Last Updated on 08/05/2023 by secretmoona
Are you planning a visit to Lagos, Algarve? The Portuguese city is a top destination for people looking for historic charm, natural beauty, and a relaxed vibe. Lagos is always on the list of recommended places to visit. What are the top things to see and do in Lagos? It has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
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I visited Lagos as part of a 7-day long trip in the Algarve. While visiting, I quickly found out why people loved the city so much. Although I only visited for a day, I was still able to have a memorable experience and visit some must-see places and attractions. Lagos town centre is small so you can easily walk between the majority of attractions. For places a little further, a car or Bolt/Uber will take you there in no time. Whether you are planning to be in Lagos for a day or more, this post should give you an insight into the city of Lagos and help you plan your itinerary.
Of course, there are much more activities you could do within Lagos and its surroundings, but this post will focus on the main highlights.
Ready to book your flight? Here are the best things to do in Lagos.
History of Lagos
Lagos is located in the southern region of the Algarve. The town is known for its picturesque beaches, surfing spots and charming old town. Long before the Portuguese occupation in the 13th century, the Algarve region was under Carthaginian, Roman and Moorish reign. From 1573 to 1756, the city was the capital of the Kingdom of the Algarve. During those periods, Lagos experienced crusades, the slave trade, earthquakes and tsunamis.
Things to do in Lagos Portugal
With such a rich history and so much to offer, it’s hard to know where to start, especially if you are only visiting for one day. Therefore, we have collected here some suggestions for things to do in Lagos to give you an insight into the city of Lagos and help you plan your itinerary.
Get lost in Lagos Old Town
Wandering the Old Town‘s cobbled streets is surely the best thing to do in Lagos. The town centre has the typical Portuguese charm you will find everywhere in Portugal: squares with typically patterned pavements, narrow streets, whitewashed houses and traditional houses with azulejo-tiled facades.
Lagos is one of the top cities to visit in the Algarve, not only for its natural beauty but also for its charming old town. The town centre is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, all with a unique feature displayed on their front door. Walking around the residential areas is an experience with clothes hanging through the windows. You can easily spend a half day exploring the old town.
There are plenty of squares lined with cosy cafes and snack bars if you need to stop for a coffee break during your visit. Don’t miss Praça Infante Dom Henrique. Take the time to admire the statue of the Infante Dom Henrique. He was a significant figure in the first phase of Portugal’s discoveries across the Atlantic Ocean and worldwide. In the square, you will also find the Church of Santa Maria de Lagos and the Mercado dos Escravos, one of the first slave markets in Europe. This building was built in the middle of the 15th century for the slave trade from Africa.
Visit the Lagos market
One of the top things to do in Lagos is stop in the local market. The Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market) in Lagos is a great place to shop for souvenirs or experience the local culture in Lagos. Located opposite the Lagos Marina and close to the fort, the covered market is a must-see place. Thanks to its white and grey facade, the 1924 building cannot be missed thanks to its white and grey facade. Inside, the market has three levels. The ground floor is dedicated to fresh seafood, while the first is where you will find fruits and vegetables, cheeses, oil oils, wines and other regional products. On the last floor, you will find a restaurant offering local food and a great view over the port.
Between the waterfront and the Mercado Municipal, you will find the Mercado Paseo Maritimo, which offers many souvenirs such as bags, textiles, coasters and many more. Lining the seafront promenade, the market provides a way to shop while admiring the boats passing by from the Marina to the Ocean.
Eat fresh local Portuguese food
Like many cities in the Algarve, Lagos is a great location to try some of the local food. The specialities in Algarve are based around freshly caught fish and seafood. Some dishes to try are grilled sardines, clam cataplana and cod fritters. All these dishes and more will be on the menu of the city’s restaurants, taverns and brasseries. Locally produced green wines are the perfect accompaniment for any meal!
The famous pastel de nata will be a great dessert addition to your tea or coffee. Alternatively, as the Algarve is an important almond producer, you will find many almond-based pastries.
Discover the museums and churches of Lagos
Visiting a museum might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like learning about the culture of the places you visit, here are some historical buildings to visit, such as churches and museums.
Slave Market Museum
The beautiful coastal town has a rich history, albeit with some dark sides. Lagos was the location of the first-ever slave market in Europe. At the beginning of the 15th century, explorers and conquerors used Lagos as a starting point for their travels. Lagos’ initial slave market opened in 1444. The Mercado dos Escravos, known as the Slave Market Museum, dates back to the 17th century. It is dedicated to the dark history of the slave trade and the people enslaved in Lagos. The museum also exhibits the history and growth of the city as a seaport. This is an important place to visit for the city’s full history. You can also visit the museum via the virtual tour they offer, details here.
Centro Cultural de Lagos
The Centro Cultural de Lagos is ideal for anyone interested in cultural activities such as visual and performing arts. The centre has exhibitions covering everything from architecture to history and archaeology.
Museum Municipal Dr. José Formosinho
Also known as Museu de Lagos, this museum is Lagos’ main museum and contains everything about the history of the town. It displays items from the Age of Discoveries, artworks and archaeological remains from the Roman and Islamic periods, Moorish pottery and many more.
For info: Opened daily except for Mondays. The entrance fee and details of opening hours can be found here.
Igreja de Santo António
This church of Santo António, connected to the museum, is dedicated to Saint Anthony. The Baroque-style church should be on your list of things to do in Lagos. Inside, the church is decorated with traditional blue and white azulejo tiles, paintings depict the life of Saint Anthony and are covered in some places of intricate gold-plated woodwork.
Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria
Like many monuments in the Algarve, Igreja Santa Maria suffered significant damage during the Great Earthquake of 1755. The current building dates back to the 19th century. The square outside the church is a lovely place to stop and relax. While there, take the time to admire the statue of the Infanta Dom Henrique. Born at the end of the 14th century, the Infanta Dom Henrique was a major figure in the first phase of Portugal’s discoveries across the Atlantic Ocean and around the world.
Visit the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira (Lagos Fortress)
If you are interested in architecture, then visiting the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira is a must. Built in the 17th century, this fortification is one of the most preserved in the country. Located where the river meets the ocean, the fortress served to protect the entrance to Lagos from the ocean. Entry to the fort is via a drawbridge that spans a moat and leads to the inner courtyard. Inside, you have temporary and permanent exhibitions that take visitors into the history of the fort, the navy and the city of Lagos. There is a small chapel decorated with azulejos and dedicated to Saint Barbara. The Ponta da Bandeira offers a breathtaking panoramic view over the city and the coast.
For info: Opened daily except for Mondays. For opening hours and fees, check here.
Admire Lagos Castle & City Walls
The Castelo dos Governadores, known as the Castle of the Governors, was built in Roman times. The fortifications were expanded in the 16th century to protect the city from invaders. Even if there is a castle, it’s the ramparts that still remain. Located opposite the fort, the fortifications are a beautiful architectural ensemble which testifies to the city’s historical past.
Take a stroll between the Lagos Marina and the Fishing Port
After exploring all the things to do In Lagos’ old town, then take a walk along the Bensafrim River. Walk along the promenade located between the Bensafrim and the Avenida dos Descobrimentos.
You won’t miss the stands lining the waterfront, these cabins advertise the different boat trips offered. Departing from the Lagos Marina, these boat trips include coastline tours to admire the stunning Ponta da Piedade, dolphin watching, kayaking and more. The boat tours are one of the most popular things to do in Lagos and are very affordable.
The Marina of Lagos is full of restaurants with terraces, so you can admire the view of boats coming in and out of the marina.
Be awed by the Ponta da Piedade
The Ponta da Piedade are a series of stunning natural limestone cliffs located at the southern end of Lagos. Formed thousands of years ago by storms, these rock formations are prevalent. They include grottos, caves and sea arches, creating one of Lagos and the ALgarve’s most spectacular and beautiful natural sites. They can be explored in two ways: on land through the pathways at the top of the cliffs or sea via boat tours. Boat tours are the most enjoyable and spectacular way of exploring the sea caves. The boats depart from Lagos marina. You can also rent a paddleboard or join a kayak tour.
Although boat trips offer a stunning view of the cliffs as you approach them, walking along the top of Ponta da Piedade shouldn’t be overlooked. You get breathtaking ocean views as you walk along the boardwalk surrounded by fauna and flora. Smaller cliff trails also line the edges, winding around the lighthouse. And to get a view from the water level, you can climb the steep stairs; you won’t regret it! The Ponta da Piedade is a great location to watch the sunset too.
The Ponta da Piedade is great for hiking and enjoying the beach. You will find some idyllic little beaches invite relaxation between the rock formations.
Tip: Be careful and don’t get too close to the edge of the cliffs, they are limestone after all and can erode easily!
For info: There is a car park near the lighthouse of Ponta da Piedade. It’s big enough to be able to accommodate lots of cars, however, in high season, it might be very busy. You can also walk from the town centre to Ponta da Piedade, which takes about half an hour and take an Uber on the way back.
Relax at one of Lagos’ beaches
Like many coastal towns in the Algarve, Lagos has a vast expanse of golden sands with picturesque beaches and secluded coves. During your visit to Lagos, you will want to spend some time on at least one of those stunning beaches. Due to its year-round pleasant weather, hitting the beaches is one of the best things to do in Lagos. Thanks to the wide range, there will be one to satisfy all: from the famous Meia Praia and the beautiful Praia de Dona Ana to the smaller secluded Praia do Camilo and the bigger Praia dos Estudantes.
As one of the biggest beaches in the city, Praia de Dona Ana is very popular and can be pretty crowded in summer; however, the size means that you will always find a spot. Praia do Camilo is accessible by climbing about 200 wooden steps, which is really worth it. A tunnel in the cliff leads to another smaller secluded beach. The smaller size of the beach means that it can be packed quickly during the summer months, so be sure to be there early.
Go on a boat trip
Lagos’ coastline is astonishing, with many caves created millions of years ago by waves crashing against limestone cliffs. While you can see these caves as you walk along the top of the cliffs, the best and most spectacular way to explore them is from the ocean level via a boat or kayak tour. These tours allow you to admire the stunning Ponta da Piedade from a different perspective.
Stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking along the cliffs are great options to explore some secluded beaches, neither accessible by boat nor foot. While they are more flexible and comfortable than a packed boat, they can be a little dangerous since the ocean waves can be quite strong! Be careful and don’t go kayaking when the weather isn’t good, and always join a tour with a local guide. Also on offer are dolphin-watching tours which combine with the cave tours. As dolphins are wild animals with no particular agenda, seeing them is not always guaranteed.
Here are some of the available tours, all departing from Lagos Marina:
- 75 mins Boat cruise to Ponta da Piedade – £20
- 2hrs Guided Ponta da Piedade Kayak Tour – £35
- 2hrs Ponta da Piedade & Coastal Tour (fishing boat) – £25
- 2.5hrs Dolphin watching & Banagil tour with Marine Biologist – £45
Practical Information about Lagos
Where is Lagos and how to get there
Lagos is located in the Algarve, the southern region of Portugal. The best option to get there would be to fly to Faro airport. From Faro, take one of the many options to reach Lagos.
- By train: The slow regional train takes about 1h15 mins to reach Lagos and costs about €7.50. The service starts at 07:00, with the last train departing to Lagos at 20.18. The train is better during the low season when the Aerobus is not operating. You can purchase your tickets at the ticket office or via the Comboios de Portugal website.
- By bus: taking the bus to Lagos is cheap however takes more time. From Faro station, you can take the Aerobus 56 direct to the Lagos Bus terminal. Alternatively, you can hop on one of the express or interurban buses, such as bus 57, from the Faro Bus terminal. For this option, you must get on bus 16 from the airport to the bus terminal. The Aerobus 56, operated by Vamus Algarve, will cost you €15. All the buses take about 2 hours and will take you through small towns and villages.
- By car: Driving from Faro to Lagos is easy and quick, with good road conditions and signage. The journey is about an hour on the A22.
- By taxi or private transfer: If you prefer a smoother and hassle-free journey, prefer a taxi or private transfer. The private transfer and taxi, while only taking an hour, will cost you between €75 (private transfer) and €100 (taxi) one way. Consider booking an Uber or Bolt as a more affordable option than the traditional taxi.
Getting around Lagos
The city is relatively compact, so that most attractions can be reached on foot. If Lagos is your base, you can easily walk from your accommodation to the train or bus station and the Lagos Marina. You can even walk from the fort to the Ponta de Piedade, although a car is a better option to make the most of each place.
The car gives you the flexibility to move from one area to the next in no time and allows you to travel a little further away from the city. If you plan on renting a car, we recommend Discover Cars. This site will enable you to compare many car rental companies for the best and most affordable vehicle.
If driving is not an option, then the bus network will allow you to travel and explore the surrounding cities such as Portimao, Albufeira or Silves.
When to visit Lagos
As a coastal town, Lagos benefits from the sun shining most days and a gentle breeze. It is best visited during the summer months. While summer, with its hot and sunny days, is perfect for an enjoyable day by the beach, it can be crowded. Since summer is the most popular time to visit, it is also the most expensive as restaurants and hotels up their prices.
For better prices and less crowded, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. The months of April, May and June are actually the best time to visit the town. Temperatures range from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. The summer crowds and the heat have also reduced while remaining warm, so you can enjoy spending more time by the beach. Wandering the streets of the old town is also better without the crowd.
We enjoyed a great time in Lagos with no crowds, perfect sunny weather and temperatures as high as 25c.
How long should you visit Lagos?
A visit to Lagos can be done in 1 day when you can explore most of the top attractions in the city. That being said, you can easily spend 3 days in the city, exploring more places and surrounding cities. Lagos is well located to explore other areas such as Sagres. This means that Lagos is a great location to base yourself for a week in the Algarve.
Where to stay in Lagos
While Lagos boasts lots of lovely accommodations for all preferences, whether you prefer staying in the city centre or near the ocean. If you are ready to book your accommodation, please see below some good options to consider.
3 thoughts on “Guide to the Best Things to Do in Lagos, Portugal ”
We had a quick half day in Lagos and saw quite a bit. But your post shows that we need to go back for more. We spent more of our time by the water so sadly missed most of old town. And we really would go back to explore the Mercado Paseo Maritime! The beaches were a big draw but we only got to enjoy them from a distance. Great spot to re-visit!
Thanks for your comment. Please do take time to visit the old town when you do visit Lagos again. However to be fair, you have seen the most spectacular area of the town, the coastline! Ponta da Piedade!
Oh my gosh I’m going to Portugal in a few months and now am so excited to visit the Old Town! Thanks for sharing 🙂