Lagos, is the communal love child of an Aussie surfer, Portuguese historian, and German tourist. The city is like Lisbon’s cooler, younger sister that took a gap year to become a yoga teacher and work in a vegan cafe on the beaches in Bali. From May to September the warm weather and waves attract a sea of hiking and surfing enthusiasts. However, here’s a tip: head to Portugal in the fall season! You’ll miss most of the crowds and still have amazing beach days. Plus, many of the restaurants will still be open while surf season is coming to a close.
I recommend flying to Lisbon (Lisboa) and renting a car. You’ll want to hop around the Algarve to the various viewpoints and beaches without having to wait on the less-than-prompt public busses.
The coastal route comes highly recommended to avoid many of the tolls, plus you’ll see much more of the country. The route takes about two and half hours but stop along the way. You’ll encounter many small towns and villages each with their own special charm. See below for our complete guide to a weekend in the colorful world of Lagos, Portugal.
Where to Stay:
Lagos is filled with hostels galore, however you can also find some pretty chic airbnbs, that allow you to get a more authentic experience. However, if you are looking to stay somewhere a bit more luxurious, book a stay at the Casa Mae hotel. Located near both the beach and historic center, this enticing hotel is sure to please any taste. Rooms ranging from classic vintage and boho-chic to cozy minimalist offer the perfect setting to fully experience the Algarve.
Where to Eat:
Lagos is rife with bohemian surfer-types and is busting at the seams with health-centric cuisine. From vegan to gluten-free, you’ll think you just landed in Los Angeles. For a quick and light breakfast try Coffee and Waves for a coffee and açaí bowl or stop by Bora Cafe for a revitalizing green juice.
Lunch at Beats and Burritos will offer you an unexpectedly mouth-watering burrito that will fill you up for the afternoon without leaving you feeling lethargic. Or, for something more traditionally Portuguese, grab some seaside sardines and Vinho Verde at one of the many restaurants along Tres Irmãos beach.
Head to The Garden for dinner, an outdoor shabby-chic restaurant with a killer veggie curry. If you’re in the mood for something a little heavier try the BBQ platter. Afterwards, make your way around the corner to a surfer’s paradise, The Green Room, for a margarita and some impressive live music. Nightcaps can be found at the rebelliously trendy cocktail bar, Ol’ Bastard’s.
What to Do:
Spend at least one day exploring the city center of Lagos. Take a stroll down to Rua Porta de Portugal, a town square filled with buskers, gelato stands, a merry-go-round and sea views. After you’ve enjoyed a bit of people watching, grab yourself a combination ticket that grants you entry to the Mercado de Escravos (the site of the first slave market in Europe), Church of St. Anthony and the fortress, Forte da Ponta da Bandeira for a mini history lesson.
Visit Tres Irmãos beach for a typical cave spotted Algarve beach, without the typical tourist traffic. Beautiful with easy-to-find parking, this beach is a great spot to sit down and relax. If you’d like a little more action, hit the road and make your way to Silves, a medieval town with the old structure still in-tact. A thirty minute drive from Lagos, Silves is a stunning destination in the hilly farmland of the Algarve. Walk up to the fortress and enjoy the stunning views that have been used as look outs for hundreds of years.
For the best sunset view, head down to the caved beaches where you can enjoy the warm Algarve colors melting behind its rocky perimeter.
Where to Shop:
About 35 minutes from Lagos you’ll find Porches Pottery, a stop well worth the drive! You’ll find incredible hand-made traditional Portuguese pottery and a delicious café attached. Shop for beautiful mugs to keep on your desk back home and afterwards, grab a cup of coffee and relax. You’ll escape reality just for a moment and find yourself smelling the wild Portuguese eucalyptus of the hills and crisp sea salt of the Algarve.
Back in Lagos, stop by The Owl Story bookstore where the bookseller is the quintessential British bibliophile. With an amazing collection and encyclopedic knowledge of literature, he’s sure to help you find your next favorite novel.