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 without spending anything, 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 local activities without breaking the bank, the top free things to do in Lagos.

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1. 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.

Planning tip: 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.

2. Go to a reading at a local book store

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.

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

3. 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.

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. 

Planning tip: Preschool and elementary school-age children are not allowed in the gallery. It's open every day of the week, with shorter hours on Sundays.

A large green space with tall palm trees and one shorter tree offering ample shade
Find shade and relax in one of Lagos' parks © ogedengbe tobi john / Shutterstock

4. 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 have plenty of green outdoor spaces to spend their time. A few charge around N500 (children) and N1000 (adults) as entry fees, but many of these parks are 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 trees offering shade. Sports fans will love the Ndubuisi Kanu Park (in Alausa) and Ikorodu Recreational Park, both of which have basketball courts.

Planning tip: If you're looking for some peace and quiet, head for the parks on weekdays. They are fairly busy on weekends and packed during public holidays.

5. Take the kids to Didi Museum’s creativity classes

At least one Saturday a month, the Didi Museum hosts a creativity workshop for children. Led 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.

6. 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.

Planning tip: A good place to begin your search for what’s next on the calendar is the helpful Instagram feed of the Lagos branch of the Society of Nigerian Artists.

People walk on a rope bridge on the canopy walkway in the trees of Lekki Conservation Center, Lagos, Nigeria
The Lekki Bird Club organizes monthly free birdwatching excursions © Dumbra / Shutterstock

7. 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 trips offer a great opportunity to explore some of Lagos’ disappearing mangrove forests and wetlands, and spot their winged residents.

Planning tip: Check the club’s social media feeds for announcements of upcoming trips, news of which usually gets posted a week in advance.

8. 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.

9. 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 it 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.

This article was first published August 2022 and updated March 2023

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