Property In Lagos: The Under-Appreciated Jewel Of Europe

Sunny And Seaside, Lagos Is An Old World Gem (And A Top Euro-Investment Market)

The truth is, we didn’t really know what we were buying into.

Last summer, Lief and I came to Lagos, Portugal, for the first time.

We were 100% sold on Portugal, as both a lifestyle and an investment destination. We’d made contacts and friends in Lisbon and elsewhere in the country and had been having conversations and meetings for months getting to know the landscape in Portugal as a whole and in Lisbon and the Algarve in particular.

But Lagos hadn’t come on to our radar.

Then, at our Live and Invest in Portugal Conference last July in Carvoeiro, a real estate contact, listening to us describe the kind of market and the kind of property we were most interested in investing in, recommended we take a look at property in Lagos.

“It’s a seriously under-valued and under-appreciated investment market,” he told us, “and the city itself is an historical gem.”

We made the half-hour drive over from Carvoeiro to have a look.

Standing in the central square that first afternoon, I was smitten. The centuries-old structures all around… the cobblestoned plaza and thoroughfares, laid in patterns picked out by contrasting stones, light and dark, like in Lisbon… the city-side beach… the view of the harbor and the marina… white sails moving quickly across the horizon…

This was a special spot, the kind of place I feel most at home.

The more we looked around, the better we liked the place, from its 16th-century city walls, which still encircle the whole of the old town, to its Bandeira Fortress, complete with drawbridge and moat, where Phoenician and Greek merchant ships once sheltered.

We knew we wanted to buy property in Portugal, and we believed the timing was just right.

When would we be back… to Lagos or even to Portugal? We didn’t want this opportunity to end up on our long list of, “Boy, sure wish we’d invested there then” stories.

We were determined to act.

We looked at six apartments in Lagos in one day, then we sat, late afternoon, with our property agent on the main square, harborside, to consider our options. I sipped 2-euro-a-glass Prosecco and knew I wanted a reason to return to this spot.

One of the apartments we’d seen was in an old building on a winding cobblestoned pedestrian-only passageway two blocks back from the main square. It was two bedrooms on three levels, all of 70 square meters, but the location, the age of the place (we value old), and the rooftop terrace with a view of the sea sealed the deal.

We made an offer that was accepted before we left the country. We were to be property owners in Lagos.

However, as I mentioned, the truth was, we didn’t really know Lagos. What, really, had we bought into?

After last week’s Live and Invest in Portugal Conference in Carvoeiro concluded, Lief and I made the 30-minute drive back to Lagos and installed ourselves in our little apartment for a long weekend.

Arriving at dinnertime Friday, I was intimidated by the crowds. This is peak season, and Lagos’ narrow cobblestoned streets and squares were overflowing with holiday-goers.

We appreciate these mostly U.K. and European sun-seekers. They’ve kept our apartment 90+% occupied since we made it available for rental.

On the other hand, was this really our kind of place?

Here’s what I can tell you today, after having enjoyed three days getting to know Lagos a little better: I don’t want to leave.

Lagos is known as the jewel in the Algarve’s crown for a reason. It is a city with a long and colorful history (that dates, in fact, to pre-history) that has embraced the 21st century without compromising any of its Old World character or charm.

Unlike Albufeira, a little farther along this Algarve coast, which has sold out to the resort development industry, Lagos has become modern without surrendering any of its sophisticated Old World soul. This is a city at peace with itself.

It’s also a city of contrasts, both historical and real time. The many tourists filling the streets each evening include 20-something Euro-vagabonds with guitars and drums slung over their shoulders, rasta hairdos, and elaborate body art.

Wandering among them are carefully coiffed families with young children and well-heeled older couples. Everyone seems to get along with everyone else in this city with Roman, Arab, Christian, and corsair heritage. Like any good crossroads, Lagos welcomes travelers and traders from all over the world.

About 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon, the city began preparing for last night’s big soccer match. Most of the town turned out wearing Ronaldo (#7) jerseys, and oversized flat screens appeared on the street in front of every bar and restaurant.

We took up a position at an outdoor table. A few minutes later, among the dozens of smiling fans swirling around us, I noticed one hoisting a Portuguese flag onto the end of which he’d sewn a French flag. The two waved together.

This soccer enthusiast had also painted the colors of France on one of his cheeks.

At the table next to ours, four young girls were painting the colors of Portugal onto their faces.

The dual-flagged fan approached the girls and asked, in French, if he could borrow their paint. When they handed it over to him, he reached up and brushed red and green lines on his left cheek to complement the French red and blue on the right.

He smiled, thanked the giggling girls, and continued on for further merry-making with his multi-cultural fellows.

Now that we’ve gotten to know it a little better, we couldn’t be happier with Lagos or with our investment here.

Yes, indeed, this is our kind of place.

Kathleen Peddicord