With the promise of spring in the air, the sun popping out more frequently and things slowly heating up, March can be a beautiful time to see Portugal. Up in the north of the country, temperatures in Porto usually hover around the 54°F (12°C) mark, with highs of up to 61°F (16°C).
Expect impromptu showers, however, as there’s an average of nine days of rain in the month. Edging south, Lisbon fares slightly warmer and drier, with fewer rainy days and highs of 64°F (18°C). Dip further south still to the Algarve and you might see highs of up to 70°F (21°C) on clear, bright days, allowing travelers to finally ditch the winter layers.
Crowds & Costs
Portugal emerges from its long winter slumber in March, particularly Easter (the first major school vacation period) looming on the horizon. That said, it’s still a very peaceful month to visit, with room rates remaining comparatively low (there are some great deals to be had on this front), flights costing a fraction of what they would in summer, and few travelers at hotspots across the country. The roads are quieter, too, making driving a less stressful experience.
The coastal resorts (in the Algarve, for instance) are starting to open for the season, though you’ll find attractions and restaurants are still closed until April. You might get lucky in March, with sunny days just right for exploring, but be prepared for the unpredictable – the weather can still change at the drop of the hat and waterproofs and/or an umbrella are an essential kit.
Where to Go
As the days get progressively sunnier, March is a superb month for spending more time in the great outdoors in Portugal. With the early springtime eruption of wildflowers and mild (but not too hot) days, it’s a great time to go on a road trip through the charmingly rural but still relatively unsung Alentejo region in south-central Portugal, factoring in time for hikes and farm-to-fork dining. And the last of the big winter waves draw a surfing crowd to the west coast and the Algarve.
Things are slowly picking up in cities like Lisbon and Porto, but crowds are relatively few, even at the trophy sights, and you can snap up some bargains when it comes to rooms (Easter aside).
What to Do
This is the last chance to squeeze in a city break to Lisbon or Porto before the Easter crowds descend. Both captivate with their alley-woven historic centers, hilltop miradouros (viewpoints), and an outstanding stash of galleries, museums, palaces, monasteries, and castles. When the sun’s out, café life moves outdoors to pavement terraces for people-watching over coffee and pastries like the pastel de nata (a traditional custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon).
It’s still too cold for sunbathing and swimming (the Atlantic needs time to warm up) in the Algarve and on the west coast, but some impressive swells (not to mention cheaper, more abundant accommodation) make this a good month for surfing in resort towns like Sagres, Ericeira, and Peniche. While it’s still cool enough, you could hike along the Algarve’s still quiet coastal trails or the more substantial 186-mile (300km) Via Algarviana, which takes in a huge chunk of the country’s south, from wooded mountains to pretty whitewashed villages and remote, cliff-backed bays.
The Alentejo is a vast region, best explored at your own steam (and with your own wheels). Here vines, meadows, and hills give way to characterful whitewashed towns that dish up some of the country’s best food (especially pork, cheese and wine). March is a great month to walk a stretch of the 75-mile (120km) Rota Vicentina Fisherman’s Trail, which threads along a thrillingly wild, little-known section of the Atlantic coast, stopping at villages en route.
Beer Generation Craft beer is the name of the game at this newcomer to Lisbon’s events line-up in mid-March. Come to taste hundreds of artisanal brews, with live music ramping up the party vibe.
Lisbon Half Marathon There’s nothing like milder weather to put a spring in your step, or so say the 35,000 runners who tear through Lisbon’s city streets for the half marathon on the third weekend in March, ticking off the landmarks along the Tagus River as they go.
Festival Intercéltico do Porto If you’re into folk music in a big way, get yourself over to Porto for this 10-day festival in late March, which welcomes Celtic musicians from across Europe to stages across the city.