Lagos lies at the mouth of the river Bensafrim, and the riverfront road is named the Avenida dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Avenue).
The name is a reference to the town’s close connections with and involvement in Portugal’s legendary sea explorations of the New World. At the western end of the Avenida dos Descobrimentos, opposite the Fort, stands a statue of Henry the Navigator, and in the garden opposite, you will find the City Emblem.
It is however very sad, that one of the best features of Lagos, the cobblestone square laid to resemble waves, has been replaced by an avant-garde seagull's bath or big swimming pond. Although there are still some white cobblestones around the pond, it is not the same and the true character has been lost.
On one side of this square you have the Church of Santa Maria and right opposite the Church you have the newly opened Old Slave Market Museum. Alongside the Fort, and as you stroll through the Avenida you may well be approached and offered a boat trip to the Grottos, especially in the Summer months. Now, there are grottos in most coastal towns and cities throughout the world, but Lagos’ grottos are truly spectacular, and a boat trip to them is well worth the very reasonable price asked by the local fishermen.
To really do justice to the grottos you have to take your trip during low tide, as many of them are not accessible when the tide rises. The lower the tide the more grottos you will be able to see.
We now advise you to continue along the attractively laid out promenade (note the intricate patterns in the cobbled surface), you will pass Lagos’ Courthouse, the Telecoms buildings on the opposite side of the Avenida, a white food quiosk all quite near the taxi rank, and shortly afterwards, the Fish Market. The Market is a worthy place to stop as it has a huge range of seafood and fresh garden produce.
Back along the promenade, a short distance ahead you should be lucky enough to see the Boa Esperança, a full size replica of a 15th century Caravel.
The Boa Esperanca is similar to the vessels used during the discovery voyages. The Boa Esperança is also used as a training vessel and as an ambassador for the Portuguese tourist industry. Like its ancestors, she bears the cross of Christ on her mainsail and the coat of arms of Prince Henry (The Navigator) on her main mast - truly a breathtaking sight when moored on the river.
Various seafary excursions will be on offer from brightly colored kiosks and desks along the promenade and friendly vendors will happily explain what the various cruises entail - book here if you wish, or leave it until later, they won’t be offended!
Crossing the pedestrian footbridge that takes you over the River of Bensafrim, which can be raised to permit larger vessels to enter and leave the Marina, takes you to a mix of the old and the new Lagos. Both co-existing quite comfortably, and in close proximity you have - The old Fishing Dock on your right, and the beautiful modern Marina on your left. Explore them both to your heart’s content; if your timing is good you’ll see the old, traditional fishing fleet unloading its catch from the brightly colored boats, whilst, just a short stroll away, sleek, modern vessels line the pontoons of the Marina.
Sit and relax at one of the bars that overlook the Marina, or browse the selection of side shops and check out the menus of the restaurants for an evening meal with a view. From the Marina, trips to sea for game fishing, dolphin watching, sunset and barbecue cruises and other water-based activities, can be booked.
Immediately behind the Marina can be found yet another example of old and new Lagos in close proximity. The old railway station, with its ornate colored tiles, stands alongside Lagos’ new, modern station, from where you can reach the Eastern Algarve as far as Faro and beyond. It will pay to bear in mind that the Algarve railway network travels for much of its distance five or six kilometers inland of the coast, and many other towns can only be reached by means of a taxi or bus connection. You can catch the train to the following locations: Portimao, Silves (a ten minute walk from the station), Almancil, Faro, Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de St. Antonio.
For other towns you may have to catch more than one train. So check with the friendly train staff before deciding where you buy your ticket.