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Lagos, Portugal: Falling in Love

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Lagos is a town in southern Portugal's Algarve region and offers some of the most stunning beaches, not only in Portugal, but in all of Europe. If you love the ocean, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be. Lagos has a year-round moderate climate, with average temperatures ranging from 52° F in winter to 75° F in the summertime, with a population of around 25,000 . . . although that number will swell considerably between July and September. There is typically a nice constant breeze blowing and most homes don’t have air conditioning . . . it’s just not necessary.

Many of the buildings are either white or an off-white color reflecting the sun rather than absorbing it. And perhaps best of all, there are no bugs, which means no screens, and the fresh air is allowed to move freely throughout homes and retail businesses. The entire town resembles an open-air market. It would not occur to you to eat indoors here. Most every restaurant, pub, or coffee house has plenty of outdoor seating, creating a fun and lively street scene.

If you encountered nothing more than just the coastline of Lagos, you would most likely fall in love. There is a spectacular and dynamic quality to the cliffs which are truly majestic. For those of us who are used to the eastern United States beaches, the coast of Lagos will seem otherworldly. It really is that magnificent.

For the town itself to match the grandeur of its coastline, it would need to be a city like Paris or Bordeaux whose stunning and dynamic architecture equaled the magical beauty of the cliffs. But no one would ever describe Lagos as being anywhere in the vicinity of resembling either of those cities . . . and that’s perfect.

I appreciate the juxtaposition of a dynamic, powerful, and majestic beach alongside a laid-back, human scale town. And that is Lagos. As you walk the cobblestone pedestrian streets it’s easy to be drawn in by the charm of this magical place. If you’re looking for dynamic architecture, a plethora of museums and sites, then Lagos will probably underwhelm you. However, when Carla and I travel, rather than approaching a place from the perspective of, “what can we see and how many things are there to do”, our approach is more. . . “how does this town feel?” We believe that the best museum is the town itself. Just walking the streets and breathing in the “overallness” (I think I just made up a word) of a place is easily the best part of any city or town. And judging by that criterion, Lagos is a delightful and wonderful place.

Lagos is charming. As you stroll its mostly pedestrian cobblestone streets, you’re struck by how much activity there is while at the same time how laid-back it feels. The streets are full and alive without being loud. So far, it is the friendliest European city or town I have experienced. The diversity is magnificent, with people from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, The Netherlands, India, The UK . . . and more. It truly sounds like music as the airwaves are full of conversations featuring so many different languages. For this traveler, the diversity of people and languages is quite comforting and feels very natural. It feels like how the world should look and sound – people of various colors from different countries, speaking different languages – all greeting one another with a smile . . . it feels like home.

The architecture of the historic city center is very appealing. The buildings here are typically two-stories high – occasionally going as high as three stories. And that scale feels good. It doesn’t overwhelm us, but it does create a feeling of comfort, and the size allows the people and the natural world to come forward and be part of the town’s more general architecture. I have never been to a place where after the first 24 hours, I felt like, “I could live here”, and live here comfortably. That’s been my experience with Lagos. It has the perfect blend of gorgeous land and sea along with a charming town. The ocean cliffs feature beautiful trails for hiking and the ocean affords a great range of activities including paddle boarding, kayaking, and surfing. And, if urban hiking is your thing – Lagos is certainly a charming and fun town where restaurants, bars, artsy retail shops, and coffee houses abound, and just strolling or sauntering about the streets is a joy.

If you’ve read this far and are wondering, why no mention of food . . . well, that deserves an entire blog unto itself. And, as you might imagine, a diverse cultural population lends itself nicely to some wonderful food choices.

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