14 Top Things to do in Lagos, Portugal: Western Algarve
Lagos is a lively historic city located in the Western Algarve region. This popular holiday destination can cater to any tourist’s needs – on the one hand, Lagos provides access to Algarve’s magnificent nature, breathtaking ocean views, vast sandy beaches and a unique coastal landscape, while, on the other hand, it offers a rich cultural heritage, numerous historic sites, and a great selection of restaurants, nightclubs, tourist facilities, and attractions.
Because of all this diversity, it might be difficult for tourists to choose what to do in Lagos, so here is a list of the things to do in Lagos, Portugal, and the nearby Western Algarve region.
Book your Faro airport to Lagos private transfer HERE!
And check out our where to stay in Lagos area breakdown.
The Beaches of Lagos
Lagos is home to numerous beautiful beaches within walking distance of the city center, ranging from long stretches of sand like Meia Praia beach to beautiful small beaches tucked away in secluded coves. This is, however, just the tip of the iceberg, since some of the most fantastic beaches and ocean views in Portugal are just a short car or bike ride away.
If you’re short on time and wish to see the beach highlights of Lagos and around then we recommend booking on the popular Algarve Golden Coast 4-Hour Cruise.
This vast, horseshoe-shaped beach is the favorite for many tourists staying in Lagos for a number of reasons. It is minutes away from the city center, extending 4 km along the coast, and its vast stretches of sand and relatively calm waters give tourists the possibility to enjoy a wide variety of activities, such as long walks along the bay, swimming, surfing or bodyboarding. The beach is equipped with all the necessary tourist facilities, as well as a wide range of watersports. Because of the size of Meia Praia, there is always enough room on the beach, even during peak season.
Praia dona Ana
Located just south of Lagos and sheltered from the numerous nearby hotels and restaurants by stunning cliffs, Praia dona Ana is the most beautiful beach in the vicinity of Lagos. Rarely does a beach provide access to crystal-clear water, beautiful sand, fascinating rock formations, and close proximity to the city, which is why this beach is very popular with the locals as well as foreigners.
Praia dona Ana is bounded by high sandstone cliffs, featuring beautiful caves and grottos. This is a perfect location for snorkeling since the unique rock formations are easily seen through the clear water. Snorkelers can also witness a wide variety of species, such as starfish, anemones, and schools of colorful fish that inhabit these rock formations. Other watersports, such as surfing, paddleboarding, and diving are also very popular things to do in Lagos, Portugal. The only reason why some tourists might not prefer Praia dona Ana is the fact that the 160-meter-long beach is usually very crowded during the summer, so if you are looking for more comfort, Meia Praia beach might be a better choice.
Praia do Camilo
Further to the south is Praia do Camilo, another beach surrounded by uniquely shaped rock formations that extend into the sea. The beach is reached via a stairway, on top of which the visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the wider area. Even though it is very close to Praia dona Ana, Praia do Camilo provides its visitors with an entirely different experience. Before even descending to the beach, visitors are treated with an amazing view of the surrounding area, while the beach itself is made up of two separate coves connected by a tunnel. The water here is also calm and crystal-clear, which makes it another great spot for a variety of watersports. Above the beach, there is a famous restaurant, O Camilo, which gave the beach its name, where you can enjoy local Algarve cuisine and fresh seafood dishes.
Praia de Porto de Mos
This beach is located 4 km southwest of Lagos and shares many features with Meia Praia. It is a 3-km-long stretch of sandy beach, which is also very wide. The size of the beach, coupled with the fact that it is farther from Lagos than the beaches mentioned previously, makes it very easy for visitors to find a spot throughout the year. Since the beach is oriented towards the southwest, it isn’t sheltered from the Atlantic waves, which makes this Lagos highlight a great surfing location. The beach is perfect for taking long, relaxing walks, but there are also numerous hiking trails that follow the beautiful coastline, and hiking to Ponta da Piedade from here is highly recommended. To reach Praia de Porto de Mos from Lagos, you can either take a 30-minute walk, or you can take the bus line number 2, which departs hourly from Lagos.
The Best Things to do in Lagos, Portugal
Visit Ponta da Piedade
Ponta da Piedade is a group of rock formations that is widely regarded as the most beautiful part of the Algarve coastline. It is located 3 kilometers south of Lagos and gives an amazing view all the way to Sagres on the west and Albufeira on the east. The magnificent view of the surrounding region is merely a warm-up for the full experience of Ponta da Piedade. There are stairs leading from the top of the cliff all the way to the water, where the visitors can enjoy the humbling view of the stunning caves, grottos and other rocky formations which have been molded by strong Atlantic waves for millions of years. To gain a much richer experience of Ponta da Piedade, however, we highly recommend taking one of the boat trips around its many rock formations, or even better, explore by kayak!
Explore the historic center of Lagos
Apart from the beautiful beaches and the unique features of its surrounding area, the city of Lagos itself is full of fascinating cultural and historical attractions waiting to be discovered. One of the Lagos attractions which you will probably walk past on your way to the beach is Igreja de Santo António, a baroque church built in 1707, which features guilded woodwork decoration and intricately drawn printings. Near the church is Mercado dos Escravos, Europe’s first slave market, while outside the city walls lies Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, a maritime fort which was an important part of the defenses of Lagos.
Apart from these attractions, however, the historic center of Lagos serves as a blank canvas for creating unique memories, since the cobbled streets, the 16th-century architecture, the marina and the relaxed mentality of the locals won’t leave you indifferent, whichever part of the city you choose to visit.
Try the local food and drinks
Even though it’s not a typical tourist city, Lagos has a very wide selection of bars and restaurants, which cover every taste and cuisine style. Whatever your preference, we highly recommend trying the local cuisine, especially the featured meals of the day, which often include fresh seafood dishes. Even though there are literally hundreds of restaurants to choose from, the well-known Casa do Prego and a lesser-known value restaurant Onda Norte are great places to start. Or to add some romance to your dinner and drinks why not book onto a fabulous sunset cruise with wine & tapas!
Enjoy a blend of science and fun at the Live Science Center
Centro Ciência Viva de Lagos is a science center themed around Portuguese maritime discoveries. It’s a great alternative activity for the entire family, especially one of the best things to do in Lagos in the case of bad weather. The center consists of multiple modules themed around different topics. Children of all ages can enjoy a hands-on, immersive experience of being a crew member on a caravel, a pirate ship or a submarine, while adults can learn all about the technological innovations that sparked the Portuguese maritime explorations. Visitors to this science center will learn various interesting skills, such as using Morse code and semaphore, making knots and even wiring a radio. There is also a children’s area with many puzzles and experiments, where kids are guided through the activities by the experienced multilingual staff. A family ticket to the science center is €7.
For those who wish to meet whales and dolphins up close, there are guided dolphin and whale-watching cruises departing from the marina several times a day. At the start of the cruise, passengers are briefed and given life jackets after which the experienced crew uses eco-friendly inflatable boats to track down one of the many species of dolphins that inhabit these waters. According to the cruise companies, there is a 90% chance of seeing a school of dolphins, but since the dolphins are wild and aren’t fed, a sighting isn’t guaranteed. The average price of a cruise is $40.
Visit the zoo
Another of the Lagos attractions for the entire family is Parque Zoológico de Lagos. This zoo is famous for its impressive collection of bird species, such as toucans, pelicans, flamingos, and the African penguin, but there are also many species of mammals, reptiles and fish. The zoo is founded on the “conservation-education-protection“ principle, and the animals are very well taken care of, while many of them are reproducing. The zoo features a playground, a petting zoo, where kids can feed and pet all the common farm animals, the Monkey Island, where visitors can interact with the monkeys and lemurs that roam free, and the incubation room, where it is possible to watch how baby birds are hatched. The zoo itself is a very calm and relaxing place for walking, while the restaurant “O Cangalho”, located in the zoo, features local Portuguese cuisine.
Tickets for the zoo can be purchased in advance through our recommended booking site HERE!
Get your adrenaline going at Parque Aventura Lagos
For those who don’t like surfing, this adventure park located near Meia Praia offers two alternative adrenaline-packed things to do in Lagos, Portugal – high ropes climbing and paintball. Depending on their age and skill level, visitors can climb one of the three possible courses – Curious, Adventurous and Fearless, which cost €12, €14, and €17 respectively. The climbers, which are always under the supervision of experienced staff, have to get through many obstacles, such as bridges, nets and zip lines.
Visitors over the age of 10 can play a paintball match set in a 2500-square-meter field inside a forest, filled with natural and artificial obstacles. For a price of €18, every player is equipped with full protective gear and a paintball gun with 150 balls, which can be recharged for €5. The adventure park also has a nice picnic area, where visitors can relax after these challenging activities.
Or for climbing upon Lagos’ limestone cliffs with stunning views of the Atlantic ocean we can recommend this awesome Algarve climbing course.
The Best Day Trips from Lagos, Portugal
For those who want to explore the wider region, Lagos can be the perfect base for day trips to various towns and attractions in the Western Algarve region, including the scenic and historic town of Silves, the beautiful and dramatic cliffs of Sagres, as well as popular shopping and clubbing cities like Portimão. Here are some of the recommended day trips from Lagos, Portugal.
For those who want to discover Portugal as it once was, a trip to this historic town is highly recommended. During the Moorish rule in Algarve, Silves was the capital and the most important stronghold of the region, which is evident by the city’s unique castle and fortifications, which have dominated the landscape unchanged for hundreds of years. Silves is ideal for a day trip from Lagos since all of its attractions are of a historic kind and can be explored in an afternoon.
The number one attraction is definitely the red brick castle towering over Silves, which has seen many battles between the Portuguese and the African Moors. Aside from the castle, visitors should check out the Se Cathedral, the Ponte Romana bridge, and the Cruz de Portugal sculpture. The best attractions in Silves, however, are wandering its cobbled streets, walking along the Arade river and taking in the scenic landscape, enjoying the relaxed local lifestyle, socializing over a cup of strong coffee and trying the delicious local food in one of the local restaurants.
No trip to Algarve is complete without visiting Sagres, especially if you are a surfer or a person looking to fully experience the nature of the region. Located at the westernmost tip of Algarve, the town has an end-of-the-world feel with its dramatic cliffs battered by huge waves, its isolated, windswept fort and the Cabo Sao Vicente headland facing the unknown vastness of the Atlantic ocean. Apart from the headlands exposed to the full might of the Atlantic, Sagres also has beaches that are partly sheltered from the big waves, which makes it very popular with surfers of all skill levels.
There are three beaches within walking distance of the town: the Praia do Tonel, Praia da Mareta, and Praia da Baleeira. Sagres has many surf schools, offering lessons in many languages, as well as several surf shops. The best view in the area can be seen from the Cabo Sao Vicente headland, which is the westmost point of Europe, once considered to be the end of the known world. The headland, guarded by a lonesome lighthouse, is constantly battered by huge waves and swept by relentless winds, which, coupled with the vastness of the ocean enveloping the headland, evokes a feeling of awe and a sense of humility.
Unlike the previous two towns, Portimão is a big residential city famous for shopping streets, scenic promenades, and numerous bars and restaurants. This large but tranquil city is a perfect blend of history and modernity, which makes it great for a relaxing, adrenaline-free day trip from Lagos, Portugal. One of the highlights of the city is the Museu de Portimão, centered around the famous fishing history of Portimão. The museum is located at the beginning of a beautiful esplanade called the zona ribeirinha, which is lined with palm trees and offers a great view of the Rio Arade. From here, tourists can start exploring the city center, whose main attractions are the Jardim 1º de Dezembro square, the Igreja do Colégio church and the Aqua Portimão shopping center.
3 km south of Portimão is the famous tourist resort Praia da Rocha, famous for its beautiful beach of the same name and numerous nightclubs and hotels. Portimão is very well connected to the other cities in the area and is easily reached by bus from Lagos.
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