Lagos is an historic port city on the southern Algarve coast of Portugal. Its name, like that of its like-named Nigerian cousin, means “lakes”. The city itself has a population of about 22,000 with a further 10,000 in the immediate hinterland. It is an extremely popular tourist destination for British and other northern Europeans. It gives its name to the broad bay in which it is situated.
It was known in ancient times and shares much of its ancient and medieval history with Spanish Cadiz before becoming part of the Kingdom of Portugal in the 13th century. It was closely involved in the foundation of Portugal’s seaborne empire at Sagres, Henry the Navigator’s centre was only a few miles along the coast. Lagos began receiving slaves from east Africa by the middle of the 15th century. It enjoyed the fruits of the early stages of the trade from the East and Brazil but began losing out to Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, in the 16th century.
In 1587 the town fought off an attack by Sir Francis Drake but was not so lucky in 1755 when it was devastated by the Lisbon Earthquake. Very little of the pre-earthquake town survives today.
Historically, all ships sailing between the Mediterranean and western and north-western Europe passed within only a few miles of Lagos. There have been two major sea battles fought in the bay (1693) and (1759) and, a little further out, two more - between Britain and Spain (1780) and Britain and France (1797). (The first and second Battles of St. Vincent.)
These days, as well as its tourist trade, Lagos is an important centre in the sardine and tunny fishing industry.