Where ever you choose to stay, your Algarve holiday will not be complete with out a visit to the historic city of Lagos.
Visit Lagos today and you cannot help but be aware of its history. The modern town centre lies within the high stone walls built first by the Arabs when this was the capital of their kingdom in Portugal.
Later Lagos came to be the port from which explorers set out to discover lands in Africa and Asia and build the trade routes which made Portugal rich. No trade richer than that in Slaves and first slave market in Europe still stands here. Today it is an art gallery where local artists exhibit their works.
Today Lagos is expanding, across the river along the length of Meia Praia apartments and tourist complexes are developing to form the next Algarve resort. Thank fully the old town and its very unique character are being preserved from the developers. A meeting place of Portugal’s history and today’s tourism.
This is a living city and even in summer there seems to be as many local people going about their lives as visitors exploring the old cobble streets.
Its something of the magic of this place that there always seems to be something to do, even if its just sitting with a coffee watching other people doing.. You need only visit the town for its relaxed atmosphere to get hold of you.
Join the morning crowds as they shop for fresh fish and vegetables in the old market hall on the avenida. Chances are that you have never seen some of the fish on offer here and certainly not at the price. The Portuguese really are fish eaters and you can be assured that everything here is fresh and good to eat.
After the crusades drove the Arabs from christendom the Algarve once again became part of Portugal. In later centuries the country became threatened by its neighbour Spain. The town walls were extended to enclose not only the now larger city but also two farms, essential to feed the town if ever placed under siege.
The fort at the mouth of the river protected the city from invasion from the sea. Its upper level once supported a battery of cannons to keep enemy ships away. The Manuelline style turrets though adding style are a more recent and fanciful addition to this ancient blockhouse.
Turn the clocks back to the 1950s and your hire car is probably under water. Before the avenida was built along the rivers edge, boats moored where the car park now is and the town square opened onto a sandy beach crowded with fishing nets and lobster pots.
The sea has always been a dominant factor in the town and today Lagos has a new marina to attract a different breed of sailors.
Behind the marina, developments of apartments and villas are turning the green fields of Meia Praia into the Algarves latest tourist town. Eventually the new town of Lagos will stretch from the river front to the links of Palmares golf.
For the visitor one of the enduring attractions of Lagos is its beaches. Meia Praia: miles of golden sand stretching away towards the Alvor estuary. Praia Batata at the rivers mouth named for the potatoes washed down by winter rains or Praia dos Estudantes still popular with school children catching a tan after classes.
Stretching south from the town there is a line of sandy cliffs studded with golden beaches Between the beaches the cliffs have been eroded into fascinating archways and sea caves which can be visited by boat.
Once a month the gipsy market comes to town. A race within a race the Portuguese gipsies retain their looks, customs and clothing. The goods they offer range from the most amazing bargains to complete junk. Big store and designer label seconds at 500$ make great presents or dressing with style altogether more affordable.
Visitors to Lagos cannot fail to be amazed by the towns apparent fascination with appalling, and I said appalling not appealing sculpture.
The central square is dominated by what is often called the spaceman statue. The pink faced robotic is actually a depiction of a boy king who led his countries armies to disaster.
Behind the town hall is one of those bent tube things that was considered artistic in the 70’s. This one is only a couple of years old and is actually the vent from the towns drains.
The best of the bad taste is on the western outskirts of the town. At enormous expense a roundabout has been capped with a dome of grey concrete. Astride the bump seven plastic chairs light up at night to depict the seats of power in the local government. Trouble is they left out the box where developers pay bribes to get planning permissions.
Across the river from the old town lies the new marina and beyond that the sprawl of development sites which stretch all along the length of Meia Praia.
The architecture of the marina and certainly its cheap steel girder footbridge make no concessions to the ancient city that hosts it. This is part of the new Portugal, harshly materialistic and indifferent to the opinions of others. It is a world apart from the old town and its memories of an altogether less pressured way of life.
The planned development along Meia Praia is a new town in its own right. An overall development plan to create a vast new town of apartments and tourist complexes.
Although the plan had existed for several years it is only in 2000 that the developers, believing there was an up turn in the market, started the transformation of this previously unspoilt area. Dramatic as the rate of development has been there is no doubt that this will remain a vast building site for many years to come.
For the last couple of decades Lagos has been one of the must visit locations on the back packers itineraries. The amazing beaches and relaxed atmosphere attract the typically students and young professionals who arrive by train to holiday in the town.
With them has developed a nightlife which is second to none in the Algarve. From ten at night the town seems to start its second shift and the bars and clubs fill up with young people from all around the world. This is neither the lager culture of the Costa nor the ssssex of Ibiza but a party which is uniquely Lagos and amazingly trouble free.
Whatever your age or interest its an experience to share a night in the company of so many people just dedicated to having a good time.
Lagos has a train station situated behind the marina. Services run along the Algarve and also connect to the trains north to Lisbon.
The town has a bus station with services to most towns and villages of the Algarve. There is also a coach service office near the market providing transport to Lisbon.
In summer Lagos is approx 80 mins from Faro airport by car. Car hire is available in the town but you will get a better price booking before you leave.
Accommodation in the town is limited and can be near to impossible in high season. If you wish to stay in the town consider booking your hotel well in advance.