Lagos Tourist Attractions
Once capital of the old province of the Algarve, Lagos (altitude: sea level) lies on the west side of a bay of the Rio Alvor, here fully 2km/1.25mi wide, which is sheltered on the east by the Ponta dos Três Irmaos and on the west by the Ponta da Piedade and the broad estuary of Ribeira de Bensafrim.
The excellent beaches nearby have led to a great deal of recent hotel development around the town, together with apartment buildings and camp sites. Restaurants and cafes abound in the town, but the people of Lagos continue to make part of their living from fishing (tuna, sardines). An ultra modern yacht marina near the fishing harbor came into operation in 1995.History"Lacóbriga" to the Romans, Lagos became "Zawaya" under the Moors, who built the walls that originally fortified the town. These eventually succumbed to the Portuguese kings and Sancho II was able to take the town in the mid 13th C. In the centuries that followed it developed into an important ship building town and port, thanks partly to Henry the Navigator. It was also from here that Gil Eanes, who was born in Lagos, set sail in 1434 to become the first seafarer to round Cape Bojador in West Africa. The voyages of discovery brought Lagos fame and fortune. Trade flourished, and the slave trade with it the first slaves from Africa were auctioned in 1443 in a building on the present Praça da República. Lagos became the capital of the historical province of Algarve in 1577 and remained so until 1756, the year following the destruction of much of the town by an earthquake. Its subsequent decline in importance was only halted in the late 20th C. when tourism has brought new prosperity.TownscapeThe outer districts of Lagos, with their tower blocks and large apartment buildings, are really rather ugly. The town center is much more attractive. Although it has developed into a typical tourist center it still has the feel of a pleasant compact town which has retained its own character. Parts of the old town are still surrounded by the medieval wall. A small area in the center around the Praça Gil Eanes and the Praça da República is now a pedestrian precinct. There are many small shops and a plethora of restaurants and cafs with tables outside.
Forte da Ponta da Bandeira
The Avenida dos Descobrimentos (Avenue of Discoveries), opened in 1961, runs along the bank of the harbor channel as far as the Ponta da Bandeira. The Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, with its four round towers at the corners, was built in the 17th C. to guard the harbor. The narrow drawbridge leads to the Museu Maritimo inside the fort (open to visitors).
Praça Gil Eanes
The Praça Gil Eanes is one of the two main squares in the center of Lagos. In the middle stands a famous statue (1973) of the "longed for" King Sebastiao, who set out from Lagos on a voyage to conquer North Africa and never returned. The statue is by the well known Portuguese sculptor Joao Cutileiro. On the east side of the square stands the town hall (câmara municipal; 1798).
Igreja de Sao Sebastiao
From the Praça Gil Eanes a street curves round to the little Praça Luis de Camoes and thence further north to the Igreja de Sao Sebastiao. Steps lead up to the attractive church square. A start was made on building the church in the 15th C., but considerable changes were made later. A chapter house adjoins the church.
Praça da República
A second central square, the Praça da República, lies at the southern end of the pedestrian zone and opens on to the Avenida dos Desacombrimentos and the seafront promenade. In the square stands a statue of Henry the Navigator, looking out to sea; it was erected in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.
Delegaçao da Alfândega
The north side of the Praça da República is dominated by the narrow building of the Delegaçao da Alfândega (customs authority). Black African slaves were auctioned here in 1444; they were shackled to the iron posts while potential buyers examined them.
Igreja de Santa Maria
On the south side of the Praça da República stands the Igreja de Santa Maria, a church which can trace its origins back to the 14th C., but was rebuilt following the 1755 earthquake. Henry the Navigator was buried in the old church in 1460; later his remains were transferred to the Capela do Fundador in Batalha Abbey.
Palácio dos Governadores
Behind the Igreja de Santa Maria stands the former Governor's Palace, part of which is formed by the old town wall. Until 1756 the Algarve province was administered from here.
The Baroque Chapel of Santo António just to the west of the Praça da República was built in 1769 in place of an earlier church. It boasts a magnificent talha dourada Baroque altar which takes up the whole of the wall of the choir.
Museu Municipal de Lagos
The collections of the Museu Municipal de Lagos have been housed in the building adjoining the church since 1934. As well as an azulejo collection and some religious exhibits there is a small archeological section.
Praia de Dona Ana
To the south of Lagos is the well known Praia de Dona Ana with rocky islets lying offshore. It is the most beautiful of the bays around Lagos, but is usually very crowded in the high season.
Praia do Camilo
To the south of Lagos is the small Praia do Camilo.
Map of Lagos Attractions