Lagos is a small, picturesque city on the south coast of Portugal – the Algarve. Known for its idyllic weather, scenery, and welcoming accommodation of expats and immigrants, the Algarve coast of Portugal is an iconic destination.
Slightly removed from the more popular cities of Faro and Albufeira, Lagos is a smaller, more laid-back city that has a classic Portuguese feel, but is still packed with things to do. Although you will find many tourists and expats in Lagos, they haven’t quite ‘taken over’ like they have in other parts of the Algarve, and you will still find plenty of locals.
The city is still very much contained within the historical centre, with winding cobbled streets, restaurants serving local cuisine, and the typical relaxed atmosphere Portugal is known for.
Just strolling down the Marina de Lagos you’ll find a mountain of things to do, and friendly locals willing to take on the effort of planning it for you.
Cave tours, boat trips, dining experiences or jeep safaris – no matter where you go, or what you want to see, you can find it on the marina. If you prefer to go it alone, that’s also no problem – many of the best things to do in Lagos are DIY-friendly (except maybe the boat trips!).
As well as activities (many of which are suitable for families, couples or big groups), Lagos is full of friendly shops, souvenir stores, cafes and restaurants. It is also literally just minutes’ walk from many beautiful beaches interlinked by grand archways and small tunnels through the unique rock formations that divide them.
If you’re not already convinced that you need to take a trip to this gorgeous city, then read on! Here are some of the best and most unusual things to do in Lagos, Portugal.
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Adventures on the Beach in Lagos, Portugal:
Walk through the tunneling beaches in Lagos
Starting with Praia Dona Ana and continuing down the coast until Praia do Camilo, a series of small beaches run along the coast of Lagos connected by enchanting tunnels and archways burrowed into the rock.
This magical journey sees you ducking through passages and emerging from the darkness onto perfect white beach after perfect white beach, an experience not to be missed.
Be careful to watch out for the tides, and if you want to go all the way, prepare for wet feet!
Meia Praia beach in Lagos
Just a few miles north of Lagos, Meia Praia is the largest beach in the area, stretching more than 4 kilometres.
The curved shape of the bay not only makes for great views, but also protects you from the winds and waves coming in from the atlantic.
This makes Meia Praia perfect for families, and those of you wanting a relaxed stroll across calm sands a little further from the hustle and bustle of Lagos, where you often find impressive waves too big even for some surfers.
There are also plenty of shops, bars and restaurants lining this gorgeous beach.
Adventures in Nature in Lagos, Portugal:
Ponta de Piedade
Ponta de Piedade is one of the more well-known attractions in Lagos, and makes for some unique views; a true icon of the Algarve.
Chiselled out by rough seas and winter storms, Ponta de Piedade is a group of naturally occurring limestone rock formations carved into the cliff edge. Steep steps take you down to sea level with marvellous cliffs and arches towering either side.
Just 3km walk from the town centre, you can make your way via the beach walk I mentioned earlier, until you reach Praia do Camilo where you should rejoin the road and carry on by foot to avoid falling debris from the cliffs above.
Serra de Monchique
Less than an hours’ drive from Lagos, Monchique is a small town surrounded by the impressive Serra de Monchique mountains.
You can either visit the quaint town flanked by impressive views, or take a hike through the mountains, with most of its trails suitable for all levels.
In the town itself, you can find the Igreja Paroquial de Monchique (Parish Church of Monchique), the Igreja de São Sebastião (Church of São Sebastião), and many other wonderfully ornate historical buildings.
Hiking through the mountains you have seemingly endless choices of routes, including several that take you to Alto da Fóia, the highest point in the Algarve.
High Ropes Lagos
Inside Parque Aventura, surprisingly close to the town centre and even closer to Meia Praia beach, the ‘outdoorsy fun’ is a little more organised.
This could be a great option if you are short on time, or travelling with a family. Allowing you to choose from three levels (curious, adventurous or fearless), you can tailor this activity to suit you or your group.
If you can brave the hardest circuit, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Meia Praia beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Parque Aventura also offers paintballing, if that’s more your thing!
Although not for everyone, the zoo can be a great day out, and Lagos Zoo in particular participates in an impressive range of conservation and research programmes protecting wildlife.
This zoo is open plan and abundant with greenery for its animals to explore, all whilst you look on in awe.
Lagos Zoo boasts more than 140 species from around the world, and holds feeding events for pelicans, otters, primates and penguins. Just a short trip outside of the city centre, Lagos Zoo is definitely worth a visit.
Adventures inside the City in Lagos, Portugal:
Explore the Old Town
The Old Town of Lagos is quaint, its cobbled streets lined with independent shops and charming street cafes. Lagos Old Town is so unique, in fact, that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is surrounded by high walls and historical buildings due to its unique history, many of which you can explore for free or a very small charge.
You could spend hours here, talking to local purveyors of art, admiring trinkets and stocking up on souvenirs.
During the colder months, not much can be said for the nightlife in Lagos, but during the summer it thrives.
Some of the best bars can be found on Rua 25 de Abril, in the Old Town, on the Marina, or even on the beachfront of Meia Praia.
Mercado de Escravos (Slave Market)
The Mercado de Escravos in Lagos was the first slave market in Europe. Instead of shying away from this dark piece of their history, in 2016 Lagos City Council turned this historical building into a museum to commemorate the past, and display the ugly truth about the history of Portugal and Europe.
Set in the heart of Lagos Old Town, this incredible museum is described by many as a must-see, and a captivating reminder of Europe’s forgotten history.
In 2018, this museum won the award for “International Centre for Living Memory of Human Dignity” by the Portugal-based International Observatory of Human Rights.
Portuguese Discoveries Wax Museum
If you’re thinking this is a Madame Tussauds knock-off, you can think again! In place of shiny celebrity lookalikes, this wax museum tells the story of 16 historical moments, including Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, and Luis da Camões.
Many famous ships set sail from the port of Lagos, which is where many of these adventurous tales began. Containing 22 figures in total, this museum won’t fill a whole day but will provide you with an interesting hour or two!
Centro de Ciência
This science museum is for all ages, but especially the younger generation. Filled with hands-on activities and interactive learning experiences, this experience is sure to delight.
The museum has three main areas; orientation and navigational instruments, life on board, and distance communication. (By now, I’m sure you can tell that Lagos is proud of its maritime history!) Everything is available to read in Portuguese and English, and all of the hands-on staff are bilingual, too.
Igreja de Santo Antônio
Igreja de Santo Antônio, or St Anthony’s Church, is filled with gilded woodwork said to be some of the finest in Portugal. Although small, the intricacy of this buildings’ interior is astounding. And just as well, because this church is dedicated to St Anthony, the patron saint of Portugal.
It is said that much of its lavishness is due to the fact that it was a place of worship for explorers before they undertook long voyages, meaning it was well looked-after upon their safe return.
Museu Municipal Dr. José Formosinho
Right beside Igreja de Santo Antônio, you will find Museu Municipal Dr. José Formosinho, which is much more along the lines of what immediately springs to mind when you think of the word “museum”.
Here you can find archeological artifacts, information about the general history of Lagos, and an impressive collection of old Portuguese coins.
Castelo de Lagos
The Castelo de Lagos (or Castle of Lagos) is also known as Governor’s Castle (Castelo dos Governadores). It once had walls that surrounded the entire city, many of which remain, but none are as impressive as the castle that commanded them.
Much of the castle’s interior was damaged during the earthquake of 1755, but the remaining structures are still impressive. You don’t have to pay to go in, and there are information boards within to show you around.
The Lagos Tourist Train first comes across as a bit of a gimmick, but it’s probably the most novel way to get from A to B and it runs a remarkably convenient route!
Running every hour from Ponte de Piedad to Meia Praia, you can take this train for miles. Pay 4€ for a single ticket or 5.50€ for a day ticket, and you can breeze around some of the most popular spots in Lagos.
Adventures in the Water in Lagos, Portugal:
Taking a boat trip through Benagil Cave (and the surrounding, less famous caves) is one of the most popular trips advertised not only in Lagos but the whole of the Algarve.
You can take this boat ride from one of many beaches, and sail the often impressive waves around many of the echoing caves created within the unique limestone formations of Lagos’ coastline.
Each cave has its own story, its own atmosphere, and many drivers will give you a guided tour. But be warned – you might get wet!
Whale and Dolphin Watching
Several boat tours also offer whale and dolphin watching, taking you out into the Atlantic Ocean in the hopes of spotting one of our favourite sea creatures.
Dolphins are common in these waters, so your chances of seeing one are quite high! Even better, dolphins are a protected species in Portugal, meaning you can rest assured that these trips do not harm them in any way.
You can even find some boat tours that combine Benagil Cave with whale and dolphin watching in Lagos.
Catamaran Boat Trip
A Catamaran boat trip is perfect if you’re looking for something a little more upmarket. Every trip is different, so be sure to check before you book, but the schedule will usually look something like this: tour the caves and beautiful beaches of Lagos.
Take the chance to swim, snorkel or relax onboard with breathtaking views after the boat docks in one of many secluded caves; admire views of the cascading coastline from afar as you sail back to the marina.
There is usually onboard wifi, free snorkelling and paddle boarding equipment, and drinks available to purchase.
Many of the local tour companies can take you to secluded spots to snorkel, and even lend you the equipment to do it! If you’d rather go solo, you can bring your own or buy snorkelling equipment close by, and head to any of the many beaches in Lagos.
You can take kayaking trips in a similar format to snorkelling trips (although this one is a little harder to do DIY!). You can explore the limestone cliffs and caves up-close in a kayak, and they will often take you to a secret beach.
Okay, maybe it’s not totally secret, but you’re likely to be the only ones there! A guide will be with you the whole time, and a motorised boat will never be far behind, ensuring your complete safety.
The water can often get choppy, so make sure to take a look at the waves before you head out.
SUP (Stand-Up-Paddleboarding) is all the rage at the moment, and there’s no lack of places to find equipment in Lagos.
You can take your own equipment or do a guided tour, but as above, make sure you keep an eye on the waves before you head to the beach!
Adventures on Land in Lagos, Portugal:
Lagos Jeep Safari tours put a spin on the traditional tour by coach or car. These excursions will take you away from the tourist hotspots and into the wilderness, with a guide knowledgeable on everything from which berries you can eat to the history of each building you visit.
You can usually do this as a standalone tour for half a day, or make it a full day by combining it with a boat tour to Benagil Cave.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Although definitely one of the pricier experiences on this list, I could not miss off this incredible experience. The tour operator Algarve Balloons is based here in Lagos, offering sunrise flights over the west of the Algarve.
This is such a unique way to view the incredible sights that the Algarve and Lagos have to offer, with clear skies almost every morning. Be aware that even in the summer it can be cold early in the morning, but they will provide you with hot coffee to take the edge off!
Golf & Crazy Golf
Whether you’re a pro golfer or just teeing up for some fun, Lagos has you covered. Pro Putting Garden offers something for everyone.
They mix the absurdity of crazy golf with real, high-quality putting greens, meaning that everyone from amateur to professional can have fun together on their crazy golf course. If you’re not sold, and want some real golfing action, there are many full-size golf courses within reach of Lagos city centre.
Forte da Ponta de Bandeira
The Forte da Ponta de Bandeira is literally in the sea; you enter by walking over a small drawstring bridge. Inside, you will find a small chapel, a museum and an exhibition area.
The courtyard and cannon platform are freely accessible to the public during the day, but for the chapel and museum you have to pay a small fee.
This fort was built during the 17th century to protect the beach from attacks by Moorish and European pirates!
Recommended tours in Lagos
- Boat trip to the grottos at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos
- Kayak tour in Lagos to visit the caves and snorkel.
- Catamaran Cruise in Lagos
- Sunset Sagres & Jeep off-road Algarve Natural Park West Coast secret spot tour
- Boat trip to the caves of Benagil
- 2 Hour Surf Lesson at the Beautiful Algarvian West Coast
- Small-Group Quad Adventure in Lagos
- Classic Food Tour – Lagos
- Brodie’s Historical and Fun Lagos Walking Tour
- Small-Group Day Tour of Silves and Monchique with Wine Tasting
- Algarve 15K Tandem Skydive w/ Shuttle from Lagos