Lagos (pronounced 'lah-goosh') is a blustery, colourful city nestled on the Western Algarve. Hidden within four hills, Lagos is a city that sprang to life during the 15th and 16th centuries, when trade with Africa began. Now a tourist town attracting care-free surfers from across the world, this is a city with a perhaps unexpectedly laid-back and bohemian feel.
Things to do in Lagos, Algarve
A city defined by the water that surrounds it, it is seafood, beaches and yachts that top the list of Lagos' activities. Plunge beneath its surface, however, and Lagos has a long-forgotten and turbulent history.
Marina de Lagos
In contrast to the city's ancient winding streets, Lagos is perched beside a busy, wholly modern marina. Perhaps the best place to begin when visiting Lagos (most of the parking is also found here), the marina provides a decidedly glitzy introduction to the city. Opened in 1994, the marina boasts accommodation, shopping and leisure activities, which surround the many yachts at its centre. A walk along the edge of the marina is also a nice way to familiarise yourself with the steep skyline of this hilly city. You'll find this area is dotted with small stalls, ice cream vans and tour guides selling nautical adventures, including kayaking trips to the nearby beaches (more on this below).
Wandering down one of Lagos' lanes, we stumbled across a sign to the entrance of the church of Santo António: one of the finest and most ornate churches in Portugal. So revered by the Portuguese, the church has been classified as a national monument; quite the find during our city stroll. Unassuming on the outside, it's the interior of the church that makes it so special. Adorned with shimmering gold leaf, the inside of the church is an unexpected and lavish surprise.
A 25 minute walk from Lagos' city centre lies some of the Algarve's prettiest beaches. Known as the 'gold coast' due to its yellow rugged rocks, the walk here is breathtaking. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that the beaches and coves along Lagos' coastline are perhaps some of the prettiest beaches I've seen in Europe
Praia Dona Ana
Praia Dona Ana is the first beach you'll pass if travelling by foot and is around 20 minutes from Lagos' centre. A popular, easy-going beach surrounded by small cafes, this is a nice spot for those not looking to stray too far from the city. It should be noted, however, that like all the beaches mentioned here, Praia Dona Ana is accessed by steep, wooden steps and therefore may not be suitable for those with mobility issues.
Praia do Camilo
A wooden stairway of 200 steps leads down to one of Europe's prettiest beaches. A secluded bay filled with clear water, soft white sand, limestone cliffs and sun worshippers, Praia do Camilo is the place to come for sun, sea and relaxation. Small but perfectly formed, this is a very popular beach in the summer, so do arrive early to secure your spot. Just above the beach sits the trendy restaurant 'O Camilo'. Be warned, this is an incredibly busy restaurant during peak season (it would have been an hour long wait for a table when we visited), so please book ahead.
Ponta da Piedade
The crowning jewel of the region, Ponta da Piedade (translated as 'Piety Point'), is a spectacular display of limestone cliffs, hidden grottoes and craggy rock arches. Unlike its neighbour - Praia do Camilo - it's not the beach that draws the crowds to Ponta da Piedade, but its spectacular cliffs and unusual rock formations. A clifftop board walk ensures that you get the best views of the headland, with another (dreaded) set of 200 stairs leading down to the beach's small cove.
Tavira is home to a whopping 37 churches; each an eclectic mix of medieval, moorish and renaissance design. Perhaps the most beautiful church is Igreja da Misericordia, with an interior lined with bright blue tiles portraying Biblical tales. Quite unlike a lot of the baroque churches found in the country, the colourful Misericordia makes for a fascinating visit.