Hotels in Lagos, Portugal
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Lagos – A Mixture of Beautiful Beaches and Portuguese History
One of the gems in the Algarve, Lagos is a gorgeous walled town on the south coast of Portugal. It is famed for its lovely beaches, bars and restaurants and stunning natural scenery with a glorious climate that provides sun almost all year round. Thanks to its natural harbour, it played a significant part in Portugal’s Age of Discovery with many ships setting sail from here in the pursuit of new territories. Faro, with its airport and hotel accommodation, is an hour’s drive or around two hours by train.
Discovering the Old Town
Cobbled streets, quaint hotels and white-washed villas are just some of the attractions in Lagos Old Town. Many buildings here date from the 18th and 19th-centuries after the town was heavily damaged by an earthquake that struck Portugal in 1755. Fortunately, part of the Roman/16th-century town walls survived but one casualty was the Church of Saint Anthony, Igreja de Santo António on Rua General Alberto da Silveira. It was rebuilt soon afterwards, its plain façade contrasting heavily with its truly stunning interior: magnificent gilded Baroque wooden carvings, cherubs and a beautiful ornate ceiling are joined by fascinating paintings and azulejo tiles on the walls. Attached to the church is the Municipal Museum which features an intricate Roman mosaic and historic religious clothing as well as a collection of ancient coins. A short walk is the Praça Infante Dom Henrique square; here, a statue of Prince Henry the Navigator, a key player in the Age of Discovery, takes pride of place.
Historic Links to the Slave Trade
It’s impossible to miss the attractive Church of Saint Mary, Igreja Santa Maria on Praça Infante Dom Henrique; dating back to 1498, it too was heavily damaged by the earthquake. Its picturesque 16th-century doorway remained largely unscathed and inside behind the altar is a fascinating picture of battling angels. A reminder of the town’s part in the slave trade can be found on the other side of the square; in 1444, Europe’s first slave market was established in Lagos and the Slave Market Museum, Mercado de Escravos , explores this history. Nearby on Avenida dos Descobrimentos, the Ponta da Bandeira Fort and Lagos Castle, Castelo dos Governadores are remnants of this strategic town’s defences and on Rua Doutor Faria e Silva, the Viva Science Centre features fascinating hands-on exhibits providing entertainment for the whole family. In centre of the Old Town, Rua 25 de Abril is a picturesque main thoroughfare with numerous hotels and accommodation options.
Other Must-See Attractions
One of the oldest streets in Lagos is Rua da Barroca; it’s a narrow walkway that runs adjacent to what was formerly the town’s sea wall, before Avenida dos Descobrimentos was built. It retains some Moorish architectural elements, and as well as budget hotels, one of the best seafood restaurants in the town is located here. Nearby, Praça Gil Eanes square is home to a distinctive statue of the 16th-century ruler of Portugal, King Dom Sebastian, which was sculpted by Joao Cutileiro in 1973; the Tourist Information Office can also be found here. Ten miles outside Lagos is Lagos Zoo: it features wild cats, monkeys which live on their very own island and many species of birds. Also in this area is the National Forest of the Baron of Saint John, Mata Nacional de Barão de São João . As well as offering picnic areas and several walking trails, the Paleolithic Menhir of Pedro do Galo is a fascinating attraction.
Shops, Food and Nightlife
As well as offering historic attractions, Lagos is also a great shopping destination, especially for those seeking souvenirs and gifts. Many of the shops dotted along the streets sell locally-made craft items with hand-painted tiles and ceramics being particularly popular purchases. Stylish boutiques also sell fashionable pieces of clothing and leather goods. To sample the local cuisine, the seafood restaurant in Lagos Fish Market on Avenida dos Descobrimentos is recommended and nearby, a farmers’ market is held every Saturday selling local produce. Sweet treats include Dom Rodrigo, a bite-sized conventual dessert made from sugar and eggs and wrapped in colourful foil, and almond-flavoured biscuits called Morgados. For evening entertainment, head for Rua Candido dos Reis which offers a selection of vibrant bars and clubs as well as budget hotels; Moscatel wine and Medronho, a spirit made from the berries of the strawberry tree, are delicious local tipples. The Cultural Centre on Rua Lançarote de Freitas also regularly hosts music events.
The closest beach to the town centre is the compact Praia da Batata; its calm waters make it particularly popular with young families. In contrast, Meia Praia is the largest beach in Lagos, starting near the town and stretching to the east for over two miles to the mouth of River Odiáxere. Halfway along is Meia Praia train station with services to Lagos station. Bars and restaurants are dotted along the seafront as well as modern hotel blocks. To the west of Lagos is Praia de Porto de Mós, another long and sandy beach with a stunning rocky backdrop, while the adjacent Praia do Canavial is smaller and more intimate. In this area are the must-see Ponta da Piedade rock formations; the beautiful pillars, caves and grottos are best explored by boat; several companies offer services which depart from Lagos. Some of the rocks have been given nicknames over the years such as the Sphinx, the Chimney and the Camel!