Lagos can be anything you want it to be.

If luxury is your language, rest assured that Lagos speaks it well. If, however, you’re on a tight budget and want to experience this bustling Nigerian city for less, you’ll be welcomed with open arms by the city’s creative arts community, whose vibrancy is attracting attention around the world. 

Here’s a lineup of the things locals like to do without breaking the bank: our list of the top free things to do in Lagos.  

Get your groove on at the New Afrika Shrine

The New Afrika Shrine is a must-visit destination in Lagos. Every Sunday night, Femi Kuti – son of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – performs with his band to a packed hall during “Sunday Jump” – with an admission fee of around N1000. And every Thursday evening, the rehearsal for the Sunday show is free. If you’re around in mid-October, be sure to attend the nightly Felabration concerts, which run for a week in memory of Fela – all free of charge.   

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Go to a reading at PAGE Book Connoisseurs

As COVID-19 recedes, a wave of creativity is blowing across Lagos. On their own or with independent publishers, authors are writing more fiction and nonfiction books and getting them to a steadily growing number of bookshops, which host frequent book readings and conversations for the literary community. 

These small and thoroughly enjoyable gatherings of 50 or so are free to attend. The best three places to meet authors and the Lagos literati are PAGE Book Connoisseurs in Ikeja, Patabah Books in Surulere and Rovingheights Bookstore on Victoria Island.

In November and December, you can mix and mingle with a bigger assembly of book lovers at the Lagos Books and Arts Festival (LABAF) and Quramo Festival (QFest), both also free to attend. 

Get the royal treatment at Nike Art Gallery

If you’re in the Lekki area, head to the Nike Art Gallery – possibly the biggest gallery space in Lagos (and all of Nigeria). Staff will welcome you warmly and (if you don’t mind) make you feel like royalty by dressing you up in local Yoruba costumes. It’s an experience you won’t get anywhere else. 

Open every day of the week, its four floors showcase beautiful paintings, beads, fabrics, handcrafts and furniture; older, more traditional pieces are on the uppermost floor. Pop into its crafts shop to pick up a souvenir. And if you’re not in a hurry, feel free to linger in the front yard, dotted with a fine collection of sculptures crafted from metal, tire and stone. 

Take the kids to Didi Museum’s creativity classes

At least one Saturday a month, the Didi Museum hosts a creativity workshop for children. Let by experienced facilitators, these sessions help youngsters explore subjects like craft-making, sketching, painting, writing, poetry and music. The workshops cost a token price, which usually goes toward the materials to be used by participants. While the kids are busy with their tutors, you can sit in a quiet corner of the main gallery and read a book from the gallery’s library.    

Engage with contemporary artists at gallery and exhibition openings

Like writers, artists in Lagos are busier than ever. It’s almost impossible to keep tabs on all the exhibitions launching nowadays, while month after month new galleries are opening their doors. Exhibition or gallery openings are occasions usually enlivened by hearty chatter, cocktails and small bites. A good place to begin your search for what’s next on the calendar is the Lagos branch of the Society of Nigerian Artists (and its helpful Instagram feed).

Sip, paint and do karaoke at Biodun Omolayo Gallery 

If you’re inspired by the city’s artistic offerings, you’ll find ample opportunities to try your hand at painting yourself. Lagos now hosts several sip-and-paint hangouts – on a beach, in a park, at a resort and other public places. For a fee (N10,000 to N20,000), you can sign up for one. 

For visitors who would love to paint under the guidance of a master artist, the place to be is the Biodun Omolayo Gallery (at Lagos City Mall in Onikan). Since 2003, this space has mentored school-age Lagosians in the basics of all things creative. Recently, it created a suite of art-specific activities for busy adults and work-weary executives, including Sweet-Art (for the ladies) and Lead-Art (for men). 

Escape the humid weather in the city’s public parks

Thanks to more than 300 parks and gardens across Lagos state’s five divisions, city dwellers are getting the chance to spend more time outdoors. Except for a few that charge around N500 (children) and N1000 (adults) as entry fees, these parks are all free and open every day of the week.   

Nearly all of them have park benches, children’s play areas, snack-and-drink kiosks and multiple shade trees. Sports fans will love the Ndubuisi Kanu Park (in Alausa) and Ikorodu Recreational Park, both of which have recently renovated basketball courts. The parks are quiet on weekdays, fairly busy on weekends and packed during public holidays. But they are green oases in a packed city year-round.

People walk on a rope bridge on the canopy walkway in the trees of Lekki Conservation Center, Lagos, Nigeria
The Lekki Bird Club organizes frequent – and free – excursions to spot birds in the Lekki mangroves © Dumbra / Shutterstock

Go birding in the mangroves of Lekki

Once a month, the Lekki Bird Club organizes a bird-watching outing, giving bird lovers a chance for sightings all around town. Locations in the past have included the University of Lagos, Lekki Conservation Center and LUFASI Nature Park. These excursions offer a great opportunity to explore some of Lagos’ disappearing mangrove forests and wetlands, and spot their winged residents. Check the club’s social-media feeds for announcements of their upcoming trips, news of which usually gets posted a week in advance.

See a movie outdoors at Muri Okunola Park

Outdoor movies are becoming a big thing in Lagos, with three open-air venues (all on Lagos Island) offering frequent screenings. Nothing To Do in Lagos, which curates some of the city’s alternative events, hosts a standing screening in the Ikoyi neighborhood. The Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency has introduced a “Movie in the Park” series at Muri Okunola Park on the last Saturday of the month. Another collective takes patrons to Tarkwa Bay, where they can binge on games and movies all night long.

Enjoy an evening of classical music at MUSON Center

The Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Center in Onikan has been the home of classical music in Lagos since its home first opened in 1995. Every October, the venue hosts the annual MUSON Festival, a weeklong feast of drama, jazz, art exhibitions and opera. The festival is a good time to watch its symphony orchestra perform; at other times of the year, the organization puts on a variety of performances, many of which are free.

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