Walking Tour: Navigating Lagos

The port town of Lagos has played an outsized role in global maritime history. It was here that a fleet set sail in the 15th century, commanded by Prince Henry the Navigator, launching the Portuguese Age of Discovery. This walk traces Lagos' seafaring past at its marina, museums, castle and fortress.

Walk Facts

  • Start Museu de Cera dos Descobrimentos
  • End Fortaleza da Ponta da Bandeira
  • Length 2.2km; three hours

History in Wax

Lagos' wax museum-with-a-difference, the Museu de Cera dos Descobrimentos, has 22 historic wax figures representing 16 definitive points during the Age of Discovery. They include Prince Henry the Navigator, Lagos-born Gil Eanes (one of the first captains to explore the coast of Africa), Pope Alexander VI and Ferdinand Magellan (the first navigator credited with sailing across the Pacific).

Lagos Marina

To get a true feel for Lagos' connection to the water, head to the town's busy, boat-filled marina. Boat trips of all kinds depart from here, including cruises on traditional schooners with Bom Dia.

Scientific Exploration

Science museum Centro Ciênia Viva de Lagos explores Portuguese seafaring in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its main exhibit covers the age of navigation from the use of an astrolabe (an ancient instrument used to calculate latitude using the sun and stars in day and night skies) to today's GPS systems. Hands-on kids' activities include peering through a submarine periscope.

Lunch Break

Stop for lunch on Praça Infante Dom Henrique, where a quaint old building houses excellent restaurant 2 Irmãos. Along with petiscos (tapas), it has traditional dishes such as grilled fish or cataplanas (seafood stew) for two. Outdoor seating overlooks a statue of Prince Henry the Navigator, inaugurated in 1960 on the 500th anniversary of his death.

Church Visit

Close to the water on Praça Infante Dom Henrique, symmetrical church Igreja de Santa Maria was built during the 15th and 16th centuries and retains a 16th-century entrance; the rest of the remaining structure dates largely from the mid-19th century, when it was restored after a fire. Behind the altar, an orange-and-purple mural depicts battling angels.

Castle Ruins

What little remains of Lagos' castle today is well preserved. Built by the Moors, it was conquered by Christian forces in the 13th century. Legend has it ill-fated, evangelical Dom Sebastião attended an open-air Mass here and spoke to the assembled nobility from a small Manueline window, before leading them to a crushing defeat at Alcácer-Quibir (Morocco).

Restored Fortress

A drawbridge leads to Lagos' little fortress, the Fortaleza da Ponta da Bandeira. Built in the 17th century to protect the port, it's been restored to house an exhibition on the Portuguese Age of Discovery. A beautifully tiled chapel is dedicated to Santa Barbara, often invoked as a protector against storms.