Lagos is a favorite holiday destination for many tourists. The unique combination of perfect location, picturesque beach, history and relaxed vibe make it stand out from the crowded beach destinations, such as Albufeira or Praia da Rocha. Lagos is a popular destination because it serves as the ideal base for exploring the iconic cliffs of Ponta da Piedade and Praia Dona Ana beach. These landmarks are the poster children of the Algarve, which in reality are even more breathtaking than on pictures. Find out all the secret tips on Lagos.
Lagos – Highlights
Top attractions in Lagos:
• The cliffs of Ponta da Piedade
• The historic center
• Grottoes and sea caves
• Beaches near Lagos
Lagos is a town in the Algarve with a long history, as it was the center of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. The Nigerian town of Lagos (the biggest city in Africa, with currently more than 13 million inhabitants) was named after the town Lagos, by Portuguese explorers in the 15th. Lagos used to be the capital of the Algarve until the earthquake of 1755. The earthquake completely destroyed the town and it was rebuilt.
The whole municipality of Lagos (which includes several other small cities) has a population of more than 30.000, of which 22.000 people live in the city of Lagos. 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 the service industry.
Lagos is 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.
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 destionation.
The town of Lagos
We suggest you start your visit in Lagos in the centre of the city. Start at the square ‘Praça Gil Eanes’. In the centre of the square stands the statue of king Dom Sebastião. It is a fine work of modern sculpture made by João Cutileiro in 1973. The statue is full of symbolism. The king loved adventure and conducted Portugal to the greatest disaster of its history. This was the Battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco, where a large Portuguese army was defeated by the Arabs. The king died in this battle and as a result, Portugal lost its independence. 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 building on the northern side of the square is the town hall, which dates back from the 19th century. In the 15th century, this area was waterlogged and used as a shipyard. From the town hall, take the ‘Rua da Barroca’, one of the oldest streets in Lagos. This street was built on the wall along the water front. Until the middle of the present century, on a stormy day, the waves would break against this wall. The Avenue of the Discoveries and the court buildings were built after 1960.
Walk first to the Igreja de Santo Antonio (church of St. Anthony), a fine example of the Portuguese baroque from the 17th and 18th centuries. The façade is quite simple, and belies its sumptuous interior, which is especially remarkable for the rich gilded woodcarvings, the altarpiece, the paintings depicting the miracles of St. Anthony and the beautiful painted vault. The altar piece is the most important work of the church and was made out of wood and gold from Brazil. In its centre stands St. Anthony with the child. On the sides, between the Salomonic columns, you can see the statues of St. Joseph on the right and St. Eloi on the left. On the upper part of the altar you can see the coat of arms of Portugal. The church gives access to the Municipal Museum, with exhibits of archaeology, regional ethnography, African ethnography, painting, the history of Lagos, numismatic and sacred art.
The next square is the ‘Praça da República’, where you can find a few interesting buildings, as the Misericórdia Church (16th century), a warehouse (17th century) with the coat of arms of Portugal on the two doors, and the slave market (15th century) where the first African slaves were sold. This building is easy to recognize because of the arched doorway. In the middle of the square stands the statue of Henry the Navigator.
From here walk along the city wall (rebuilt in the 16th century). In one of the stretches of the wall there is a famous window (the smaller one), which according to tradition belonged to the governor’s palace. King Sebastião attended mass and spoke to the troops from this window before the disaster of Marocco campaign in 1578. About this theme there is a modern monument in the garden just opposite this window, representing the scenes before and after the battle.
Going on along the city wall you can see a large representation of the coat of arms of Lagos. It shows the very same defensive wall with the town’s gate that you can find a hundred metres further, after passing the statue of navigator Gil Eanes. The walls and gate were built for military and safety purposes. In Portuguese, the fortifications of Lagos are called ‘Muralhas e Torreões de Lagos’.
On the other side of the road you can visit a fortress called Forte Bandeira (17th century). The fortress defended the city, by blocking the entrance to the harbor to enemy boats. The fortress can be reached by a small gangway. This area also has a superb view over the bay of Lagos. Nearby there is an interesting small museum about the Portuguese Discoveries.
From here you can walk to the beaches or return to the centre of the town.
Ponta da Piedade
Visiting the Ponta da Piedade gives you one of the most amazing views you can find in the Algarve. It lies 3 kilometres south of the city. You can reach the Ponda da Piedade by boat, by car or by foot from the city of Lagos. From the Ponte da Piedade, you get a great view over the Atlantic Ocean and the bay of Lagos, with the hills of Monchique in the background. When you look to the west, you can see all the way to Sagres. When you look to the east, you can see past Albufeira. You can walk down the long stairs (182 steps) to see this wonder from nature up close.
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 grottos. The water is crystal clear and the sun shines beautifully right through the holes in the rock formations. 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. Boats depart from the marina of Lagos (boat trip duration: 1 – 1,5 hours), but it is also possible to catch a boat down the stairs of Ponta da Piedade (boat trip duration: around 40 minutes). Prices for a boat trip are around 10-15 euros per person for a shared tour or 20-25 euros per person for a private tour.
There is also a lighthouse near the Ponta da Piedade. The lighthouse itself it closed to the public, but walking there makes for an unforgettable walk with impressive sights.
Nightlife in Lagos
Next to the many terraces and restaurants, Lagos also has a great variety of bars. There are bars with all kinds of music genres.
Lagos is surrounded by several beaches. The beaches are in turn surrounded by red and gold coloured rock cliffs and have white sand. All beaches are suitable for sunbathing and swimming.
Praia Dona Ana is an amazing sandy beach near Lagos, with lots of activities for tourists. Photos of this beach can be seen in many Algarve advertisements in travel magazines. It is a popular beach among tourists.
Praia de Batata (potato beach) is a small beach, that is only a few kilometres away from the historic center of Lagos. It was named this way because people would drop their potato peels on the beach. The beach is popular among Portuguese people.
East of Lagos there is a nice sandy beach called Meia Praia. Even though the beach is surrounded by dunes, it is easily accessible. There are several kinds of watersports available on the beach, like windsurfing or parasailing. The beach is also ideal for small children and has many restaurants nearby. The beach is popular among tourists.
Praia do Pinhāo is another 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.
Praia da Luz (10 km west of Lagos) has a good sandy beach with all the water sports available. It is a finishing village where fishing and tourism developed side by side.
Other beaches near Lagos are Praia do Porto de Mós and Praia do Camilo.
Zoo of Lagos
Just outside the city of Lagos, there is a zoo. Visiting the zoo can be recommended, especially if you are travelling with children.
Menir da Cabeça do Rochedo
The Menir da Cabeça do Rochedo is a menhir from the neolithic age. It is located in the small town of Bensafrim, near Lagos.
Lagos is based in Western Algarve on 90 kilometers distance from Faro Airport.
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.
Every Saturday morning there is a local market in a building on the other side of the marina footbridge, near the bus station. On this market you will find fresh fish, fruits, vegetables and other local products. The market is popular amongst locals, because the products are fresh and the prices are cheap. The top floor of the market has a restaurant, with a great view over the bay.
If you feel adventurous, you can visit the Ponta da Piedade by kayak. Because kayaks are smaller than the regular boats, it is possible to visit even small caves and grottos. 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 the 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 best place to view the sunset is from the Lighthouse near Ponta da Piedade.