In this article, I’ll show you some of the things to do in Lagos, a city in Algarve with a great historic richness that was able to maintain its authenticity and where you’ll find natural wonders, some of which present among the most beautiful in the world.
Like 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 in the 13th century.
Since then, and due to its economical importance and privileged location, Lagos grew a lot and was considered the “capital of the Algarve” for two centuries.
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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 the Algarve, the main source of wealth was the fishing and cannery industries but this also slowly came to an end from the mid-20th century onwards.
Since then, the city has turned itself to tourism thanks to its natural wonders and the authenticity it preserved in the historic centre.
What to do in Lagos
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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 there are few cars in the area makes it more special.
My suggestion is for you to start your visit to Lagos in the square Praça Infante Dom Henrique. At this square, you can admire the building Mercado dos Escravos, one of the first slave markets in Europe. This market was built in the mid-15th century for the commerce 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. Make sure to include in your list of things to do in Lagos a visit to the interior of this church to admire its simplicity and beauty.
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, visit the Fort of Ponta da Bandeira, located at the avenue Avenida dos Descobrimentos.
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 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 explore the streets inside the city walls until you get to your next destination – the museum Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos. A stop at this museum should also be on your list of things to do in Lagos.
Located at an old 18th century manor, the Centro Ciência Viva is a museum dedicated to the Portuguese Discoveries. This museum displays the different sciences and arts related to sea navigation in the 15th and 16th centuries like cartography, shipbuilding and astronomy.
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.
Information: to learn more about this place, visit Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos website.
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 and discover the natural wonders in Lagos, I invite you to go 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.
Information: to learn more about this museum, visit Discoveries Wax Museum website.
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.
Alternatively, discover Ponta da Piedade in kayak . During this 2h30 activity in which you will have the company of an experienced guide, take the opportunity to explore the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic along the beautiful rock formations found at this point of interest. With a unique perspective on Ponta da Piedade, this will undoubtedly be an activity you will not want to miss!
Beaches of Lagos
Aside from seeing these wonders from the cliffs, you can also admire them from the sea by going on a tour in a fishing or sailing boat leaving from the marina of Lagos or Alvor.
On my last day visiting Algarve, I went on a boat tour leaving from Alvor. To discover what I saw and what is my opinion about these tours, I invite you to read my article about Portimão (consider adding this to your list of things to do in Lagos).
Dona Ana beach
Perhaps the most famous beach in Lagos, Dona Ana beach is perfect for those looking for calm and crystal clear waters.
The beauty (this photo doesn’t depict the true beauty you’ll find there) and the proximity to the historic centre make this beach one of the most famous and crowded in Lagos. Parking is limited (especially in July and August) so I suggest you go to this beach on foot or take a taxi or bus.
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.
Since the photo isn’t enough to admire the beauty of this beach, I recommend you watch this short video:
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.
Before climbing down, take some time to enjoy the amazing views over the beach and surrounding bluffs.
Small advice: if you want to stay at this location for some hours, I suggest you go early in the morning because this beach tends to get crowded.
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.
Here, you’ll have enough space to relax on the fine sand thanks to the extension of this beach and the distance to the historic centre of Lagos.
When you visit Lagos, take the opportunity to visit Dona Ana and Camilo beaches to take some wonderful photos and climb down to rest for a while, if you still have space left. If you want a more peaceful environment and rest for some hours at the beach, then you should choose Porto de Mós beach.
Apart from these beaches, there are other beaches in Lagos that are as beautiful, such as Meia Praia beach (the biggest beach in Lagos), 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).
Small advice: if you go to Ponta da Piedade lighthouse, walk along the bluffs on the right side to admire the two deserted beaches and the wonderful seascape – it is definitely one of the things to do in Lagos! It was there where I took the photo present in the beginning of this article.
Where to eat in Lagos
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.
I’ve chosen restaurants in Lagos based on their location, reviews and rating.
Next, discover my restaurant suggestions that will surely please you (some of which I had the opportunity to try during my last visit to Lagos). These restaurants serve delicious local dishes at affordable prices.
If you try just one restaurant in Lagos, then my suggestion is the restaurant A Forja, located in the street Rua dos Ferreiros 17. Here you can try typical Portuguese dishes at affordable prices.
This restaurant reminds me of the restaurants of my region (Northern Portugal): the decoration is simple but the plates are full and the food is great.
Where to sleep in Lagos
Here are my suggestions of hotels for you to spend the night when you visit Lagos:
Hotel Marina Rio**** 9,1/10
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.
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, located close to the historic centre.
Carvi Beach Hotel*** 8,3/10
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.
Information: the links of the hotels are affiliate links to Booking.com, which means that, if you make a reservation in one of these hotels, I’ll earn a small commission from Booking.com. You won’t pay more by making a hotel reservation through these links.
As you can see, there are many things to do in Lagos and when you visit it surely you won’t regret it.
In Lagos you can learn a little more about the Portuguese discoveries, enjoy the wonderful regional gastronomy and admire nature in all its beauty, with the amazing caves, cliffs and beaches and the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Are you going to visit Lagos? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities 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!
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