Both Lagos and Albufeira are popular holiday towns located in the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal.
This post will look at the differences between them to help you decide where to visit on your next trip! It covers hotels, restaurants, atmosphere, nightlife, things to do and more!
Want to know more about Lagos? Check out my ultimate Lagos guide which includes information on where to stay, where to eat and things to do!
Quick Links – Lagos or Albufeira
- Transport/Getting There
- Things To Do
The rest of this article will go into much more detail into the 2 towns, however, here is a brief overview of the differences:
Albufeira is bigger than Lagos so has a wider range of hotels, restaurants and bars. It is geared mostly towards British tourists so has lots of British pubs and international restaurants.
Lagos, on the other hand, has a much more authentic and Portuguese vibe whilst still having a good selection of restaurants and hotels.
Both have stunning beaches with white sand and crystal clear waters. Albufeira does have more to do in terms of activities – there are plenty of watersports, water parks, theme parks, adventure activities and more.
Lagos has less to do but it has plenty of watersports such as kayaking and snorkelling.
Which Is Bigger – Lagos or Albufeira
Both Lagos and Albufeira get very popular in the summer months (June, July and August) with their populations more than doubling due to the influx of tourists.
Lagos is smaller with a population of 22,000 whereas Albufeira has almost twice as many people with a population of over 40,000. These numbers quadruple during the summer holiday season!
Albufeira has a lively nightlife and hundreds of restaurants, bars and clubs so there is plenty of choice.
Lagos is also a busy town with plenty of choice when it comes to restaurants and bars however it is smaller and has less choice compared with Albufeira.
What Is The Atmosphere Like – Lagos vs Albufeira
Both have a fun, enjoyable and lively atmosphere.
Albufeira gets a lot of tourists from the United Kingdom in the summer and some travellers have said it feels almost overrun by the Brits and can feel like a British resort town. You also get many people coming for boozy stag and hen parties.
Albufeira is busy and loud, especially in the evenings along The Strip when there are plenty of fun clubs, parties and bars to attend.
It feels a lot less Portuguese than Lagos with tons of international restaurants (especially British pubs with football screens), McDonalds and more. It feels a lot more touristy whereas Lagos feels a lot more authentic and has a real Portuguese vibe.
Having said this, there are also areas of Albufeira that do have a more authentic feel such as the old town.
Lagos has a much more authentic Portuguese feel to it and is less overrun by tourists from around the world.
Lagos has a very scenic old town which is perfect for a relaxing stroll. It is a very picturesque town with a promenade that stretches along the canal and leads up to the world-famous beaches with white sand and hidden coves.
Overall Lagos has a more authentic and relaxing feel compared to Albufeira.
How Easy Is It To Get There?
If you’re flying then, for both Lagos and Albufeira, you will arrive in Faro Airport as this is the closest airport. From here you can take a bus or taxi to Lagos or Albufeira.
For more information on this, I have written a guide on how to get to Lagos from Faro Airport.
Albufeira is closer to the airport than Lagos so if you take a bus, it will stop here first. The drive to Albufeira takes between 30 – 40 minutes (45km). For Lagos, the drive takes around 1 hour (90km).
One thing to note though is that the bus station in Albufeira is around 4 miles out from the town so you will then need to get another bus or taxi to the town centre which adds extra cost, time and effort.
The bus station in Lagos is right in the town centre so when you get dropped off here, you will likely be able to walk to your hotel.
If you’re coming from Lisbon, the train ride is long. To get to Albufeira, it takes between 3.5 – 4 hours and to Lagos it will take 5 hours. You can cut the journey time by around an hour if you take a bus instead of the train.
If you’re coming from elsewhere, check out the below guides:
Which Has More Things To Do? Lagos or Albufeira
Both Lagos and Albufeira have some excellent things to do and see. Both have an intriguing old town, beautiful beaches, a wide range of watersports and more.
Overall, Albufeira has a wider range of activities available and some things you won’t find in Lagos, such as theme parks.
The town of Lagos has some pretty impressive sights to see, especially in the old town. One sight you can’t miss is the medieval castle and fortified walls which surround the old town.
There is also a fort by the ocean which can be accessed by walking across a drawbridge over a moat. Other sights include the Igreja de Santo António church and the historic slave market.
Lagos also offers a fantastic range of water-sports. You can go kayaking around the hidden caves and grottoes, take a boat ride out into the ocean or go surfing.
Lagos is in close proximity to many other scenic Algarve towns, check my post on the best day trips from Lagos for more ideas.
Finally, you can also head over to the marina which is a great spot for sunset and has a bridge that opens and closes as boats pass.
For more information, check out this guide on the best things to do in Lagos.
Albufeira also has some great things to do and see. It also has its own old town where you can visit the Sant’Ana Church, the Museum of Sacred Art and the Albufeira Igreha Matriz.
If water-sports are your thing, then Albufeira doesn’t disappoint. You can try parasailing from the marina (you might even spot a dolphin), kayaking through the caves, snorkelling, jet-skiing and flyboarding!
Other activities include horse riding on the stunning beaches where you can trek around the lagoons on horseback and witness the glorious nature and wildlife. You can also head to Zoomarine and swim with dolphins or if you’re here to party, head out on a party boat!
Which Has Better Beaches? Lagos or Albufeira
The Algarve as a whole is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world so whether you pick Lagos or Albufeira, you definitely will not be disappointed.
One of the best things to visit in Lagos, is the impressive rock formations of Ponta da Piedade. Here you’ll see panoramic cliff views, hidden coves and you can even take to the shores yourself to explore the caves and grottoes on a kayak or boat tour.
If this interests you, check my complete guide to visiting Ponta da Piedade.
Some of the best beaches in Lagos include Praia Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo and Praia Pinhão. If these stunning beaches surrounded by white cliffs are not your thing (as they can get crowded due to being very small and very famous), then Lagos also has Meia Praia which is a wide, sandy beach that stretches for miles – it’s so big that there is room for everyone.
For more information, check out my guide to the best beaches in Lagos – I even give information on some hidden beaches that most people don’t know about! Most of the beaches are pretty close to the old town so you can easily walk.
Albufeira also has some beautiful beaches which are all located close to the main town area and close to the hotels. These include Praia da Falésia, which is Albufeira’s longest beach at 6km and is great for long beach walks, sunbathing and water-sports!
Another favourite is Praia dos Pescadores which is situated right in front of Albufeira’s old town. It is one of the main beaches in the area and is very popular in the summer. It’s also very easy to access – there is even an escalator leading down to the beach from the surrounding cliffs!
You’ll love the beautiful golden sand and glistening ocean water – it has a super friendly atmosphere with plenty of restaurants and water-sports to keep you occupied.
Which Has Better Food/Restaurants?
Lagos has an excellent range of restaurants offering a range of international cuisines as well as many Portuguese restaurants. Some favourites include Maharaja Tasty Indian and My Sushi. You can dine within the old town itself or by the marina.
Albufeira has many British Pubs and international restaurants. It can be difficult to get traditional, Portuguese food here as most restaurants cater to the tourists. Some excellent choices include The Indian Sizzler, Restaurante Vila Joya and Uzonj Restaurante-Grill.
Which Has A Better Nightlife – Lagos or Albufeira
Albufeira is the main party town in the Algarve. Lots of young people come to Albufeira every year to hang out in the many bars, clubs, beach bars and nightclubs. It can get pretty rowdy here at night.
The nightlife centre of Albufeira is The Strip where most of the bars and clubs are located. Here you’ll also find tattoo parlours, fast food restaurants, cheap drinks, karaoke and more.
It’s perfect for young adults or those that want to spend the whole night partying. The bars get busy after 8pm and stay open until 4am.
If this doesn’t sound like your thing and you’re after a more relaxed vibe, then head to Albufeira’s old town after dark. It is a lot quieter and more sophisticated than The Strip, perfect for older adults or families.
Lagos does also have a lively night scene but it is more limited and way more laid back. Lagos is a lot more relaxing with smaller bars and pubs where you can grab a drink. You won’t really find many nightclubs here but there are plenty of places to grab a casual drink.
Where To Stay – Hotels/Accommodation
When it comes to places to stay, you’ll be spoilt for choice in both towns.
Albufeira has a wide range of options all around the town. It has many big hotels and large resorts with most being within close walking distance to the main beaches.
A great place to stay for families would be within the old town, a charming and authentic section of the town. If you’re in Albufeira to party until the early hours of the morning, then you can stay along The Strip itself.
Another popular place to stay is in the Oura area of Albufeira. You’ll find many families staying here as it is close to the beaches.
There are many resorts and hotels here but it’s not too busy, and is just a short walk to The Strip. Luna Solaqua Hotel is a top pick as it is close by to the main areas of town and has fantastic facilities.
Whilst still having a fantastic range, there are fewer options in Lagos compared with Albufeira. Lagos tends to have more smaller hotels and less large complexes.
For more information, I have a guide on where to stay in Lagos – it gives information on the different areas and also has hotel recommendations.
A fantastic option is Tivoli Lagos which is located within the old town and is only a 5 minute walk from the main area where all the shops and restaurants are located. Tivoli also runs a shuttle bus to its beach club on the Meia Praia beach for free.
There are also many fantastic hotels located by the marina such as Hotel Marina Rio with rooms that overlook the marina. This hotel is only between 5 and 10 minutes from the main town centre and within close walking distance to Meia Praia beach.
Whether you choose Albufeira or Lagos, make sure you book your accommodation well in advance. It gets really busy during July and August and the best places will be fully booked so ensure you book early.
Both Albufeira and Lagos are fantastic holiday destinations. I hope this article was helpful in highlighting the main differences of Lagos vs Albufeira.
For more information on Lagos, check out my ultimate Lagos guide which tells you everything you need to know about visiting Lagos.