If idyllic beaches are your thing, then a trip to the Portuguese town of Lagos will be right up your alley. This historic town lies on the Algarve and used to be the capital of the region before an earthquake wrought havoc on it in 1755. Once a famous sea port, nowadays most visitors visit Lagos to indulge in its fantastic range of restaurants, (with excellent sea food dishes), beaches, and wild nightlife. During the summer time, this city becomes the center of partying for backpackers in Portugal with endless bar crawls, booze cruises, and fun in the sun.
Hostel prices – A night dorm room is about $25 USD per night, while a private double room with a shared bathroom about $60 USD or $40 USD for a twin room.
Budget hotel prices – A double room in a hotel begins at around $40 USD per night. Guest houses and apartment rentals are a smart option here.
Average cost of food – You can find snacks in bakeries for around $2 USD, light meals and sandwiches for around $8 USD, and fast food for around the the same price. If you want sit down meal with drinks, you’re looking at spending closer to $20 USD or more. Groceries will cost around $40 USD for a week’s worth of food. Because of all the backpackers in the city, there are a lot of cheap food options in the city.
Transportation costs – The bus travels throughout the town and costs $2 USD per trip.
Money Saving Tips
Look for alternative accommodation – Because this is such a popular tourist destination, many hotels have raise prices substantially during the summer months. However, many locals rent out apartments or run small guest houses on sites like Airbnb. These can be significantly cheaper or will at least offer you better value for your money.
Top Things to See and Do
Lounge at the beach – One of the main reasons to visit Lagos is to laze on one of its beaches. The beaches range from the long, broad Meia Praia on the eastern edge of town, (usually crowded in summer with a young crowd, volleyball games, and beach bars), to the secluded coves beneath the towering cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade.
Eat, eat, eat – Lagos is full of lovely little restaurants where you can order fish, meat dishes, and tapas. There are also many vegetarian options in town. Lagos is great city in which to eat, especially if you are on a budget.
Go diving – The coastline between Lagos and Sagres is the site of numerous underwater caves and shipwrecks. One dive with equipment will cost you $65 USD.
Visit the fish market – Get here early and see a wonderful selection of fresh seafood as it’s pulled in from the ocean. On the first floor there is a fruit and veg market, and above that are the terrace and rooftop veranda with restaurants. This is a great place to spend a morning and buy some fresh food.
Check out the grottos – Just a few miles from Lagos is the famous Ponte de Piedade where you have some of the nicest rock formations in Portugal. This secluded area makes for a wonderful day trip, during which you can relax in the sun and swim in the beautiful water.
See the Old Slave Market – In one corner of the Praca da Republica, under the arches of the old customs house is what was Europe’s first slave market. The market opened in 1444 and it is said that, within a century, up to 10,000 slaves were being shipped annually from Africa just to meet Portuguese demand alone. The Customs House now serves as an art gallery which offers free entry.
Explore the historic churches – Built in the 16th Century, the Church of Santa Maria became the parish church of Lagos in the mid-18th century after the old parish church was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. The 18th-century Church of Santo António sits just off the waterfront The altar is decorated with some of Portugal’s most notable baroque gilt carvings.
See the castle – There is a small castle sitting by the river that has been very nicely restored and turned in to a small museum. Don’t forget your camera because once at the top there are breathtaking views of the sea. It’s located very close to the center of town.
Walk along the town walls – The town walls in Lagos originally date as far back as the Roman or Carthaginian era, but they were expanded to accommodate the town’s growth during the period of Arab rule. The walls offers great views of Lagos.
Check out the Municipal Museum – The Dr. José Formosinho Municipal Museum is next to St. Anthony’s church, and houses a collection of archaeological artifacts, and religious art. It also has information about the history of the town. Entrance is $4 USD.
Go on a trail ride – A couple of companies offer trail rides around the Lagos area. This is a nice way to break up your beach time with something a little more physical. You can arrange a ride that is as short as an hour, or up to several days. A two-hour ride costs around $68 USD.
Visit the Science Centre – Traveling with kids? If you need some time out of the sun, the Ciencia Viva science centre is a great way to kill some time with hands-on, interactive exhibits. Entrance for adults is $4 USD, and $1.90 for children.
Hit the waves – The Algarve is a popular spot for watersports, especially surfing. It’s possible to rent equipment, or if you’re a newbie, arrange lessons before you get out on the water.