Lagos – the complete guide (2020)
Lagos is a favourite holiday destination for many tourists. The unique combination of a perfect location, picturesque beaches, history and a relaxed vibe make it stand out from other destinations in the Algarve. Lagos also serves as the ideal base for exploring the iconic cliffs of Ponta da Piedade. These cliffs are a symbol of the Algarve, and are in reality even more breathtaking than on pictures. After reading this article, you will be the tour guide when visiting Lagos.
Watch the highlights of Lagos in HD
The city of Lagos has a lot to offer you. Watch the short video below to see Lagos and its surroundings.
Lagos is surrounded by several beaches, which in turn are surrounded by gold coloured rock cliffs. All beaches are suitable for sunbathing and swimming. Our favourite beaches in Lagos are listed below.
Praia da Dona Ana
Praia da Dona Ana is one of the most famous beaches of the Algarve. It is known for its spectacular cliffs and clear waters. Photos of this beach can be seen in many Algarve advertisements in travel magazines. It is a popular beach among tourists.
Meia Praia is the largest beach near Lagos. It stretches for about 4,5 kilometres and is backed by dunes. Due to its size, you will always be able to find a spot easily. There are several kinds of watersports available on the beach, like windsurfing or parasailing.
Praia do Camilo
Praia do Camilo is one of the most beautiful beaches near Lagos. The rock formations surrounding this beach are one of a kind. The water is calm and crystal clear. If you go snorkeling, you will be able to see several fishes.
Praia de Porto de Mós
Praia de Porto de Mós is surrounded by two high cliffs. The waves here are slightly bigger than on other beaches nearby, which is why the beach attracts surfers. Since the beach is 4 kilometres from the centre of Lagos, it is less crowded than on most of the city beaches nearby.
Praia da Luz
Praia da Luz is a beach around the village of Luz and is a popular holiday destination for families. Next to the beach you can also find a big rocky hill, known as rocha negra or the black rock. From the top of the black rock you have a great view over the beach and the village of Luz.
Praia da Batata
Praia da Batata is a small beach and is actually the closest beach from the historic centre of Lagos. Due to the proximity to the centre, the beach is usually very crowded.
Praia do Pinhão
Praia do Pinhāo is a small beach near Lagos. To go to this beach, you first have to go up a hill and then descend a long staircase. This is why the beach of Praia do Pinhāo is more quiet than some other beaches near Lagos.
Ponta da Piedade
Just outside Lagos you can find a group of stunning rock formations called Ponta da Piedade. From the cliffs you get a great view over the Atlantic Ocean and the bay of Lagos. These are some of the most amazing views you can find in the Algarve. That is why Ponta da Piedade is one of the most famous attractions in the region. You can reach Ponta da Piedade by boat, by car or by foot from the city of Lagos. You can walk down the long stairs (182 steps) to see this wonder of nature up close.
If you feel adventurous, you can visit Ponta da Piedade by kayak. Because kayaks are smaller than regular boats, it is possible to visit even small caves and grottoes. You can determine your own course and stop on deserted small beaches to enjoy the views. You can book a kayak at a local agency or at a stand in the marina. Prices start at 25 euros per person.
Visiting Ponta da Piedade is especially beautiful during the sunset. The sun gives it an extra yellow / red feel, which gives it a magical look. The sun shines beautifully right through the holes in the rock formations. The best place to view the sunset is from the lighthouse near Ponta da Piedade.
Pictures do not show the full beauty of Ponta da Piedade. For a better idea of Ponta da Piedade and the surrounding area, watch the following video.
There is a great walk in Lagos, along the coast. Go to Praia do Pinhão and walk in the direction of Ponta da Piedade. Enjoy the spectacular views and walk until Praia do Porto de Mós. After the walk, you can enjoy a nice restaurant there.
There are many good restaurants in the city of Lagos. Below you can find our favourite ones.
- Casa do Prego. This restaurant serves delicious Portuguese food. Especially their tuna steak and chicken piri piri are outstanding. The staff is attentive and friendly.
- Real Portuguese Cuisine. This Portuguese restaurant in the centre of Lagos serves amazing seafood and other tasty dishes. They always use local ingredients. Great service as well.
- Delhi Darbar. This restaurant serves tasty traditional Indian food. The portions are big and the naan bread is delicious. Service is great as well.
- Ol’ Bastard’s. This restaurant serves outstanding fish and chips, with an amazing crunchy batter. They also have tasty fish tacos and a variety of local craft beers.
- Restaurant Vivendo. This restaurant serves excellent food in every way. It is one of the best restaurants in Lagos. It is quite expensive, but the quality of the food makes up for it. Located near Meia Praia.
- Restaurante dos Artistas. This restaurant serves amazing food that is superbly cooked and professionally served. The menu is internationally inspired and they have an extensive wine list. Located in the centre of Lagos.
Next to the many terraces and restaurants, Lagos also has a lively nightlife scene. There is a great variety of bars, with all kinds of music genres. One thing is for sure: you won’t be bored at night here.
What to see
Lagos has an historic town, amazing beaches and a lively nightlife. The atmosphere in Lagos is very relaxed and the local people are nice. This makes Lagos a great holiday destination. Make sure to check out the following highlights.
The old town of Lagos has some nice buildings and beautiful cobblestone streets. It is very nice to walk around here and experience the local culture. You will also find many shops, restaurants and bars in the old town.
Praça Gil Eanes
In the old town of Lagos you can find a square called Praça Gil Eanes. On the square is a statue of king Dom Sebastião. It is a fine work of modern sculpture made by João Cutileiro in 1973. In the statue, the face of this unexperienced young king is represented in such a way that it is not possible to recognize if it is an adult or a child, a man or a woman. The yellow building on the northern side of the square is the town hall, which dates back to the 19th century.
The marina of Lagos is a nice area to walk around. You can see many different boats, from small sailor boats to expensive yachts. Watching the boats go in and out of the marina is very nice. The marina of Lagos is also the starting point for most of the boat trips in the area. There is a large sidewalk, where you can see different boat trip vendors with their stalls. Around the marina you will also find several bars and restaurants.
Igreja de Santo António
In the old town of Lagos you will find the church of St. Anthony, better known as Igreja de Santo António. This small but beautiful church was built in the 18th century. The highlight of the church is the altar piece, which is made out of wood and gilded with gold from Brazil. There is an amazing amount of detail in the carvings and the painted ceiling. Inside the church you will also find a small museum. Entrance to the church is € 1,50. Definitely worth a visit. However, it is not allowed to take photos inside.
Igreja de Santa Maria
Within a short walking distance from Igreja de Santo António you can find another church, called Igreja de Santa Maria. The church is located on a big square. It is an interesting church, even though the interior is not as amazing as the church of St. Anthony. Still worth a quick visit. Entrance is free.
Statue of Henry the Navigator
In front of Igreja de Santa Maria, there is square with a statue of Infante D. Henrique, otherwise known as Henry the Navigator. He initiated the Age of Discovery in the 15th century. Most of his voyages started in Lagos. The statue says 1460 – 1960, but of course he did not live for 500 years. The statue was inaugurated in 1960, which was 500 years after his death.
City walls and castle
In Lagos you can find the Castle of Lagos, also known as the Governor’s Castle (Castelo dos Governadores). Its walls surround the town of Lagos and are known as the city wall. In Portuguese, the fortifications of Lagos are called ‘Muralhas e Torreões de Lagos’. The entrance to the castle consists of an impressive arched gate. This is a great place to take some pictures and walk around. Other than the entrance and the city wall, there is nothing left of the castle.
On some point along the city wall you can see a large representation of the coat of arms of Lagos.
Forte da Ponta da Bandeira
Near the castle you can find a fortress called Forte da Ponta da Bandeira. The fortress was built in the 17th century. It defended the city by blocking the entrance to the harbor to enemy boats. Inside the fort there is a small museum and a small chapel with Portuguese tiles. From the fort you also have a superb view over the bay of Lagos. Entrance is only € 2.
Near Ponta da Piedade you can find a lighthouse. It is located at the end of the road. The lighthouse itself is closed to the public, but walking in the area makes for an unforgettable walk with impressive sights. The cliffs around the lighthouse provide breathtaking views over the area. They are also a great place to watch the sunset from.
Zoo of Lagos
Just outside the city of Lagos, there is a zoo. The zoo has more than 140 different animal species. The animals are well treated and have plenty of space. Visiting the zoo can be a nice day out. Especially if you are travelling with young children, a visit is highly recommended.
Portuguese Discoveries Wax Museum
Near the marina you can find the Portuguese Discoveries Wax Museum. This museum details the stories of Portuguese sailors and kings and their achievements. It is more about the stories of these people than about the wax statues. The wax statues of these people are just a means to tell the story. Visiting the museum is a nice way to learn more about Portuguese history. Entrance is € 6.
Viva de Lagos Science Centre
There is a science centre in Lagos, which explains science and technology in an interactive and fun way. The main topics are navigation and naval communication. Especially kids love to discover things here. All information is in both English and Portuguese. It is well worth a visit. Entrance is € 2,5 for children and € 5 for adults.
Monte da Casteleja (wine tour)
Just outside Lagos you can find Monte da Casteleja, which is a farm that produces organic wines. They offer a wine tour, where you will learn about their process of making organic wine. The tour includes a visit to the winery, the cellar and of course tasting the wines. It is an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. Make sure to book an appointment beforehand.
Menir da Cabeça do Rochedo
About 6 kilometres north of Lagos, in the small town of Bensafrim, you can find a menhir from the neolithic age. The name of it is Menir da Cabeça do Rochedo. It was part of a group of 8 similar stones, of which only this one remains standing here.
If you want to stay in Lagos, you have plenty of options. There are many good hotels, but which one suits your needs? Below you can find our favourite hotels in Lagos.
- Onyria Palmares Beach House Hotel. This 5 star hotel offers you the most exclusive treatment you can find in Lagos. It has a great swimming pool and awesome staff. There are many opportunities for hiking and cycling nearby. If you like a peaceful holiday, this hotel is perfect. Located near the eastern end of Meia Praia.
- Costa d’Oiro Ambiance Village. This 4 star hotel has everything you need for a great holiday in Lagos. Each room is uniquely decorated in a Mediterranean theme and has a private balcony. Great buffet breakfast as well. Located near Praia da Dona Ana.
- Lagos Guests B&B. This bed and breakfast offers great value for money. The rooms are clean and the beds are comfortable. There is even a rooftop terrace with great views over Lagos. You can use the kitchenette to prepare your own meals if you want.
After the busy summer season of last year, we recommend to book your hotel now, as it will probably sell out. Below you can find a map with the location of hotels in Lagos. By changing the date of your holiday, the map will show you the current prices.
Excursions (boat trips)
We strongly advise you to also make an unforgettable boat trip to the rock formations of Ponta da Piedade. Looking at it from the sea gives you another view and lets you appreciate the beauty of it more. Many boat trips also take you to nearby caves and grottoes. Over the years, locals have given names to the various rock formations. When taking a boat trip, the sailor will tell you about the Camel, the Sphinx, the Elephant, and many other rock formations in the area. Boats depart from the marina of Lagos, but it is also possible to catch a boat down the stairs of Ponta da Piedade. You can book a boat tour already online. This guarantees you a spot on one of the most beautiful boat tours in the Algarve and makes sure that you don’t have to stand in line.
Banho 29 event
Every year on the 29th of August, Lagos celebrates an old tradition with the name of Banho 29. People from the area come to the beach to have a bath at night. Popular beaches for this tradition are Praia da Batata and Meia Praia. The tradition ends with fireworks at midnight.
Lagos – general information
Lagos is a town in the Algarve with a long history, as it was the centre of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. The Nigerian town of Lagos (the biggest city in Africa, with currently more than 16 million inhabitants) was named after the town Lagos, by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. Lagos used to be the capital of the Algarve until the earthquake of 1755. The earthquake completely destroyed the town and it was rebuilt. Lagos was a fishing town until the 1960s, when tourism developed in the region. Nowadays, the city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Algarve. Most of the people that live near the coast in Lagos work in tourism or in the service industry.
Lagos is located about 90 kilometres from Faro Airport. It is actually the most western large tourist town of the Algarve. Only the village of Sagres lies further to the west. Lagos is also the final train stop in the western Algarve, which makes the town easily accessible by public transport. To the north of Lagos are the mountains of Monchique. These mountains shield Lagos from winds and clouds from the north. That is why Lagos is one of the towns in Europe with the most sun hours per year.
There are 4 civil parishes (freguesias) in the municipality of Lagos:
- Bensafrim e Barão de São João
- Luz, which includes the separate villages of Almádena and Espiche
The whole municipality of Lagos (which includes several other small cities) has a population of more than 30.000 people, of which 22.000 people live in the city of Lagos.