15 Best Things to Do in Lagos

The thriving harbour town of Lagos in the western Algarve has been steadily growing in popularity in recent years with visitors drawn to the beautiful and varied beaches along with the largely unspoilt charm of the town itself. It would be fair to say that Lagos does have something for everyone, and more so than any other town in the Algarve.

Beyond the natural wonders that make up the Lagos coastline, the old town is particularly attractive. Most visitors can happily spend half a day or more exploring the narrow cobbled streets and squares replete with historic buildings before wondering down to the old harbour and marina. 

But Lagos' attractions go beyond its rich maritime history; this is a lively town with a buzzing nightlife, great restaurants and lots going on. It is also a great for families who will find plenty of things to do in Lagos for all ages.

Showing 1 - 15 of 15

  • Lagos Marina
    Lagos Marina

    Lagos's award-winning marina, built in 1994, lies in the Bay of Lagos close to the historic heart of the town. It makes a pleasant destination for a stroll along the palm-fringed waterfront which has a promenade with street vendors selling souvenirs on one side and a good choice of bars, eateries and shops on the other. 

    There's lots going on here, even outside the peak holiday season. As well as browsing for souvenirs, it can be fun watching the boats coming in and out through the opening bridge and there are tour boats here offering trips along the spectacular coastline.



    Public Places
  • Lagos Slave Market - Mercado de Escravos
    Lagos Slave Market
    Lacobrigo | BY-SA

    This unassuming building in Praca do Infante Dom Henrique has a tragic history.  This building, (Mercado de Escravos) is widely believed to have been the first slave market in Europe.

    In 1444 Prince Henry the Navigator set up a trading post in Arguin Bay, an island off the coast of Mauritania in West Africa.  From here, that same year, slaves were shipped over to be sold in Lagos.  The original building that stood here was built in that same year.  Contemporary accounts tell of the abject misery and...


  • Igreja de Santa Maria - Lagos
    Igreja de Santa Maria
    Kolforn (Wikimedia)

    The Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria (Saint Mary's Church) in Lagos has been a place of worship since 1498, and continues to be a vibrant local parish church. The original building is thought to have once had a hospital attached but almost all of what you see today was rebuilt in the 19th century. 

    The church was extended at various times over the centuries, and suffered significant damage in the Great Earthquake of 1755, after which it needed rebuilding. The whitewashed exterior has two bell towers, Doric columns and a sculptured,...


  • Centro Cultural Lagos
    Centro Cultural Lagos

    The Centro Cultural de Lagos (CCL) is a venue for a diverse range of cultural activities, particularly performing arts and visual arts. Events range from jazz and classical music through to stand up comedy and photography exhibitions.

    There are two distinct main spaces within the CCL, the largest of which is the auditorium with its Italian stage and seating for around 300 spectators. There is also a 500 m2 temporary exhibition area of spread over three rooms.

    Exhibitions feature a varied program covering topics including architecture, archeology and history. There are also...


  • Igreja de Santo António de Lagos - altar
    Altar - Igreja de Santo António
    Lacobrigo | BY-SA

    The church of Santo António in Lagos is one of the finest in the whole Algarve. Dating back to 1707, and then re-built after the Great Earthquake of 1755, it stands as a fine example of the Baroque style of architecture. However, what really sets the church apart is that it has one of the most breathtaking interiors of any of Portugal’s many beautiful churches. Such is the quality of this lavish interior that the church is classified as a National Monument.

    The church is dedicated to Saint Anthony, who was born in Lisbon...


  • Lagos Museum entrance
    Lagos Museum
    Notafly | BY-SA

    Founded in 1932 and named after its founder, the Museu Dr. Jose Formosinho, to give it its full name, is Lagos's main museum. This is without doubt the best museum in the Algarve and whatever it is you're interested in, you'll probably find it here.

    As you wander through the museum's many rooms you'll see displays connected to the local history, Portuguese coinage, military hardware from the Age of Discoveries, artworks and more. The archaeological finds here include a collection of Moorish pottery and an eclectic mix of findings going back to Neolithic times. A town...


  • Porta de Sao Goncalo Lagos Fort and City Walls
    Porta de São Gonçalo - Lagos city walls
    António Sacchetti

    Today most visitors to Lagos come for the stunning beaches and vibrant nightlife.  But this place has seen a small amount of bloodshed over the centuries.  The Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors all made their mark here.  In 1577 Lagos became the administrative capital of The Algarve.  It is not surprising that a city of such strategic importance would have been surrounded by some pretty heavy fortifications. 

    It was the Romans who built the first town walls around Lagos and these were reinforced during the Arab and later Christian occupations of...


  • Lagos Fortress - Forte da Ponta da Bandeira
    Lagos Fortress

    The small fort of Ponta da Bandeira, also known as the Fort of Our Lady of Penha de Franca (or just Lagos fortress) stands on Lagos's waterfront, where the Bensafrim River enters the sea and overlooking Praia da Batata beach.  Lagos had been the administrative capital of The Algarve from 1577 and this fortress, built around 1690, would have been part of the important defensive structures guarding the strategically important harbour from raids by Corsairs, pirates and the Spanish.

    The fort, used until the 20th...


  • Ponta da Piedade - Lagos
    Ponta da Piedade

    This rugged promontory in the western Algarve features majestic 20-metre-high ochre cliffs, calm green-blue waters and some of the most stunning rock formations, sea arches and caves that you will ever see.  It is a great spot to come to watch the sun rise or set and provides excellent photography, snorkeling and boating opportunities. Birdwatchers might also enjoy looking out for migratory birds including falcons, egrets and swifts as they stop-off on the rocks just off the coast here.

    The Ponta da Piedade headland lies around 3 km from Lagos...


  • Church of the Divino Salvador de Alvor
    Church of the Divino Salvador de Alvor

    Igreja do Divino Salvador, Matriz de Alvor (Church of the Divine Saviour) dates back to the 16th century, as does its best feature, the Manueline style doorway.

    This whitewashed Algarvian church was largely rebuilt in the 18th century in the Rococo style. The interior is fairly impressive consisting of three naves and fine vaulting, some of which dates back to the original church. A lavish high altar and holy water font also date back to the 16th century.


  • Lagos Zoo - Pygmy hippo
    Pygmy hippo
    William Warby | BY-SA

    Located a few kilometres outside of the popular resort town itself is Lagos Zoo. Whilst this is not quite on the scale of the big city zoos it manages to pack in plenty of animals among the beautiful landscaped subtropical gardens. 

    All in all there are around 120 species of animal at the zoo. These include a good variety of birds such as toucans, pelicans, flamingos and parrots. There are exotic species including dwarf crocodiles, which complement the pygmy hippos nicely. "Monkey Island" which, as the name suggests, is a small island on which a range of primates roam free. These...


  • Autódromo Internacional do Algarve
    Autódromo do Algarve
    Klugschnacker | BY-SA

    The last time Portugal hosted the Grand Prix was in 1996.  Since then $250 million has been spent putting the infrastructure in place to bring Formula 1 back to Portugal.  The Autodromo, just outside Portimão is a 2.9 mile (5km) circuit which has been compared to the old Nurburgring for its big downhill slopes and hair-raising sharp turns.

    It has been used since 2010 as a F1 testing site and hosts regular motoring events, including the World Superbike Championship and the F1A GT. A five star hotel and a number of apartment blocks can also be...


  • Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição - Portimao
    Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
    Olga Kositskaya

    The Roman Catholic church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception) is Portimão's main parish church and still plays an active role in the heart of the local community.

    The original building was completed in 1476 in Gothic style.  Not much remains of the original structure apart from the main portal and an accompanying gargoyle.  Most of the original building was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, and later rebuilding incorporated a number of Manueline influences.

    Inside the...


  • Museu de Portimao
    Museu de Portimao

    Portimao’s award-winning museum opened in 2008 and is a good place to come to learn more of what life would have been like for those who lived in the locality throughout the ages.  The site was once a fish canning factory, and the main focus is on the industrial processes once carried out here.  The 1000 square metre main exhibition is divided into three distinct areas:

    Origin and Destiny of a Community

    This section follows the lives of those living in the Portimao and Alvor regions from Neolithic times right up until the present day.  There are...


  • Forte de Santa Catarina
    Forte de Santa Catarina
    Francisco Santos | BY-SA

    The fort of Santa Catarina was built in 17th century on the site of a 15th century defensive structure and chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It was one of the various forts built around this time to protect the area from raids by pirates and privateers.

    Today it is possible to climb up a steep set of steps to walk around the battlements.  There is no museum here, but an old canon provides a quick photo opportunity and the views of the marina and the cliffs of Praia da Rocha make the hike worthwhile.



Lagos travel guide »

One of the most popular tourist destinations on the Algarve and certainly one of my favourites, Lagos is a bustling town full of activity, nightlife and modern attractions. However, it is also a town full of history and the monuments...