Over 2000 years of history, under Roman and Moorish reign until the 13th century, crusades, slave trade, pirates, explorers, naval battles, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Say what?!? Yes, Lagos is one of the most historically significant places in Europe.

But, let’s be honest, people visit the Algarve mainly for the good weather and the beaches. There are no big cities like Lisbon and Porto. So, should you take a day and exchange some of your precious pool time for a visit to Lagos? Heck yeah! It’s the perfect mix of a historic city (not too big), mind-boggling rock formations, incredible beaches, art, seafood, and nightlife.

We live near Lagos and spend a lot of time there. This article will be updated regularly with new findings as we aim that this article is the best local source for what to do in Lagos. As most people only have time to visit one day, our recommendations are aimed at giving you the best day you can possibly have. This is the best of the best, the cream of the crop. Enjoy!

Main things to do and see in the city of Lagos

  • Sunrise at Ponte da Piedade
  • Discover murals in the historic city center
  • Boat trip to the caves
  • Long beach walk on Meia Praia
  • Sunset at Porto de Mós
  • Eat fresh fish in one of the many restaurants

When is the best time to visit Lagos?

Aerial of the historic city center of Lagos in Portugal

Basically, there are 2 factors that determine your choice: weather and number of tourists. Ask anyone in the Algarve and they will tell you to steer clear of July and August (high season). It is extremely busy and hot. But, if you have kids going to school, you might not have a choice. And, of course, during those months, the city center of Lagos is bustling with activity, music, and nightlife.

March through June, it is less crowded, and the weather and hours of sunshine are improving each day. September through November, the ocean water is at its best and crowds disappear. Most restaurants and beach bars in Lagos are still open. These are by far the best months to visit Lagos! You can find affordable flight and hotel deals and because Lagos did not turn into a tourist-town like in the high season, you can truly enjoy the historic vibe of the city and the incredible nature surrounding it.

December through February, you are probably better off going on a ski holiday, a city trip to a major European city, or somewhere far like the Caribbean to enjoy the sun. You still can get beautiful weather in Lagos, but the days are pretty short and the nights get cold. The biggest downside is that almost all restaurants and bars are closed. However, the city center of Lagos does not become a full-blown ghost town like many of the other Algarvian cities, so you can still have a good time. The upsides are the hotel deals and when the weather is great, you have the city (and the beaches) almost all to yourself. Lagos even gets this ‘hidden gem’ feel.

1. Catch the sunrise at Ponte da Piedade

Sunrise at Ponte da Piedade

The absolute main attraction of Lagos is Ponte da Piedade. The rock formations are otherworldly and the postcard of the Algarve. Ponte da Piedade is filled with impressive cliffs, caves, and picture-perfect beaches in little bays. Close to the lighthouse, where you park, you can take the large stairs down to the main bay of Ponte da Piedade. At the bottom, there is a plateau for boats which on low tide also gets you to a small beach. At sunrise, photographers occupy this particular spot as the sunrise is just magical there. It’s an early wake-up, but you won’t regret it!

Follow your once-in-a-lifetime sunrise by a stroll around the park. There are wooden walkways all the way to nearby Porto de Mós. Numerous signs warn you about the dangers of venturing away from the paths, and they are there for a reason. Cliffs around Portugal are no joke as they are high and subject to erosion.

2. Discover street art while exploring the historic city

Lagos has been around for over 2,000 years. Unfortunately, the 1755 earthquake and ensuing tsunami destroyed most of the city. So, most of the buildings are rebuilds from that period. Within the old city walls, the government tries to maintain the historic character. This also means you don’t really have to explore Lagos outside of the old city walls, as you will mostly find apartment buildings. The rich history of Lagos suggests a lot of city walking tours and explanatory signs. You won’t find that much, but with a little effort (and Google), you can dive deep into its history.

The city’s best-kept secret is the street art found all over the city. For those that traveled around Portugal, know there are problems with graffiti. Lagos found the perfect solution through an initiative called ARTUrb, where international street artists are invited for artistic residences and do their thing. Sometimes, it’s on a large apartment building, and sometimes on an old door in an alleyway. While exploring the city, it becomes a fun game to spot all the street art. For more information about the project, visit www.lac.org.pt.

Mural street art at the bombers of Lagos

3. Take a boat trip to the caves

Trip to the caves of Ponte da Piedade

At the Lagos marina or Ponte da Piedade, there are numerous boat trips that take you to the caves. As you would expect, this is super touristic. But, you simply don’t want to miss it. Try to find the most local, old, crappy looking boat to get a more authentic experience. Check the tide times on Google as on low tide, more caves will be accessible.

In the Summer, it is crowded with boats but you will have fun regardless. It is a must-do in Lagos. Unfortunately, the boat tours close up shop quite fast after the summer months. Apparently, they make enough money in those months to last the rest of the year. But, ask around in the Marina and there will be somebody willing to take you out.

4. Go on an afternoon beach walk at Meia Praia

Beachwalk on Meia Praia in LagosMeia Praia is one of the few beaches in the Algarve that don’t have an amazing backdrop formed by cliffs. It is a quite straightforward miles-long sandy beach stretching all the way to Alvor. This does make it one of the best beaches in the area for long beach walks. Outside of the high season, this beach is usually empty.

For some reason, the colors of the sky and ocean are something special. Blue hues during the day and amazing sunrises, the stuff you only see in paintings. The small waves, groomed by the northern winds, crash on the shore as you gaze into the distance towards Ponte da Piedade and the Lagos city center.

Meia Praia is easily accessible from the city center but because of the harbor entrance you have to go through the marina to get there.

5. Enjoy the sunset at Porto de Mós

Sunset at Porto de Mós in Lagos

Although the beaches near Ponte da Piedade are amazing, they lack a proper sunset as they face the wrong way. And, for those who’ve been to the Algarve, you know that the daily success rate of catching one of the best sunsets ever is around 99%. There is one beach that offers the best vantage point in Lagos, and that is Porto de Mós. It is a larger beach, flanked by white-chalk cliffs, located in a more rich area of Lagos (judging by the villas and resorts). The sun might not hit the water all the time, but the surroundings and colors in the sky always bring the magic. There are some nice beach bars and restaurants and one of the few in the west-Algarve that are actually open year-round (thank you!!). A local beer, great wine, gorgeous beach, amazing sunset, this is the best time of day!

6. Eat the fresh catch of the day

Lagos is a fishing town and has been for thousands of years. So, when in a restaurant, eat fish, as chances are it’s super fresh and well-made. There is a wide variety of Portuguese specialties but the most famous is the Cataplana de Peixe (or Marisco), a seafood dish made in a special large pan (the cataplana). As always, check online reviews for the best restaurants. However, in high season, it is quite hard to get a table in any restaurant so choices might be limited. All the more reason to visit Lagos outside of the high season.

Final thoughts

Surfing in Lagos Portugal

The seasonality of the Algarve causes Lagos to appear in different moods. The busy but lively summer months, calm and nature loving in spring and autumn, and the winter months for the hardcore Portugal-lovers that don’t mind the downsides.

You can’t really compare Lagos to cities like Lisbon or Porto, as Lagos is a small coastal city with around 30,000 people living there. The historic city center of Lagos is only big enough to explore for a couple of hours. The real magic is the combination of history, nature, and beach.

If you are a more adventurous traveler, don’t be put off by the over-touristic image Lagos and the Algarve has. This is only in the summer months. The other months you will be amazed by a quaint historic coastal city and have plenty of room to enjoy the wide variety of beaches and coastline.

Some ‘local’ secrets & tips:

  • Spot the storks throughout the city that have their nests on top of large chimneys
  • On Meia Praia, at sunrise, local families fish by using large nets which they pull ashore. It requires a large amount of teamwork and is a spectacle (takes a couple of hours though). This doesn’t happen every day, your best bet is the weekend
  • Usually, the ocean is basically flat, but with the right swells, Lagos turns into a surfer’s paradise. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is a spectacle combined with the rock formations and the sunsets
  • On Saturday mornings, close to the marina at the bus stop, there is a farmer’s market, where local farmers sell fruits, vegetables, and herbs, straight off of the land