15 Best things to do in Lagos (Portugal)

Lagos is a busy coastal town in the Algarve with everything people love about the area. There are various beaches, from long sandy coves to small coves surrounded by ochre cliffs. These rocks create a breathtaking sight at Ponta da Piedade, with cliffs and obelisks dotted with caves and arches, and the sea a clear emerald green.

Back in the heart of Lagos, the old town is a haven for exploration, with lovely patterns of Portuguese sidewalks on the streets, transporting you into the age of great voyages as explorers set sail from the port.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Lagos:

1. Ponta da Piedade

Ponta da Piedade

A Portuguese natural wonder awaits on a headland a few minutes south of the old center of Lagos.

Ponta da Piedade has cliffs, outcrops and piles of red and yellow limestone, reaching 20 meters high, with uneven walls and sparkling clear water below.

If you take a boat or kayak tour from the marina in Lagos, you will pass the natural arch and enter the cave.

But the walk is almost as memorable as you’re walking down the stairs from a cliff, and at the top, views of this headland stretch all the way to Cape St. Vincent in the west.

2. Camilo Beach

playa do camillo

Not your typical beach day, Praia do Camilo next to Ponta da Piedade is a wonderful cove at the foot of ochre cliffs.

Getting there is an adventure, as you have to descend some 200 steps on safe wooden stairs etched into the rock.

Before going down, be sure to stop and admire the azure ocean, golden sands and stunning red and yellow rocks.

The water is calm and you can swim or walk through natural tunnels to the adjacent bay.

When the tide goes out, you can walk to the cave in the bay.

3. Meia Praia

meia playa

Starting on the left bank of Bensafrim is a beach hardly dissimilar to the rocky cove on the other side of Lagos.

Meia Praia is huge, gently curving six kilometers around the bay to the Alvor Lagoon.

There is a wide curved luxurious sandy beach that never feels overcrowded due to its sheer size.

This is made of dunes and shelves gently close to the water.

The current is a bit strong and the water is a bit cooler than in the bay, but still ok for kids.

4. Old Lagos

Mercado De Escravos

The historic core of Largos has whitewashed houses on a patterned street, some still surrounded by its 16th-century walls.

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These are most evident on the waterside Jardim da Constituição, which protects the seat of the governor of the Algarve province when Lagos became the capital between 1576 and 1756. Nearby is a monument to a grim period in the city’s history. Beginning in 1444, the Mercado de Escravos was a slave market in Lagos for some 250 years, a reminder that the age of great voyages had a human cost.

A hero of that period was the navigator Henry, whose expedition set out from the harbour in Lagos in the 15th century.

His statue at Praça Infante D. Henrique is commemorated.

5. Playa de Dona Ana

Playa de Dona Ana

One of the closest beaches to the old center of Lagos is also the best in the area.

Just above Praia do Camilo, Praia de Dona Ana is surrounded by stunning cliffs dotted with yellow and red.

There are also outcrops at the water’s edge and bay, adding some extra drama to the scenery.

Praia de Dona Ana is a spacious beach with a slightly rough mix of golden sand and shells.

The waters are almost always calm due to the rocks and protection to the east.

6. Lagos Zoo

Lagos Zoo

Children will get up close and personal with animals from five continents at this zoo a few kilometers from the city.

Birds make up more than half of the 350 inhabitants and are kept in clean, beautifully furnished and relatively large aviaries.

The parrot family is well represented here, with African greys, military macaws, parakeets and cockatiels.

As for mammals, the park has a small farm where kids can meet and pet dwarf goats and sheep, and a pen where you can interact with playful lemurs for an extra fee.

There are also more than a dozen species of monkeys, several wild cats and various tortoises.

7. San Antonio Church

san antonio church

From the outside, you might wonder how this church could be classified as a Portuguese National Monument.

There is a modest whitewashed façade topped by two bell towers, but this gives way to a resplendent nave.

Each surface is painted with detailed gilded wood carvings, enamels or paintings.

The frescoes on the ceiling vaults are striking, with paintings on the walls depicting the life of Saint Anthony in Lisbon.

The church was owned by the Portuguese army from the 18th century until 1929, when it was handed over to the government for emergency repair works.

Today there is only one service a year here, on June 13th the patron saint is celebrated.

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8. Museu Municipal Dr José Formosinho

Museu Municipal Dr José Formosinho

Despite Lagos’ massive tourism infrastructure, it’s still a city with a compelling story, so you might be keen to make the most of an attraction like this.

The museum is housed in a wing of the Igreja de Santo António, inaugurated in 1934. Every chapter of the region’s past is covered, from the Neolithic to the Lusso-Iberians, Romans and Moors, to the Age of Navigation.

There are scale models of the city, a large collection of coins, tools for traditional local trade such as cork production, and a large collection of religious art in the church sacristy.

9. Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos

Centro Ciência Viva De Lagos

If you’re on vacation with the family and want to escape the midday sun, there’s a neat science museum in the heart of Lagos.

Casa Fogaça, an 18th century manor house, depicts all the innovations that made the Portuguese Age of Discovery possible.

There are interactive displays explaining cartography, shipbuilding and astronomy.

These are combined with more general science and technology exhibits where curious kids can learn how 3D printers work, use Morse code, design their own radios and run wild on the educational playground in the yard.

10. Lagos Marina

Lagos Marina

Naturally, you’ll be drawn to Lagos’ ocean, water sports, trips to Ponta da Piedade and nature cruises.

The starting point for all this activity is the elegant marina in Lagos, not far from the mouth of the Bensafrim River.

If you walk, you have to cross the open bridge that crosses the entrance and you can overlook the forest of masts belonging to fashionable cruise ships and local fishing boats.

Besides being a place for water activities, it is also one of the city’s social hubs, with thriving bars and restaurants.

11. Dolphin Watching

dolphin watching

While you’re never guaranteed to see dolphins in the waters off Lagos, you’ll have a good chance of exploring.

Most cruise lines used in the port use RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) which are fast and environmentally friendly, usually lasting two hours.

You’ll don a windbreaker and head out to the open ocean with your captain, who will rely on the tips and expertise of other boats to track down the pods of porpoises, bottlenose, common and Risso’s dolphins that live here.

Most companies claim to have a 90% chance of seeing a dolphin, and you’ll know why you’re trying the moment you see a dolphin.

12. Forte da Ponta da Bandeira

Forte Ponta da Bandera

Located at the mouth of the Bensafrim River, this sea fort defends the port and former anchorage.

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Dating back to the end of the 17th century, it is one of a series of forts, forts and forts erected after the almost 30-year Portuguese Restoration War between Portugal and Spain.

The building is from the anti-aircraft artillery era, so it’s low-key and not too much frills.

But to get in you have to cross a drawbridge with a lovely chapel with period tiles.

There are bartizans on every corner of the roof, with views of the rocky coast to the south and Meia Praia across the river.

13. Water sports

water sports

Almost all beaches near Lagos face east and are therefore protected from the high seas.

But on the other side of Ponta da Piedade, the waves are rolling and novice surfers can learn the basics at Praia Porto de Mós.

On calmer days, you can rent a stand-up paddle board or a body board for a few hours of fun.

East of Lagos is Alfre Lagoon, a kitesurfing honeypot in the Algarve.

This is thanks to the calm, shallow waters of the lagoon, as well as steady coastal breezes.

14. Other cultural venues

cultural Center

Remember that Lagos is not just a tourist destination, but a healthy town with its own cultural scene.

The Cultural Center (CCL) is an arts venue featuring a 300-seat auditorium and a large temporary exhibition area with three galleries.

Check the list when you arrive to see if there is anything you like.

There is also a museum at the pier, with 16 scenes depicting key events or typical scenes of that period, recording the era of the Great Voyage.

One depicts the battle of Aljubarrota with Spain, the other depicts the battle of Caravel, you will meet figures like Luís de Camões whose influence on the Portuguese can be compared to that of Shakespeare on the English .

15. Food

kata plana

Restaurants in the Algarve serve fish and seafood caught hours ago.

Lagos has many of its own specialties such as poached mackerel, goose barnacles, fried calamari, pork with clams and, most popular, grilled sardines.

One seafood dish that always feels like a big deal is cataplana, which describes both the cookware and the meal itself.

This is a large copper pot with a lid used to prepare a type of clam paella.

Like the paella, this will be served in the cataplana itself and should be shared by two or more people.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Lagos, Portugal
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