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Things to do in Lagos Portugal
A quick overview
What to see? One of the most famous towns in the Algarve.
Costs? From free upwards.
Where? Southern Portugal (90 km from Faro, 300 km from Lisbon).
Worth it? YES! It can be a little busy in summer, and the area has plenty of things to do. Including quiet spots!
A short history of Lagos
Lagos is a historic town in southern Portugal, and it was founded by the Cónios (the Cynetes). Back then, Lagos was known as Lacóbriga. And before the Romans, even the Phoenicians already had a trading settlement nearby! That means that the history of the maritime town is over 2000 years old! Lagos was occupied by the Visigoths, the Byzantines, and later by the Moors. During Moorish times, Lagos was known as Zawaya, meaning lake.
Sadly, Lagos was also once an important centre for the European slave trade (more about this later), and its location close to Sagres, was very strategic. Many ships sailed from the Lagos shores during the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, when Portuguese explorers set sail from its harbour to explore the world. Henry the Navigator lived in Lagos at the time and was the governor of the Algarve.
Between 1576 to 1755, Lagos was the capital town in the Algarve. But the 1755 earthquake (and the tsunami that followed) destroyed most of Lagos. The Governor’s Castle and some 16th-century walls are the only reminders of the old days. After the earthquake, the capital of the Algarve changed from Lagos to Faro. Nowadays, Lagos is a bustling town, a favourite of many tourists.
Things to do in Lagos Portugal
There are plenty of things to do in Lagos, Portugal, and it’s also a fantastic base to explore the rest of the Algarve region. Let’s first look at some sights you can discover in the town and then at some tours and activities in the area. One or two days might be sufficient to discover all sights in Lagos. But a one- or two-week holiday is recommended to explore the rest of the Algarve.
The historic center in Lagos
The city centre in Lagos is a maze of narrow streets, traditional whitewashed houses, and charming squares. It’s a beautiful place to walk around, and you’ll discover some of the most important sights in town. Examples are the Church of Santo António and the Fortress of Ponta da Bandeira. Enjoy walking around the cobbled streets and exploring all its beauty.
Fortress of Ponta da Bandeira
The Fortress of Ponta da Bandeira was built in the 17th century to protect Lagos from pirate attacks. It’s hidden just behind the city’s walls and close to the beach Praia do Cais da Solária. The fort has a drawbridge, and you’ll discover a chapel dedicated to Santa Barbara within the complex. In the barracks, you can visit art exhibitions plus the Museum of Discoveries, and from the fort, you have some of the best panoramic views over the area.
Entrance fee: € 3,00 for adults, € 1.50 for children between 12 to 18 years old and 65+. Admission is free on the 18th of April, 18th of May, 23rd of August, 27th of September and 27th of October, and during the European Heritage Days. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 12:30 PM and 2 PM to 5:30 PM.
Ponta da Piedade
The world-famous Ponta da Piedade is a must-see during your stay in Lagos! It’s one of the most popular sights in the whole region! The unique limestone formation is believed to be formed around 16 million years ago, and the colourful rocks have a bright contrast with the azure blue sea. There are several ways to explore the caves, cliffs and beaches. You can take a lovely boat trip along the coast for the best views over the rocks. But you can also walk to the lighthouse, which dates back to 1913, and walk along the cliffs. It’s a unique spot to watch a magical sunset! Don’t forget to take the steps down at Ponta da Piedade. This staircase will bring you all the way to sea level, and you’ll see some of the rocks and caves up close. You can park your car near the lighthouse, and a small restaurant with bathrooms is next to the car park.
Are you a morning person? Then a paddle board or kayak tour for sunrise is fantastic! You’ll still have the place to yourself, and the landscape is just stunning! You’ll discover the 2-kilometre-long coastline full of hidden bays, sea arches, caves and rocks. Tours usually last about 2 to 2,5 hours. Most trips leave from the marina in Lagos. From the sea, Ponte da Piedade looks even more impressive! Ponte da Piedade translates to Piety Point, and you’ll discover some beaches between the rock formations. The cliffs are roughly 20 meters high, so do be careful, and don’t go near the edge! Some rocks also got names over the years. Can you locate the elephant, the kissing couple, and the camel head?
Church of Santo António
If you’re up for a sparkling sight, visiting Igreja de Santo António is a must. The baroque-style church is known as one of the most beautiful ones in Portugal. The church is decorated with a lot of gold, and the paintings on the roof are mesmerising! The church was built in 1707 and rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake in 1769. The church is closed on Mondays and holidays. Opening times on all other days are between 10 AM and 12:30 PM and 2 PM and 5:30 PM.
Igreja Paroquial de Santa Maria
Igreja Paroquial de Santa Maria is a 15th-century church, and the interior differs significantly from Igreja de Santo António. The roof has spectacular patterns, and the altar contains beautiful statues. This church was rebuilt in the 19th century, as it was also destroyed during the earthquake. The church is open daily from 9 AM until 7 or 8 PM. On Sundays, opening times may differ.
Best beaches in Lagos Portugal
Lagos is also home to some of the best beaches in the Algarve! From the town centre, you can easily walk over to Praia do Cais da Solária, Praia da Batata, and Praia dos Estudantes. You reach Praia dos Estudantes through a tunnel from Praia da Batata, known for its Roman-style bridge. The bridge is located on the southern part of the beach and was once part of the fortress of Pinhão. During low tide, you can walk from here all the way to Praia do Pinhão. It’s a pretty small beach, so Praia dos Estudantes and Praia da Batata can be jam-packed during the high season.
Another famous beach is Praia de Dona Ana. This beach is located around 1.8 kilometres from Lagos´town centre. There are plenty of facilities, and it’s an excellent spot for a day at the beach. Praia do Camilo lies between Praia de Dona Ana and Ponte da Piedade. You can reach the beach by a long wooden stair which is THE spot to take a picture! It’s a small beach, and you can expect it to be packed in summer. You can visit two small beaches that are connected by a tunnel.
Meia Praia is the place to be for a long beach walk and some more space. It’s not overcrowded and easy to reach from Lagos. The beach is around 4,5 kilometres long and stretches all the way to Ria de Alvor. It’s a clean spot and perfect for a dip in the refreshing sea! On the other side of Ponta de Piedade, you’ll find Praia do Canavial and Praia de Porto de Mós. These beaches are also more extensive and have more space. Praia do Canavial is a little hard to get to, but therefore nice and quiet all year round. It’s also an unofficial nude beach so that you know 😉 Praia de Porto de Mós is larger and easier to get to. It’s a popular spot with locals and surfers. The waves are more prominent as this beach is more to the west.
Castelo de Lagos
Castelo de Lagos, also known as the Castle of the Governors, was built in the 17th century. The medieval castle is nowadays a national monument, and the structure once contained seven gates. Enjoy the stone architecture, the arched access tunnel and the beautiful towers on either side.
Jardim da Constituição
You’ll find Jardim da Constituição next to the castle and Igreja Paroquial de Santa Maria. The park is small, but it is a lovely place to take a break. You can spot Lagos’s city walls from the garden and enjoy a nice view over the river.
Lagos has a gorgeous harbour known as Lagos Marina. There are several restaurants along the waterfront, and it’s a nice place to go for a walk. Take a look at the stalls to find some nice souvenirs for the home front, or enjoy some ice cream in the sun. Not sure which gifts to bring from Portugal? Check out this comprehensive list about the best Portuguese souvenirs.
Mercado Municipal de Lagos
Mercado Municipal de Lagos is worth your time if you like visiting markets. It’s where you can buy local produce such as fish, fruits and vegetables. Or you can see Mercado Municipal to soak up the atmosphere! The market is open from Monday until Saturday from 8 AM until 2 PM.
The Lagos tourist train
For those who can’t walk far distances or can use a break from all that walking, the Lagos tourist train is a welcoming relief. You can travel through the city centre to beaches like Camilo Beach or Dona Ana Beach, Ponta da Piedade and visit Lagos Marina. The train only runs in the summer, and a ticket costs € 4,00 per person for one ride or € 5,00 per person for the whole day. Children up to 4 years old can travel for free. You can check the route and schedule here. The tour takes about 55 minutes.
The Slave Market Museum
Mercado de Escravos is a historic building, and noways you can visit a museum about the slave trade that occurred here for hundreds of years. The structure was used for military administration and later as a customs house. Lagos was a major maritime town trading with Africa. Expeditions brought back enslaved Africans, which were sent throughout Europe, bringing considerable income to the Portuguese monarchy and merchants. The profit of selling enslaved people back then could be as high as 700%! Ships full of slaves were sent to the former colonies, and boats returned full of sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice, cotton, and other precious cargo.
The museum opened in 2016, and during your visit, you’ll learn a lot about the slave trade in Lagos and Portugal. You can visit between Tuesday and Sunday, from 10 AM until 12:30 PM, and 2 PM and 5:30 PM. A ticket costs € 4,00.
Museu Municipal Dr José Formosinho
Another interesting museum is Museu Municipal Dr José Formosinho, located in a Baroque church. It’s a great place to learn more about the history and culture of the municipality of Lagos. The collection covers archaeology, sacred art, Lagos’s history, Algarve ethnography, painting, numismatics, mineralogy and overseas ethnography. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 1 PM and 2 PM to 6 PM—last entry: half an hour before the museum closes. The entrance is € 3,00, but ticket combinations are available. For example, you can also visit Forte Ponta da Bandeira or Rota da Escravatura. Combi tickets cost between € 4,00 and € 6,00.
Nightlife in Lagos Portugal
The town is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with many bars, restaurants, and clubs that cater to all tastes and budgets. Especially during the summer, you can enjoy some nights of partying. You can start the night with a lovely meal at the Marina of Lagos or a sunset boat trip. Some also offer drinks and dinner on the ship! Downtown Lagos has many more restaurants; this is also where you’ll find some clubs.
Where to eat in Lagos Portugal?
If you like a good meal, Lagos has plenty of options to choose from! For a nice lunch, Pom Pom Bagels is a fantastic spot! And also, Empanadas & Co. serves amazing empanadas (what’s in the name)! For dinner, you can book a table at The Garden. The outdoor seating area is charming! Seafood lovers will enjoy dinner at Restaurante Pescador, but Pizzaria Luzzo is a lovely place to visit if you’re kids prefer a pizza.
Some restaurants require a reservation, so book in time! Enjoy a € 20,00 discount on your next meal! Reserve your table with the code 8362E39E on TheFork.
When is the best time to visit Lagos?
The average temperature in Lagos is 21,5 °C, and even in winter, it’s rarely under 10 °C. July and August are the warmest and perfect for a beach holiday! But it’s also the busiest time of year. Therefore, many travellers prefer to visit Lagos between April and June and September and October.
Things to do in Lagos Portugal in winter
Lagos is a very different town during the colder months. It’s less busy and perfect for those who prefer to travel off-season. Many of the above sights are still open, but fewer tours on the water might be available. It can rain a bit more in winter, but the Algarve is still a great place to be. The temperature is excellent for long cliff walks or a stroll on an empty beach.
Fun tours from Lagos, Portugal
Lagos has plenty of sights, and the Algarve boasts some of the most famous activities in Portugal! Lagos is the perfect spot to venture out and book some tours! Let’s have a look at some of the highlights!
The number one place to visit in the Algarve is the Benagil Caves. The Benagil Caves are a set of stunning sea caves close to Algar de Benagil. The biggest one, Benagil Cave, is often called the Benagil Cathedral and has a circular hole at its top. But there are many more caves and stunning rock formations along the coast!
You can reach the famous sea cave by kayak, canoe or boat (Don’t swim to the caves! The current can be strong, and it’s unsafe to do so). The boat tours leave Lagos regularly; just be sure to book your excursion in time! If you decide on a boat tour, you´ll visit the main cave for a brief moment to take some images. If you venture out by canoe or kayak, you can also enter the shore. It gets bustling here during the high season, so come early or expect some big crowds.
Dolphin watching in Lagos
The Algarve is also known for its underwater animals. Step on board a catamaran or boat and discover the many dolphins that live in these waters. Of course, there is no 100% guarantee you’ll see them, but changes are significant. There is even a chance to see whales! Different tour operators offer various tours and boats. Some work with marine biologists and others stop for a break and allow you to swim or go snorkelling.
Jeep tour from Lagos
If you prefer to stay on land, a Jeep tour is a terrific way to explore the surroundings of Lagos. You’ll stop at some small villages, and some guides will even bring you to a local Medronho (a traditional fruit brandy made from arbutus berries) distillery! These tours are great for discovering more places in the Algarve, and the Jeep will take many windy and off-the-beaten-path roads.
Lagos with kids
The Algarve is a beautiful place to visit for families, and there is a lot to do for children! There are plenty of activities to keep both parents and kids entertained! Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Lagos has something for everyone, making it an ideal destination for families with kids of all ages.
Zoo de Lagos
Visit Zoo de Lagos, for example, located just north of the town. You will see birds, reptiles and mammals up close! There are over 150 different animal species in the park, and there are regular animal feedings to witness. Visit the chimpanzees, the donkeys, or even a real boa constrictor! The Zoo is open all year round from 10 AM until 7 PM (5 PM in winter). The tickets cost € 16,00 for adults, and children between 4 and 11 pay € 14,00 per child.
Parque Aventura Lagos
Parque Aventura Lagos is perfect for this who are not afraid of heights! There are several high ropes courses between the trees, and you’ll encounter several challenges. There are bridges, rope nets, and giant zip lines to be conquered! There are three different levels so that everyone can participate. Depending on your height and adventure level, tickets cost between € 13,00 and € 19,00 per person. The minimum height to climb is 1.00 meters. After a climbing session, you can play an unforgettable Paintball match. The paintball site is 2500m2 inside a forest, with plenty of obstacles and challenges! The price is between € 18,00 and € 26,00 per person.
Slide & Splash - Waterpark
For a splashing day at a water park, Slide & Splash is perfect! The waterpark contains multiple slides, such as the Big Slides Tower, the Boomerang, and the Kamikaze. There are unique slides for the youngest children, and if you like to take things easy, you can take a plunge in the pool. Tip: chill in the jacuzzi while your kids are on their adventure! Each adventure slide has its restrictions and minimum height regulations. Visitors between 11 to 64 years old pay € 27,00 for a full day, and children over 1 metre in height and up to 10 years pay € 19,80. Children under 1 meter in size can visit the waterpark for free. Slide & Splash is located about 30 minutes by car from Lagos. You can take a taxi, drive, or organise transport to the park.
If you prefer to stay in Lagos town, you can visit the ProPuttingGarden. The miniature golf course is fun for all ages and is easy to reach from the town centre. The mini golf experience is fun for kids, and a 9-hole junior course and an 18-hole full course are available. Prices range between € 3,00 and € 9,00.
Lagos for active travellers
Lagos is also a paradise for active travellers! Besides kayaking and canoeing along the coast, there are other great things to do in Lagos, Portugal, for the sportive traveller. Let’s have a look at some fantastic outdoor activities around Lagos!
Golf courses in Lagos
The Algarve has many golf courses, some very close to Lagos. Check out Palmares Golf, for example, where you can also stay! There are three 9-hole linked golf courses next to the ocean, and you can stay at the Beach House Hotel or the Palmares Signature Apartments. Villa Penina is closer to Alvor and Portimão but equally stunning. Fairviews Village – Boavista Resort is located in Lagos, and a Green 9 is less than a kilometre away from your apartment.
Hiking trails around Lagos
One of the best ways to enjoy the rugged coast is to follow the boardwalk in Lagos. The trail is located between the lighthouse of Ponta da Piedade and Praia de Porto Mós. The route is also accessible by people in a wheelchair. Especially during sunset, this is a gorgeous spot for a walk! A little further away is the Cavoeiro Boardwalk. Here you’ll also find a wooden boardwalk, which is located on top of the Algar Seco cliff. It’s a short walk that takes around 10 minutes. But you can extend this gorgeous walk into a proper hike!
The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is a 6-kilometre long (3.73 miles) coastal route which some of the best views of the Algarve! A one-way route usually takes two to three hours, depending on how often to stop to enjoy the view! The return journey is 12 kilometres (7.45 miles), and you should plan a whole day for this hike. You’ll walk from Marinha Beach to Vale Centeanes Beach, one of Europe’s most beautiful trails! Along the way, you´ll pass the Cavoeiro Boardwalk. This hike is perfect during the colder months, as you’ll walk up and down a bit. If it’s sunny, take care of the sun, bring enough water, and protect your skin. It’s a moderate to medium challenging trail and should be avoided on stormy and windy days.
Another stunning place to hike is Serra de Monchique. This mountain range is inland, and you can climb the 902-meter-tall Fóia Mountain. Caldas de Monchique is one of the most popular trails, but there are a total of 43 scenic routes in the mountains!
Watersport activities in and around Lagos
With its location next to the ocean, you can expect a lot of activities on the water! You can enjoy paddle boarding, canoeing, sailing, surfing, diving and much more! Watersport activities are available for all ages and are great for families.
Retreats an relaxing in Lagos
After all these activities, you might take things easier and spoil yourself! Thankfully there are man retreats in and around Lagos. Don´t forget to check out the best yoga retreats in Portugal! Enjoy a 4-Day Solo Destress and Recharge Retreat in an Ecodesign & Spa Hotel! Or join an 8-Day Juice Detox Retreat with Yoga for Body, Mind Spirit in Lagos. If you can’t sit still all the time, maybe you’ll prefer the 5-Day Yoga, Boot Camp, HIIT, Strength and Conditioning, and Water-sports Camp in Lagos! After your holiday in Lagos, you´ll feel super refreshed!
Towns to visit from Lagos
Lagos is a stunning town to visit, but the Algarve has many more beautiful places to see. Visit the nearby village Luz for example. Or make a trip to Sagres Fortress and visit some beautiful beaches around here. Alvor is a stone’s throw away from Lagos, and this picturesque village is a must-see. Praia de Alvor is perfect for a long beach walk, with some stunning hiking trails along the Odiáxere River. A visit to the Algarve isn’t complete without a visit to the capital Faro. The town has many sights, and the nearby Ria Formosa is perfect for nature lovers. Tavira is another favourite town with a castle, a Roman bridge, many churches, and a lovely town centre.
Where is Lagos located and how to get there?
Lagos is located in southern Portugal on the Bensafrim River (Ribeira de Bensafrim) and the Atlantic Coast. Lagos is one of the most visited towns in the Algarve region.
How to get to Lagos from Lisbon?
If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to Lagos from Lisbon is by bus. Flixbus offer cheap seats (book in advance), and the journey takes less than 4 hours. If you did rent a car, the drive from Lisbon to Lagos takes nearly 3 hours. Please be aware there are toll roads to the Algarve. Check this post, including tips for renting a car in Portugal. The two cities have no direct train connection, but you can travel to Lagos from Lisbon by train. You can find the best deals and connections on the Omio website.
How to get to Lagos from Faro?
The easiest way to get to Lagos from Faro is by train or bus. The journey by train takes around 2 hours and is often direct or with a transfer in Tunes. Flixbus doesn’t operate this route, but you can take a local bus. Line 57 Transrápido runs between Lagos and Faro. Many travellers organise a transfer or taxi between the two cities. Especially with luggage, this might be easiest, and it’s definitely the quickest. If you’ve rented a car or organised a transfer, the trip to Lagos takes around an hour. Tip: download Uber or Bolt (cheaper) and book a transfer with them on the spot, or book a transfer with Kiwi Taxi in advance.
Getting around in Lagos
If you stay in Lagos and don´t plan to venture out much, a car is unnecessary. You can book tours online and discover the coast by local busses or train. Bus and train connections can be less often, so planning and scheduling times might be handy. If you like to travel off the beaten path and have the freedom to explore the Algarve on your own terms, hiring a car in Lagos is super easy! This way, you can travel to the mountain range Serra de Monchique, stunning beaches like Praia da Bordeira, and towns like Cabanas. Discover Cars offer excellent deals, and you can hire your car with some of the best rentals in Portugal. Click below to book a cheap rental car in Lagos!
Accommodation in Lagos Portugal
Lagos has the perfect accommodation for every budget. There are great hostels like Suntrap Hostel or affordable family accommodations like Lagos Downtown Guesthouse. For a luxury stay, you might like Tivoli Lagos, Lagos Avenida Hotel or Lagos Atlantic Hotel. Check the below map for all accommodations in Lagos.
With so many activities, it’s easy to see why many people travel to Lagos yearly! Whether you travel alone, with your partner, kids or friends, you’ll have a fantastic time in town! Venture out to surrounding villages and discover the many tours in the Algarve. After all, Ponta da Piedade and the Benagil are definitely must-sees! Have a great stay!