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A taste of the real Portugal can be found hidden deep in Lagos



Lagos, Portugal Algarve Car Hire


I can’t tell you how many reports I’ve read in the last few years telling me that sun-loving Brits are shunning European holidays for the (allegedly) cheaper UK summer break.

But after a week spent in Lagos on the west coast of the Algarve of Portugal, I couldn’t disagree more.

The historical, cobble streeted town was heaving with British, Irish, German (and the odd other nationality) tourist keen to bronze themselves for a week or two, alongside the bus load of backpackers who arrived at regular intervals to enjoy the day and night life this vibrant area has to offer.

On first impressions Lagos – pronounced La-gosh – is a maze of sweet narrow streets, shrouded by quaint buildings, all tucked in nicely by a historic city wall.

But hidden in the middle of all this culture is a vibrant centre, filled with restaurants spilling onto the street and seasonal workers trying to lure you into one of the many, many smoke-filled bars (the smoking ban doesn’t seem to have hit Portugal yet).

Whether day or night, the buzz on the streets of Lagos is unmistakable, with shops a plenty and numerous happy hours to choose from.

But if you are looking for a taste of real Portugal, you have to delve a bit deeper than the curry house and burger bars that have popped up all over to appease the many UK visitors.

But trust me, if you look hard enough – beyond the beach balls and hair braiding – the true essence of Lagos is there.

Hidden in the side streets, and the smaller buildings, we found enough true traditional Portuguese restaurants to satisfy our need to try the local cuisine - which mostly comprises fish, salad and potatoes and a very unusual Portuguese style steak, in a garlic broth topped off with a fried egg – yum! We even found a traditional Italian restaurant run by a true Italian family tucked away off the beaten track, which was delicious for when you want a break from the local grub.

The town sits just across a main road from a long promenade, which at one end holds a pretty harbour and on the other lots off neat, small beaches tucked along the coast line like little pockets of sandy heaven.

These beaches nestle in little dips along the sea front, hidden by large rock walls, and the further away from the town you get, the quieter they are.

Although, as I said earlier, little about Lagos is quiet and even the smaller (including one nudist) beaches were dotted with sun worshippers of all ages.

We stayed just outside the town at beautiful, hillside apartments called Quintas dos Caracois.

Situated close to the main road – but not so close the noise disturbs you – the large apartments and private pool are just a stone’s throw away from regular buses which within 10 minutes get you into Lagos.

But the real benefit of staying here is it gave us the chance to explore the smaller neighbouring seaside town of Luz.

About 15 minutes bus trip from Lagos (or five mins from our apartments) this is a quieter, family friendly town. With a long stretch of white sand and a handful, or two, of tasty restaurants, this is a refreshing break from the buzz of Lagos.

Although Luz is equally popular with tourists, and has a number of bars, it comes across much more family oriented and the peaceful evenings are not disturbed by the constant hub of promoters that don Lagos.

With a zoo and water park within reaching distance – although as a 30 something couple we didn’t venture to these – it is safe to say that Lagos is a tourist’s heaven in a beautiful surrounding.

You may have to dig that bit deeper for the history and culture, but if you are prepared to look, trust me, it is there.

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Lei nº. 144/2015, de 8 de Setembro

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