In a sea of beaches, grottoes, and sandstone cliffs, stands Lagos,
one of the most beautiful towns on the Algarve coastline. Around 22,000
people live in this seaside town, known for its magnificent rock
formations, white sandy beaches and buzzing nightlife.
as Lacobriga, Lagos has more than 2,000 years of history and was
occupied by many civilisations throughout the centuries, including the
Romans, the Visigoths, the Byzantines and the Moors, who renamed it to
Zawaia, meaning lake or “lago” in Portuguese. Evidence of their presence
can be seen in monuments like the medieval castle and the artefacts
collection of the museums dotted across town.
Below we cover the best things to do in Lagos, from historical sights to outstanding beaches and boat tours.
Our first stop is the Igreja de São Sebastião. Built between the 14th
and 15th centuries, this church sits just behind the municipal market.
Inside is the Capela dos Ossos, a small bone chapel featuring a Joanine
Return to the main promenade, at Avenida dos Descobrimentos, to
visit the municipal market. Inside is a range of food stalls selling
fresh produce from all over the Algarve. The smell of fish lingers in
the air as you get closer to the fishmongers’ section and their
colourful display of raw fish and seafood. Be sure to climb up to the
second floor and admire the view of the city and the bay ahead of you.
In the 15th century, Lagos played an important role in launching the
Portuguese Age of Discovery. The town ended up becoming the centre of
the European slave trade, as slaves were brought over from Portugal’s
African colonies. This dark chapter is somewhat covered in the Slave
Market Museum. The museum tells the story of the slavery period in
Lagos, explaining how slaves were integrated into society and the
evolution of Lagos as a trade centre.
A few steps from the museum is Mar d’Estórias, a multipurpose space
that doubles as a restaurant, gallery, rooftop bar and gift shop. Housed
inside a restored Renaissance church, it is the perfect spot to stock
up on souvenirs. You’ll find anything from regional honey and olive oil
to handmade baskets and ceramics.
Continue your tour at Lagos’ main museum, Museu Municipal Dr. José
Formosinho. Here, you can learn more about the history of Lagos and
discover a series of archaeological items ranging from the Neolithic to
the Roman and Arab periods, as well as paintings from the 18th century
and old Portuguese coins.
Attached to the museum is the Igreja de Santo António. From the outside,
it seems like a modest church with its plain whitewashed façade, but as
you walk through the doors, you’ll encounter extravagant decor with
gilded woodcarving, tiles and a magnificent fresco ceiling. The
surrounding paintings showcase the life of St.Anthony of Lisbon.
Opposite the garden is what remains of Lagos Castle,
also known as the Castle of the Governors. Once part of the old city
walls, these days, all that remains is a set of towers that mark the
entrance to the old town.
Make your way to the waterfront, where you will spot the Forte da Ponta
da Bandeira. This 17th-century fortress was erected to protect Lagos
against pirate attacks and invaders, as it sits conveniently between the
Bensafrim river stream and the sea. Inside is a small chapel covered in
tiles from top to bottom. Starting at the edge of the fort is a long
trail of white sandy beaches and sandstone cliffs.
While in Lagos, it’s worth taking a boat tour across the coast. Most
tours depart from the Lagos Marina. You can choose between
dolphin-watching tours with marine biologists or set off to explore the
nearby caves, like Benagil in Lagoa or the rock formations of Ponta da
Piedade. These tours usually last around two hours. Before or after your
trip, you can take a walk along the marina, which is packed with cafés
Spend the afternoon exploring Lagos Beaches. Praia da Batata is the
closest beach to the center, making it the perfect spot for a swim if
you don’t have a car. A bit further south is the Praia Dona Ana. A
wooden stairway takes you down to the beach framed by stunning yellow
cliffs. The clear waters make it an ideal spot for snorkelling. Just a
few minutes from here is the Praia do Camilo. This stunning cove is also
reached via steps, (200 to be exact), but the trek is worth it. When
the tide goes out, you can walk to the surrounding caves. These two are
the most popular beaches in Lagos, so they tend to get busy in summer.
Other alternatives include the Praia de Porto Mós, a sprawling beach
beyond the Ponta da Piedade headland with plenty of parking and
restaurants, or Meia Praia, which sits across the river. Backed by
dunes, Meia Praia’s golden sands stretch for nearly six kilometres,
reaching the Alvor Lagoon.
Before sunset, make your way to the jaw-dropping cliffs of Ponta da
Piedade. Tucked away between the cliffs, is a maze of caves, grottoes,
and arches and little fishing boats navigating through them. You can
explore the area on foot or hop on a boat trip or a kayak tour.
Sagres: About half and hour from Lagos is Sagres, the southwestern tip
of the Algarve. This small town is mostly famous for its surf scene, but
it does have a few historical landmarks, including the 15th-century
Fortaleza de Sagres and the Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse, an ideal
spot to watch the sunset.
Silves:Silves was once the capital of the Algarve before Faro took
over. Set along the Arade River, this small town is home to a medieval
castle, a Gothic cathedral and a Roman bridge. It’s a 35-min drive east
Portimão: If you’re looking for a bit more action, take a short drive to
Portimão. This bustling resort area is among the largest cities in the
Algarve and is packed with shops, restaurants and entertainment options.
There is no shortage of beaches here, but Praia da Rocha is the most
Lagos is a perfect destination for families, with plenty of
activities and attractions for kids. You can spend days on end relaxing
on its sandy beaches or exploring the surrounding caves on a boat trip,
where you can spot dolphins too. In summer, a tourist train takes you
from the centre to the beaches of Meia Praia and Dona Ana.
town is easy to explore on foot, and there are plenty of cafés where
you can recharge and taste delicious pastries. You’ll find plenty of
museums along the way, including the municipal museum covering the
town’s history and the Centro de Ciência Viva, which offers fun
interactive exhibits on science and technology. Another popular
attraction is the Pro Putting Garden, a crazy-golf circuit near Praia da
About a 20-minute drive from the centre is the Lagos Zoo,
home to over 100 animal species, including parrots, monkeys and wild
cats. A bit further out is the Slide & Splash, a water park filled
with slides and pools.
The cuisine in Lagos includes loads of fresh fish and seafood. Among the
specialities here are the poached mackerel, clams and stuffed squid.
You’ll also find the traditional seafood stew, cataplana. Below are some
of the best restaurants in Lagos where you can sample some of these
Real Portuguese Cuisine: As the name suggests, this places serves real
Portuguese cuisine. The menu features anything from lamb chops to
grilled codfish and garlic shrimp.
Marisqueira O Perceve: Seafood is the star of the show at this place
located a few minutes from Lagos Marina. Here you can order anything
from fresh prawns and mussels to lobster and crab. If you’re having
trouble choosing, opt for the seafood platter, which includes a mix of
Cascade Wellness Resort (5 stars): This cliff-side hotel offers
breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. There is a mix of rooms,
apartments and villas, which can take up to eight people. Guests also
have access to two restaurants, three bars, two swimming pools, a spa
and sports courts.
Hotel Marina Rio (4 stars): Facing the Lagos Marina, this hotel offers
comfortable twin rooms with private balconies. Amenities include a
spacious living room with TV, a small heated pool and a rooftop terrace.
Tivoli Lagos (4 stars): This four-star hotel is conveniently located in
the heart of Lagos, a few steps from the marina and the municipal
market. It features 296 rooms, including options for families.
Facilities include a restaurant, pool, gym and spa. During summer, they
offer a free shuttle to the Duna Beach Club in Meia Praia.
There are several golf courses near Lagos. The closest one is the
Boavista Golf & Spa Resort, an 18-hole golf course designed by
Howard Swan. The course offers a few challenging holes, a practice area
and a golf academy. A few miles from here is the Espiche Golf, an
18-hole course surrounded by native plants.
Lagos offers a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and pretty hot
summers. The peak season are the months of June to August, when
temperatures reach up to 30ºC. It's the ideal season to hit the beach or
take a boat tour along the caves. Plus, you’ll enjoy some of the city’s
top events, like the traditional bath on the 29th of August. If you
want to avoid the crowds, however, it’s worth visiting off-season in
spring or early autumn. The temperatures are still pleasant enough for a
walk, but there are fewer crowds around.
Banho 29: Banho 29 is a traditional event in Lagos that takes place on
the 29th of August, celebrating the time when villagers went down from
the hills to enjoy the start of summer. The day begins with picnics on
the beach and a dip in the sea, usually at Praia da Batata, and ends
with a fireworks display at midnight.