Historically connected to the sea, the town was originally called Lacobriga when settled by the Celts in 2000 BC. From then on the nautical links remained. Lagos was the operational base for the Portuguese exploration of the coast of Africa in the 15th century, and it was here that the Infante D. Henrique (Prince Henry the Navigator) fitted out the caravels that led the way to the Discoveries.
It was from Lagos that Gil Eanes set sail, the navigator who proved that the world did not end at Cape Bojador after all, and that the sea was not inhabited by monsters. D. Sebastião, sailed from Lagos too, for the Battle of Alcácer-Quibir, and was never to return. Portugal thus lost its independence to Philip II of Spain in a dual monarchy that was to last until 1640. The people never gave up hope that their rightful king would return, however, and the act of waiting for their saviour embedded itself in the Portuguese soul, becoming known as ‘Sebastianism’.
In Praça Gil Eanes, the imprudent young king is remembered with a statue, created by the sculptor Cutileiro.
Yet history is not only about the adventures of heroes. Lagos was also the site of Europe’s first slave market, in the house with the arches (Praça Infante D. Henrique). This is now a point of cultural interest, with exhibitions and the sale of handicrafts.
If you wish to know more about the Great Discoveries, go to the museum of the Portuguese Discoveries inside the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, where you can enjoy a fine view of the town and sea.
Lagos preserves a cosmopolitan atmosphere and a longstanding relationship with the sea, and its rock-adorned beaches are among the most beautiful in the Algarve.