café and Camila beach on your left), find a concrete fencepost on your right decorated with a spray-painted eye, mouth, and two teeth. Enter the path it marks, which will take you to the edge of the cliff. A bit north (to your right) there is a cove accessible only by boat or by a rather narrow hidden mud slope with a rope pegged to the top. There are a number of beautiful, although perhaps dangerous, walks along the top of the cliffs. Another fantastic beach is Meia Praia, just the other side of the Marina, it is a huge beach with a variety of beach bars to cool off in, and widely renowned as one of the best beaches in the Algarve.
One of the more popular events in Lagos are the Dolphin Tours, with 3 companies offering tours to see dolphins. Whilst you might be unlucky and not see a dolphin, it's still worth it if you've ever wanted a ride on a high powered boat. All 3 of the companies are based in the Lagos Marina.
- Sea kayaks can be rented during the summer from quite a few different locations.
- Boat tours of the grottos leave from the harbour, and cost €10 per person. The grotto tours offered at the port are overpriced. If you go to the Farol da Ponta da Piedade lighthouse west of the city and then go down about 200 steps on the cliffs, so you come to a small pier where fishermen wait for passengers. For €20 per person you can take a 30-minute cave tour to Ponta da Piedade.
There are companies within Lagos which offers rentals of buggies and bikes, for a more exciting drive around town and a breathtaking way to take in the wonderful scenery of South West Portugal.
Southern Portugal is famous for its ceramics, and Lagos won't let you down. Ceramic dishes and tiles of all price ranges, styles, and colors are available. Some stores don't provide boxes for your goods, only newspaper wrapping, so ask before you buy, if it matters to you.
Portugal is also famous for its cork, in fact it's one of the largest cork producing countries on Earth. A short walk through almost any section of the town will reveal shops selling all kinds of cork products, from the usual coasters and placemats, right up to shoes, hats and handbags. Just as a note though, cork can be very expensive.
There is sometimes a small fair in front of the church near the harbor where unique clothing can be bought.
- 1 Mercado Municipal, Avenida dos Descobrimentos. M-Sa, closed Sa afternoon and Su. The beautiful market hall from 1924, which has been modernized, offers fresh fish and seafood, among other things.
There are some wonderful family run operations in Lagos. Many of the restaurants are starving for business in the off peak time and will go way out of their way to make your visit to their restaurant a pleasurable experience. A regional speciality is chicken piri piri, barbecued chicken with the now famous piri piri sauce, truly delicious! Another local dish is the salted cod, which allegedly had 365 ways of being served, one for each day of the year. The sardines in the Algarve are of the best in the world and local people cook them on small barbecues on their doorsteps, creating a delicious smell which wafts through the streets!
Some restaurants get really busy that reservations are required several days in advance to get in when you want to. However, this generally applies to the best restaurants in Lagos and is a good sign of the restaurant's popularity, plus it ensures that you avoid disappointment.
- Don Toro Angus Steak House, Rua Lancarote de Freitas, 12 8600-605, ☏ . Steak house that serves excellent cuts of meat, available in various sizes to suit all appetites. Perhaps the best place in Lagos for a steak. The restaurant is by no means big, so as a result it does get full, therefore it is recommended that you either book a table in advance or eat early on.
- No Patio, Rua Lancarote de Freitas 46 8600-605 Lagos, ☏ . Th-Sa from 18:00, Su from 13:00. Perhaps one of the best restaurants, if not the best, in Lagos. Diners sit in a romantic courtyard to the rear of the building and served fine food freshly cooked on the premises, with the menus changing on a regular basis. The owner is also on hand and talks to the customers to ensure everybody is having a good meal. A reservation in advance is recommended, and is pretty much essential in the high season, which highlights just how popular this place is - you will not be disappointed!
- Nah Nah Bah, Travessa do Forno 11, ☏ . 18:00 - late. Fresh produce, bold flavors, comfy couches and an island atmosphere has made Nah Nah Bah a local & international favorite. Voted Top 50 Burger Joints in the world. Kitchen open from 18:00 til 23:00.
Lagos bars are quite fun, catering to the young back-packing crowds. Often one can find a Brit or American helping to serve drinks (for a little under the table wage). For a drink what packs a punch, try the traditional Algarve drink, Medronho, better known as fire water, another Algarve drink is the almond liqueur, delicious after a big meal!
There is a large youth hostel in the centre of the city. However if you arrive in Lagos by bus there will usually be people there asking if you need accommodation. These are generally cheap and small, and a great option. There is a campsite near where the N125 crosses Estr. da Ponta da Piedade
- Casa Mãe, Alto do Jogo da Bola, Rua do Caracol nº 11 e 13, ☏ . Casa Mae is a lifestyle boutique hotel with much local crafts context. Spacious, with open kitchen restaurant and huge terrace, the design is a product of collaborations with Portuguese artisans and designers. An ambitious project with a casual and friendly atmosphere - Casa Mae publishes an in-house magazine, has its own farm feeding its farm to table restaurant, Orta, and curates a concept store with Portuguese design pieces. From €125.
- Gold Coast Hostel, Rua Gil Vicente, 48, ☏ . Great hostel close to the town centre and beaches. Free internet, free breakfast, nice terrace. The staff is super helpful.
- Marina Club Hotel, Marina de Lagos, Edificio da Administracao, ☏ , fax: . In the Lagos Marina, the Marina Club hotel has some really excellent views, the rooms are clean and well presented, and the staff are all very efficient and friendly.
- Rising Cock Hostel, Travessa do Forno 14, ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. The Rising Cock was the first private hostel of Lagos. Named one of the best party hostel in the world by the Off Track Planet, the hostel offers a family atmosphere. Different events are offered every day. €25.
If you want to get away from the backpacking tourists, head to Vila do Bispo. It's about an hour's bus ride from the garage. From the Vila do Bispo bus stop it's about 5 km to the beach. It's not a bad walk, and there are hiking trails that head off into the hills if you're interested too. The beaches are gorgeous and seem to never end. Beaches are clothing optional, but most people are clothed.