Lagos may be a favorite among British vacationers, but for me, it symbolizes a checkpoint that I return to, every decade.
The last time I visited Lagos was 11 or 12 years ago, after a devastating break up with a French-American. Prior to the trip, I looked at the map of Europe and decided on a destination I had yet to experience. Portugal seemed like a good idea, a safe choice for a female solo traveler who wanted to be near the sounds of ocean waves and gigantic sea caves. There were a few magical moments during my first voyage through the Algarve that somewhat patched little holes inside of my cratered heart. Thanks to a middle-aged taxi driver, Manuel, who became my sturdy companion and a chipper distraction from somber thoughts overcasting my mind.
Last month, I returned to Lagos, more empowered than ever. From sunbathing on the beach to drinking organic wine at Travia, Lagos felt vastly different this time simply because I’ve not only grown into a different woman but evermore steady. Ready for more life lessons, ready to rise…high as the tides.
Hot Tip! To truly enjoy every beach that Lagos has to offer, I highly recommend staying for a week, or at least five nights. It’s a destination for relaxation in the sun!
HOW TO GET THERE
To reach Lagos by plane, you’ll need to fly into Faro Airport. From there, you can either Uber to the Faro Train station then ride a two-hour train ride to reach Lagos Train Station (7 euros.) Or from Faro Airport, order an Uber to directly arrive in Lagos. I preferred this option to save time, since the route is around 40 minutes but will cost from 75 – 120 euros.
Rent an Airbnb by the beach.
Instead of staying at a hotel, opting for a modern Airbnb is ideal for longer stays. Try to find a location close to the beach, or an apartment complex with a pool. Lagos is inexpensive, reserving an Airbnb is not only bang for the buck but offers the experience of living like a local. During low season, staycationers can find a one-bedroom apartment in a contemporary building (with a pool) for 1,000 euros/month. During high season, the price can double.
SEE / DO
The main attraction in Lagos is its Old Town where travelers can snap endless photos of iconic architectures that boast colorful Portuguese tiles. The historical background of this UNESCO World Heritage Site rewinds to 12th century when Lagos officially became a part of the Kingdom of Portugal. Since then, various symbols dotted throughout Old Town represent significant events as well as battles against pirates and Muslims. It’s hard not to miss Mercado de Escravos building, which was the city’s slave market for 250 years during the Age of Discovery.
Hit the beaches.
For a whole week in Lagos, it’s best to experience as many beaches as possible since each emanate a different ambiance and scenery. Tourists tend to flock toward Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo and Meia Praia. For travelers that prefer quieter beaches, Porto Mós Beach comprises of a long stretch along the cliffs, making it easier for beachgoers to sunbathe without compromising personal space. For easy access near Lagos Train Station and the Marina, head over to Praia de São Roque.
Hot Tip! To beach-hop, you can either rent a car or Uber, which you’ll need to prepare a 15 to 20-minute wait for drivers to arrive particularly during high season.
Grotte de Benagil
For the most classic shot of a spectacular seaside cave, cruise along the coast for 30 minutes and spend a few hours at Grotte de Benagil. The iconic hole on the cave’s roof is only reachable by boat tours. Although swimming is not recommended, adventurists will likely prefer kayaking or paddleboarding from one of the surrounding beaches, be sure to do so when the waves aren’t too high. Rent your kayak or SUP the night before, since most of the shops open later, and you’d want to avoid the boat crowds by reaching the cave before 9:30 a.m. when the boat tours start their day.
Wine tasting at Morgado do Quintão (Portão de Acesso)
20 Rue Baillet Reviron, 78000 Versailles
To mix up the itinerary a bit, spend a day wine tasting at Morgado do Quintão surrounded by orange groves and olive orchards. The rustic-chic farmland was first founded by Count of Silves in the early 1800s, making it a fantastic estate to enjoy wine, food and heritage. Enjoy its award-winning collection of 20,000 bottles of wine, Morgado do Quintão wines can be seen in Michelin-starred restaurants and is also the first vineyard in the Algarve to expert to the U.S.
Travia – Natural Wines & Food
R. Marreiros Netto 37, 8600-221 Lagos, Portugal
Personally, Travia is my favorite restaurant in Lagos, as it is the only place serving organic wine in the region. Owned by a couple who are passionate about the food and wine they serve, Travia’s menu is consistently changing according to the freshest produce and ingredients of the week. Ever dish arrives with artistic flair, meanwhile don’t miss the “scrap” dish at the bottom of the menu. Travia’s rule of thumb is complying with a zero-waste policy, transforming scraps of the day into a delicious and beautiful addition to la carte.
R. 25 de Abril 20-22, 8600-763 Lagos, Portugal
For truly traditional Portuguese cuisine and without walking too far from Old Town, book a table at Restaurante Don Sebastião for fabulous choices of daily catch which the wait staff will bring to the table before cooking. Fancy something other than seafood? Opt for the juicy lamb chop on a bed of fragrant rice. Pair the meal with one of 75 choices of luscious port, recommended by your waiter.
Restaurante dos Artistas
R. Cândido dos Reis 68, 8600-681 Lagos, Portugal
An upscale restaurant for Lagos, Dos Artistas features colonial-inspired décor highlighted by exceptional artwork on the walls. The Michelin-starred address is in the heart of Old Town, hailed by dishes made with completely natural ingredients while showcasing international inspirations mainly stemmed from Portugal, France and Italy. Try the 5-course Supreme Dinner menu (59,50 €) for a beautiful journey from Pomegranate Gazpacho, Foie Gras / Sweetcorn / Balsamic, Elderberry Sorbet, Croaker Fish / Truffle / Pistachio, to 70% Cocoa Chocolate Garden.
Taberna da mó
R. Silva Lopes 14, 8600-623 Lagos, Portugal
Well situated in a prime location within Old Town, Taberna da Mó was a recommendation from the owner of Travia. The interior decor is cozy with red brick walls, but find a table on the patio for the perfect spot to people-watch while sipping on a fantastic bottle of wine. The tapas-style menu is extensive, covering all kinds of meats, seafoods and vegetables. Can’t make up your mind? Ask the friendly staff for their favorite tapas, can’t go wrong!
Av. dos Descobrimentos 53, 8600-645 Lagos, Portugal
If you find yourself strolling by the vibrant Marina de Lagos, step inside the Avenida Hotel where you’ll stumble upon a luxurious restaurant by the same name, thriving upon the concept of “locally sourced and globally inspired.” The open kitchen cooks up the best of the best, including: Cecina “El Capricho” (Organic 48 Months Air-Dried Salted Beef) and Caviar Imperial Gold with Potato Blinis. The glossy cellar displays some of the best wines in the world, it’s just as alluring as the pool on the deck.
R. Salgueiro Maia 8, 8600-620 Lagos, Portugal
Another local recommendation is Tasca Joda, where the owners have been reinventing Portuguese dishes since 2016. I’ve previously explained the recent rise of tascas as trendy spots to enjoy a quick lunch in Lisbon, but to recap: Due to the capital’s industrialization in the 19th century and the surge of workers employed in the city, factory owners rapidly built housing for their staff and families. Tascas began as places that sold cheap wine, quick bites and coal; but became semi-tavern/semi-bar for low-income workers to come and socialize. Later, tascas attracted writers, artists and journalists due to their late closing hours. Today, tascas just might be the best places to taste authentic Portuguese cuisine. In Lagos, Tasca Joda is one of those places to devour local flavors but with a modern twist.
Repolho Gastrobar & Garrafeira
Largo Salazar Moscoso lote 3 loja B, 8600-522 Lagos, Portugal
If you find yourself near Praia Dona Ana or Praia do Camilo, head over to Repolho Gastrobar & Garrafeira for a delectable dinner. For wine lovers, the staff can recommend beautiful bottles from its distinctive cellar which also sells wines for customers to bring home. The massive menu of tapas allows more than one meal to try them all. The location is a bit hidden, but makes for the perfect way to end the day sunbathing in nearby beaches.
Black and White Coffee Shop
R. Marreiros Netto 40, 8600-754 Lagos, Portugal
Black and White Coffee Shop takes its coffee very seriously. The Australian-style café is a favorite among digital nomads, with high ceilings and an abundance of light. Grab a journal or your favorite book, this café is ideal for a few hours of an escape from tourists rampaging cobblestone alleys. In the mood for a light lunch? Try its fluffy pancakes, green salads and avocado toasts.