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Camilo beach, one of several along the coast in Lagos, Portugal. (Natalie Stechyson for The Globe and Mail)
Camilo beach, one of several along the coast in Lagos, Portugal. (Natalie Stechyson for The Globe and Mail)

The insider's guide to Lagos, Portugal Add to ...

Eat

You can't turn a corner in Lagos without stumbling over another lovely restaurant with terrace seating, but my favourite find by far was a dark hole in the wall: Café Odeon. It's hot inside and there's never enough seating, but the tiny café has the cheapest breakfast in town: $4 (3 euros) for a full English breakfast with coffee or, my personal choice, a BLT sandwich for $3 (2 euros). Get it to go, grab a cold bottle of water, and you can be on the beach in less than five minutes.

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Splurge on dinner and visit Don Sebastiao for fresh seafood, fish and traditional Portuguese fare such as Cataplana. The restaurant has a rooftop terrace, two dining rooms with cobbled floors and a front patio, and boasts a wine cellar with more than 240 varieties. Main courses can average around $34 (25 euros).

Drink

I've been to Cuba three times, and still, the best mojito I've ever tasted was at Zanzibar, on the main strip in Lagos. Another must-try is vinho verde, which literally means green wine, available at most restaurants. Vinho verde is a Portuguese wine from the Minho region of the country, and is known for its fresh, young taste.

Sleep

You can pay as little as $13 (10 euros) a night for a private guest room if you're willing to share a bathroom with other travellers. Guest rooms are plentiful in the city, even in peak season, so if you just show up without reservations, as I did, chances are you'll have somewhere affordable to rest your head by bedtime.

For luxury, stay at Hotel Tivoli Lagos. The four-star resort is built to resemble a traditional hillside village, and consists of nine buildings linked by gardens and terra cotta tile paths. In peak season, rooms can range from $116 to $420 a night.

Insider's tip

All the beaches in Lagos are beautiful, which is why most drop their towels at the closest ones - Batata and Meia Praia. But it's worth the short walk to explore beaches farther west, such as Camilo and Dona Ana, where crowds are likely to be thinner and the water is clearer.

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