Is Lagos worth visiting?

Is Lagos worth visiting Praia dos Estudantes

First things first….I’m talking about Lagos on the Algarve coast of Portugal, not Lagos as in the capital city of Nigeria! Lagos is a popular destination with British holiday makers, and it’s easy to see why. I booked an Air BnB in Lagos with my mom for four days to check it out! It has gorgeous beaches and a traditional old town, as well as some interesting sightseeing. So, is Lagos worth visiting? What’s the verdict?

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Amy templeseeker Is Lagos worth visiting
Here I am outside Lagos Castle in the Algarve

How to get to Lagos

There is an airport in Lagos that connects many UK cities via Ryanair and Easyjet including Manchester, Birmingham and London. I often fly from Liverpool to Faro and then take the train from Faro to Lagos. Lagos is on a well connected train line that runs along the Algarve (excluding Sagres which you need to get to by car).

Buying train tickets at Lagos station
Buying train tickets at Lagos station

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Is Lagos worth visiting?

Personally, I really enjoyed Lagos. Always look up to admire the architecture and look down to see the beautifully designed traditional Calçadas Portuguesa (Portuguese decorative pavements). I even saw one pavement with the shape of an octopus in its design! There are some great don’t miss things to do including the museum and a boat trip to the Benagil caves. The beaches in Lagos are beautiful and there are several to explore. If you were to ask me is Lagos worth visiting I would say yes absolutely! It’s a great choice for a holiday destination. 

Octopus Calcadas Lagos
Calçadas Portuguesa, Lagos, Algarve

Lagos vs Faro

Lots of people ask me which is better? Lagos or Faro? I’ve been to both and can honestly say that Lagos has a lot more to offer, particularly in Terms of restaurants and beaches. The only times that I’ve opted to stay in Faro over Lagos is when I have a flight departing from Faro airport. Saying that, Faro is a nice little town with great surrounding areas. You can ready more here on: Is Faro worth visiting? 

Is Faro worth visiting
The historic centre of Faro, Algarve

How long to visit Lagos

You could quite happily spend just a weekend in Lagos for the main sites and one boat trip. However, it’s one of those laid back surf dude paradises that could keep you captivated for a week or two, possibly even more! If you are a sun worshipper or surfer you could easily spend two weeks in Lagos! There are also some cute places around Lagos that you could visit as day trips such as Sagres, Monchique, Silves and Portimao. If you spend a week or more in Lagos you will also have time to do some of the coastal walking trails and explore some of the more remote beaches such as Praia do Camilo.

Mercado de Escravos Lagos

Pros of Lagos

Lagos is brimming with gorgeous beaches, amazing restaurants, castles and stunning architecture. It really is a great destination for families, couples and solo travellers alike.

Igreja de Santa Maria de Lagos
Igreja de Santa Maria de Lagos

Beautiful beaches

Lagos has some of the best beaches in the Algarve, which are great for learning to surf and also sunbathing. The most popular and most accessible beach in Lagos is Praia dos Estudantes, which is walkable from the historic centre. However, I would encourage you to spend a day or two exploring a few other beaches in the area which are accessible by taxi.

Praia do Camilo Lagos Algarve

My favourite, Praia do Camilo (pictured above), was a great recommendation from my college friend – thanks Vic! There is a fantastic fish restaurant at the top of the steps – O Camilo – which you should absolutely make time for.

eating fish at restaurant Camilo Lagos
eating fish at restaurant Camilo, Lagos

Two Fortresses waiting to be discovered

There are two Fortresses waiting to be discovered in Lagos. The first is Castelo dos Governadores informally known as Lagos Castle (you can see this in one of my images above). As well as Lagos Castle, there is also Fortaleza de Lagos, which is directly overlooking the ocean. So, if you like castles, you will love Lagos!

Fortaleza de Lagos
Fortaleza de Lagos, Algarve

Museum and Churches

The architecture in the historical centre of Lagos is beautiful, but there is one thing in particular that you should not miss – the Church of St. Anthony and Lagos Museum Dr. José Formosinho. The museum houses some local items including some historical azulejos pieces (blue and white Portuguese tiles), some Christian artefacts and some local art. But, the end of the exhibit is a look at the impressive interior of the Church of St. Anthony – the baroque interior is one of the most impressive examples of gilded woodwork in Portugal.

Tickets available on the door for €3 (at the time of visiting in December 2022)

Igreja de Santo António

Boat rides to Benagil

From Lagos, it’s easy to take a boat trip to one of the Algarves most famous natural attractions – the Benagli caves. This striking sea cave is best accessed by kayak or small boat, and you can book speedboat tours here on Get Your Guide.

Benagil Cave highlights of Portugal
Highlights of Lagos – Benagli Caves

Relaxed Atmosphere and Great Restaurants

Overall, what’s really charming about Lagos is it’s artsy vibe and relaxed atmosphere. In the streets of the historic centre you will find quirky souvenir shops, sculptures and street art. It’s a wonderful place just to chill out and while away the hours people watching. There are some amazing restaurants in Lagos to sit and enjoy some seafood or traditional Portuguese cuisine. Some of my favourite reasonably priced restaurants serving a mixture of Portuguese and international food were O Charco and S. Goncalo.

Street Art Lagos

Cons of Lagos

There are honestly not too many cons of Lagos – it’s such a beautiful and relaxing place. But do beware of rip-off taxis, poor weather in winter, high levels of tourism and expensive drinks.

Poorer weather in Winter

One of the downsides is that the weather isn’t great all year round. Although the Algarve has the best weather in Portugal it does take a dip in December, January and February. We once went in December and still managed to get enough sunshine days to eat outside occasionally, but usually, in the winter months it can be hit and miss. So, make sure that you time your trip accordingly. I would recommend the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October) to avoid the crowds but still get decent weather.

Quite touristy – if you want more of a city feel head to Porto or Lisbon

Although the Algarve has the best weather in Portugal, it does come with the downside of heavy tourism. This means less traditional towns and more English being spoken. That’s all well and good if you want a ‘Brits on the beach’ experience, but some people who prefer culture and authenticity (like myself) prefer to visit the North of Portugal. Although Lagos has some good nightlife, some people want more than what Lagos has to offer in the evenings and decide to head to Lisbon for the thriving experience of Bairo Alto and Pink Street.

Touristy streets in Lagos Algarve
Touristy streets in Lagos Algarve

Taxis can be expensive and rip you off if you’re not careful

I’ve very rarely had experiences in Portugal where I have felt ‘ripped off’. However, on the two occasions that this has happened to me, both were in the Algarve. The classic is when you phone for a taxi and a large taxi or mini bus arrives, which you didn’t order or need, but end up paying more for. Uber doesn’t always work in the Algarve and sometimes when it does, there are surcharges due to ‘high demand’.

Risk of sun burn or sun stroke in summer 

Remember that the sun can be strong in Lagos, particularly during the summer months. This means that there is more risk of sun burn, heat exhaustion and sun stroke. Make sure that you pack a hat, sun cream and a refillable water bottle. Also remember to reapply sun cream when you come out of the water as well.

Lagos Camilo Beach Portugal
Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Portugal – Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Drinks can be pricier than inland or up North

With the influx of tourists come the higher beer prices! I often pay double for a drink in the Algarve than I would pay in the North of Portugal. For example, in Porto, Coimbra and Braga it is easy to find a 1€ finho (small beer), but in the Algarve that is harder to find. In the Northern cities, I can get cocktails for between 5€-8€, but in Lagos I often find myself paying 10€-12€. I would definitely avoid Bon Vivant in Lagos for drinks as it is a bit of a rip off and many tourists have reported aggressive bouncers.

Overall verdict – Is Lagos worth Visiting?

I would definitely recommend a visit to Lagos. You will also enjoy Lagos if you are a hiker because there is an abundance of coastal hiking trails in that area. So it’s not just for the sun worshippers! As well as enjoying the atmosphere of the old town, there are some great day trips in local areas. Is Lagos worth visiting? My vote is yes!

Street Art Lagos near Train Station
Street Art in Lagos near the Train Station

Ideas for Onward travel from Lagos

There are some fantastic destinations that are easy to get to from Lagos as either day trips or onward travel.

  • Faro – A nice small Algarvian city with a University, including some interesting architecture – including Sé Catedral de Faro and Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Nª. Srª. do Monte do Carmo or the Chapel of Bones.
  • Tavira – A picturesque town in the Algarve with beautiful cobbled streets and Moorish influences in its architecture. Don’t miss Tavira Castle, the Roman bridge and the Igreja da Misericórdia.
  • Silves – Algarvian town overlooked by one of the best preserved Moorish castles in Portugal. It makes a great daytrip from Lagos.
Is Portugal worth visiting? Silves
The castle of Silves
  • Lisbon – The capital city of Lisbon is a great add on if you have extra time to spend in Portugal after your visit to the Algarve. Fantastic for Churches, St Georges castle and several Belem monuments, and also nearby beaches.
  • Porto – Lisbon second city on the Northern Atlantic coast of Portugal is fantastic for Churches, azulejos architecture and boat trips down the Duoro valley. It’s a must visit if you are into Port wine as you can visit the Port wine houses in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Highlights of Portugal Ribeira Porto
Riberia, Porto, Portugal

Further reading on Portugal

If you are planning to travel in Portugal then you might also like to read the following