Looking for things to do in Portugal in winter?
You’ve come to the right place!
I had the pleasure of spending some time in Portugal over the winter months and couldn’t have asked for a better time! While my usual winter days are dreary and gray, in Portugal, I was pleasantly soaking up vitamin D, and basking in the sunlight on nearly barren beaches.
Did you know that Portugal receives nearly 300 days of sunshine a year? The sunny days mean that Portugal is one of the best European countries to visit in December, January, and February.
The winter months feel more like a balmy spring compared to what you would expect. Plus, when the holidays roll around, cities like Lisbon and Porto are filled with charming Christmas markets and festive lights.
Without further ado, let’s discuss the best places to go and top things to do during the winter in Portugal!
Winter in Portugal: Weather and Temperature
Portugal is a bright country with very mild winters. Most days leave you sun-kissed with the possibility of an afternoon shower.
Visiting Portugal in the winter is an excellent way to escape the dreariness of December, January and Feburary, because you can expect at least 6 hours of sunshine each day.
Temperature: Averages temperatures in winter can still reach 68°F / 20°C during the days with an average of around 62°F /16°C. Expect the weather to be springtime fresh during the day with chilly nights. It’s a good idea to be equipped with a jacket for those evening strolls.
Rainfall: The colder months (November to March) are also considered to be the wet season with an average of 12 days of rain each month.
The warmest part of Portugal in December, and throughout winter, is both the Algarve and Madeira Island. You can expect Portugal’s most southern region to be much warmer and drier than other parts of the country. You’ll see more sunshine and longer days at the beach!
Snow: Dying to see some snow in Portugal? Snow is a pretty rare occurrence outside of the Serra da Estrela mountains. This region is home to Portugal’s only ski resorts.
Why Visit Portugal in the Winter?
Portugal is by far is one of the loveliest places during winter where you can enjoy sunny beaches in the south and experience a winter wonderland in the north! There are a number of reasons that winter is the best time to visit Portugal.
Winter pricing is perfect. Portugal is already quite affordable compared to other European countries but the off-season prices are an added bonus.
Between the months of November to March many hotels and restaurants lower their prices which can be ideal with special occasions such as Christmas, New Years, and Valentine’s Day.
This made going out to dinner a no-brainer. With all the famous Portuguese dishes how could you not? After a day of tastings at the best port wineries in Porto, feast on some aheira or a francesinha to soak up the spirits. Maybe take a nap then head to dinner. The Portuguese eat quite late, rivaling only Spain. Here dinner hours are typically from 9-10 pm.
You won’t be spending more than 15-20 euros on supper which includes drinks. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Less Crowds, More Availability
The biggest turn-off for many travelers can be the crowds. If I end up in an area with too many people, I want to run away as fast as possible.
Hordes of tourists can cause confusion and anxiety and as we know make for terrible photos. We love to be able to walk up to any café and grab an impromptu glass of wine and soak in a little afternoon delight.
During winter in Portugal, you’ll be able to take nicer photos with fewer people around, eat when you like, and have the pristine beaches all to yourself.
READ NEXT: The Best Time to Visit Portugal
If you love adventure sports and enjoy the ocean, then a great destination to try surfing is Portugal. This is what brought me to Portugal in the first place: the sun, the surf and the laid-back atmosphere.
In fact, the winter is prime time to catch waves as the swells are more powerful and consistent, with water temperatures staying above 57°F/14°C. You can’t beat the chill vibes since most lineups lose the crowds of the summer months.
I was lucky enough to catch some waves in the Algarve during the winter season. If you’re just learning to surf don’t let the power of the winter season deter you from learning in Portugal. You’ll still be able to find surfable waves.
Lisbon is also a dream city to enjoy the holidays especially if you’re a wave hunter and enjoy coastal areas. It’s only 30 minutes from Ericeira and nearly an hour to Peniche and Nazare. With all this wave action you can spend days surfing or just enjoying the great views of the surf.
Have you ever seen a 100-foot wave?! Do you want to?! Nazare is home to some of the biggest surfable waves on the planet and they are firing during the winter season. Prepare to have your mind BLOWN.
A special reason for visiting Portugal in December happens to be all the holiday markets you can attend around the country!
Lisbon’s former bullfighting arena, Campo Pequeno hosts a bustling Christmas market with over 140 stalls. The city center also showcases Wonderland Lisboa in Eduardo VII Park which features a ferris wheel, ice skating rink, and holiday bazaar highlighting multicultural clothes, artisanal crafts, international food and more.
BEST LISBON FOOD TOUR
One of the best things you can do in the winter is to book a food tour and get your fill of yummy Portuguese comfort food! Not only do you get to taste the best products curated by knowledgeable locals, it’s also a fun way to learn about Lisbon’s history and meet fellow travelers. After all, could there be a better way to bond than over wine or mouthwatering petiscos?!
This is my favorite food tour, because you get to try everything from traditional Portuguese cuisine to inventive modern dishes. I highly recommend the drinks upgrade if you want to try the country’s famous port wine!
Porto is also host to a couple Christmas markets including one at the Crystal Palace and another at Batalha Square. Both markets run the entire month of December and include live music events and shows, gastronomy, arts and crafts and a gorgeous holiday atmosphere that is not to be missed!
There’s plenty to see outside the big cities as well.
- Águeda, the town in central Portugal that has become known for its umbrellas in the streets during the summer months, boasts Portugal’s largest Santa (in lights), as well as the world’s smallest Father Christmas, which you need a microscope to see.
- Óbidos‘ Vila Natal is claimed to be one of the best holiday markets in the world. About thirty minutes north of Lisbon, this town converts into an entire Christmas village, centered around the castle of Óbidos.
- Algarve: You can visit Vila Real de Santo Antónia to see the largest Nativity Scenes in Europe which includes 90 sets and 600 extras!
- Elvas: Live nativity scenes also occur all over the country in places like the UNESCO World Heritage site in the town of Elvas. Many places go all out with festive lights and decorations.
Portuguese Comfort Food
There’s no better time than winter to try soul-warming Portuguese comfort food. I was lucky enough to be visiting friends who didn’t hesitate to introduce us to many famous dishes. I was a bit skeptical at first but bacalhau á bras is phenomenal. It’s a combination of salted cod, eggs, potatoes and black olives, and is the ultimate comfort food.
While visiting Portugal you have to try cozido à Portuguesa which is the country’s national dish. A hearty stew packed full of meats, sausages and vegetables, it’s perfect for those chilly nights, hanging around a campfire.
Another indulgent comfort dish is feijoada. It’s consistency is similar to chili but the flavor is totally unique. , is a stew made with black beans, salted beef, and pork.
One more famous dish I have to mention is caldo verde. A little bit on the lighter side, this soup consists of shredded cabbage, potatoes, onion and garlic and is an ideal little starter to warm up those taste buds on a chilly day!
Now It wouldn’t be the holidays without a little sweetness. Of course, Portugal is known for tasty treats like the famous pastel de nata but it’s also known for a few other scrumptious desserts!
First, is the pao de lo sponge cake which dates all the way back to 15th century. It was said that nuns made this cake in the center of Portugal and discovered it by accident when it was taken out of the oven too early upon the arrival of the king who was visiting the convent.
Last but not least, the tiny tried and true holiday favorite is sonhos. These small deep-fried doughnut-like pastries are absolutely to die for!
Skiing in Portugal
If you’re determined to fit in a little ski and snow, head straight to Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountain range! Serra da Estrela Ski Resort in the northernmost part of Portugal is snowcapped from December to April and is the only place you can see snow in Portugal.
Crowds flock to this region to enjoy this winter spectacle. Here there are 9 slopes, perfect for beginners and advanced skiers alike.
This resort is the only place to ski in Portugal and is quite affordable as well. Skiing for the day costs nearly 25 euros in high season which typically includes weekends, holidays, and vacation time. The cost during “low season” is only 15 euros. With a price like that where do I sign up?
Best Places to Visit in Portugal in Winter
Wondering where to visit in Portugal in winter? Let’s take a look at the most worthwhile destinations in this European gem!
For the ultimate Portuguese winter getaway, you must visit Lisbon and enjoy the Christmas lights!
Most days are packed with sunshine, but it can be a bit mild and wet as the winter season includes rainy days.
Christmas in Lisbon is a sight to behold. The streets are illuminated with colorful lights, which makes for a fabulous evening walk. It’s quite a spectacle at the Vasco de Gama shopping center and Marquis de Pombal Square.
During December, January, and February there is so much more time to enjoy this marvelous town instead of waiting in lines.
While I was in Lisbon, I did A LOT of walking and found myself popping in and out of so many charming thrift shops while on my way to Castelo de Saõ Jorge.
The holidays are also the perfect time to visit other main attractions like Jerónimos Monastery or the tower of Belém. Be sure to try a food tour and the famous Portuguese Ginjinha liqueur.
The holidays also offer several winter markets mentioned above where you can pick up international treats and crafts to enjoy with family and friends.
The northern town of Porto is a fun holiday destination especially if you like to indulge in good food and drink.
I love the rich culture of this beautiful city. There’s something sweet and a little bit sad about it. Maybe it has to do with the suadade, the stinctly Portuguese combination of happiness and melancholy, best discovered through a Fado show.
Top off some sweet melancholic yearning with port wine and you’ll certainly be feeling some sort of way.
Porto is an excellent city for sightseeing as well. I did a walking tour and learned so much about the port town. At the end, the tour guide invited us to visit one of the port distilleries and we continued our journey into the evening. It was a really fun experience.
If you want to have the most beautiful beaches in the world all to yourself then visit the Algarve in winter.
Here the sun sticks around for nearly 5 to 6 hours each day and it can be quite warm in the sunlight with days reaching 68°F / 20°C.
During the winter season, you’ll be able to book tours to Benagil Cave with ease and be able to enjoy a chill atmosphere without the high-season rush.
Try staying in Faro as a base camp and take a day trip or two to Lagos or Sagres. Most tour companies provide local transportation.
Another holiday option that is quickly turning into a classic is to visit the remote village of Cabeca, located in the Serra da Estrella mountains in central Portugal!
During the holiday season, the residents of this town work hard to turn the entire village into a rustic holiday wonderland. This town has even earned the title of Christmas capital of Portugal because this tradition has been going strong since 2013.
Every inch of the town is illuminated in finely crafted décor like hand-strung greenery, wood carvings, and twinkling lights.
Throughout the month of December visitors can come and enjoy the pop-up restaurants, choral concerts, cooking classes, and craft workshops.
Portugal in December
It’s a great time to visit Portugal in December because there are so many fun holiday activities. Plus, the temperature is so much milder than other places in Europe.
The weather can be hit or miss during this month, rather mild, but with a slight chance of rain each day. December is the wettest month of the year receiving nearly 55 inches / 128 mm of rain throughout the month. This is typical in places like Lisbon and the north. However, it’s much drier, sunnier and warmer in the Algarve. You can expect nearly 10 days of rain in northern and central Portugal at this time.
The average high temperature is 62°F / 16°C but throughout the month it never falls below freezing, compared to other countries in Europe it’s quite warm!
There’s plenty to do during the month of December as the list of historical sights are endless.
December is also super special because it’s so festive! The towns are as bright as the North Star with festive lights hung all around. In between visits to Campo Pequeno and Batahla Square where you can pick up Christmas treats and presents for the entire family, you can soak up the beauty of Portugal during the holidays.
Portugal in January
Visiting Portugal in January is quite similar to the month of December. It’s far less crowded and you can expect great deals on tourist attractions and much cheaper prices overall.
The weather is also comparable. It’s the coldest month in Portugal with the highest average temperature reaching nearly 60°F / 16°C and the possibility of rain is certain for nearly 14 days on average.
Ideally, it’s the best time to visit the Algarve if you are looking for sun and fun. It’s not really sunbathing weather but it’s pleasant and there’s quite a bit of shining vitamin D.
If you’re an avid surfer then it’s a great time to put your skills to the test and try some big waves. In the winter you can expect major storm swells to bring in the largest surf-able conditions. Try visiting Nazare where pro surfer Garret Macnamara started surfing the biggest waves ever. It is essential to stop by Sitio da Nazare next to the Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, a lighthouse and viewing deck where you can awe at the surfers being towed into waves up to 100 feet / 30 meters!
Portugal in February
While February in Portugal is still a mix of sunshine and gloom it tends to get way less rain than the other months and still wins when we compare it to other parts of Europe.
Since the weather is much more forgiving compared to December and January it can be one of the best months to visit wineries in the Douro Valley. This way you can avoid the sweltering summer heat and get a more personalized experience with more time and attention from winemakers.
Another idea is to visit Madeira for a warmer getaway where you can: see the traditional Santana, Madeira houses that are over 250 years old and explore the enchanting fog of Madeira’s Fanal Forest, one of the only remaining laurisilva forests.
If you love to party, then you must visit for Torres Vedra Carnival which takes place a few days before lent. The bustling vibe and magnitude of this celebration is what makes it so exciting. There are over 13 large-scale parade floats, a huge number of masked merrymakers and musical numbers and a general fun-loving vibe that will not be forgotten. Last year the festival started on February 18th and lasted until the 23rd, this year is takes place from February 9th to the 14th of 2024.
Christmas in Portugal
During Christmas the Portuguese enjoy their main celebration on the 24th of December, typically celebrating all day with delicious food and local wine before making their way to midnight mass.
Afterward, they continue to celebrate by enjoying a large feast with family and friends that goes well into the early morning.
On Christmas Day the celebration keeps going with a Christmas dinner, typically of cabrito assado which is roasted lamb or sometimes even roasted turkey.
The Portuguese don’t actually celebrate Boxing Day on the 26th so it’s back to work as usual.
On January 6th the Portuguese celebrate Kings Day, which is noted as the day the three kings gave presents to baby Jesus. This day, of course, includes the consumption of King’s Cake, a brioche-like pastry decorated for the occasion!
However, after this, the Christmas celebrations are over. Holiday lights and decorations come down and things return to normal.
Portuguese Christmas Traditions
The holiday season is a time for family gatherings and spreading warmth and joy. Portugal is also home to many special Christmas traditions.
Firstly, the Portuguese mainly celebrate on the 24th.
Another major tradition is midnight mass, Missa do Galo, or Roosters Mass as some believe a rooster crowed at midnight to announce the birth of baby Jesus.
It’s common to light bonfires after midnight mass and let them burn all night. This old Portuguese tradition celebrates the sun and is in line with the pagan celebrations of recognizing the winter solstice.
In Portugal, presents are given at midnight when Christmas officially begins and is an eagerly anticipated part of the holidays.
It’s no news that Portuguese love their port wine and Christmas is a time when it’s flowing continually. After dinner, friends and families will gather to enjoy glass of port to relax and savor the holiday spirit.
Christmas Food in Portugal
Portugal is home to a number of culinary delights during Christmas. The typical Christmas feats is called a Consoada.
Back in the day, after mass and a day of fasting, the Portuguese would go home and eat a simple meal of cod and be “comforted”. Consoada comes from the Latin word consolata which means comforted hence the name Consoada Christmas dinner.
Nowadays the Portuguese still feast on traditional dishes which warm the heart and bring families together. One of the most cherished is bacalhau da consoada, a dish of salted codfish served with a medley of boiled vegetables.
Another traditional dish is roupa velma which is a combination of leftovers from Christmas dinner, including boiled fish, potatoes, and greens. There are many variations to this dish and families typically have their own recipe.
Another beloved holiday treat is “rabanadas”, slices of bread soaked in a sweet mixture, fried to golden perfection, and dusted with sugar and cinnamon.
For desert, bolo rei, a colorful king cake studded with candied fruits and nuts takes center stage followed by arroz doce, a delicious rice pudding.
These delectable dishes, steeped in tradition and flavor are essential for a joyous Portuguese Christmas.
How to Say Merry Christmas in Portugal
Merry Christmas translates to Portuguese as “Feliz Natal” and although this is the most common way to express your Christmas greetings, you can also say “boas festas.”
What is Santa called in Portugal?
In Portugal, Santa Claus is called Pai Natal. He is believed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve which are typically left under the Christmas tree or in shoes by the fireplace.
New Years in Portugal
New Year’s Eve in Portugal, known as Noite de Passage. De Ano, is a lively and festive celebration. Many cities including Lisbon and Porto, host public celebrations with concerts, firework displays, and street parties.
The biggest event is in Lisbon’s Terreiro do Paco, where thousands gather to welcome the New Year with music and watch a spectacular fireworks show.
The Portuguese have a charming New Years tradition that includes the consumption of 12 raisins to represent the 12 months. These raisins are supposed to bring luck for the year ahead and as you eat them, you should make a wish one by one. Typically, one raisin is eaten by each stroke of the clock.
Another Portugese New Year tradition has to do with the color the undergarment you wear! There are many meanings for what the colors represent, like blue for good luck, red in relationship success and yellow for financial help. The list goes on!
No matter where you celebrate the New Year in Portugal you will see a fabulous display of fireworks. The most famous display is held on Madeira.
What to Wear in Portugal in Winter
When visiting Portugal in the winter, there are a few essential items you’ll need to pack.
The most important things to bring are warm clothes and walking shoes. If you plan to be outside, you’ll also want to bring sunglasses and a hat since the sun is always shining in Portugal. But it’s also important to pack a nice waterproof jacket to keep you warm and dry since it can be chilly and rainy!
Be sure to pack some nice outfits and festive clothing as well if you plan to visit during the holidays. Most holiday events are considered business casual, but I always pack a few hot numbers just in case I get invited to a special event.
Final Thoughts: Winter in Portugal
Portugal is by far an underrated holiday destination you must visit! Between the food, the booze and the chill weather you are bound to have a fantastic time!
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- The Ultimate Lisbon Travel Guide
- The Ultimate Porto Travel Guide
- The Ultimate Algarve Travel Guide
- The Ultimate Madeira Travel Guide
- The Ultimate Azores Travel Guide
- The Complete Portugal Solo Travel Guide
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