After having my fill of historical buildings in Faro, it was time for me to move along down the Algarve coast in search of some of these famous Southern Portuguese beaches. Outside of these though, and like much of Portugal for me, I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect of Lagos. Not that beaching it up the entire time would have been a bad thing, and lord knows I spent plenty of time doing this. But I was excited to see what else was going on here.
Lagos is extremely walkable and seemingly has something for everyone
From pulling into the new bright and shiny train station, it only took me around 15-20 minutes to walk may over the central part of town. From here, there are numerous hotels, hostels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and historical attractions all within spitting distance of each-other. With so many different types of travelers, from backpackers all the way to higher end tourists, Lagos has both ends of the spectrum and seemingly everything in between covered for you to have a good time.Like many of the other older towns in Portugal, just walking through the tight winding honeycombed streets is almost an attraction itself, yielding an unexpected and seemingly endless array of street art.If more in the mood for beaching it up though, just about all of Lagos’ many beaches are within walking distance from each other (something I’ll explore more in a future post).Not up to walking between beaches and would rather save up your energy for later? Totally cool. Lagos also has a few different bike or even segway rental shops in town, some more cheeky than others.If shopping is more your thing, make your way down by the waterfront, where numerous smaller white tented stalls are lined up to sell everything from polo shirts, sunglasses and handbags, to fresh fruit juice and ice cream.Past the stalls, you’ll also find a handful of different companies offering sailing trips, dolphin excursions, and grotto tours for pretty affordable prices. Just about everyone’s selling the same trips though, which makes it especially easy to negotiate for better prices. I even had a few different vendors approach me with offers of 50% off specific trips and then attempt to throw in lunch and drinks when I didn’t bite.And once you’ve worked up a sizable hunger, you’ll have plenty of options at the numerous restaurants. Everything from Portuguese, Italian, Indian, and burger shops can be found throughout town, all at various different price points.
My favorite of the bunch though is Churasqueira Praca D’Armas in old town, which serves up some of the best bbq piri-piri chicken you’re likely to find.If you stop by, make sure to take advantage of the lunch deal, which will get you 1/2 a chicken with a side of fries and a soda, all for only €5! For bonus points, skip the onsite picnic tables and grab a bench along the waterfront, which is only a quick 5 minute walk away.Spicy, salty, crispy, juicy… This stuff is the real deal.
The town’s fishing roots are alive and well
Despite the fact that tourism has now firmly taken hold as the area’s primary economy, Lagos’ fishing heritage is still very strong, and evidence of this can be seen all over town. If you’re anywhere near water, you’re sure to see locals overseeing a fishing line, waiting and hoping for a small nibble that will provide dinner for the evening.While the old town side of the central canal along the waterfront is dedicated to shopping, dining, and general tourist activities, the other side acts as an active fishing harbor, which can easily be accessed by the nearby footbridge.Once crossed, the cobblestone mosaic sidewalks, cute outdoor tableclothed restaurants and vendor stalls are replaced with dirt paths, bare nondescript eateries, and stacks upon stacks of lobster cages and fishing nets laying out in the sun to dry.Not surprising, these restaurants offer up the freshest fish in town at ridiculously affordable prices, all within a relatively blue collar atmosphere.Surrounded by locals and other tourists/visitors in the know and overlooking the fishermen unload their last bit of supplies, I munched away on what had to be one of the bet pieces of fish I’ve ever had. A fresh grilled tuna steak, the obligatory salad and boiled potato sides, along with the requisite Portuguese Super Bock beer.
For such a small place, Lagos has a lot of history
For those feeling the historical itch, Lagos has it’s share of historically significant sights. Scattered throughout the town are medieval reminders of when the area was heavily fortified to protect itself from coastal invasion. The towers of Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, still overlook the ocean some 300+ years later. Directly behind it lies Castelo dos Governadores, constructed on the site of a former Arab castle between the 14th and 16th centuries and still allows you to pass through to the old town.Centuries old churches are scattered throughout town and offer different snapshots of architecture throughout time. Igreja de Santa Maria and Igreja de Santo António are two of the most impressive, with Santa Maria having been constructed in the 15th century and then partially rebuilt in the 19th after an earthquake wrecked a large portion of the area. Both can be entered for a quick tour if you’re interested in gathering a bit more history for each (free for Santa Maria; €2 for Santo António, which also gives you access to the small but eclectic Museu Municipal).Directly across from Igreja de Santa Maria is what’s classified as the first slave market in all of Europe. Established in 1444 and currently housing a small art gallery, I’d heard that there really wasn’t all that much to see. But at only €2, I was still interested in checking it out myself. Unfortunately this was closed throughout my time here due to nearby construction, so nothing to report.Overall, Lagos ended up being the perfect balance of sightseeing and flat out beach relaxation, with plenty of deliciously affordable eats in between. If you do end up making your way down here, make sure to come with a comfy pair of walking shoes, plenty of sunscreen, and a healthy appetite for some delicious seafood.