Lagos is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Algarve, where you can lay your towel in soft sands or hit the crystal-clear waters to enjoy snorkeling and other watersports. The town draws tourists with its vibrant nightlife scene, outstanding restaurants and burgeoning vineyards. Although hedonistic pleasures are Lagos’ main attraction, the town also has a long and rich history, visible in its cobbled streets and pretty plazas.
An ancient port city for thousands of years, Lagos was the capital of Algarve from 1576. An earthquake devastated the town in 1755, after which the capital was moved and Lagos entered a period of economic decline. Although the town is still a fishing port and market center, it was tourism that fueled its revival in the 1960s.
Check out paintings by Faro artist Carlos Filipe Porfírio in the Museu Municipal. Set in a 16th-century former convent, the museum also houses a piece of the Berlin Wall, a gorgeous 3rd-century mosaic and other eclectic artifacts.
Take a look at the stunning gilt carvings that decorate the Igreja de Santo António. The church’s construction began in the 17th century and its extravagant interior is covered with traditional azulejo tiles, imported Brazilian gold and intricately carved cherubs.
Go for a dip in the sparkling waters of Praia de Dona Ana. Snorkel in the warm waters or arrange a boat trip to see intriguing caves dotted throughout the surrounding cliffs.
Don’t miss Ponta da Piedade cliffs, where craggy sandstone rock formations rise dramatically from the sea. The cliff top is best visited in the spring, when it blooms with wild orchids and egrets gather to nest.
Take a look at Castelo dos Governadores, part of a 13th-century palace complex constructed by the Arabs. As you look at the wall’s Manueline window, imagine King Dom Sebastião addressing his troops at this very spot in 1578 before setting off on his ill-fated crusade.
Lagos is located in southwestern Portugal. There are regular daily train and bus connections with Lisbon.