Lagos is one of the most popular destinations in the Algarve region of Portugal and for good reason. Many visitors are attracted by some of the best beaches in the Algarve and the dramatic beauty of its cliff-stacked coastline but that’s not all that Lagos has to offer.
The old town is full of history and character, with cobbled streets, attractive architecture, some intriguing sights and a range of places to relax and unwind as well as plenty of places to visit in the surrounding area.
Here are my suggestions for things to do in Lagos, including some of Portugal’s best beaches and unforgettable trips.
Tip: If you’re looking for accommodation, check out my post on where to stay in Lagos for some great recommendations.
If you’re based in Lisbon then check out my Best Ways To Get From Lisbon To Lagos.
1. Be amazed by the Benagil caves
Benagil is only a small fishing village but it has become famous for it’s astonishing sea caves. These really are some of the most beautiful rocks and caves in the world. The colours of the rocks are amazing and the sense of awe at the power of nature makes a visit inside them an unforgettable Lagos experience.
Read about my experience and other options in this Benagil caves tours blog post.
Or, if you are feeling more energetic, maybe this Benagil Caves Kayaking Experience. would suit you better. Whereas the boats can’t allow people to disembark inside the cave, kayakers can get out at the small beach.
Please note: As from 25th September 2023 kayaks and SUPs are not allowed into the cave due to safety concerns. This is a temporary directive from the Maritime authority so please check with any tour operators. They may still include a kayaking experience but not inside the cave.
2. Explore Ponta da Piedade headland
Located just to the west of Lagos, the Ponte da Piedade headland shows off the beauty of the rugged coastline. Golden cliff-like rocks stretch up to 20 metres high and there’s a footpath you can use to explore them from different perspectives. You’ll find grottos and sea arches that nature has sculpted from limestone over thousands of years.
Another great way to discover these caves and grottos is by one of the many boat trips available such as this Ponta da Piedade Boat Tour with Local Guide.
If you enjoy the magic of a beautiful sunset then try this Ponta da Piedade Sunset Tour.
3. Take a classic food tour
I love my food full stop. Some of my favourite travel memories are centred around local delicacies sampled in small restaurants and hidden eateries.
This classic food tour gives you a complete immersive experience of the culture of Lagos explained by a very knowledgable guide.
4. Rise to the skies in a hot-air balloon
If you have a head for heights what better way to get a birds-eye view of Lagos than drifting through the skies.
You’ll see rolling valleys and gorgeous beaches and, if you’re an early bird, you can witness the beauty of a sunrise.
This Sunrise hot-air balloon flight also comes with a certificate and a video to show your friends back home!
5. Bask on the beaches of Lagos, Portugal
Lagos is blessed with some of the best beaches in the Algarve. These four are close to town and easy to walk to.
Best beaches in Lagos
At over 4 km long, Meia Praia is the largest of Lagos’ beaches. It’s popular but because of it’s size it doesn’t really get overcrowded, especially if you’re prepared to walk a little bit further to claim your spot on the sand.
If you want a decent beach walk (or run), this is the place to go. It’s a clean, accessible beach, with calm water, making it good for young children. Be warned though; the sea is calm but quite chilly!
Praia Dona Ana
Shadier, thanks to the cliffs, and far less expansive – it’s only 160 metres wide – is Praia Dona Ana. Because of its size it can get crowded during the summer months. It has very clear waters so is popular for snorkelling around the rocks. You’ll see spectacular rock formations here but note that access to the beach is via a lot of steps.
Praia do Camilo
If you’re thinking of visiting Praia do Camilo, again consider access. The views going down the steps are wonderful but sometimes they feel never-ending (more than 200 steps). It’s a small beach which gets very busy in summer, especially at high tide when sand space is reduced.
Praia da Batata
The closest beach to the centre of Lagos is Praia da Batata, which means Potato Beach, although I’m not sure how it got that name. Perhaps one of its lovely rock formations looks a bit spud-like. This small beach is safe for swimming and is quite sheltered.
Praia de Porto Mós
This is an accessible beach around the headland, with cliffs wither side but not the impressive stack formations of some of the previous beaches. It’s much bigger than Praia Dona Ana and the other small coves and has ample parking and a few restaurants. It’s good for families and for a stroll or run on the beach.
6. Wine tasting
The Algarve has a long history of producing some wonderful wines and you can easily explore these from Lagos. You can try this small group half day Wine Tasting Tour from Lagos and learn all about wine production as well as discovering the local countryside. Or maybe this Private Algarve Wines Route tour which includes multiple tastings.
7. Learn local history at the Dr. José Formosinho Museum
Go on a journey through the cultural history of Lagos and the Algarve in this fascinating small museum. Here you’ll find a collection of curiosities, works by local artists and examples of skills from basketry to embroidery.
Open from Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-18:00. Closed Monday. Entrance: €3 (You can also get joint tickets for other museums). See here for details.
8. Discover Lagos’ less-than-glorious past at the Slave Market
The Mercado de Escravos or Slave Market highlights one of the darker sides of Lagos. It is located on the site where the first slave market in Europe of the modern era took place, in 1444. The museum building was built in 1691 and is one of the oldest buildings in Lagos.
If it’s not open when you’re there (it was closed when we tried to visit), you can take a virtual tour of the museum, details here.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-18:00. Closed Monday. Entrance: €3, unless you buy a combo ticket.
9. See military architecture at Ponta da Bandeira Fort
When it was built this 17th century fort was one of the most technically advanced fortresses in the entire Algarve and it remains one of the best preserved in the region.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-18:00. Closed Monday. Entrance: €4, unless you buy a combo ticket.
10. Marvel at the golden altar in Igreja de Santo António
The outside of The Church of St. Anthony may appear relatively simple but once you go inside, you’ll see gilded carving considered to be some of the most beautiful in the country. The altarpiece (which survived the Lisbon earthquake in 1755), ceiling and azulejos make this church very special indeed.
You can only access this through the Dr José Formosinho Museum (see above for opening times) but it’s worth the entrance fee.
11. Wander around Lagos Marina
Take a stroll along the marina and you’ll find a selection of cafes, restaurants and hotels, perfect for an afternoon refreshment or an evening meal. Many of the tour operators for boat trips, dolphin watching and such-like can be found here.
12. See the patterns of the cobbled streets
Many towns and cities around Portugal can boast of some truly amazing cobbled streets or Calçada Portuguesa and Lagos is no exception. You’ll find them in many pedestrian areas as you wander around and you’ll be amazed at their complex geometry.
13. Go shopping
Lagos market is quite typical for a Portuguese market and here you’ll find fresh fish and vegetables as well as many other local delicacies. You can pause for a snack at the small cafe or go up to the top floor restaurant with views of the promenade.
If it’s quality crafts you’re after, head to Rui Santos on Rua São Gonçalo de Lagos for decent Portuguese cork, ceramics, clothing, accessories and copper cataplanas.
Mar D’Estorias has a lovely shop on the ground floor and a roof terrace serving tasty treats.
14. Imagine what the Governor’s Castle was like
Part of the Lagos city wall, what remains of the Castelo dos Governadores is mostly a couple of towers that flank the gate entry to the old town.
It’s nice to have a little wander around and there are small but pleasant gardens to take a break in. I particularly like this inlaid marble artwork.
15. Go dolphin watching
Getting up close and personal to one of nature’s most spectacular and fascinating species in their natural habitat is awe inspiring. Being led by experienced guides like on this Dolphin and Sea Life Watching Experience or having the knowledge of a marine biologist at hand while they collect scientific data on this Dolphin Watching with Marine Biologists tour will create memories you’ll never forget.
16. Follow one of the Lagos walking routes
There are many ways to discover Lagos including some very interesting themed and pedestrian routes. You can choose from culture and knowledge through to urban art. Check out this website for details.
If you prefer to be led by a knowledgable guide who can show you all of the must-see places and give lots of recommedations, Brodie’s historical and fun walking tour is great.
17. Discover what the West Coast has to offer
You can use Lagos as a starting point to explore the other gems along the coastline. Take this Wild and wonderful West Coast full-day trip and let your guide show you beaches, castles, picturesque towns and viewpoints to write home about.
The tour includes picking up/dropping off at your Lagos accommodation and your group will have no more than 8 people.
Things to do in Lagos for kids
18. Feed the animals at Lagos Zoo
Just outside Lagos (15 minute drive) you’ll find Lagos Zoo, which has conservation and animal welfare at its heart. Some of the animals wander freely and you can even swim side-by-side, but separately, with penguins at the zoo’s special beach.
Opening hours: April-September 10:00-19:00. October-March 10:00-17:00. Entrance: Adults €18, Children €14. (Book online here for €2 off.)
19. Get your adrenaline fix at Parque Aventura
If you’re after a little adventure and don’t mind heights, Parque Aventura would be a great option. You can take on different challenges moving from tree to tree all under expert supervision. Or if there are 6 of you, relieve that stress with an outdoor paintball match. See here for details.
20. Be a scientist at Lagos Living Science Center
There’s more hands-on fun to be had at Lagos Living Science Center. You can join a workshop to program a robot or create a slimy elastic monster but, if that’s not your cup of tea, you can just learn more about the scientific side of the Discoveries.
Opening hours: Tuesday- Sunday 10:00-18:00. Closed Mondays. Prices can be found here.