Lagos, Portugal – Bars and Beaches

Lagos is a fantastic place to unwind for a few days, especially after a week of hiking around Lisbon and Porto.  Although there are a few historic sights (such as the town museum and the first slave market), the beaches and bars are pretty much the main reason to go to Lagos.  No need to worry about language issues, everyone there speaks English because it’s such a huge U.K. tourist spot.  In fact, most of the owners of the bars and restaurants are English-born.  Here’s a summary of the places we went to:

– The types of beaches around Lagos range from expansive and sandy to rocky and secluded.  First thing I’ll note about the beaches is that they are free, and they are also topless, so if you have kids that you don’t want to get exposed to that – probably best not to even bother with Lagos.  That isn’t to say that they aren’t family friendly – there were several families at all the beaches in Lagos.

If you’re looking for the family friendly (less topless women), large beach head to Praia do Portode Mos.  It’s at the far end of town, so it’s a little bit of a hike, but once you get there the sand is the finest and whitest and the beach stretches for probably around a mile.  While there are a few restaurants along the beach for you to eat at, they’re not very good.  The service is slow because they’re always packed and understaffed and the food is the equivalent to cheap diner food.  This beach is also the windiest because there’s nothing blocking the breeze coming in from the Mediterranean.

For two more secluded beaches check out Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camillo.  Dona Ana has practically no wind because its in it’s own little alcove.  The same goes for Praia do Camillo, however this beach’s sand is a little bit rockier.  Both are at the bottom of pretty steep cliffs, especially the Praia do Camillo as you’ll have to hike up 90 steps when you’re done for the day.  But in my opinion these are the two nicest beaches.  They’re smaller than Praia do Portode Mos, but they’re far more beautiful with the cliffs hugging the blue water.

– If you’re looking for a little adventure, head out to Ponte de Piedad which is just a half mile past Praia do Camillo.  There you get to go out on the farthest tip of Lagos and get a great panoramic view of the coast.  If you climb down the cliff, you can take a 30 minute Grotto Boat Ride which costs 10 Euros.  The wait is a little long as each boat only holds 4-5 people, but it’s a great way to cool off and see some pretty spectacular grottoes.

– The bar scene is hopping in Lagos, and on weekend nights the crowd can get pretty rowdy.  There’s a bar scene for everyone with cheap drinks and various forms of entertainment.  The Three Monkeys bar is what you’d expect on any college campus – lots of booze, loud music, 20-somethings doing funnels on the bar, and other things of that nature.  Stevie Ray’s Jazz Room has an older crowd, with live music, and a more refined group of drinkers.  The live band playing there that night played a good mix of crowd pleasers from Lynard Skynard to Bon Jovi.  Stones is your typical English pub, with darts in the back, beers in the front, and a lot of Sex Pistols playing.  Zanzibar falls under the category of your New York dive bar and next door Shaker Bar has a bit of that Jamaican-stoner edge (with some damn good tropical cocktails).   DC’s is where you’ll find your hipsters playing Foosball.  All these bars are within a couple of blocks of each other in the Old Town section of Lagos.

– There are several restaurants in Old Town Lagos, but the very best one we went to was Restaurante No Patio.  Now don’t take this literally in English like we did – there is a beautiful patio out back were you can eat (No Patio means “on the patio” in Portuguese.  Yes, I felt like a complete dumbass when I asked and the waitress gave me that answer that she’s probably given hundreds of times).  Not only was the atmosphere of the restaurant great, the food lived up to the hype we had heard.  A must try for the appetizer portion is the Salmon with mango and strawberry, on top of lettuce.  The other app that is good, but not as good as the salmon, is the Prawns with garlic.  The duck I had was perfectly cooked and covered in almonds and peaches.  My friends ordered the lamb roast and pork with potatoes and they both give their two thumbs way up for those dishes. Don’t bother with the desert though – they were just okay (we tried the chocolate cake and fried bananas) and by the time you get to them you’re already so full and won’t need to add the calories.  The price of the meal is a little expensive, so make it your special dinner when you’re out in Lagos.  And make reservations!  Grade: A-

Recap

What I saw:

Beaches: Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camillo, Praia do Portode Mos

Grotto boat ride from the Ponte de Piedad

The bars we went to in Old Town:
Three Monkey’s
Stevie Ray’s Jazz Room
Stone’s
DC’s
Shaker Bar
Zanzibar

Where I ate:

Restaurante No Patio
Rua Lancarote de Freitas 46
8600-605 Lagos

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Lagos, Portugal – Costa D’Oiro Ambiance Village

After Porto, we proceeded down to the southern coast to the Algarve region of Portugal.  The Algarve is made up of several cities along the Mediterranean, and the town we chose to spend our last few days was called Lagos (considered by many to be the most beautiful of them all).

To get to Lagos we had to take a 5 hour train ride down to Tunes, and then transfer to a local train (which runs hourly) to get to the beach town.  The local train that takes you there actually is on the line that runs through all the towns in the Algarve region and takes about another hour to get from Tunes to Lagos.  There are more direct trains to Lagos from Lisbon, but not from Porto Porto.  When we got to Lagos, we realized quickly that there were not a slew of taxis waiting for passengers at the train station, so note: Have the hotel’s number that you’re staying at ready to go.  Give them a call and have them get a taxi over to the train station to pick you up.

Lagos is definitely a beach town and during the peak season (which is when we were there) the town is packed with European tourists.  Although all the guide books warned us of this, and although it was busy, at no time did the crowds ever feel claustrophobic or oppressive.  While the main part of the town was packed with bars, the outer part consisted of several beautiful beaches, all with their own unique properties.  I’ll go over the beaches in the next post, but for now I have to talk about the place we stayed at.

Costa D’Oiro Ambiance Village is a great little resort with a good location.  It’s walking distance from both the beaches and the bar scene, but it’s far enough from the main center that you’ll be able to get a good night sleep and not have to listen to the partying crowds.  If you’re looking for that scene, don’t stay at Costa D’Oiro.  Find a hostel near the main square.  Costa D’Oiro is much more relaxed and more suited to the families rather than the backpacking college kid.

What made this hotel stand out from the rest of the places we stayed in Portugal was the size of our hotel room.  I wouldn’t even call it a room, it was more of a suite with a full kitchen, fully stocked with all the cooking supplies we could have needed, living room with satellite TV, spacious two bedroom with another satellite TV, porch and outside area with a table.   They also offered a full complimentary breakfast in the morning (with all you can drink mimosas), but don’t bother with their restaurant – the food there is so so.

The price was reasonable: 198 Euros ($277) a night for that huge room.

Recap

Where I stayed:

Costa D’Oiro Ambiance Village
Rua Costa D’Oiro, Lote 38
8600 – 544 Lagos
+351 282 770 079

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