By Liz Stark
The attractive walled town of Lagos is the gateway to the rugged coastline of the western Algarve. The town retains an authentic, relaxed charm and its glorious beaches grow lively in the summer months. During the quieter months the town and surrounding area is popular with walkers, surfers, bird-watchers and winter-sun seekers.
Lagos is an ancient seafaring town steeped in maritime history. Stretch your legs along Lagos Marina and admire the boats and floating money. The boardwalk boasts great eating options as well as live music in the evenings. If you have a few extra days, consider booking a cruise from the marina. Multiple operators will organise trips along the spectacular coast line.
The Church of St. Anthony and Church of St. Mary are both worth a visit. The former is combined with the municipal museum, which is home to an unusual collection of artefacts. The latter sits in the north western corner of Prince Henry the Navigator Square (or Praça), brimming with beautiful water features.
A small 17th century Ponta da Bandeira Fort presents the perfect excuse to combine a spot of history with a sand session. It overlooks the bay on the walk from town to Cais da Solária and Batata beaches. There's a lovely chapel and examples of traditional azulejos (or tiles).
There are a handful of dramatic beaches just a stone's throw from the the restaurants and accommodation of Lagos. The closest is Praia da Batata. Surrounded by the Algarve's famous rocky cliff formations, it is perfect for a dip.
Pinion Beach, or Praia do Pinhao, is a little harder to find - and very rewarding for those who make the effort. It's a secluded cove obscured by the cliff above. The water is incredibly clear and laps against the mystical grottos on the horizon. Praia da Dona Ana is regularly listed as one of the Algarve's top beaches by travel magazines and guides. It is only small with golden sand and surrounded by more dramatic, towering cliffs. This top spot is still within walking distance of Lagos town.
Another gorgeous beach option that provides calm, safe swimming is Praia do Camilo. Enjoy breath-taking views as you descend the steps to the warm sand. Stop at the cafe at the top or take a drive to the lighthouse on the peninsula, called Farol da Ponta da Piedade.
Meia Praia provides a fantastic alternative to the above coves. Stretching 4km, visitors benefit from wooden walkways, beach bars, sun loungers and excellent all round facilities.
Vibrant Lagos buzzes in the evenings and offers a plethora of options for families, couples and groups alike. Most restaurants and bars are clustered around the cobbled streets of Lagos Old Town.
Fresh seafood and Portuguese cuisine are the order of the day, however there are plenty of alternatives such as Italian or tapas. If you want to try local fare, join the queue for Adega TÍpica A Forja on Rua dos Ferreiros. It serves fantastic daily dishes at reasonable prices. Adega da Marina on Avenida dos Descobrimentos is known for its generous portions of grilled chicken and fish. Another excellent evening option is Casinha do Petisco on Rua de Oliveira. Try to book and be sure to order the cataplana - or stew. It's delicious and consistently receives glowing reviews.
If you have a sweet tooth, hunting out the best pastel de nata (custard tart) will become a daily ritual. Arguably the best in Lagos can be found at Gomba on Rua Candido dos Reis. Always friendly and efficient service as well as the most delectable, fresh cakes and coffee.
Lagos offers a range of options to rest your head, from upmarket hotels to surf lodges. Guesthouse prices in June can start from as low as €40 per night for a double room.
Staying close to the centre of the Old Town will mean you can walk everywhere without any hassle. Alternatively, to be closer to the southern beaches consider accommodation in the suburb of Ameijeira. Check sites like Tripadvisor or Airbnb for current listings.
The stunning, sweeping beach of Praia do Beliche has incredible white sand. Located on the very west coast of the Algarve, it is about a 40-minute drive from Lagos. There's a photogenic red lighthouse and vertigo-inducing cliffs at Farol do Cabo de Sao Vicente, which is Europe's most south-westerly point.
For more information on Lagos visit simplylagos.com.