Lagos: city of all discoveries
As expected, it is the beaches that attract numerous domestic and international tourists to the municipality of Lagos, especially during the months of the so-called high season. July, August and September are red hot in Lagos, but the charm of this city and its unique characteristics invite you to stay longer to take advantage of the arrival of spring, or the quiet days of September and October spent by the seaside.
The entire coastline of the Algarve municipality of Lagos is one of singular beauty. The bay that enters the city, Meia Praia, with its extensive sands, the Batata and Pinhão, D. Ana, Porto de Mós beaches, and other small beaches, some difficult to access but even so favoured by those who seek peaceful contact with nature, are this special city’s visiting card.
From time immemorial, it has been a point of major importance, enough to give rise to its first settlement more than two thousand years ago. Over the centuries, Lagos has been, for example, Lacobriga to the Romans and Zawaia to the Moors. The story goes that the Order of Christ fought a sea war against Islam, and its top official, Prince Henry, also known as the 'Infante de Sagres' or ‘the Navigator', at some point settled in Lagos and never left. In 1434, Gil Eanes left the city of Lagos for other continents, and so it is fair to say that this was the birthplace of the great epic of the Discoveries. A strategic port and trading centre, Lagos was abandoned and suffered many vicissitudes over the centuries. There was the earthquake of 1 November 1755, and ensuing tsunami, which swept away a large part of the city and its surroundings. Even so, Lagos has developed through harmonious coexistence between the history it has managed to restore and maintain, and the vibrant, modern and cosmopolitan culture that characterises it today.
The city walls, with their turrets, are striking and majestic. At the top of the Avenida dos Descobrimentos, along the Solaria waterfront, the small Ponta da Bandeira Fort is one space where past, present and future often meet. Between the walls, in the premises of the old customs station, the so-called Slaves Market, and the old Regimental Storehouse, there are spaces for exhibiting art by local artists, and others who exhibit their work there.
The historic centre of the city of Lagos is one of the best preserved cities in the Algarve. Throughout the year, many tourists travel through its ancient, unspoilt streets, and visit its most significant monuments. S. Sebastião and Sto. António churches are worth visiting, the latter being unmissable for its rich, gilded seventeenth-century interior, which leads to the Municipal Museum containing a room dedicated to religious art, with sixteenth-century vestments, and rich wood, marble and ivory images dating from the seventeenth century. In front of the old Town Hall, the statue of D. Sebastião by the sculptor João Cutileiro proposes a reinterpretation of the figure of the king who made Lagos a city in 1573. This and other public works of art, such as sculptures by contemporary Lagos artist Xana, coexist with buildings of different eras, marking the historical periods that the city has known.
The Cultural Centre, a large old restored building, the Júlio Dantas Library and the recently restored Casa do Espingardeiro, also in the historic centre, are other cultural spots that illustrate the vitality of Lagos. In summer, the Municipal Auditorium is an outdoor stage for performances is that warm the Lagos evenings. For nights out, the streets of restaurants, bars and clubs fill with people, and it is no exaggeration to say that the intense night life in Lagos is famous in all corners of the world. Lagos Marina is primarily used as a port for tourist vessels. But its international bars and the magnificent views of the city it provides also makes this a very lively place.
The shops that abound in the city centre are as compelling as they are countless. Contemporary design pieces, fashion, silver and stone jewellery, gourmet products and quality wines are some of the products that the traditional trade offers. To recuperate, the many café and restaurant terraces invite you to rest in the sun. And they also invite you to taste good Algarve cuisine based on fresh fish and seafood. For dessert, the Dom Rodrigo and Doce Fino sweets, made with egg and almond from the traditional almond groves in the region, are true handcrafted works of art. These kings of sweets of the region are the subject of the Feira Concurso Arte Doce competition, held every summer in Lagos.
Without leaving the municipality of Lagos, you can extend your tour to other scenarios. Still in the city, the mythical Ponta da Piedade, as seen from land or sea, offers unique views. Between Lagos and Portimão, Odiáxere reservoir, best known for the Bravura Dam, is an area of protected public waterway, and a prime location for leisure and relaxation. In the forest of Barão de São João, on the way to Vila do Bispo, you can get to know many exotic plant species from all parts of the world where the Portuguese travelled. At Easter, the parish of S. João delights residents and visitors with the Folar and Local Cuisine Fairs.
Returning to the city, which was geared both to fishing and canning, there are few boats that continue catching fish for sale at auction by the marina, for subsequent sale at the Municipal Market. But fishermen have reinvented their work and are stationed at strategic points offering boat trips for tourists, who take delight in the coast of Lagos and its surprisingly formed caves, true wonders of nature.