Lagos brings together the charm of a white-washed Portuguese seaside town, historic buildings, enchanting beaches, dramatic rock formations, some history & vibrant nightlife. If you’re wondering how to make the most of your time in this popular seaside town in Portugal, here’s the list of the top 10 things to do in Lagos:
1. Check-in at all the great beaches of the area
Spending time on the gorgeous beaches in and around Lagos has to be a big part of your vacation in the Algarve Region.
Praia do Camilo is one of the most-visited, most-reviewed & most-loved beaches here. It’s located a few miles south of Old Town Lagos and in a cove at the foot of the cliffs that play boundary to the area. You’re going to have to go down something like 200 steps of a wooden stairway to get to the beach. This beach, which is sheltered by tall cliffs and surrounded by many sea stacks, is known for its beauty and for its calm waters that make it a swimmable beach. When you’re down there, make sure to walk through the tunnel that connects the beach to another cove beside it.
A few miles north of Praia do Camilo is another popular beach, Praia de Dona Ana, which also shares the same rocky landscape, and is one you can swim in. It has showers, restrooms & other facilities, too.
If you’d like to visit a quieter beach in the area, visit Praia dos Estudantes. It’s further north and doesn’t have as many facilities but it does have a parking lot. From there, you’ll have to take some steps down the rocks to get to the beach. Praia dos Estudantes is also surrounded by natural rock walls & sea pillars. Here is another tunnel you can walk through to get to the neighboring beach. Yet another unmissable feature here is the Roman Bridge that connects the cliffs here, and is a stunning sight by itself.
Also scenic is the neighboring beach of Praia da Batata. And if you haven’t had your fill of beaches, there’s Praia do Pinhao & Meia Praia, further out. Meia Praia is on the left bank of the Bensafrim River and is the largest beach in the area.
2. Take in the unbeatable views of Ponta da Piedade
One of the most popular things to do in Lagos is visiting Ponta da Piedade on the headland south of the Old Town. It’s a must-visit attraction as it offers some of the best views of the region.
Located at the top of the promontory, it promises sweeping views of the surrounding areas, the Atlantic Ocean and most of all, the picturesque jagged coast with all of its cliffs, sea stacks, natural bridges, caves and all.
You can also walk down to the bottom of the headland and take in the views from down there.
3. Hike the cliffs
Given the uniqueness of the landscape, you’re going to want to hit the trails for some unforgettable hikes along the cliffs here. Whether you cover all of the trails you pick, or do parts of it, the walks are sure to be rewarding. For one of the best hikes here, you can set out from Praia da Luz and hike along the cliffs to get to Lagos, taking in the views of the ocean and the rocky coast. Make sure that you’re going through Ponta da Piedade so as to be able to catch the best vistas along the route.
Another hike you can do along the Algarve coast is the Seven Hanging Valleys hike, which begins at Praia Marinha and goes on till Praia de Vale Centeanes. This one also promises you views of the outcrops & caves that line the coast.
4. Take a boat to the sea caves
Seeing the caves from the cliffs is a great sight. However, seeing them from the water and being able to find your way into some of them is a whole other experience! This is a MUST on things to do in Lagos.
Take a boat out into the water for those views of the cliffs, natural pillars, bridges & caves. If you can rent a kayak, you’ll even be able to go through some of the arches and explore many of these sea caves, too.
5. Hang out in the Old Town
Just as special as the rugged scenery of the coast here, is the Old Town of Lagos. The town center has preserved the traditional look of this Portuguese town and is a pretty picture with mostly light-colored buildings, cobbled streets & churches.
You can stroll through the narrow streets and grab some lunch or drinks from the many restaurants in town. You can even dine alfresco and watch Old Town Lagos go by its day as you eat. The Old Town is also a great place to go souvenir shopping.
6. Don’t miss the sights inside Igreja De Santo António
Igreja De Santo António is an important site in town that definitely needed to make this list of top things to do in Lagos. This church dates back to 1707, however, it had to be rebuilt in 1755 because of the damage that resulted from an earthquake. In this building that’s been listed as a Portuguese National monument, you can see Baroque architectural features, gold-plated wood carvings, azulejos, frescoes on the ceilings & murals on its walls.
Every year, on June 13th this catholic church holds an annual service in honor of the patron saint, St. Anthony of Lisbon.
7. Visit Museu Municipal Dr José Formosinho
Walk into Museu Municipal Dr José Formosinho — housed in an annexe of Igreja de Santo Antonio — to learn more about the area where Lagos is located.
The history recorded here takes you back to the Neolithic period, and through all the different periods of local history. The land has had to be under the Iberians, the Romans & the Moors, over the centuries and you’ll get to know about it all, here. You can see several archaeological finds & gain insight into the Age of Discovery, too.
Also on display here are coins, paintings, religious art, tools that were used in local trades & several other curios. There’s even a model of the city!
8. Learn about Portugal’s Slave Trade at Mercado de Escravos
Also a big part of the history of this part of Portugal was the slave trade that once existed here. In fact, Lagos is home to what is said to have been the first of Europe’s Slave Markets.
Mercado de Escravos was established in 1444 and was in operation for around 250 years. This market dealt with slaves brought in from the west coast of the African continent. Now there’s a museum here that retells the dark history & showcases some of the things from those times. There are several information panels & books that will tell you more about Portugal’s slave trade.
9. Pay a visit to Forte Da Ponta Da Bandeira
Another historic site that still exists is the Forte Da Ponta Da Bandeira and it is a popular thing to do in Lagos. Built on the mouth of the Bensafrim River, this maritime fort goes back to the 17th century. It was built to protect the harbor during the Portuguese Restoration War, in which Portugal battled against Spain.
At the fort, you get to see a drawbridge, a chapel & a museum. You can even catch views of Praia da Batata & the Atlantic Ocean beyond it.
10. Check out the Nightlife
Along with its beaches & its rock formations, Lagos is known for its nightlife. Venture out late at night and you can check out the restaurants, bars & clubs that line Rui 25 de Abril in the Old Town.
You’ll find all kinds of parties, some of them going on till the wee hours of the morning. If you’d like to experience the nightlife of Lagos in its full glory, you might want to visit in the summer.