Review: Hotel Vila Gale - Lagos, Portugal

The Hotel Vila Gale Lagos (less than an hour away from Faro airport) is the perfect family hotel in the Algarve, Portugal.

In fact, if you don’t have a family it might not be for you.

Everything in the hotel has been designed with kids in mind – the pool, the food, even the entertainment.

Rooms
We stayed in a family room on the ground floor which was handy as it was a 30-second walk to the pool but if you can get a room on the third floor do, as you’ll be waking up to gorgeous sea views. Rooms with said view are slightly smaller as they have an outdoor balcony so weigh up what’s more important to your family. Family rooms have a sofa bed that rolls out to two singles that push together. The adult bed is also two singles pushed together so it’s back to the 50s for Mum and Dad!

Food
We were after a very (very) lazy holiday so upgraded to all inclusive on arrival. This includes all meals, snacks and certain beverages. Even if you’re going on day trips it’s worth calculating whether all inclusive works out cheaper as peaceful days by the pool (which despite the myriad of kids there never got too raucous) require drinks and snacks which can add up as the days pass. As a guide, a 2L bottle of mineral water costs €2.20 and a Cornetto costs the same. Yes the food gets a little samey, especially breakfast, but to me that’s better than having to wake up and cook (and clean up afterwards) for everyone. As a gluten free vegan, Vila Gale had options I could eat at all meals. Simply ask a waiter if they have free-from foods (usually hidden away in the kitchen).

If you’re staying for seven days or more you get to eat in the a-la-carte restaurant which makes a nice change from the usual buffet style. Book early, we found there was a three-day waiting list. It’s worth booking as after a few days of buffet style dinners, it’s nice to be waited on.

I spent most days reading by the pool. If you want complete peace and quiet, ask your partner to watch the kids and bring headphones to drown out the noise of kids splashing around poolside. I read four books while I was there (pretty much the only time I get to read!) but my favourite by far was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. If you haven’t read it, beg, steal or borrow a copy now!

Entertainment
The Portuguese love children and nowhere is this more apparent than Hotel Vila Gale Lagos. The staff are super friendly to kids, on arrival the check-in receptionist gave my two a free fruit juice bottle and a couple of sweets. Everything in the hotel is kid friendly: there’s a closer-to-the-ground buffet area where they can dish up their own food, every week night there’s a mini disco (20:30-21:30 the Portuguese are night owls) and face painting, daily pool activities especially for kids and Club NEP on the hotel grounds with a kids playground, paddling pool, indoor play area, zip wire, table tennis and volleyball court. You hardly need to leave the hotel grounds.

It’s not all kids, parents will appreciate the spa, gym, indoor pool and well stocked bar. Entertainment is heavily skewed to the kids so you might want to venture to Lagos town for a more grown up evening.

What’s nearby
There’s a sandy beach (Meia Praia) a five-minute walk away from the hotel, literally across the road when you use the side pool gate. Although we were there in peak season – August – the beach was never crowded, just forewarn the kids there’ll be some topless bathers.

Lagos town is a 20-minute walk (plus a €0.60 kids-go-free trip across the lake) or a 7-minute €6 taxi ride away and has restaurants and a Marina.

Other trips worth making are Lagos ZooSlide and Splash Water Park where everyone – including you – walks around in swimwear only and Zoomarine. Almost every town has its own sandy beach so wherever you’re staying (in the Algarve) you’re probably not far away from one.

In my experience, the further west from Faro you go, the less touristy it is. My Portuguese friends tell me Sagres (aka the end of the earth) is beautiful and authentic with some beaches inaccessible by road. Rock climbing anyone?

Useful tips

  • Think carefully before hiring a car, taxis aren’t too expensive and your hotel probably has tours you can join.
  • If you live south of the river try London City Airport. It’s like your own private terminal.
  • Bring goggles, floats, armbands (and spares) from home. They’re not too expensive in the hotel shop, but definitely cheaper to get in the UK. 

Hotel Vila Gale Lagos

Rua Sophia de Melo Breyner Andresen

Meia Praia

8600-295 Lagos

Portugal

www.vilagale.com

Have you been to Portugal? Where do you recommend families stay?