Lagos offers the best of the Algarve’s two worlds. At the western end of Portugal’s fabled beach-lined coast, Lagos combines a mellow, relaxed charm with excellent tourist facilities: good hotels, plenty of restaurants and a variety of water sports and things to do. It’s a great base for exploring this quieter end of the Algarve, which includes a bit of history kids can relate to.
In short, you can feel the Algarve’s holiday buzz without the wall-to-wall hotel atmosphere of the resort towns to the east. Lagos faces a wide bay, with a marina filled with fishing and pleasure boats, a waterside promenade separating the marina from the town.
If it’s in port, kids will love boarding the replica of the caravels that pushed the boundaries of the known world in the late 1400s. These ships of Prince Henry the Navigator’s fleet were built here in Lagos. Other boats, including the two-masted schooner Bom Dia, offer trips for dolphin watching and exploring the breathtaking coastline of high cliffs cut by sea caves and wind-sculpted rock outcrops and arches. Many of these cruises include a stop for swimming, and there are snorkeling tours especially designed for kids. You can also join a kayak tour to explore the Ponta da Piedade caves and beaches.
Four beautiful beaches are within an easy walk of the historic town center, and it’s a short drive or bus ride to the long beach at the little village of Praia da Luz, where kiosks rent water sports equipment.
The town of Lagos is worth exploring, a warren of streets that climb the hillside above the marina. Small shops and restaurants line its narrow streets, with cafés in its squares and wherever the street widens enough for a few tables. At one end is the Old Slave Market, the only one left in Portugal. Farther along the waterfront, kids will enjoy crossing the moat to tour Forte Ponte da Bandeira, where they can see old navigation instruments and learn more about the caravels built to explore the New World from the navigation center at nearby Sagres. The Golden Age of exploration that opened up the New World to Europeans literally began here.
For a look at one of Portugal’s famous gold-lined churches, visit the Igreja de Santo Antonio, a masterpiece of this Baroque style and one of the country’s best examples. The intricate carving covered in gold will take your breath away.
Like any town with a lot of tourist activity, restaurants vary in quality, but most here are well-priced and serve reliably good food; all welcome children. For budget-friendly prices and local atmosphere, step a street or two away from the main tourist streets to explore those up the hill. Our family’s favorite is A Floresta, a little way up the hillside on Rua António Crisógno dos Santos, a traditional-style restaurant that’s been a favorite for local specialties for generations.
The moderately priced Villas D. Dinis, close to the beach and old town center, has family-sized suites with balconies and kitchenettes, as well as a swimming pool.
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Engaging children in a family road trip can be a challenge, so parents often concentrate on keeping backseat passengers amused with games and activities. These focus their attention inside the car instead of on the places you travel.