Seasonal Planning for Portugal Travel
Most of Portugal has perennially mild weather, with hot summers and rainy winters. Temperatures can drop at night, so it’s a good idea to pack a sweater or light jacket. Travelers will want to bring shorts and T-shirts in the summer and long pants during the winter. The hottest weather in Portugal is found south and inland, near the border with Spain; sea breezes help cool off coastal towns like Faro.
Summer brings crowds of weekend trippers to Lisbon and Porto, and sun-seekers descend on the beaches of the Algarve. While the peak season can drive prices up, it also means better weather and extended opening hours at the attractions.
Winter can be a good time to take advantage of deals on tours and accommodation and get a quieter, more local experience. However, you might run into some wind and showers—bring a raincoat.
|Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|Spring (Mar-May)||Blooming flowers, cool weather, and Easter celebrations||Crowding around holidays (Easter and Pentecost)||Surfing, hiking, visiting popular sites in Portugal’s cities||Braga for Holy Week, Alentejo region for food and festivals, the Azores for whale-watching|
|Summer (Jun-Aug)||Good beach weather, long hours of daylight, extended hours at main attractions||Peak season crowds and prices; inland weather can be quite hot||Sunbathing on the beach and attending festivals||Porto, to cool off from the summer heat, Coimbra or Braga to escape the crowds|
|Fall (Sep-Nov)||Cooler weather, cheaper prices, and fewer crowds than in summer||Fickle, sometimes rainy weather, especially in northern Portugal||Exploring cities, visiting popular sites, sampling regional delicacies||Douro Valley for fall colors, Sintra to enjoy a quieter visit, the Algarve for thinner crowds|
|Winter (Dec-Feb)||Off-season deals, Christmas festivities, thinner crowds||Limited opening hours at some attractions; resorts and beach sites closed in southern Portugal||Celebrating New Year’s Eve, holiday markets, visiting museums, and cozy cafés||Lisbon and Porto for urban sightseeing, the Algarve for surfing, Serra da Estrela for skiing|
Spring in Portugal (March to May)
After the wet and chilly winter, spring in Portugal is marked by blossoming flowers and pleasant temperatures, making it the perfect time to enjoy hiking, biking, and other outdoor sports. Like fall, this can be a good time to beat the crowds. However, if you’re looking for a quiet vacation, try to avoid Easter and Pentecost (celebrated at the end of May), as these times will be busier.
Late winter and early spring are the best times for surfing in Portugal. Surf enthusiasts can head down to the Algarve or to Ericeira and Peniche north of Lisbon to catch some waves. April and May are also the perfect months for whale watching in the remote islands of the Azores.
If you don’t mind braving the Easter crowds, you can enjoy some of the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations that take place throughout the country. One of the largest is in the northern city of Braga, home to many important churches and religious sites.
Events in Spring
Beer Generation, Lisbon. Fans of craft beer will enjoy this mid-March Lisbon festival, featuring tastings of hundreds of artisanal beers and live music.
Semana Santa, nationwide, especially Lisbon. Portugal’s April Holy Week festivities include many colorful processions, where images of saints are paraded around the city.
Festa das Cruzes, Barcelos. In the northern town of Barcelos in May, the Festa das Cruzes (Festival of the Crosses) is celebrated with religious processions, concerts, and a fireworks display.
Summer in Portugal (June to August)
Summer is the high season in Portugal. Vacation time and sunshine attract travelers to Portugal’s beaches, islands, and urban areas. In particular, if you plan on heading to the Algarve to enjoy the sea, you’ll want to make your arrangements well in advance. Note that most European tourists take their vacations in August; things will be slightly more peaceful in June and July.
Those looking for a quieter vacation can head away from the Algarve and Lisbon and into some of the country’s less crowded areas. These include Portugal’s national parks, which are dotted with charming historic towns. You could also head northwards to explore Braga's rich religious heritage or Coimbra's medieval center.
Events in Summer
Alentejo cork harvest. Cork is harvested in the Alentejo region each year from mid-May to mid-August. Experience this ancient tradition for yourself as part of this 21-day itinerary covering both Portugal and Spain.
Festa de São João, nationwide. Taking place on Midsummer’s Eve on June 23, this Porto-based celebration is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Revelers hit each other with garlic flowers or plastic hammers, a tradition said to originate from pagan courtship rituals. They also enjoy street concerts, food, and fireworks.
MEO Marés Vivas, Vila Nova de Gaia. This annual July music festival takes place in Vila Nova de Gaia, a city adjacent to Porto. Past lineups have included both local and internationally-known rock and pop artists.
Feira de São Mateus, Viseu. The town of Viseu, southeast of Porto, is home to this month-long August fair in honor of Saint Matthew. One of the oldest celebrations in Portugal, it features a plethora of food, handicraft stalls, and outdoor concerts.
Fall in Portugal (September to November)
If you don’t care for crowds, fall can be a good time for urban sightseeing in Portugal. While the country’s most popular places, like Sintra, usually remain busy well into September, they begin to quiet by mid-October. The weather generally remains fairly warm until November. Since fall is shoulder season, tour and accommodation prices will be lower than in the preceding few months.
September and October are good months to visit the Algarve. While the crowds of summer will be mostly gone, you’ll be able to enjoy the last of the pleasant beach weather. By November, many hotels and restaurants in coastal towns will be closed for the off-season.
If hiking and fall colors are more your thing, head north to the Douro Valley for beautiful rustic scenery, wine tasting, and a cozy feeling. This wine-producing region comes into its own in the fall, when the grape harvest is in full swing. You can find a great itinerary that includes the valley here.
Events in Fall
Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, Lamego. Those who choose to explore the Douro Valley can check out this month-long celebration. Parades, exhibitions, and concerts are held in the city of Lamego from mid-August to early September. Near the end of the festival, religious images and costumed performers are transported through Lamego in an ox-cart procession.
Feira Nacional do Cavalo, Golegã. If you’re interested in horses, don’t miss this popular fair in November, where you’ll be able to see local equestrians competing in dressage events and wearing traditional riding costumes.
Winter in Portugal (December to February)
Winter is the off-season in Portugal. By this point, parts of the country are rainy and cold, and the weather is no longer beach-friendly. However, it never really gets too cold, and there’s still plenty to do in these months. Late winter is when surfers will find the best waves along Portugal’s Atlantic coastline. Although beach resort towns will be mostly shut down, winter visitors can take advantage of the quiet to snag some deals and enjoy having the beaches to themselves.
While Portugal isn’t known for its snow, there is a small ski resort in the Serra da Estrela mountain range. Its gentle slopes are perfect for beginners.
Meanwhile, those who prefer to stay indoors can head to Lisbon or Porto to get their fill of cozy cafés, fascinating museums, and port wine tasting, all without the summer crowds. Historic towns like Évora in the Alentejo region are also a delight to visit. See this article for a great city itinerary that includes Porto and Lisbon and several day trips.
Events in Winter
Christmas, nationwide. Around Christmas in Portugal, cities and towns are decorated with nativity scenes and twinkling lights. The main celebrations take place on the evening of December 24, when most families attend midnight Mass.
Three Kings' Day, nationwide. Celebrated on January 6, this post-Christmas holiday is commemorated with caroling, sweets, and bolo rei (ring-shaped cakes made with fruit and nuts).
Carnival, Lisbon and Loulé. Usually falling in February, Carnival marks the beginning of Lent, and is Portugal’s biggest festival of the year. Singing, dancing, and flamboyant costumes are all part of the festivities in Lisbon and the southern town of Loulé.