Lagos is one of the most beautiful cities in the Portuguese Algarve. What are the best things to do in Lagos and what are the most beautiful sights? You can read it in this article.
Lagos: an introduction
Lagos is a beautiful historic town in the western part of the Portuguese Algarve. The city is nearly 2,000 years old and was for a long time the connection between Europe and Africa. In the eighth century, the city belonged to the Moors (like the rest of the Iberian Peninsula) and their rule lasted some 500 years before it was recaptured by the Christian kingdom of Portugal.
Unfortunately, Lagos was also hit hard by the famous Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, with many buildings damaged or destroyed by the quake and tsunami that followed.
Today, Lagos is one of the most popular destinations in the Algarve. Lagos has many to offer: a good combination between history, culture, beautiful beaches, impressive rock formations, many restaurants where you can eat, and a vibrant nightlife.
Is Lagos a nice city to visit? Absolutely! Although it is a medium-sized city (Lagos has about 20,000 inhabitants), it always feels small and cozy because of the many narrow streets, cafes, and restaurants.
From Lagos, you can get into nature in no time, since there are many hiking trails along the coast. Lagos is therefore the ultimate holiday destination for people who love city life as well as nature. If you’re looking for where to stay in the Algarve and if you’re visiting the region for the first time, Lagos should be on top of your list.
I myself spend at least two months a year in Lagos. I love it so much, that it’s actually my second home! By now, I know every street corner and have tried almost every restaurant and coffee shop. So if you want to know what to do in Lagos, you are in the right place here!
The best things to do in Lagos
Would you like to stay in Lagos for a while during your vacation in the Algarve? There are many great sights and things to do in the city itself.
Explore the historic city center
Lagos has a beautiful old center that is partly car-free. Lagos center is full of narrow streets with colorful Portuguese houses where you can get lost endlessly. You regularly come across houses covered with azulejos, or Portuguese tiles. In addition, there are several beautiful squares and churches to see and you will frequently spot street art.
Plaza Infante Dom Henrique
Plaza Infante Dom Henrique is one of the most beautiful squares in the city. The square is named after Prince Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique), an important figure in Portuguese maritime history. The square plays an important role as a meeting place for both locals and tourists.
The square has several trees (which bloom beautifully in the spring) and benches where you can take a break. A statue of Prince Henry the Navigator is often found in the center of the square.
The square often has something going on, there are regular events and it is transformed into a winter wonderland in December, with an ice rink, Santa’s house, and many stalls where you can buy local products.
Igreja de Santa Maria de Lagos
The most notable structure in Plaza Infante Dom Henrique is the Igreja de Santa Maria de Lagos, one of the most important churches in Lagos. The church from the fifteenth century is very big, but it is certainly interesting to check out. It is all white inside, with a very special ceiling. You walk out with a sense of serenity and simplicity.
Praça de Gil Eanes
Praça de Gil Eanes is an important square in the center of the center and many of the shopping streets open onto it. You’ll find City Hall and the police station here. There are also fountains and a large art work in the middle.
It’s always busy here. Not only because of the many terraces but also because street musicians often play here. Sometimes, people are even dancing here in the evening!
Praça Luís de Camões
Less than 100 meters away you will find another beautiful square: Praça Luís de Camões. This is perhaps the most beautiful square in Lagos. It is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings, mostly decorated with Portuguese tiles. The green house on the corner is the most striking and photogenic building in town. By the way, it houses a very nice toy store, where they sell mostly wooden toys.
This square is also always a great place to visit. There are a few interesting stores (including a store where you can buy Christmas items, even in summer!) and restaurants with terraces. Also, street musicians are often found playing here.
Spot the most beautiful street art
Lagos is bursting with impressive large murals and beautiful new ones seem to be added every year! The street art is an initiative of LAC (Laboratório de Actividades Criativas), here you can also get a map with the most beautiful artworks.
My favorites (so far) are the snails at the restaurant The Garden (especially when the flowers are in bloom), the girl with the feathers (across from Beats & Burritos), and the old man with the cigarette (I don’t remember exactly where he sits, I think in Beco do Paiol).
Visit Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade is a rock formation and one of the best sights in the Algarve. Here you have golden cliffs up to 20 meters high, a photogenic lighthouse, and beautiful views of the coast. On clear days you can even see Alvor and Portimão on one side and Luz and Sagres on the other.
Ponta da Piedade is located about 3 kilometers south of Lagos and is a 30-minute walk from the city center. For a few years now, there is a beautiful wooden boardwalk over the jagged rocks, which gives you a beautiful route from Praia Dona Ana along the sea.
Don’t feel like walking or want to see Ponta da Piedade from a different angle? You can also visit Ponta da Piedade on a boat tour. In that case, you can also see the caves below.
Discover the new wooden boardwalks
When I first arrived in Lagos in 2020, there was a maze of small paths to explore along the rocks and beaches. Nice for an adventurous hike, but not very good for nature (people didn’t stick to one trail, there were sometimes five next to each other). But over the last few years, they’ve built wooden boardwalks along the entire coastline of Lagos, which are great for a long walk.
Around Ponta da Piedade there are many beautiful trails (including viewpoints for the best views of the rock formations and the ocean), and there is also a very long one along Meia Praia. Ideal for a hike or a run.
Visit the Marina
The Marina de Lagos is quite new (opened in 1994) and it is a marina full of colored boats and impressive sailing boats. A great place to walk between the palm trees, check out the boats and relax with a drink at one of the many terraces.
This is also the place where most boat tours leave, like dolphin-watching tours, and speed boat tours to the famous Caves of Benagil.
Stroll along the boulevard
Between Avenida dos Descobrimentos and the river, there is a lovely boulevard full of palm trees and benches to relax. It’s a great place to go for a stroll. If you do this when the tide is low, there is a chance that you will see the bright red starfish in the water.
Forte da Ponta da Bandeira
At the beginning, (or end) of the promenade stands one of Lagos’ most notable landmarks. It is an extraordinary structure: Forte da Ponta da Bandeira. This is a well-preserved fortress from the eighteenth century.
Inside the fortress, there is a beautiful chapel with typical Portuguese tiles. Also, from the walls you have a beautiful view of Lagos and the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, it has been closed for some time now and it is not clear when it will reopen (last time I checked was in March 2023).
Stroll along the city walls (+ insider tip!)
Lagos is largely surrounded by medieval city walls. These defensive structures consist of massive stone walls, towers, and bastions strategically placed around the city. At the time, the city walls were vital to the security of Lagos because of all its maritime activities.
It is now partly a ruin that you will regularly walk past. The best place to see the walls is on the east side, from the park next to the Pro Putting Garden to the large unpaved parking lot further north.
Insider Tip: At this parking lot, you can walk back into town through a small gate, right next to the beautiful hotel Casa Mãe. On the left, you will see an alley with a gate. If it’s not locked, this is (as far as I know) the only place you can climb up the wall. From here you have a beautiful view. Don’t tell anyone!
Porta de São Gonçalo
The Porta de São Gonçalo is a historic gateway to the old city center of Lagos. It is really recommended to walk out of Rua Miguel Bombarda to the gate, you can see the blue sea glistening through the opening. The medieval gate is quite wide and it contains a small altar. You emerge into a park on Avenida dos Descobrimentos.
Mercado Municipal de Lagos
The Mercado Municipal de Lagos is a covered market where you can buy fresh produce and local delicacies. It serves as a central meeting place for both locals and tourists seeking authentic and fresh produce. The market has a lively atmosphere and provides insight into local Portuguese culture and culinary traditions.
It is a great place to buy local ingredients for a picnic on the beach, prepare a tasty meal or just wander around and enjoy the colorful and fragrant surroundings.
Discover the beautiful beaches
In this list full of Lagos tips, the beaches cannot be missing. Did you know that some of the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches can be found in Lagos?
My personal favorite is Praia do Camilo, a beach that is somewhat hidden between the golden yellow rocks. It is accessible via a long wooden staircase. Other beautiful beaches in Lagos include Praia de Porto de Mós (with huge cliffs and the perfect place for sunsets) and Meia Praia (the longest beach and here you have more of a dune-like area).
I myself usually go to Praia Dona Ana, this is not far from the apartment I always rent and this too is picturesquely beautiful with gigantic golden rock formations.
Read more: 13 Best Beaches in Lagos Portugal
Hike a section of the Fishermen’s Trail
If you visit this website regularly, you will know that I love to hike, especially long-distance hikes. Did you know that one of the most beautiful long-distance hikes in Europe ends in Lagos? This is the Fishermen’s Trail and it follows the Portuguese coast from São Torpes (near Sines in the Alentejo region) via Cape Saint Vincent to Lagos.
The stage from Luz to Lagos is incredibly fun to hike in the morning or the afternoon; as it is only 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) long. You will walk along the cliffs and pass by some of the most beautiful Lagos sights, including Ponta da Piedade and Forte da Ponta da Bandeira.
Hike through the backcountry on the Via Algarviana
A second fun hiking trail that passes Lagos is the Via Algarviana. This traverses the interior of the Algarve, from east to west. Although it doesn’t run through Lagos, there is a separate stage (they call this a connecting trail) that you can walk from Bensafrim to Lagos. This is a walk of about 10 kilometers and you pass through pretty little villages and green hills.
It is also recommended to start your hike in Barão de São João, which is about 5 kilometers longer. You then walk first on the Via Algarviana to Bensafrim and turn off there to the connecting path (this is clearly marked). The beauty of this stretch is that you walk right through a forest of cork trees. Very interesting!
Both Barão de São João and Bensafrim are easily accessible by bus from Lagos.
Did you know you can spot dolphins near Lagos? Several groups swim around along the southern coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, they swim too far away to see them from shore, but you can take a boat tour and spot dolphins that way. A great experience!
Go kayaking along the coast
One of the most fun tours I’ve ever done in Lagos is a guide kayaking trip along the coast. Although I know most of the rock formations and beaches around Lagos by now, it is incredibly fun to see them from the water. It looks so different!
A local guide will also tell you how to get to the hidden beaches and what the special rock formations are called according to the locals. You will also pass through several caves. Very fun to do!
Zoo de Lagos
Did you know that Lagos also has a zoo? It is not officially located in Lagos, but about 12 kilometers outside the city, between Barão de São João and Bensafrim (about 20 minutes by car or 35 minutes by bus).
You can see many colorful bird species here (including parrots and flamingos), but there are also larger animals such as several species of monkeys, lynxes, and kangaroos.
It’s not very, but you can certainly have a good time for a few hours. In summer there is also and beach, so bring your swimwear!
The Lagos Zoo is especially fun to visit if you are traveling with children. Buy your tickets here.
Fun day trips from Lagos
Lagos is a great base for a beautiful vacation in the Algarve. What to do from Lagos? These are some great ideas for a day trip from Lagos.
Day trip to Sagres & Cape St. Vincent
Lagos is located about 40 kilometers from the southwesternmost point of mainland Europe: Cape St. Vincent. Here you have the feeling that you are at the very end of the world. The wind is always blowing (hard), the cliffs are very high and you can see the waves crashing against the rocks. The lighthouse on the tip of the rocks is an amazing sight.
Not far from Cape St. Vincent is the town of Sagres and it is also worth a visit. Fortaleza de Sagres (a gigantic fort) is worth a visit and you can see a lot of people surfing on the beaches. There are also a lot of great cafes and restaurants in Sagres. A great place to enjoy yourself for a day.
Sagres is easily accessible from Lagos by bus or car. In addition, you can also book an organized tour to Sagres and Cape Saint Vincent from Lagos.
Portimão is one of the largest cities in the Algarve and there are a lot of fun things to do. There are several museums, beautiful squares and the beaches (with high cliffs) are spectacular to see. There are also various hiking trails along the coast to discover even more beautiful places.
Portimão is easily accessible from Lagos by train, bus, and car.
Hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail
Do you like to hike? Then you should definitely do the most beautiful hike in the Algarve: the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. This is a walkway between the Praia da Carvoeiro and Praia da Marinha (the latter is considered the most beautiful beach in the Algarve). Along the way, you have beautiful views of the Algarve coast and you come across various hidden beaches. The walk is 6 kilometers long (12 if you walk back and forth).
Praia da Carvoeira and Praia da Marinha are best reached by car.
Road trip in Aljezur
Aljezur is a municipality north of Lagos and here it is a lot less touristy. Still, this is a great place to visit because of its beautiful coastline (especially at Carrapateira) and lovely towns (including Aljezur and Odeceixe). Aljezur is really recommended if you want to go road tripping for a day.
Silves is the oldest city in the Algarve and is a wonderful place to explore. When you arrive, you immediately see why, as the cathedral and a castle ruin tower over the city on a hill. Both are nice places to visit. Around it is a maze of narrow streets full of typical Portuguese houses. A wonderful place to spend a day exploring.
Best restaurants in Lagos
Lagos is filled with amazing restaurants, bars, and coffee places. Over the past few years, I have tested most of them and these are my recommendations:
- Jukebox tapas and meals: delicious tapas and wine for a small price. This is where I kept coming back.
- Maria Petisca: just outside the city center, but a great place for tapas and Portuguese food.
- The Coffee Studio: delicious coffee, breakfast, and lunch. Also a good place for digital nomads, workspaces with power outlets and good wifi.
- Goji Lounge Café: tiny with a cool terrace and a great place for breakfast and lunch. Lots of vegetarian options.
- The Green Room- Burritos & Cocktails: Delicious Mexican food and a nice place for drinks.
- BARBOSA Bar & Kitchen: lots of different dishes with a Portuguese twist and tasty sangria.
Where to stay in Lagos
As you can see, you can have a great time for a few days (or weeks) in Lagos. What are the nicest places to stay in Lagos? A few recommendations:
- € Topcity Hostel & Suites – nicely decorated hostel in the center of Lagos. Perfect for the budget traveler. I took a yoga class here once and found it a really cozy place. And the rooftop pool is a nice surprise!
- €€ The Salty Lodge: cozy studios and apartments with terrace and sea views in a fantastic location in the center of town.
- €€€ Carvi Beach Hotel: hotel on one of the most beautiful beaches in Lagos with a rooftop pool.
Check out Booking.com for more options, availability, and prices.
Check out 20 beautiful B&Bs and hotels in Lagos Portugal for more tips.
Weather in Lagos Portugal
Lagos has a Mediterranean climate, giving you generally mild and pleasant temperatures. Summers are usually hot and dry with average daily temperatures between 25°C and 30°C.
Autumn and spring are very pleasant with temperatures between 15°C and 25°C. In spring, you can also enjoy the many colorful flowers blooming everywhere.
The city is also pleasant to visit in the winter months. Although you need a cardigan or jacket at night, you can often still walk in a t-shirt during the day. The temperature does not often fall below 10°C, my experience is that it is usually around 15°C. I’ve even been on the beach multiple times in December and January!
The high season in Lagos is approximately between May and October. This is when it is busiest and prices for accommodations (especially in July and August) are highest. The rest of the year is lovely and quiet and you have some beaches all to yourself. The disadvantage of traveling in winter is that some of the restaurants are closed (but plenty are still open).
How do you get to Lagos?
Lagos is a coastal town, located in the southwest of Portugal. How to get to Lagos?
Fly to the Algarve
The nearest major airport for a vacation in Lagos is Faro. You can fly from several countries in Europe to Faro directly, for example from the United Kingdom, France, or The Netherlands. These are mainly budget airlines, so a plane ticket to Faro is usually not that expensive. Check WayAway to find the best deals for plane tickets.
In addition, you can also choose to fly to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. From there you can travel to Lagos by train or bus. Traveling by bus is your fastest option. The bus ride takes about 3.5 hours. Check Busbud for tickets and prices.
Rental car in the Algarve
From Faro Airport it is easiest to pick up a rental car and drive to Lagos. The journey takes about an hour (via a toll road). A rental car in the Algarve is usually not that expensive and you can rent a car for as low as €10 per day. Check Discover Cars and Rental Cars to find the best deal on rental cars in the Algarve.
Public transport in the Algarve
Lagos has a train station and a bus station and is easily accessible by public transport from all over the Algarve. It’s not expensive at all, for example, a train ticket from Faro to Lagos costs € 7.45).
Check the website of Comboios de Portugal for train times and prices and check the Algarve bus website for bus times. Please note that the latter is an unofficial website, but I’ve found it to be very accurate and complete.
Don’t forget your travel insurance!
Personally, I think that travel insurance is a necessary component of any trip if you want to be calm in every unexpected event during your trip. Before you book, check Insubuy. This is currently the largest provider of visitor insurance. You will definitely find the most appropriate insurance plan that suits your trip!
Want to read more about Portugal and the Algarve?
These were all my tips for visiting Lagos Portugal. Would you like to explore Lagos and the Algarve? Order one of these great travel guides to make your trip even more fun.
As I mentioned before, I travel to Lagos every year for a few months and, as a result, visit many other places in the Algarve and the rest of Portugal. Therefore, on this website, you can find a lot of information about a vacation in Portugal. You might like to read these articles as well:
- What to do in the Algarve? 26 tips!
- Fun things to do in Albufeira, Portugal
- 18 Best Algarve Hiking Trails
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This article first appeared in February 2021. Last update with even more tips: August 2023.