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The 16th century walls of this delightful seafaring town keep the modern world firmly at bay. Inside, you can explore the antique shops and boutiques that line the maze of cobbled streets. Why not indulge in a ‘bica’ strong coffee and a scrumptious cake at a pavement café as you watch the world go by. There is also an intriguing museum, an incredible gilded church, an attractive marina, and a fort. If you enjoy the beach, you'll love the five kilometres of wonderful golden sands.
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With such a large coastline it’s no surprise the Algarve is a great place for all kinds of fish and seafood, with restaurants commonly serving fresh sardines, bream, cod, monkfish and tuna. Another famous dish of the Algarve is chicken piri-piri great for a relaxed atmosphere! Most dishes will be served with served with boiled potatoes and vegetables or salad.
Lagos offers a mix of British and Portuguese bars with something for everyone whether you want a chilled out evening listening to music by the beach, clubbing until the early hours and even the occasional beach party. The square in the middle of town, is Praça de Gil Eanes and this is often the setting for evening entertainment with comedy acts, live music and much more on offer.
Find out why Portuguese wines are increasingly gaining admiration around the world with a visit to a local winery. Located just 3 kms from Lagos off the main road to Portimao, the Monte de Casteleja estate now produces organic red, white and rose wines using a combination of new and old technologies. The estate offers fascinating tours and wine tastings most afternoons between 3-6pm, bookings advisable.
With dozens of exquisite coves and breath-taking cliffs along the stretch of coast between Lagos and Sagres, taking to the water on a guided boat tour is an absolute must. Cruises can last from an hour to a whole day, many with opportunities for a swimming stop en route at one of the less accessible beaches. Guides will take you to some enchanting natural caves and intriguing rock formations, such as the delightful grottoes at Ponta da Piedade. Dolphin spotting trips are also very popular and you’ll find numerous operators offering tours from the marina.
Within easy reach of Lagos, the Lagos Zoo was opened in 2000 with an ethos of conservation, education and protection. Now host to hundreds of animals and birds from around the world, from ring tail lemurs to pygmy hippos, ibis to owls, it’s a great place to learn about various species in a relaxed, friendly environment. The zoo is open daily virtually all year round.
For a town with such a rich seafaring history, it’s fitting that Lagos should now have such a superb, state-of-the-art marina to welcome vessels of all shapes and sizes, including eye-catching luxury yachts. With over 450 berths and fringed by a smart apartments, chic restaurants and trendy bars, the marina is a great place to sit and watch the nautical comings and goings over a coffee or a glass of vinho verde. The marina is a short walk across a purpose-built foot bridge from the main town.
The cheerful, laidback town of Sagres can be reached by car or bus or you can join one of the many day trips on offer from the resorts. With a far wilder, more windswept feel compared to the sheltered coves along the south coast, the Atlantic coastline is breath-taking and dramatic. Scarily steep cliffs are frequented by hardy fishermen eager for a special catch while the magnificent waves on the west coast attract surfers from all around the world. From the town you can visit the barren headland of Cabo de São Vicente, the most south-western tip of Europe, with its red lighthouse and a small but fascinating museum showcasing Sagres’s role in Portugal’s maritime and navigation history
Lagos Slave Market Museum
Once Europe’s very first slave market, it was from here that slaves captured from Africa were sold and dispersed throughout Europe. It was a very lucrative practice for the Portuguese monarchy, hence the statue of Prince Henry the Navigator that you’ll see standing in the plaza here. The building now houses a small museum of artefacts from the period and is open daily in summer.
Church of Santa Maria of Lagos
The charming white-painted neoclassical church of Santa Maria of Lagos stands in the main square, the original having been destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. Inside runs a single nave with three side chapels, beautifully decorated and well worth a visit.
City Walls and Governor’s Castle
The city walls built in the 16th century to protect Lagos from its enemies are still in evidence as you stroll around Lagos old town and there are superb views from the top of the ramparts. Behind the fort is St Gonçalo’s Gate, flanked by stone watch-towers, while to the right is the Governor’s Castle, residence of the governors of the Algarve during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Forte da Ponta
The iconic fortress at the mouth of the River Bensafrim is one of Lagos’s key landmarks. Built in the 17th century to defend against regular attacks from pirates and Spanish enemies, the building is now a museum celebrating Portuguese discoveries and maritime history with a spectacular view from the terrace. Within a courtyard is a small chapel decorated with azulejo tiles and dedicated to Santa Barbara, patron saint of artillerymen and miners. The fort is located right beside the main town beach and is open daily except Mondays.
Foodies and market-lovers will relish a chance to check out the magnificent array of fresh produce at the dedicated fish market, located on the town’s main avenue opposite the marina. On the ground floor are no fewer than 33 stalls laden with the local fishermen’s latest catch (get there between 6-7am for the very best selection), perfect for those in search of something a little different for the barbecue. On the first floor are several butcher’s shops and local farm produce including fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, nuts and dried fruits, honey, oils, homemade sauces and cheeses. The second floor houses a restaurant with a wonderful view of the harbour.
The terrain around Lagos is perfect for trekking and at the riding centre here you’ll find a choice of superb rides ranging from one hour to fours. Novices are well catered for, with easy walks through the valley, while more experienced riders will relish the chance to explore the gorgeous countryside, with pine forests, rivers crossings and stunning hilltop views. Some advanced rides include a picnic or home-cooked lunch stop while in the heat of summer a cooler evening ride offers a wonderful experience.
Between Lagos and Sagres there are dozens of varied dive sites, some accessible from the shore and many only by boat. If you’re already certified you can join a dive with the local dive centre and explore reefs, caves and wrecks at depths of 8 to 32m. Look out for anemones, sponges and sea fans and perhaps encounter octopuses, cuttlefish, scorpion fish and moray eels, not to mention lobsters and seahorses. There are also opportunities for beginners with pool-based learning for those who’d like to dip their toe into the sport as well as full PADI Open Water courses if you want to progress further.
The captivating rock formations, hidden bays and sandstone cliffs along this stretch provide the perfect playground for small group sea kayaking tours. Paddling yourself offers a fantastic sense of freedom while individual kayaks can access even the most secluded coves and get right up close to the caves and grottoes. All equipment is provided and tours can be tailored to suit all abilities.
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