The historic town of Lagos lies on the Algarve. Once a famous seaport, nowadays most visitors visit Lagos to indulge in its fantastic range of restaurants (with excellent seafood dishes), beaches, and wild nightlife.
During the summertime, this city becomes the center of partying for backpackers in Portugal with endless bar crawls, booze cruises, and fun in the sun. The city also makes a great base of operations to explore neighboring towns, coves, and beaches!
This travel guide to Lagos will give you everything you need to plan the perfect trip to the city.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Lagos
1. See the city castle
2. Explore the historic churches
3. Check out the grottos
4. Lounge at the beach
5. Hit the waves
Other Things to See and Do in Lagos
1. Go scuba diving
With around 850 km (528 mi) of coastline, Lagos and Sagres is the site of numerous underwater caves and shipwrecks. This is one of the best diving spots in Europe. Pedra de Ancora is home to a fabulous reef filled with lobsters and drum fish and swarms of fish can be found in Porto de Mos. Arriefes and The Cave are perfect spots for beginners. One dive with equipment will cost you €70-100 ($76-108.50 USD).
2. Visit the fish market
Mercado Municipal is a three-story market known for its freshly caught fish. Get here early (6-7am is best) to see local fisherman unload their catch and locals vie for the freshest fish. While the fish vendors can be found on the ground floor, you’ll also find fresh local produce, cheese, butcher shops, herbs, nuts, and oils spread through the market’s three floors. This is a cool place to spend a morning and buy some fresh food for the day.
3. See the Old Slave Market
In one corner of the Praca da Republica, under the arches of the old customs house, is what was Europe’s first slave market. The market opened in 1444 and it is said that, within a century, up to 10,000 slaves were being shipped annually from Africa. Today, this area is a museum. Exhibits include panel displays that detail the lives of slaves as well as those taken to Brazil after from the 1500s onward. On the second floor you’ll find manacles, weapons, maps, and the history of the port and slave market in Lagos. It’s open daily except for Mondays from 10am-12:30pm and 2pm-5:30pm. Admission is €4 ($4.50 USD).
4. Walk along the town walls
The town ramparts and fortification walls originally date as far back as the Roman era and expanded to accommodate the town’s growth during the period of Arab rule and again during Christian occupation. The walls as seen today date back to the 16th-century when Barbary pirate raids were common and Spain was threatening invasion. Today, the fortification walls still circle the entire city, so walking them may be more exercise than you want. Visit the Porta de São Gonçalo, which is flanked by Albarran towers, and the fort of Ponte de Banderia. These are the best preserved sections of the wall.
5. Check out the Municipal Museum
Located in a Baroque church annex, the Municipal Museum is next to St. Anthony’s church and houses a collection of archaeological artifacts and religious art. The museum was founded by Dr. José dos Santos Pimenta Formosinho in 1932. Here you can learn about the history of Lagos and the surrounding region. It’s a good way to spend a few hours when you tire of the beach. The entrance fee is €3 ($3.25 USD). The museum is open daily except for Mondays from 9:30am-12:30pm and 2pm-5pm.
6. Go on a trail ride
Horseback riding is one of the most popular activities in the region. In spring and autumn, riding along the beaches is ideal as there are very few tourists (this is not possible in summer when the beaches are crowded with people). In summer, opt to explore some of the lagoons or forested trails. A couple of companies offer trail rides around the Lagos area top. In summer, riding early in the morning or in the late afternoon is best as the days can be quite hot. A two-hour ride costs around €45 ($49 USD).
7. Visit the Science Center
If you need some time out of the sun, the Ciencia Viva Science Center is a neat way to kill some time with hands-on, interactive exhibits. Ancient Portuguese seafarers are the focus on the center’s three themed areas: orientation and navigation, life on board the ships they used, and distance communication. Learn about the sea route to India, old world navigation techniques, Morse code, and more. Entrance for adults is €3 ($3.25 USD). The museum is open daily except for Mondays, from 10am-6pm.
8. Go on a walking tour
Spend 2 hours learning about some of the history and culture of Lagos with a local guide. Ligio is a local historian, full of passion and charm. His tour can be found on TripAdvisor or Viator and include the sculpture of Dom Sebastiao, statue of Infante Dom Henrique, and the Governor’s castle. A good way to kick off your stay. Tickets cost €16 ($17.50 USD).
8. Take a food tour
Food Tours Algarve offers a food and wine tour that visits 5 restaurants in Lagos and includes around 10 traditional dishes. The tour is 3 hours and guides you through local neighborhoods, offering interesting histories, architecture, and cultural insights. Tours are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 6pm. Tickets cost €75 ($81.25 USD).
Lagos Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Prices start around €24 ($26 USD) per night for a 4-6 bed dorm in a centrally-located hostel. Private rooms that sleep 2 (twin beds) start around €70 ($76 USD) per night. Hostels here offer free linens and free wifi. Most offer free breakfast.
Budget hotel prices – Mid-range budget hotels start from around €40 ($43.50 USD). These generally include free breakfast and wifi. Most three-star hotels can cost about €115 ($124.50 USD) a night (they often include a free airport transfer as well).
Airbnbs are also widespread in the region too. Entire apartments start at €46 ($50 USD) a night while private rooms and shared common spaces (bathroom, kitchen, living room) start at around €20 ($22 USD).
Average cost of food – You can find snacks in bakeries for around €2 ($2.25 USD) while light meals and sandwiches costs around €7 ($8 USD). Try a bifana, sautéed pork seasoned with garlic, spices, and white wine, served on a roll. Dried octopus (polvo seco) is good, Bolas de Berlim (doughnuts filled with doce de ovos) is good too.
If you want a sit-down meal with table service and drinks, you’re looking at spending closer to €15-20 ($16.50-22 USD). Traditional Portuguese dishes worth trying are grilled sardines, Caldo verde (a collard greens soup), Carne de porco à alentejana (a dish with pork, clams, potatoes, and coriander) and, of course, Portuguese egg tarts!
For a week’s worth of groceries, expect to pay €35 ($38 USD). That includes basic staples like pasta, vegetables, and some meat.
Backpacking Lagos Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget, you can visit Lagos for C50($55 USD) per day. On this budget, you’ll be staying in a dorm room, cooking your meals, drinking during happy hour (or buying your alcohol in stores), doing free activities (such as enjoying the beaches and exploring the town), and walking or using public transportation to get around.
If you’re on a tighter budget, you can lower this by Couchsurfing, visiting during the off-season and cutting down on drinking.
On a mid-range budget of €115 ($125 USD) per day, you’ll stay in a budget hotel or private hostel room, eat at cheap local restaurants, use public transportation, go on a tour, take the occasional taxi, and enjoy some drinks at the bar. In short, you’re not going to live large but you’ll be able to get by without worrying too much about your daily spending.
On a luxury budget of €275 ($305 USD) or more a day, you can stay in a 4-star hotel, eat out for every meal at mid-range restaurants, drink what you want, visit museums and attractions, go on a walking tour, and go scuba diving. The sky is the limit!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Lagos Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
If you find cheap accommodation, cook some of your meals, and stick to mostly free activities, you’re going to be able to keep your budget intact fairly easily here. Prices skyrocket in the summer though so it’s a little harder to find deals then. Here are some quick tips to help you save money in Lagos:
- Get an Airbnb – Because this is such a popular tourist destination, many hotels raise prices substantially during the summer months. However, many locals rent out apartments or run small guest houses on sites like Airbnb. These can be significantly cheaper or will at least offer you better value for your money.
- Say “no” to bread – When eating out, a selection of bread and olives will be brought to your table before your meal. These aren’t free so just say no!
- Couchsurf – If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts all throughout the country. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see.
- Cook your own meals – Restaurants are cheap here but eating out all the time can still be costly. If you’re on a tight budget, save yourself some by cooking your own meals.
Where To Stay in Lagos
Lagos has some incredible places to stay. Book early if you plan to visit in high season (Jul-Aug) as the good hostels fill quickly. Here are my suggested and recommended places to stay in Lagos:
How to Get Around Lagos
Lagos is a small city and very walkable, and there is limited public transportation in the city.
Bus – Onda bus is the local company. Bus #1 circumnavigates the city in an anticlockwise direction. Tickets cost €1.20 ($1.35 USD) or you can buy a day pass for €3.60 ($4 USD).
Bicycle – Bike rentals start at €10 ($11 USD) for four hours, start at €13 ($14.50 USD) for a day. Rent from Coast Supply Co. or Lagos Bike Tours, they are the best options in the city.
Taxi – Taxis in Lagos start at around €3.30 ($3.75 USD) and increase €1.50 ($1.75 USD) for every kilometer traveled. Most drivers speak English but showing them the address on your smartphone will help. If you’re on a budget, skip the taxis. They get expensive fast.
Car rental – If you plan to go on a day trip, you could rent a car to have more flexibility. It will be more expensive than taking the bus or train but will give you more freedom. Expect to pay around €100 ($110 USD) per week for a small car.
When to Go to Lagos
Peak season in Lagos is during the summer months of June-August. Temperatures during that time are around 25-28ºC (77-82ºF). This is also the busiest time to visit the city so expect prices to increase as well (by a lot). The overall atmosphere during this time is lively and there are lots of places to swim or relax on the beach so it’s still worth visiting during peak season.
If you’re on a budget, the best time to visit Lagos is during the shoulder season. March to May and September to October are still warm so you can enjoy the outdoors without as many crowds. Prices are cheaper too. It may be a bit rainy, but you can still enjoy the city without much inconvenience.
Winter is from November to February. It gets cold and most everything has closed up shop so you won’t find much going on if you visit during the winter. Temperatures vary but overall temperature hovers around 15 °C (59 °F).
How to Stay Safe in Lagos
Violent attacks here are uncommon and petty crime is rare. Pickpocketing is the most common crime so just be aware of your surroundings when you’re in busy markets or when using the public transportation.
You won’t find a lot of travel scams in the city but read this article on 14 major travel scams to avoid just in case.
Additionally, young backpackers here may be approached and offered drugs as Portugal has decriminalized drug use (that doesn’t mean they are legal, just not criminal. You could still face hefty charges or jail time if you’re caught with illegal drugs). Always decline the offer politely but firmly and continue on your way.
As this is a party town, always watch for drunk people, pickpockets, and people spiking your drinks. It’s always important to be safe.
The emergency number in Lagos is 112.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Lagos Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Lagos. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Sweden, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Lagos Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Lagos Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel
It’s 1904, and a young man named Tomás has discovered an old journal. It hints at an extraordinary artifact that could redefine history. Hopping aboard one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he goes in search of this new treasure. Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist also finds himself in the middle of his own mystery – and the consequences of Tomás’s mission. Fifty years after that, a Canadian senator returns to his ancestral village in Northern Portugal where the century-old quest comes to its conclusion. This is a masterful story that reads like a fable but will keep you hooked the whole way through.
The History of the Siege of Lisbon, by Jose Saramago
Jose Saramago is such a literary icon in Portugal that when he died in 2010, the country initiated two days of mourning. It’d be wrong to not include him in a list of books about Portugal! Here, a proofreader’s deliberate slip changes one singular word in the history of the siege of Lisbon – and thus rewrites the course of history with the 1147 Siege of Lisbon (as well as the proofreader’s own life). It’s a genius story about the differences between historiography and historical fiction, and what happens when you insert stories into the past.
The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa
Fernando Pessoa was another prolific Portuguese writer, and when he died he left behind a full trunk of unfinished and unpublished writings. The Book of Disquiet is his posthumous masterpiece. It’s a collection of short paragraphs making up the biography of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa’s “alternate selves.” It’s an intimate piece of descriptive narrative, and it’s considered one of the greatest works of the 20th century.
300 Days of Sun, by Deborah Lawrenson
Set in a sunny Portuguese town, this book is about two women who are drawn into a game of truths and lies. Journalist Joanna Millard travels to Faro to escape her stalled career and directionless relationship, and it’s there she meets a charming young man named Nathan Emberlin. Over the course of getting to know Faro and its sometimes shady underbelly, Joanna learns that Nathan is determined to discover the truth about a child’s kidnapping from two decades before. The search leads her to a novel written by an American author – Esta Hartford – where Joanna discovers that fiction and reality are often not all that different. It’s a thrilling read!
Lagos Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Portugal and continue planning your trip: