Although my European city count isn’t the biggest in the world, I have visited 12 European countries and 26 cities among them. My selection criteria for best city wasn’t extensive. I know that I’m not an extremely fussy person and it’s kind of difficult to piss me off… so generally all the cities were enjoyable to me. But reflecting on my two trips to Europe in two consecutive years – there really was one city that stood out for me. That was Lagos in the Algarve Coast of Portugal.
The trip to Portugal started in the cooler, calmer, capital of Lisbon. I selected those adjectives to describe it due to the fact that we had just left boiling Barcelona and into the less chaotic and milder temperatures of Lisbon. After one day and night (and after we had the best Portuguese Charcoal Chicken in perhaps the world at Franqasqueira Nacional) we headed off to Lagos the next morning.
The drive from Lisbon to Lagos is just over two hours South of the capital. The route isn’t exceptionally scenic but there are some beautiful olive groves along the way. The fragrance from the olive groves makes the air smell like Olive Oil and for me it was particularly enjoyable and fresh scent. When your exiting Lisbon to enter the highway, you drive on the Vasco Da Gama bridge. An amazingly gorgeous bridge which currently holds the title of the longest bridge in Europe. It carries a total of six lanes (three either way) and has a speed limit of 120km per hour.
In my opinion, Lagos was so exceptionally beautiful for a number of reasons. First it’s important to note that I arrived with absolutely no expectations, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a small kind of holiday community, it was not pretentious or overly exuberant in its bid to keep tourists coming. Its biggest appeal is the fact that its family friendly and is kind to the traveller of any age.
This was particularly clear to me as we had just been in the Italian Amalfi Coast two weeks before that. It is a place that is so hyped up on every single social media outlet and is considered one of the ‘must do’ trips on your bucket list. Whilst there’s absolutely no denying it was breathtakingly beautiful, it wasn’t very “user friendly” for lack of better words. The issues begin on the 20 or so kilometres of tight, winding roads that you have to endure on a speed of 10km per hour. Once you finally arrive you’re frustrated and done with it. More so, the almost vertical stairs which riddle the entire area are very difficult if you plan to travel with children, if you’re older, or if you’re just not extremely physically fit. The stairs are crumbly and they are the only access to every beach in the region. Whilst it can be fun and exciting on your way down, the way up is tiring and de-motivates you from multiple trips to the beach in the day. And finally, being used to Australia’s soft sandy beaches, the idea that these beaches had pebbles, rocks and stones all the way down even into the water was really difficult to cope with.
And that’s why Lagos was the most perfect holiday destination.
Soft, crumbly, sand on the beaches, and easy flat terrain. It was easy to arrive to, and even easier to navigate. Between the beautiful cobblestone lane ways the smell of barbecue and chargrilled food is continually filling the air. The food in Lagos was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Rows and rows of restaurants alongside each other, all promising the best chargrilled foods you could desire. The pubs were lively and packed with happy holiday makers who were either there with their entire family of all ages, or lovers enjoying a summer break away.
Lagos just makes you excited. We took a boat ride from the main boat port all the way down to Pont Da Piedade to the amazing natural caves. This is where we discovered just how freezing cold the water was. It was ice cold despite being right in the middle of summer, but it was enjoyable to swim nontheless.
Click on the photos below to enlarge them and get a better view of the most amazing scenery.
It was an extremely gorgeous experience and the commentary of the boat driver was light hearted and genuinely funny. I could’ve stayed on that boat under the sun all day.
More than that, the food in Lagos was phenomenal. With our personal favourite being Mullens (R. Cândido dos Reis 81, 8600-681 Lagos, Portugal). A beautiful little restaurant with an inside and outside seating area where you have a direct view of the chef grilling your food. On our expedition to find food we saw lines of people blocking the laneway of a restaurant named The Garden (R. Lançarote de Freitas 48, 8600-605 Lagos, Portugal). Whilst we were unable to get a reservation at The Garden due to the fact that it was fully booked out for all four nights that we were there, we managed to have lunch there one afternoon. And although it seemed The Garden was more popular than Mullens, we still thought the food, atmosphere, service and entertainment at Mullens was the best. Pictured below was the Prawns meuniere, and the most shallicious (my nephew’s version of delicious) Peri Peri Chicken I have ever tried.
Overall, Lagos is a holiday location I would recommend to every one of all ages and of all budgets too. If you visit the place when it is slightly off-season you will strike amazing deals on flights accommodation, excursions, trips and even food. Even in the heart of European summer, it is a very affordable and inexpensive. Everything gives you really good value for money and people are also friendly. The excursions are fun and you don’t feel the locals are trying to rip you off. They know they have a good product, and they know what it is worth.
Going back to food, other restaurants that we visited that were worth noting were Nah Nah Bah Restaurant (v. do Forno 11, 8600-632 Lagos, Portugal) a tropical burger joint tucked away around the corner. It serves delicious burgers, nachos and possibly the best potato chips I’ve had in the world. Secondly, Adega Da Marina (Avenida dos Descobrimentos 35, Lagos 8600-645, Portugal) a delicious fresh fish restaurant that serves seafood by the kilo.
Lagos is a beautiful location that has plenty to do and see. Five nights or even a week here will ensure you see all that there is to see, by way of spending a day on all the different beaches around the region and part-taking in all the excursions that are available. More so this is ample time to try all the various restaurants available to you, and have a drink, and watch the soccer at all the local pubs. Lagos is a destinaton which I will definitely visit again.