Faro or Lagos, Portugal: Which Algarve Beach Town is Best for You?

Algarve is in the southern part of Portugal and is widely known for its beautiful coastline and picturesque beaches. I must admit I found some of the best beaches in Europe here!

It’s crucial to choose your destination wisely and not just fall for the overhyped ones. With that being said, I’m here to provide you with all the information on Faro vs. Lagos, so you can make an informed decision about which beach town to visit if you only have time for one!

Whether you’re looking for the best beaches, the most things to do, or the tastiest seafood, let’s find out if Faro or Lagos is better to visit.

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Overview of Faro

Located in the southern region of Portugal, Faro is the capital of the Algarve. 

The old town is incredibly rich in history, boasting charming cobblestone streets, a medieval cathedral, and the iconic Arco da Vila arch. 

The city’s backdrop is the stunning Ria Formosa Natural Park, providing breath-taking views. As a gateway to the beautiful coastline of the Algarve, Faro’s airport makes it easily accessible for travelers who want to have a relaxing vacation.

Overview of Lagos

Lagos is one of the most well-known beach towns in the Algarve, and you’ll hear it being recommended by many of the locals within this region (trust me, the locals are always right!).

The reason why so many people love Lagos is because of the number of stunning caves and grottos by the seaside. I was blown away by the beautiful scenery here and spent hours just walking along the coast, taking in the breathtaking views (however, be warned that these cliffs are quite steep and not for the faint-hearted!).

Adding onto these coastal attractions, Lagos is also famous for having some of the best beaches in Algarve, two of them being Praia Do Camilo and Praia Dona Ana that are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

Where are Faro and Lagos?

Both Faro and Lagos can be found in the southern part of Portugal, specifically within the Algarve region. 

Lagos is located to the west of Faro, approximately 186 miles away. Even with both being beach towns in the Algarve, each town offers a unique experience. 

Faro boasts historic charm and is near Ria Formosa Natural Park, while Lagos has breath-taking cliffs, scenic beaches, and exciting water activities along its shoreline.

How to Get to Faro and Lagos?

If you’re flying into Portugal, Faro has an airport that you can fly directly into.

Lagos is a bit harder to reach as the nearest airport is Faro, so you will either have to drive here or take a bus. 

Many people decide to combine a visit to the Algarve with their Lisbon itinerary. To reach Faro or Lagos from Lisbon, you have several options. 

  • By Train

The simplest and most efficient way to travel is by train, with frequent trains leaving from Lisbon’s main station, Gare do Oriente, to Faro and Lagos. The train ride takes around 3-4 hours but you get amazing scenery along the way.

  • By Bus

You can also travel by bus with companies like Flixbus. This is the cheapest option to reach both of these cities in the Algarve but the most time-consuming. 

  • By Car

Traveling by car from Lisbon to Faro or Lagos is the quickest way to reach the Algarve. From Lisbon, it will take you an estimated 3 hour drive to Faro and 3.5 hours to Lagos. 

Things to do in Faro vs. Lagos

One thing is certain, you’re not going to be bored no matter which city you choose to be your home in the Algarve. However, they offer vastly different activities.


You’ll love Faro if you love history. It’s rich cultural heritage is one reason of many that makes Faro worth visiting.

One of the best things to do in Faro is visit the historic Old Town, which is surrounded by ancient walls. As you walk along cobblestone streets, you’ll come across the Faro Cathedral and the Faro Archaeological Museum which features temporary exhibitions, and it costs as little as €2 per ticket. 

Faro Cathedral

For sunset, you can walk towards the vibrant atmosphere of the Faro Marina, where you can experience a beautiful sunset amongst all the boats and take pictures next to the huge Faro sign. 

If you love nature, head over to Ria Formosa Natural Park, a paradise for bird watchers with its stunning lagoons and marshes located nearby. 

It’s only a short 10-minute drive from the city center, or you can opt for a scenic 40-minute walk to take in all the picturesque views along the way.

 You can also consider booking a boat tour and admiring the sights of the small islands within the national park from the comfort of a catamaran.

📍 Recommended Tour: Faro: Ria Formosa Faro Islands Catamaran Tour


It’s hard not to love Lagos. For me, it was one of the best beach towns I’ve visited. 

Not only does it have amazing beaches but a very cute and walkable Old Town

You can explore the ancient 16th-century walls which surrounds the centre. It’s one of the main things to see here, you can get the best view from Avenida dos Descobrimentos which is the street right next to the old town.

Praia Dona Ana

Just a 20 min walk from the Old Town is Praia Dona Ana, the perfect beach to relax all day, where golden cliffs frame turquoise waters, making it an ideal tanning location and a great place for snorkelling.

If you’re seeking more of a thrilling experience, you should definitely try Scuba Diving on the coast of Lagos, and book a tour to start off your morning right.

📍Recommended Tour: Lagos: Guided Scuba Diving Trip for beginners

One of the most picturesque viewpoints (also the perfect sunset spot) in Lagos has to be Ponta Da Piedade which is where you can experience the magical limestone caves and grottos by the seaside. Praia do Camilo is only a 20 min walk from Praia Dona Ana and offers amazing views of the coastline as well. Keep in mind you’ll have to go down several steps to reach this beach!

If you’re not a fan of walking long distances or walking in general, you can experience the beauty of these golden cliffs by booking a boat tour.

Food and Drink

The Algarve region offers a variety of delicious food options, but trying their fresh seafood dishes is a must! Whether in Faro or Lagos, there are plenty of local dishes to explore and enjoy.


Faro is rich in many different types of foods and seafood delicacies.

First on your list to try should be the iconic Xarem com conquilhas, which is a Faro dish, known for its rich flavour and spicy aroma, it can be found in restaurants such as Taska Algarvia

Xarem com conquilhas

This meal is prepared with cornmeal and seafood, combining different flavours such as garlic, lemon slices, olive oil, cilantro and baby clams.

In 2011, it was declared one of the 21 Wonders of the World of Portuguese Gastronomy!

Other well-known meals are Arroz de Lingueirao, and grilled fish (my favourite restaurants to try these delicious foods were Tasca do Ricky and O Chalavar).

In the evening times, you can grab drinks at bars such as Columbus Culinary Bar, where they have a wide range of cocktails for affordable prices and are open until 2am on most days (my favourite drink was one of their signature cocktails ‘Zombie Lychee’).


Lagos is widely known for serving some of the best grilled and fresh seafood in the south of Portugal. 

One dish you cannot miss is Cataplana de Marisco which is a seafood stew cooked in metallic pot that is used in Algarve. This dish can be prepared with many different meats such as octopus, pork, and cod, which is then cooked down with fresh herbs and white wine. 

Cataplana de Marisco

You can enjoy this at the popular Calhou Restaurante or Restaurante a Barrigada where this dish is served, and you can even order homemade native liquor to Lagos. 

Lagos also boasts an abundance of fresh catches, and local restaurants take advantage of this. You can enjoy fresh fish in restaurants such as O Escondidinho, where you can order grilled sardines and squid. 

If you’re getting a bit tired of eating seafood every day you can always opt for a different dish to try, such as Feijoada which is a hearty bean stew usually containing pork, beans, vegetables and herbs. You can try this delicious Brasilian/Portuguese inspired dish in restaurants like Restaurante Bar Inna.

The nightlife here is very lively and you’ll get a taste of this if you head to bars such as the popular Bon Vivant which offers signature cocktails, sangria and local house wines.

Overall atmosphere

Both cities have amazing atmospheres especially if you visit during summer. However, they’re very different. Faro has a calm coastal vibe, while Lagos is livelier and more energetic.


Faro is a wonderful place for travelers of all ages, with its welcoming atmosphere and diverse mix of visitors. 

The overall vibe is tranquil and laid-back, making it an ideal spot for those seeking relaxation. 

However, there are also lively areas around the marina, where waterfront restaurants and cafes offer excitement and energy. 

With its pedestrian-friendly streets and family-friendly beaches nearby, Faro is perfect for travelers of any age looking for a delightful and memorable vacation experience.


Lagos has a much livelier and younger feel, attracting a lot of young people from colder European countries who are escaping the cold. The lively atmosphere is why its one of the best destinations in Portugal for solo female travel!

The lively vibes of Lagos are evident from the colorful street art, bustling squares, unique boutiques, and the surf culture.

Families will also find plenty to do here, with beautiful beaches like Praia Dona Ana and exciting activities such as sea cave explorations by boat. 


Faro and Lagos both have distinct nightlife scenes. Faro has a relaxed atmosphere with waterfront bars, while Lagos is livelier with a mix of pubs and clubs in the historic center.


Compared to other towns in Algarve such as Lagos, Faro offers a more relaxed and intimate nightlife scene.

You won’t find any wild parties here, but cozy pubs and live music spots are everywhere!

Faro’s nightlife definitely has an older crowd or people seeking a quieter night out.


The nightlife in Lagos and Faro couldn’t be more different!

Lagos is known for its lively nightlife, usually attracting a younger crowd. 

The town comes alive during the summer months, with beach clubs and bars hosting vibrant parties. 

Lagos has a dynamic bar culture, offering everything from beachfront bars with breathtaking views to cosy pubs in the historic center. 

You’ll find people from every corner of the world here!

Getting around Faro and Lagos

Lucky for you, both Faro and Lagos are easy to get around. However, Lagos has the upper hand on this one.


It’s very easy to get around Faro. The town is small and has an efficient public transportation system. 

Walking is the best way to explore the old town. But if you want to venture outside of it, there are public buses that connect different neighbourhoods, making it easy to reach all parts of the town. 

Taxis are also readily available for quick trips. 

If you want to have more freedom, you can also rent a car. It’s super easy to drive in Portugal, I highly recommend it! 


It’s also very easy to get around Lagos. 

Exploring the main attractions the town has to offer is easy on foot or by bus. 

However, I found that it was much more convenient to have a car in Lagos rather than Faro.

There are so many beaches along the coast near Lagos that aren’t accessible on foot or via public transport.

Having your own vehicle will give you the freedom to explore every hidden beach the coast has to offer.

Options for Accommodations

In both locations, there are plenty of affordable options available when compared to other summer destinations in Europe. From budget friendly guesthouses to boutique hotels and elegant hotels, I’m confident it won’t be hard for you to find the perfect place to stay.

But, if you’re not sure where to start, here are some of my recommendations for every budget: 



📍 HI Faro – Pousada de Juventude 

📍 Happen!ng

Mid Budget

📍 À da Avó -The Guesthouse

📍 Alto House Faro AL de Assinatura Modernista


📍 3HB Faro

📍 7 Styles Apartments by Raspberry Cascade



📍LC’s Guesthouse

📍Sunny House

Mid Budget

📍Sensations Guesthouse

📍 Indigo Guest House


📍 Villas D. Dinis – Charming Residence (adults only)

📍 Charming Residence & Guest House Dom Manuel I Adults only

So, should I choose Faro or Lagos?

Ultimately, choosing between Faro and Lagos for your holiday in Algarve depends on your preferences and travel interests. 

Choose Faro if you love history, a relaxed ambiance, national parks and quiet nights out at cosy pubs. You won’t have to give up amazing beaches if you stay here since Lagos and other coastal cities like Sagres are nearby for day trips.

Choose Lagos if you want dynamic nightlife, a bustling city and the best beaches in Algarve. 

Whichever you choose, Algarve won’t disappoint you!

Other Destinations in Portugal

Portugal is full of incredible destinations worth visiting. While I absolutely recommend visiting the Algarve, Madeira is another great choice for anyone looking for a beautiful and relaxing outdoor adventure.

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