One of the most humbling – and educational – things to do in Lagos is to visit the Mercado dos Escravos(Slave Market), the site of Europe’s first slave market, dating all the way back to 1444. The arcaded building, once a guards’ mess and later a customs office, now houses the museum which details the terrible reality of the slave trade in Portugal. Spanning two floors, visitors can read written accounts of the first slaves sold in Lagos, along with items they brought with them.
The pretty church of Igreja de Santo Antonio is a treat for the eyes: with a Baroque exterior, its interior is lavishly decorated with the likes of ornate carvings, detailed gilding and decorative tiles. Once you’ve finished taking in all the spectacular details, pop along to the museum adjacent to it, the Museu Municipal Dr. José Formosinho. It’s an eclectic collection of Neolithic axe-heads, local religious art and – wait for it – jars of animal foetuses. If you want to skip that, though, there’s also an intriguing 1504 town charter. You can also buy a combined ticket which gains you entry to the Mercado dos Escravos and Forte da Bandeira (and vice versa). If you’re browsing cheap holidays to Lagos, this is a great way to save money without missing any of the town’s highlights.
One of the best things to do in Lagos is to stroll along the waterfront, past the battlement walls and fortifications, towards the Forte Ponta de Bandeira. This 17th-century fort once guarded the entrance to the harbour; step inside and check out the small, pleasant chapel, interesting, changing exhibitions and beautiful, sweeping views of the sea ahead.
What to do in Lagos? Hit the beaches, of course! There are loads to choose from, each with their own appeal. The Praia da Batata is a lovely cove beach, just off Forte Ponta de Bandeira, while just up the hill is the dinky Praia do Pinhão, ideal for swimming around the huge rocks studded in the bay. One of the most popular beaches in Lagos is the Praia de Dona Ana, with a cliff-side restaurant, but if you’re visiting in the high season make sure you get there early to nab a good spot – off-season, the beach couldn’t be a more idyllic spot. You can follow a path around the cliffs which brings you onto the quieter Praia do Camillo and further onto the Ponta de Piedade, a headland with a lighthouse that makes a perfect sunset-viewing position.
Escape the crowds to Porto de Mos, around 5km south west of the main centre. The positioning of this wide, sandy beach means that it’s breezier than Lagos’ town beaches, making it an ideal place to come for anyone looking to try out watersports, from kayaking tours to windsurfing lessons. There’s also plenty of space to make it a family-friendly beach, with a couple of restaurants and on-duty lifeguards during the summer. Porto de Mos backs onto high sandstone cliffs, which you can take various hiking and walking trails along.
If you’ve soaked up the sun, explored the museums and tasted the fresh cuisine, you might be wondering what to do next in Lagos. Why not take a kayaking excursion? Join onto a guided course and paddle your way through the turquoise waters, all while taking in a mesmerizing sealife beneath you and admire the stunning rock formations.