There are many tourist destinations in Algarve for people to spend memorable holidays. In this article, we’ll show you some of the things to do in Lagos, a city with an enormous historical wealth but also amazing beaches.
As it happened in other southern locations in Portugal, this place was populated over 2000 years ago and there were many influences from different peoples since then. The most important peoples to occupy this region were the Carthaginian, the Romans and finally the Arabs before becoming definitely under Portuguese rule.
Since then, and due to its economical importance and privileged location, Lagos grew a lot and was considered as the “capital of the Algarve” for two centuries.
In fact, Lagos played an important role by the time of the Age of Discovery since it was from here that many ships set sail to unknown waters and worlds and many explorers marked their name in history like Gil Eanes.
The city lived a period of great prosperity but, unfortunately, that came to an end with the major earthquake of 1755 – because of that, the title of “capital of the Algarve” went to Loulé and finally to Faro.
For a long time, in Lagos and throughout Algarve, the main source of wealth was the fishing and cannery industries but this also slowly came to an end and, from the mid-20th century onwards, the city embraced tourism and now there are many things to do in Lagos.
However, there are many other things to do in Lagos other than sunbathing. Check this small video shot by Edie Terpstra and discover some of its wonders:
Things to do in Lagos
When you visit Lagos, choose to park your car outside the historic centre city walls, more precisely at one of the free parking lots located in the surrounding area.
The reason why you should leave your car at one of these parking lots is that you can then explore the streets without worrying with the path you choose since many of them are just for pedestrians. Many of the streets in the historic centre are charming and the fact that are few cars in the area makes it more special.
As a suggestion, consider leaving your car at one of the parking lots located outside the historic centre and then enter it through the city walls.
Make your way to the street Rua da Atalaia and, at the crossroads, go straight forward though the street Rua Professor Luis de Azevedo. In the end of the street, turn right and then turn on the first left, the street Rua Lançarote de Freitas. Continue until you get to the first point of interest – the square Praça Infante Dom Henrique.
At this square you can start by admiring the building Mercado dos Escravos (one of the first slave markets in Europe). This building was built in the mid-15th century and its objective was the trade of slaves coming from Africa.
On the other side of the square you’ll find the beautiful Parish Church of Santa Maria de Lagos. Having been built in the end of the 15th century, this church underwent expansion works in the 16th century and renovation in the following century.
Despite having suffered some damages with the earthquake of 1755, this church didn’t suffer as much as the Church of Santa Maria da Graça which was completely destroyed. Don’t miss the opportunity to admire the simple but beautiful interior.
Before leaving this place, take the opportunity to admire the statue of Henry the Navigator. Born in the end of the 14th century, Henry the Navigator was an important figure during the first phase of the Portuguese discoveries throughout the Atlantic and the world.
Next, go to the avenue Avenida dos Descobrimentos and turn right; walk a few metres along the riverfront until you get to the Fort of Ponta da Bandeira.
This square-shaped fort was built after the restoration of the Portuguese independence in the 17th century and is one of the most beautiful buildings of its kind in the Algarve. Due to its strategic position, its main objective was to protect the city from pirates and privateers.
After admiring the Fort of Ponta da Bandeira, turn back and admire, on the other side of the avenue, São Gonçalo Gate, part of the walls protecting the historic centre of Lagos. This is one of the things to do in Lagos and so don’t miss the opportunity to take some photos.
This gate and remaining walls were built and enlarged in several periods by different peoples: in a first phase, they were built by the Carthaginian or Romans, then they were enlarged by the Arabs; later, in the 14th and 16th centuries, they were enlarged again by the Portuguese because of the city’s growth.
After taking some photos in this place, you can choose to explore the streets inside the city walls or proceed through the Avenida dos Descobrimentos until your next destination – the museum Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos.
Located in an old 18th century manor, the Centro Ciência Viva is an amazing place that offers several reasons to be visited.
Apart from being a viewpoint where you can admire the views over the riverfront, this museum is perfect for families since it holds several exhibitions and activities for children of all ages. Here, science plays an important role, whether inside or outside, on the beautiful terraces and garden.
Take the pedestrian access located in the museum to go to the Municipal Market (as an alternative, you can get there through Avenida dos Descobrimentos).
One of the things to do in Lagos that most people don’t want to miss is a visit to this market. This place is composed of three floors where you can enjoy Lagos authenticity and simplicity: explore and don’t miss the opportunity to buy fresh products like fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood.
Before returning to your car, we suggest you continue your walk through Avenida dos Descobrimentos. Cross the pedestrian bridge that gives access to Lagos marina and then make your way to the Discoveries Wax Museum.
This museum was inaugurated in October 2014 and a visit to this place should be on your list of things to do in Lagos.
With 22 highly realistic wax statues, this museum is perfect for visitors of all ages to learn more about the Portuguese history, especially the one related to the Age of Discovery.
Admire scenes from Aljubarrota Battle, the conquest of Ceuta, the “discovery” of Brazil, the arrival of Vasco da Gama to India and many other events that remain as a legacy from other times and that changed the world forever.
After having visited the museum, return to your car and drive for 2.5 km until you get to the beautiful Ponta da Piedade.
A visit to Ponta da Piedade should definitely be on your list of things to do in Lagos because this is one of the most beautiful places in the Algarve and a perfect location to take some wonderful photos.
At this natural monument, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the beaches of Lagos, the amazing cliffs and other rock formations (some of which measuring up to 20 metres high), the lighthouse and, of course, the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Aside from these reasons, you can explore the beautiful caves located at this place. You can access the caves by climbing down the steps carved in the slopes or, if you prefer to, you can go on a boat tour leaving from Lagos marina.
Beaches of Lagos
To visit the Algarve is a synonym of enjoying its wonderful beaches and the beaches of Lagos are no exception. Discover below some of the most beautiful beaches, true paradises surrounded by colourful cliffs and amazing caves.
Dona Ana beach
Perhaps the most famous beach of Lagos, Dona Ana beach is perfect for those looking for calm and crystal clear waters. Apart from the wonderful ocean-blue waters, here you’ll be sheltered from the sun and wind because of the beautiful cliffs surrounding the beach.
Its location, close to the historic centre, makes this beach one of the busiest during the summer, becoming crowded on weekends. The parking lot present there is not enough for all the cars so you can choose to take a taxi, a bus or walk to the beach instead.
In recognition of the quality and beauty of this beach, in 2013 the Spanish magazine Condé Nast Traveller considered it as the best beach in the world and the most beautiful beach in Portugal; in 2015, TripAdvisor considered it as the best Portuguese beach – definitely a place you should put on your list of things to do in Lagos.
Much smaller than Dona Ana beach, Camilo beach is another of the beaches of Lagos you should consider when visiting the Algarve.
Like other beaches in this region, Camilo beach is surrounded by cliffs and rock formations making its access difficult, through a long stairway.
You can drive to this location since there is an available parking lot there. Before climbing down, take the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful views over the bluffs and over the Atlantic Ocean crystal clear waters.
Porto de Mós beach
On the other side of Ponta da Piedade and just 3 km away from the historic centre of Lagos you’ll find Porto de Mós charming beach, the second biggest of the beaches of Lagos.
Since it is further away from the centre of Lagos, less people choose this beach in comparison to the others mentioned above. Here, the stretch of sand is bigger than the ones in Dona Ana and Camilo beaches but its beauty is undeniable.
Because this beach isn’t sheltered by the bluffs of Ponta da Piedade, it is possible that it’s a little windy, however it is perfect for those who want to go surfing or bodyboarding.
Apart from these beaches, there are other beaches in Lagos that are as beautiful, such as Estudantes beach, Pinhão beach, Pinheiros beach and Balança beach.
As an alternative to sunbathing, you can take the opportunity to go on a kayak tour to Ponta da Piedade or you can also go for a stroll through the walking routes located on the cliffs (the most famous one is the one that goes alongside the coastline until Ponta da Piedade lighthouse).
Where to eat
One of the things to do in Lagos is getting to know the local gastronomy and the amazing dishes that delight visitors. Surely you’ll want to get away from shopping centres when you visit the city and, as such, you’ll want to discover some of the best restaurants in the area.
We’ve chosen restaurants in Lagos based on their location, reviews and rating.
Next, discover some of our suggestions and learn more about the restaurants by clicking the links to TripAdvisor. These restaurants serve delicious local dishes, but not only, at affordable prices – try the best fish, meat and seafood.
Where to sleep
Surely, when you visit Portimão, you’ll want to stay at a hotel with the best amenities, location, price, hospitality, among others. Next, discover some of our suggestions.
Hotel Marina Rio**** 9,1/10 (affiliate link)
With a view to Lagos marina and a few metres away from the municipal market and Centro Ciência Viva, this hotel has a heated swimming pool on the last floor and rooms with air-conditioning and a furnished balcony; guests can relax and sunbathe on the terrace.
If you want to discover the beaches of Lagos, know that the hotel has a free transport service for guests to Dona Ana and Meia-Praia beaches.
Carvi Beach Hotel*** 8,3/10 (affiliate link)
Located 2 km away from the historic centre, this is one of the hotels to consider when you visit Lagos. In addition to its location, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this hotel is just a few metres away from the beautiful Dona Ana beach.
Among other amenities, Carvi Beach Hotel offers its guests a swimming pool on the terrace of the last floor; the rooms have a contemporary design and some even offer amazing views over the Atlantic Occean.
Are you going to visit the Algarve? Then I suggest you read this detailed itinerary (click here) so that you can better prepare your trip and discover this wonderful region in 6 days.
As you can see, there are many things to do in Lagos, beaches to enjoy and wonderful places to discover like Ponta da Piedade.
Being a perfect destination for people wanting to spend their holidays in the Algarve, in Lagos you can learn a little more about the Age of Discovery, enjoy the wonderful regional gastronomy and admire the nature in all its beauty, like the caves and cliffs and the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Are you going to visit Lagos? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room and your car by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!