Lagos, Portugal: 11 BEST Things to Do & Places to See (+Map & Tips)

Lagos, nestled in the heart of the Algarve, Portugal, exudes warmth and charm, making it a top recommendation from locals for sightseeing. Having called this town home for five years, I’m excited to share the best experiences and tips for first-time visitors to Lagos.

Curious about what awaits you in Lagos?

This guide unveils the ultimate experiences in Lagos, focusing on the town and its immediate surroundings. While there’s much more to explore in the wider Algarve region, let’s dive into the highlights, reserving additional articles for that broader exploration. Towards the end, I’ll offer a brief glimpse and recommendations for nearby gems.

Lagos Marina
Lagos Marina

Insider tip: Lagos may be small, but it offers a day’s worth of exploration. Whether you want to stroll through town, visit iconic spots, laze on the beach, embark on a boat tour, or try kayaking, plan accordingly for a fulfilling day. For a visual guide and accommodation information, check out our Lagos map at the end of this post.

Now, let’s uncover the top sights and activities in Lagos!

Top Experiences in Lagos: Must-Try Experiences in Lagos:

  • Explore Ponta da Piedade with boat tours.
  • Embark on boat tours to Benagil Cave.
  • Savor a delightful food tour.

Embark on these unforgettable Lagos adventures:Here are the best things to do in Lagos:

1. Lagos Beaches

Lagos boasts a plethora of beaches, inviting you to unwind and soak up the sun. Whether you’re a beach enthusiast or keen on sightseeing, Lagos has you covered with some of the Algarve’s most breathtaking coastal gems.

Most scenic beaches

Don’t miss the pristine beauty of Praia Dona Ana and Praia do Camilo. A short journey from the town center, these beaches offer stunning Algarve vistas, complete with awe-inspiring sea cliffs. Be prepared for a few stairs, particularly at Camilo Beach.

Insider tip: Summer can get busy, and parking is limited. A 15-20 minute walk from the old town is an alternative, easily combined with a visit to Ponta de Piedade.

Best beaches close to the town center: Urban Retreats

For a convenient beach day, head to Praia do Cais da Solária and nearby Praia da Batata, located next to the city walls. These beaches, with a seasonal cafe, offer easy access and even sailing or kayak options to Ponta da Piedade. Further south, near Mar restaurant, discover the Insta-famous Praia dos Estudantes with its Roman bridge.

Lagos Marina
Lagos Marina

Explore a bit further to find Praia do Pinhão, ideal for low tide cave exploration. On the opposite end, close to Lagos Marina, lies the expansive Praia de São Roque, perfect for long walks and a quieter sunbathing experience.

While lacking sea cliffs, Praia de São Roque boasts a vast sandy stretch, making it the ideal spot for a peaceful day of beachcombing, jogging, or unwinding. The presence of restaurants and the option for water sports adds to its allure, with the esteemed Villa Gale resort standing proudly along its shores.

2. Historic Marvel: Lagos Fortress

Explore one of Algarve’s best-preserved fortresses, the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, in Lagos. Erected in the 17th century to thwart pirate invasions, this fortress now doubles as a museum, showcasing traditional Portuguese tiles within its chapel.

Typically, visitors can tour the fort and enjoy panoramic views from its roof. However, during our visit, staff shortages led to the museum’s closure, allowing only an exterior view.

Insider tip: Confirm the fort’s status on the official website before your visit. Regardless, witnessing the fortress exterior is a worthy experience in itself.

3. Explore the Charming Old Town

Immerse yourself in the heart of Lagos by exploring its captivating old town. With its charming squares and a maze of narrow streets, Lagos offers a delightful blend of tourist hotspots and more local, authentic areas.

Lagos Charming Old Town
Lagos Charming Old Town

Similar to Portugal’s other gems, Lagos’ old town boasts distinctive Portuguese pavements adorned with various patterns. Traditional buildings, predominantly white or featuring colorful windows and doors, grace the streets, with a few showcasing traditional azulejo-tile facades.

Wander through streets adorned with shops, cafes, and restaurants, discovering residential pockets where laundry hangs from windows and locals engage in animated conversations.

Notable town squares worth exploring include Plaza Infante Dom Henrique featuring the Church of Santa Maria de Lagos, the vibrant Praça Gil Eanes and adjacent Rua da Porta de Portugal with its colorful houses, and the cozy Praça Luís de Camões. These are easily navigated in Lagos’ compact old town.

Insider tip: While the primary tourist area is flat, venturing just a block or two deeper reveals more hilly terrain. Comfortable footwear is advisable for an enjoyable Lagos exploration!

4. Lagos Museums: Unveiling History and Culture

Discover the cultural richness of Lagos through its array of small museums. Tailor your museum visits based on your interests and the time at your disposal. Here’s a brief overview:

Slave Market – Slavery Route Museum

Adjacent to Lagos Museum, on Infante Dom Henrique square, stands the Slavery Route Museum – Slave Market (Mercado de Escravos).

Located in one of Lagos’ oldest buildings, this museum offers insight into the 15th-century practice of bringing African slaves to Europe for sale. While relatively small, it provides a glimpse into this somber chapter of Portuguese history. Consider a visit if you wish to explore all facets of Lagos.

Insider tip: The museum opens daily, except on Mondays. Refer to the official website for the latest information on opening hours, or drop by and check during your explorations.

Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos – Science Center: Fun for All Ages

If you’re traveling with children, the Science Center is a must-visit. This colorful, interactive museum promises a delightful experience for the entire family.

While relatively compact, the Lagos Science Center features both indoor and outdoor sections, offering hands-on exhibits designed for kids. Explore basic physics principles, learn various sailing knots, and encounter old navigational instruments and maps in a kid-friendly setting.

Insider tip: The Lagos Science Center typically opens daily, except on Mondays and select public holidays. Refer to their website for detailed information.

Museu de Lagos: Town Museum Treasures

For a captivating journey through history, visit the town museum, Museu de Lagos (or Museu de Lagos Dr. José Formosinho), located adjacent to the Church of Santo Antonio.

The awe-inspiring chapel of Igreja de Santo António takes center stage, showcasing intricate decorations. The museum presents a blend of Lagos’ history, regional artifacts, and religious art.

Insider tip: A visit of 15-20 minutes suffices, and with a modest entrance fee, it’s a worthwhile experience. The museum welcomes visitors daily, except on Mondays. For practical details, consult the museum’s official website.

5. Waterfront Bliss and Lagos Marina

Indulge in the scenic beauty of the waterfront and Lagos Marina, adding to your list of top things to do in Lagos.

Lagos Waterfront Bliss
Lagos Waterfront Bliss

The expansive waterfront promenade, adorned with palm trees, provides a serene escape from the old town’s vibrancy. In peak season, you’ll find stalls offering ice cream and drinks, with additional shopping options closer to the market area.

A pedestrian bridge connects Lagos town center to Lagos Marina, the departure point for numerous boat tours. Here, you’ll discover a selection of restaurants, cafes, and pubs, creating an ideal setting for a leisurely drink and some people-watching.

6. City Walls and Lagos Castle

Uncover the historical allure of Lagos Castle, often referred to on maps, though it primarily consists of city walls visible from the exterior.

The most well-preserved section of the city walls, found along the waterside at Porta de São Gonçalo, offers a picturesque view opposite the Fortress. When exploring the fortress, make a quick stop for a photo opportunity.

City walls remnants encircle other parts of the old town, adding a historical touch to your wanderings. While not a must-see, stumbling upon them enhances your Lagos experience.

7. Discover the Vibrant Lagos Market

Explore the lively atmosphere of Mercado Municipal de Lagos, a bustling food market in the heart of Lagos town center. Wander through vibrant stalls adorned with colorful fruits, fresh vegetables, and an abundance of seafood straight from the sea.

The ground floor is a seafood haven, while the first floor showcases a variety of local produce, including vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the charming rooftop restaurant serving traditional dishes, even if you’re just there for the atmosphere. For those seeking edible souvenirs, the market offers a plethora of local delicacies.

Insider tip: The market operates in the mornings from 8 am to 2 pm, daily except Sundays. Conveniently, public bathrooms are available for visitors.

8. Shop and Dine in Lagos

No trip to Lagos is complete without indulging in some retail therapy, exploring souvenir stores, and enjoying delicious meals at local restaurants.

The old town is a prime location for shopping and dining, but the waterfront area and beaches also offer enticing options, especially during the high season.

TIP: For a more authentic experience, consider joining a food tour. It not only introduces you to traditional cuisine and local restaurants away from tourist hubs but also provides insights into the area’s history and anecdotes. One of the top-rated food tours in Lagos is highly recommended.

9. Marvel at Ponta da Piedade

Immerse yourself in the stunning coastal beauty just beyond Lagos’ city center by visiting Ponta da Piedade, a must-see coastal area featuring caves and grottos.

While the historic lighthouse isn’t accessible, the picturesque cliffs surrounding it are a breathtaking sight. Exercise caution while exploring, as the unfenced area has steep drops. Descend a steep staircase to witness the sea grottos, or opt for the best views from the cliff tops or a boat tour – a true Lagos essential. The entire area boasts walking paths and boardwalks, allowing for extended exploration and beach discovery.

Practical information: The lighthouse at Ponta da Piedade has ample parking, though it may get busy during summer. Alternatively, take a scenic 30-45 minute walk from Lagos town center, or catch the Lagos tourist train, which makes a stop here.

10. Explore Beyond Lagos: Excursions and Day Trips from Lagos

While Lagos offers a wealth of attractions, the Algarve region holds even more treasures waiting to be explored. With a car, you can embark on weeks of discovery, encountering scenic spots like Sagres and Cabo de São Vicente, the southwestern tip of Portugal.

Delight in the beauty of the Atlantic coast’s wild beaches, including Praia da Bordeira. For a change of scenery, venture into the mountains around Monchique or discover the breathtaking coast around Carvoeiro with the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail.

Family-friendly options include the Slide & Splash water park and Lagos Zoo, ideal for those traveling with children. Zoomarine amusement park, a 40-minute drive from Lagos, is another family-friendly attraction, particularly convenient for those staying in Albufeira.

Even without a car, Lagos provides excellent options for sightseeing. The railway station connects to various intriguing destinations in the Algarve, including Faro, Olhão, and Tavira – all among the region’s most captivating places.

For those seeking organized tours, Lagos offers a variety of popular (half) day tours and excursions:

  • Embark on a Scenic Quad Tour (1.5 hrs)
  • Explore Sagres & Cape St. Vincent (3 hrs)
  • Visit Vineyards & Enjoy Wine Tasting (4 hrs)
  • Discover Silves, Caldas, and Monchique with Wine Tasting (7 hrs)
  • Explore Eastern Algarve: Faro, Olhão, Tavira (7 hrs)
  • Embark on a Jeep Safari to Algarve inland + Monchique (7.5 hrs)
  • Experience Sagres, Cape St. Vincent & West Coast (8 hrs)

Looking for more information? Explore the Best Places to See & Things to Do in Algarve.

11. Coastal Adventures: Kayak Tours & Boat Trips

During the summer season, enhance your Lagos experience with a boat or kayak tour along the mesmerizing Ponta da Piedade coastline, renowned as one of the finest kayaking spots in Algarve.

Kayaking provides an up-close encounter with extraordinary rock formations, natural arches, and captivating sea caves. Having personally enjoyed a kayak tour, I highly recommend it, especially in the warm season.

Opt for fantastic small-boat tours offering a relaxed exploration of Ponta da Piedade’s grottos and sea caves. These hour-long tours provide the same stunning scenery as kayaking but in a more leisurely manner, requiring no special clothing or gear. Recently, I experienced a grottos tour, and it was a delightful experience.

Exploring Ponta da Piedade from the water stands out as one of the most rewarding activities in Lagos, making it a worthwhile trip on its own!

Additionally, discover boat tours extending along the scenic Algarve coast toward the renowned Benagil Cave. While it’s convenient to visit Benagil Cave from Portimao or Albufeira, Lagos also offers numerous boat cruises for this captivating experience.

For a curated selection of the best boat tours from Lagos, check out the following:

  • Opt for the best-value boat cruise to Ponta Piedade – an early morning recommendation!
  • Experience the most popular kayaking tour to Ponta Piedade – best enjoyed in the calm morning sea.
  • Select the best-rated speedboat trip to Benagil Cave.
  • Embark on the highest-rated dolphin-watching tour.
  • Indulge in a relaxing catamaran excursion featuring sightseeing, swimming, snorkeling, and more.

Map: Unveiling the Best Places in Lagos

For a clearer understanding of locations and efficient itinerary planning, utilize this map highlighting Lagos’s main sights, landmarks, and attractions.

While Lagos is compact and walkable, note that some areas feature inclines, making seemingly short walks more demanding, especially during the warm summer. Maximize your exploration with the convenience of a tourist train, available during the high season.

How to navigate the map: Zoom in or out using your mouse or fingers. Click on icons for detailed information about each location. Access the index with the arrow in the top left corner. Save the map to your Google Maps account by clicking the star near the title. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. For a larger view or to print the map, click ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.

Insider tip: In the high season, take advantage of the tourist train for a broader exploration of the area without extensive walking.

Where to Stay in Lagos: Choosing Accommodations in Lagos

With its breathtaking coastal views, abundant activities, and central Algarve location, Lagos serves as an ideal base for exploring the region.

Accommodation options in Lagos are diverse, catering to various preferences. Choose from beach resorts, city hotels with or without pools, cozy guesthouses, or privately-rented apartments and villas.

When selecting accommodation, ensure easy parking if you have a car. For those relying on public transport or seeking proximity to shops and restaurants, staying in the town center near the Marina (also home to the train station) is advisable.

Explore top-rated hotels in Lagos for different budgets:

  • €+ Carvi Beach Hotel (a popular choice next to Praia Dona Ana).
  • €€ Tivoli Lagos (an excellent value 4* hotel centrally located in the town).
  • €€€ Lagos Avenida Hotel or Hotel Marina Rio (highly-rated centrally located 4* hotels).
  • €€€ € Cascade Wellness Resort (slightly outside the center but close to a beautiful coast).

These examples consider standard room prices during the shoulder season. Keep in mind that prices vary based on travel season, room types, and individual hotel policies, including minimum nights’ requirements, which can also differ seasonally.

For more details, explore: Where to Stay in Lagos: Best Areas & Hotels

Pro tip: Utilize the map below to find the best accommodation deals in and around Lagos. Simply input your travel dates and group size to see available options.

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