10 Reasons To Visit Portugal In Winter

Portugal

Wondering if you should visit Portugal in winter? Here are 10 reasons why winter is the perfect time to travel to this European destination.

Traveling Portugal in winter means you’ll encounter less crowds, have an easier time booking tours, accommodations, and restaurants, and you’ll be able to have more of a positive impact on Portugal’s tourism industry.

During winter, Portugal continues to have plenty of beautifully sunny days, and the temperatures stay mild. While it might be too cold to swim, you’ll have gorgeous Algarve beaches all to yourself.

Read on to learn details about what winter in Portugal is like, and 10 reasons why you should visit Portugal in winter.

Winter in Portugal: The Basics

Is it worth going to Portugal in the winter?

Yes, it’s worth going to Portugal in winter. Portugal has a mild climate all year round, and during the winter, is still very sunny. During winter, you can enjoy Portugal’s historic cities, gorgeous beaches, and charming towns without the crowds.

bright lisbon buildings painted pastel pink with blue sky above them
Lisbon, Portugal in December

When is winter in Portugal?

Winter in Portugal begins in December and ends in March. Temperatures throughout Portugal’s winter are generally mild, with an average maximum of 17°C (62°F) and an average minimum of 10°C (50°F).

Which month is coldest in Portugal?

January is the coldest month in Portugal. Although January is the chilliest month of the year, the winters are mild and quite sunny. There’s lots of benefits to visiting Portugal during January, like less crowds, fewer lines, and more availability for accommodations and tours.

A beach in the Algarve, Portugal
Algarve, Portugal

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Portugal In Winter

During winter in Portugal the sun is shining, patios are cozy, there’s far less crowds, and you’ll have Algarve beaches all to yourself!

Let’s dive into 10 specific reasons why you travel to Portugal in winter.

1. There are less tourists and crowds.

There are both pros and cons of tourism. Although there are great benefits of tourism, when there’s too much of it, it can lead to problems caused by overtourism. Overtourism creates issues for people local to a community, but it can also impact the experiences of tourists.

When there are so many people visiting a city, a site, a beach, or another location, it becomes harder to take in the moment. Crowds make it more difficult to see the site you’re visiting, and it can also mean longer wait times and lines to get into attractions.

Portugal is not immune to overtourism. Back in 2018, there was already talk of how overtourism was impacting local residents in Lisbon.

The rise in tourism in Portugal has slowed since then, but it’s still important to be cognizant of overtourism – for the sake of the community you visit, as well as your experience there.

For example, during high season, Sintra is incredibly busy with crowds and lineups. But in the winter, it’s much quieter. Whether you spend 24 hours in Sintra or opt for 2 days in Sintra (or more!), you’ll enjoy experiencing this historic region of Portugal without the crowds.

One of the best ways to avoid mass tourism when traveling is to visit destinations in their shoulder season or off-season. Portugal in winter is the off-season, making it the best time to travel there with minimal crowds. By traveling at this time, you can be a more responsible tourist!

pena palace in sintra portugal
Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

2. More accommodation availability.

Less tourists in Portugal, means more availability for lodging! Portugal in winter tends to have way more hotel, bnb, and short-term rental availability.

In the off-peak season, you’ll find not only that there is more availability, but it is slightly less expensive, and can be booked more last-minute. You’re able to travel with more flexibility because your accommodations don’t necessarily have to be booked far in advance.

3. Things are a bit cheaper in Portugal in winter.

Since winter in Portugal is the low season for tourism, there’s lower demand for accommodations, tours, restaurants, and other tourism related things.

As a result, prices drop a bit. You’ll find that the rates for booking your hotels will be of better value, and the prices for tours will be slightly lower during the winter. Booking in advance will also contribute an extra discount, so it’s well worth planning your travel a few months ahead.

Depending on where you are flying from, you’ll find that airlines drop prices for flights to Portugal in winter. Because there is less demand for these flights, the prices are made more accessible.

When you combine all the costs for a winter trip to Portugal versus a summer trip, and off-season trip will amount to significantly less.

Castle of the Moors is covered in the Your Comprehensive Sintra, Portugal Guide
Castle of the Moors, Sintra, Portugal

4. Off-peak means fewer lineups for attractions.

Peak season in Portugal is busy, especially in the cities like Porto and Lisbon, and the Algarve coast. This often means lineups for everything from museums, to historical sites, restaurants, and even finding a spot on a beach.

Visiting Portugal in winter is the best way to avoid waiting in line to see the famous Quinta de Regaleira in Sintra, visit gorgeous towns like Ferragudo and Silves, or to ride the Elevador de Santa Justa in Lisbon.

And, you’ll have an easier time getting into popular restaurants, regardless of where you are in Portugal.

5. The weather is pleasant during Portugal’s winter.

Despite it technically being winter in Portugal, the winter months stay pretty mild. The temperatures average between 10°C (50°F) and 17°C (62°F), the air is dry, there’s plenty of sun, and little rain.

Does it snow in Portugal? It does in some of the mountainous regions of Portugal, but at lower altitudes, you won’t see any snow it all.

In the summer, Portugal becomes quite hot, and so the winter months mean you’re able to enjoy Portugal’s outdoors super comfortably because of this mild weather.

You can spend endless hours wandering the neighborhoods of Lisbon, exploring the castle grounds of Pena Palace, visiting Benagil Cave, or taking day trips from Lagos – without worrying about overheating.

The mild weather also makes Portugal in winter the perfect time to hike. For gorgeous coastal views, hike a portion of the  Rota Vicentina.

The Rota Vicentina is a network of hiking trails that spans 750 kilometers of Portugal, bringing hikers through villages, past limestone formations, up along coastal cliffs, and past sea coves.

The Fisherman’s Trail is one of the more popular routes on the Rota Vicentina because it runs along the Algarve coast. You can walk a small portion of the trail as a daytrip. For example, take the trail from Praia da Ingrina to Praia dos Rebolinhos (a beach just outside Sagres).

views  of the portuguese coastline while hiking the rota vicentina fishermens trail algarve portugal
Views on the Fishermen’s Trail, Algarve, Portugal

6. In December you can enjoy Portuguese holiday celebrations.

Christmas is celebrated across Portugal, which means if you visit in late November or throughout December, and up until the New Year, you’ll get to take part in the holiday festivities.

You’ll notice that many cities and towns across Portugal put up festive lights and trees, and Christmas markets pop up in main squares. In Lisbon you’ll notice there are small Christmas markets throughout the city.

Every year, the Christmas spirit fills the Parque Eduardo VII in Lisbon, transforming it into a winter wonderland. Entry into this little festival is free. You’ll find an ice rink, a ferris wheel, activities for kids, and an artisan market.

If you visit Portugal during the holiday season, be sure to try Portuguese Christmas cake. Known as Bolo Rei (King Cake), these are cakes made of a ring of brioche pastry. They are lightly spiced and fluffy, and filled with yummy fruit and nuts.

aerial view of a yellow beach surrounded by cliffs on the ocean, which is Tonel beach in Algarve Portugal
Tonel Beach in Algarve, Portugal

7. Winter in Portugal is the best time for surfing.

Did you know that Portugal is a surfing destination? Portugal in winter becomes a surfing hot spot at beaches all along its western coast.

In fact, Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal is one of the most famous surfing beaches in the world. This beach has some of the most giant waves in the world. In 2011, Garrett McNamara set a world record for the largest wave ever surfed when he rode a 78-foot monster wave at Praia de Norte.

While many visitors to Portugal in winter head to Nazaré to watch surfers on the huge waves, it’s also a great time to take surf lessons.

You can take lessons at many of the best Algarve beaches. Tonel Beach is a particular favourite for surf lessons. It’s on the west coast of Portugal, which makes it’s surg particularly good for surfing.

There are a couple surfing schools that operate out of Sagres, a small town right by Tonel Beach. They provide the equipment needed as well as an instructor to help you get the basics of surfing down.

barrels stacked on top of eachother of port wine at Calem Wines in Porto, Portugal
Barrels of port wine in Porto, Portugal

8. You can experience Porto’s Essência do Vinho wine festival.

If you visit Portugal in February, you can catch an amazing wine festival in the northern city of Porto.

Every February, hundreds of wine producers gather for 4 days in Porto’s beautiful Palácio da Bolsa. At Essência do Vinho you’re able to discover more than 3000 different wines coming from over 400 different producers.

Wines come from all over Portugal, as well as some international wine regions. While it’s possible to enjoy tastings, the festival also serves as an opportunity for key players in the wine industry to connect with each other.

There are various events that you can attend throughout the 4 days of the festival. Some are free, but others are paid events.

Essência do Vinho also includes a pop up shop where you can pick up Portuguese wines to take home with you!

a street painted pink that's got colourful umbrellas hanging from above in Lisbon, Portugal
Pink Street, Lisbon

9. There’s plenty to do indoors in Portugal in winter.

There’s lots of ways to cozy up inside while you travel Portugal in winter. Regardless of where you are in Portugal, you’ll always be able to find a little coffee shop to have a hot chocolate or tea in, or a restaurant to pop into for a meal.

While exploring Portugal, be sure to try famous Portuguese sardines the classic way, either with bread or as they are on a plate. You can also pop into one of Lisbon’s supermarkets to find canned sardines that you can bring home to your hotel for a late-night snack.

You’ll also want to have plenty of pastéis de nata, which are Portuguese custard tarts made of puff pastry that’s filled with egg custard.

And of course, you’ve got to have a bifana sandwich. Bifanas are made with thin slices of pork that are marinated and simmered in a sauce of white wine, garlic, and paprika. The bifana is served on a bread roll along with mustard and piri piri sauce.

In the cities Porto and Lisbon there are tons of indoor museums to keep you busy. You can learn some of Portugal’s history at Bolsa Palace in Porto, which is the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.

In Lisbon, you can discover the tradition of making azulejos (Portuguese tiles) at the National Tile museum.

view of buildings lit up along a river at sunset in Porto, portugal
Porto, Portugal

10. Visiting Portugal in winter benefits tourism and communities.

During the off-peak season in any tourist destination, locals working in tourism earn less income. This is the case in Portugal, which sees a big surge in tourism during the spring and summer months, but a drop-off during the winter months.

When you visit Portugal in the off-peak season, you’re able to spend your tourist dollars at a time of year when they’re more needed. This benefits the local Portuguese communities that you travel to, from the restaurants you eat in, to the hotels you book, and the tour guides you hire.

Winter in Portugal is the Time to Go

Visiting Portugal in winter will give you the freedom to avoid crowds and lines, travel with flexibility, and experience some of Portugal’s winter traditions and festivals. It’s the perfect time to explore Portugal’s bustling cities, and get outdoors onto the hiking trails, too.

Source: https://pinatravels.org/