Lagos Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Lagos

Lagos, from captive to captivating.

The story of Lagos is over 2,000 years old. It was a Celtic settlement before the Punic Wars of Rome and Carthage. During the Second Punic War the people of Lagos sided with Hannibal and the Carthaginians. That didn't work out so well. The Romans came, then the Visigoths from Toledo, followed by the Byzantines. In the 8th century the Moors arrived.

The Moors hung on until the arrival of King Alfonso III in 1241. He declared himself King of Portugal, the Moors then left and Lagos was Portuguese. In 1415 King John I gathered his fleet in Lagos, sailed south and sacked the Moorish port city of Ceuta. Lagos became the center of the expanding empire.

The religious, civic and military history of Lagos is in its landmarks. One can start with the Flag's Mast Fort. It is a square shaped fort, now a museum, with turrets and a drawbridge guarding the harbor entrance. The Castle of Lagos and the encircling walls were at one time the city's main defense.

Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance churches since the 13th century are located in the city plazas. The Churches of Saint Mary, Saint Sebastian, Saint Antonio and others with interiors extravagantly decorated with gold and azulejo tiles, hold magnificent paintings, murals and statues.

The most important activity of the city these days is tourism. It has incomparable beaches, a pleasant climate, the crystal clear sea. The Lagos Marina is a popular destination for cruise ships and pleasure craft.

See great medieval churches, forts, markets and picturesque squares and lanes. Excellent restaurants and exciting night life. The city embraces all people, and you.
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Lagos Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Lagos Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Portugal » Lagos (See other walking tours in Lagos)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: AudreyB
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Henry the Navigator Statue
  • Antigo Mercado de Escravos (Old Slave Market)
  • Igreja de Santa Maria (Church of Santa Maria)
  • Forte da Ponta da Bandeira (Flag's Mast Fort)
  • Castelo dos Governadores (Governors Castle)
  • Armazém do Espingardeiro (Arms Warehouse)
  • Igreja de Santo António (St. Anthony Church)
  • Praça Gil Eanes (Gil Eanes Square)
  • Igreja de São Sebastião (St. Sebastian Church)
  • Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market)
  • Marina de Lagos ( Lagos Marina)
1
Henry the Navigator Statue

1) Henry the Navigator Statue

Starting with the nickname "The Navigator", much of the story of Infante Dom Henrique was myth and legend. Henry did have a strong interest on cosmography and he supported and launched maritime explorations of Africa but he stayed in Portugal.

Henrique is still in Portugal. He is celebrated with statues in several places in Portugal and in other countries. In Lagos, he sits in the main square of the town. He shares the square with the Old Slave Market (there is no new one) and with the Church of Santa Maria. The pedestal is inscribed "Infante D. Enrique", not "Navigator."

The statue was made by Leopoldo de Alemeida, a famous national artist, in 1960. Henrique is sitting. He stares rather vacantly into space. Perhaps, like Antonio in "The Merchant of Venice", he is worried about his rich argosies, dodging pirates on the high seas and crashing on a lee shore. Or perhaps he's planning his next venture abroad.
2
Antigo Mercado de Escravos (Old Slave Market)

2) Antigo Mercado de Escravos (Old Slave Market) (must see)

Portugal's maritime ascendency had a dark side; slaves. Prince Infante D. Henrique, who was not actually a seafarer, earned the name "Henry the Navigator" by dispatching expeditions of discovery over the sea to Africa and beyond. The first cargo of slaves was delivered in 1441 by a Captain Antonio Goncalves.

Antonio discovered that Africa had a booming slave trade and he purchased 14 people. The demand for slaves grew. Owning slaves apparently gave one a certain social panache. Henry was entitled to one fifth of the value of slaves brought back. Captain Lancarote de Freitas brought 235 slaves in 1444. Henry took 47. Slavery became big business.

The present slave market was constructed in 1691 on the site of an old 14th century slave market. In 1512 King Manuel I had decreed that imported slaves could only be landed in Lisbon. The building is constructed in the Mannerist style and it has two floors. The ground floor is enclosed by stone arches and an iron fence.

In 2014 the city council installed a museum in the market. The building became a part of the UNESCO Slave Route program. In December 2018 it was called the "International Centre for Living Memory of Human Dignity" by Portugal's International Observatory of Human Rights.
3
Igreja de Santa Maria (Church of Santa Maria)

3) Igreja de Santa Maria (Church of Santa Maria) (must see)

On the southeast side of D. Enrique Square in the City of Lagos is the Church of Santa Maria. The church has been an operating place of worship since 1498. It has needed rebuilding from time to time. It was demolished by the earthquake of 1755, and again by devastating fires in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The exterior of the church is whitewashed. It has two bell towers. There are Doric columns and a Renaissance door. The interior is simple and plain compared to some of Lagos' other churches. It has one nave, an elevated choir and three side chapels. There is a statue of Saint Goncalo, the 15th century patron of the fishermen of Lagos.

Other images in the interior are Our Lady of the Assumption and Our Lady of Mercy. The sacristy holds an Infant Jesus the King dressed in 18th century costume. The balconies and windows are notable for their elaborate stone and metalwork.
4
Forte da Ponta da Bandeira (Flag's Mast Fort)

4) Forte da Ponta da Bandeira (Flag's Mast Fort) (must see)

This is a fort with many names. It has been called (in Portuguese), Flag's Mast Fort, Our Lady of the Stone in France Fort, Registry Fort or the Fort of Lagos. We shall call it Flag's Mast Fort. It is a simple but effective fort with a lot of names.

It was built in the 17th century and positioned at the mouth of the Bensafirm River in full view of the sea. It was able to cover the docks and quays on the river banks and establish cross-fire with the redoubts of Lagos Castle and the city gates. When it was built it was considered to be one of the most effective defenses in the area.

It was planned with artillery in mind. It is square shaped with a moat and drawbridge. The walls are thick with sentry turrets at each corner. The Algarve coast was frequently the target of pirates and corsairs. Lagos at the time was the seat of the military government of the Algarve region. It was completed in 1690.

Inside there is a small chapel devoted to Santa Barbara, patron saint of armor makers, artillery soldiers and miners. The walls of the chapel are covered with blue azulejo tiles. The fort also holds a small museum with paintings and photographs on exhibit.
5
Castelo dos Governadores (Governors Castle)

5) Castelo dos Governadores (Governors Castle)

It is said the most interesting feature of the ancient walls of Lagos is the so-called Governors Castle. The Romans installed the first wall around the town. These walls were improved and strengthened by the successive Arab and Christian occupations. The walls were the primary defense against Barbary pirates and attacks by sea from Spain.

At the entrance of the Castle there are two free standing Arbello towers flanking the gateway to the town. They are connected to the wall but they stand forward a bit. This toughens the defenses at the gate and provides for flanking fire along the wall in conjunction with the nearby Flag's Mast Fort.

The castle was heavily damaged during the devastating earthquake of 1755 but it is still impressive. It is well known for its military style construction and the Manueline style window. It was at this window that King Sebastian said his final prayers before setting out for his disastrous defeat in the battle of Alcacer-Quibir.
6
Armazém do Espingardeiro (Arms Warehouse)

6) Armazém do Espingardeiro (Arms Warehouse)

Originally a saddlery workshop, the Arms Warehouse was built in 1665. It was built by order of Dom Antonio de Almeida, second count of Avintes, who was governor of the Kingdom of Algarve. It was among a group of military facilities around the town, referred to as "Barracks of the Crown." It was a typical regimental warehouse.

The building became a rifle workshop and arms warehouse, then a storeroom. It was owned by the Portuguese army until 1980, when it was turned over to the Red Cross. The property has a rectangular shape. It has the Portuguese Coat of Arms set on one corner.

Inside is the Lagos Urban Evolution Interpretation Center. The center is in three rooms. Each room is dedicated to an era in the development of Lagos. The first concerns Roman rule to the Age of Discovery. The second covers later times up to the 18th century. The third room takes one from the 18th century to the present day.

In 2013 the Arms Warehouse was classified as a Property of Municipal Interest.
7
Igreja de Santo António (St. Anthony Church)

7) Igreja de Santo António (St. Anthony Church) (must see)

In 1707 the Brotherhood of Saint Anthony erected a church to Saint Anthony that was not attached to a Franciscan priory or convent. Saint Anthony was attached to the military forces of Lagos when he was joined to Infantry Regiment No. 2 in 1668. Since he was a part of the regiment, the Regimental Command was able to pay him a salary.

Thus Saint Anthony became the only canonized saint who got paid for his services. Not only that, he received promotions and soon achieved the rank of colonel. This practice ended in 1910 but the saint presumably can continue campaigning, after all, he never really retired.

The outside of the church is of smooth masonry for the most part. The facade is in the Baroque style. Above the main door is a niche with an oculus decorated with shells. On top of the facade is a shield with branches. The side facade of the church has an arch that forms a vaulted porch. The church has two bell towers, differently shaped.

The interior of the church is a treasure. Sumptuous Baroque decorations and gilded wood carvings cover the walls. Where the gold stops the white and blue azulejo tiles begin. There are six paintings of the miracles of Saint Anthony. Enthroned on the altar, he sits with the baby Jesus in his arms, flanked by angels with flaming torches.

The Municipal Museum of Lagos is attached to the church. It has an impressive collection of paintings of sacred art and 17th century carvings.
8
Praça Gil Eanes (Gil Eanes Square)

8) Praça Gil Eanes (Gil Eanes Square)

The statue of Gil Eanes, explorer and seafarer who sailed past Cape Bojador in 1434 in service to Henry the Navigator who did not go to sea, is not in Gil Eanes Square. The statue of the maritime hero of Portugal by Canto da Maia occupies a more modest spot in the Garden of the Constition. He seems at home there.

Gil Eanes Square is a large pedestrianized square with connections to several pedestrian-only streets. Picturesque buildings border the square. The City Hall is here. It has a tourism office on the ground floor.

In the middle of the square is the controversial statue of Dom Sebastian by sculptor Joao Cutileiro. Dom Sebastian is the king who raised Lagos to city status. It is safe to say there is nothing else like it. It is beyond modernistic and Dom Sebastian's gender is doubtful. And what is he wearing?

The old City Hall dates from the early 1800s. It has three floors and halls that are used for exhibitions. The new city hall was opened in 2019. The old hall continues in use as the Lagos Municipal Assembly.

To the right of the City Hall is the Barraca Street. Follow this street to the Meja Praja Beach. Continue on to the Lady of Grace Street to reach Infante Dom Henrique Square. Here is the Old Slave Market. The next stop for the slaves was the Americas. Sadness, shame and hope are commingled here.
9
Igreja de São Sebastião (St. Sebastian Church)

9) Igreja de São Sebastião (St. Sebastian Church)

Initially the church was built as a hermitage in the 14th century. It was dedicated to Our Lady of the Conception. Two centuries later it was rededicated as the church of Saint Sebastian. The building is located on Adviser Joaquin Machado Street.

The church was enlarged in 1490 as directed by King Joao II and again consecrated to Saint Sebastian. Sebastian was revered as a protector against the plagues that made off and on calls in the region. There is a small Bones Chapel annexed to the church. The bones are mostly skulls neatly stacked along the walls.

The altar is fashioned with gilded wood carvings. The church has three naves with arches and Doric columns. The main entrance is a late Gothic portico with a renaissance side portal. In the 16th century more side altarpieces were built. Azulejo tiles were installed in the nave in the 17th century.

The church was nearly demolished by the 1755 earthquake. The tower and tribune were destroyed and the parish headquarters had to be relocated. By 1828 the tower was restored with a clock added. Another earthquake shook the church in 1969.

There is a moving statue of Our Lady of Grace in the church. She, together with Saint Francis, continue to watch over the parish.
10
Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market)

10) Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market)

Door Factory burned down. That was in 1915. This building was used solely to sell fruits and vegetables. But there is more to life than fruit and vegetables. One must have fish. Some cafe would not be amiss. Meats are a must have and places to dine with a view. Then one could live better. The Municipal Market was a no-brainer.

The Municipal Market was built in 1924 over the place where the Door Factory used to be. To answer the need for variety, the Market is divided into three floors. The ground floor has stalls of fish and seafood and butchers. The first floor (2nd floor in USA) keeps the fruit and veggies and other stuff in six stores, and adds a cafe.

On the third floor is the coup-de-main. A restaurant with a terrace overlooking the bay of Lagos. The upper floor can be reached by stair and a panoramic elevator. There is also access to the Lagos Life Science Center, behind the Market. The interior south wall of the building is sheathed in colorful tiles designed by artist Xana.

The Market was nominated for the Alexandre Herculano National Prize for Architecture in 2006.
11
Marina de Lagos ( Lagos Marina)

11) Marina de Lagos ( Lagos Marina) (must see)

What would a marina have looked like in the time of Henry the Navigator? Henry financed Gil Eanes' first effort to explore the west African coast. The vessel used was a barge. It was basically unsailable and not really seaworthy. Gil Eanes was a brave man. One look at the Lagos Marina confirms support for sailing has come a long way.

The Marina was opened in 1994. It is meant for pleasure boats home-ported in Lagos and for boats coming in from sea, stopping by on their way to other destinations. It has 460 berths for mooring with support facilities. It has the Marina Club, restaurants, residences, green and recreation spaces, including the Adventure Park for children.

Lagos Marina is the homeport so to speak of the Lagos Navigators. They are an independent group of berth holders with the mission to assist visitors in enjoying their stay in Lagos. Working with the marina, the Navigators organize events throughout the year, always sharing knowledge and experience.

Gil Eanes would have loved that kind of back-up.

Walking Tours in Lagos, Portugal

Create Your Own Walk in Lagos

Create Your Own Walk in Lagos

Creating your own self-guided walk in Lagos is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Lagos Coastline Walk

Lagos Coastline Walk

Characterful and charming as it is, the historic city of Lagos on the Algarve coast of Southern Portugal has not succumbed to mass tourism, fortunately, retaining much of its distinctive centuries-old heritage. Lagos’s extensive history is reflected in the varied attractions found throughout the city, such as the ancient Moorish city walls, 17th-century Forte da Ponta da Bandeira and cobbled...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles