When it comes to deciding the best time to visit Portugal, there are a few things to consider. For example, the climate, the regions of the country you intend to visit, and what type of attractions you want to see. And here I have gathered all the information you need to decide when you would like to explore Portugal and all of its unique landmarks.
After being overlooked by visitors for several years, Portugal has regained popularity in the past decade and it’s becoming one of Europe’s most sought-after holiday destinations. Every day, thousands of tourists from all around the world flock to this spectacular destination full of incredible natural wonders and historical sites.
All of this fame comes with good reason. Overall, it is a captivating country with breathtaking natural scenery, some of the world’s greatest wines, outstanding food, and welcoming people. Also, the country is rich in tradition and has a thriving cultural scene.
Located on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west, bordering Spain to the north and east. And exactly because of its location, the climate in Portugal is less severe than in the rest of Europe, another reason as to why the country is so popular.
Aside from that, know that the country is one of the most affordable options for traveling in Europe.
In addition, another big advantage Portugal has over some of its neighbor countries is that in such a small territory there is so much to explore and admire. This includes beaches, snow-capped mountains, rivers, as well as a lot of history, told in castles, palaces, museums, and so on.
So, how to choose what to see when? This is why I have lined up here when is the best time to visit each region of Portugal so that you can plan your Portugal itinerary accordingly.
Also read: the most famous landmarks in Portugal
Portugal seasons and weather
First of all, you should know that Portugal has a Mediterranean climate. But what does this mean?
Well, the Mediterranean climate has well-defined seasons. In general, summer is very hot and dry, with temperatures reaching 105°F in some cities, and winter is cold and rainy. Thus, the climate in Portugal is much milder than in other regions of Europe, with temperatures ranging between 47°F and 83°F most of the year.
Portugal’s climate is also quite distinctive. In winter, the average temperature is low, but not unbearable. Except for the far north and mountainous regions, the temperature rarely drops below zero. However, depending on the winter it is actually possible to see snow in some parts of Portugal. But I will talk more about that later.
In contrast, during summer, the climate turns upside down and the highest temperatures in Portugal are recorded. This is also the driest season in the country and when large wildfires occur. In fact, this time of the year regions like the Algarve become true deserts with no rain whatsoever!
It is also important to point out that Portugal’s climate is strongly influenced by its long coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean brings spectacular views and great surfing spots, but also humidity to the country almost all year round.
Even so, there are large differences in temperature and climatic conditions between the north and south of the country.
When is the best time to visit Portugal?
We all know that not only weather defines when it is the best time to explore a new destination. As I said before, to tell what the best time is, it is essential to know what the intention of your visit to Portugal is. This way, we can determine when it might be peak season or if there is a specific festival worth experiencing in that region.
Best time to visit Lisbon
The capital of Portugal is the most popular destination in the country. Not only because it is where you have the best museums, restaurants, and stores, but also you might be able to see how traditions are present in the daily life of a modern city.
With a great and well-defined climate, with short winters and long summers, Lisbon ends up being a super attractive city throughout the year.
So, there is no perfect season when it comes to climate. Also, it is worth mentioning that rain in Lisbon is not an issue and it is usually light and not very frequent. The heaviest rainfall occurs between October and February, with January being the rainiest month. Even so, it is not something that will impact your trip.
Of course, if you choose to visit the city between April and September you are guaranteed to get sunny days which are also longer because of daylight saving time. But you will also run into big crowds at some of the most famous landmarks in Portugal due to the summer holidays.
All in all, if you are planning a trip to Lisbon, schedule it either in April, May, or September to make the most of it with good weather while also avoiding the summer crowds.
Best time to visit Sintra
In general, the climate in Sintra is comparable to that of Lisbon: it has moderate, dry summers with clear skies and mild winters with no bitter cold.
However, because the city of castles is located in the Sintra mountain range, it has a microclimate that changes very quickly.
In a matter of minutes, it might become both hot and cloudy. But the good thing there is that the city does not require a lovely day to be admired. On the contrary, it appears even more beautiful and mystic when veiled in the mists of the mountains.
You should also be aware that Sintra receives a large number of visitors throughout the year and because the city is so small this might be a bigger problem than in Lisbon.
This tourist flow is at its peak between April and October. So, avoid this period if you want your trip to be memorable rather than an endless series of queues and delays to visit the Sintra castles.
In other words, if you want to combine decent weather and fewer people around, the best time to visit Sintra is either in March or November.
Sintra also has a plethora of cultural events, such as concerts, exhibitions, theater, cinema, painting classes, and a variety of other creative and cultural activities. If you want to combine your visit to Sintra with one of its activities, consult the Sintra Cultural Agenda.
Best time to visit Porto
Despite all its beauty, whether in winter or summer and the pleasant Mediterranean climate, Porto has some unpleasant rainy periods.
Between November and February, do not visit the city without an umbrella or rain jacket! The items are a must to pack in your suitcase.
In some years the rainy period can extend until May. Actually, it is not uncommon for it to last more than three weeks at a time in the city.
So, if you want to avoid rain at all costs, opt for the other months, when rain is more occasional. In any case, on most days the sky can be cloudy, but discreet sunshine will appear at some point.
Keep in mind that since Porto is relatively small, you will be doing a lot of the sightseeing on foot. So, to avoid getting rained on, the best is to visit Porto from June to October.
And curiously, Porto is a city that despite the summer crowds, it is recommend visiting it in the summer months.
Not only you will be avoiding the rain but also because Porto is a city where everything happens outdoors. Whether it is by the Douro River or beer festivals, outdoor cinema, and live music concerts on Avenida dos Aliados, summer is perfect for those who want to experience the true Porto vibes.
Best time to visit the Algarve beaches
The southern region of Portugal is great to visit at any time of the year. There, the Mediterranean climate presents itself with pleasant temperatures and sunny days both in winter and summer.
However, even though the sea at the Algarve beaches is not as cold as the rest of Portugal, the water temperatures can still be quite chilly year-round which is welcome in the summer due to the region’s high temperatures.
As a result, you may believe that the best time to visit the Algarve is during the summer, from June to August.
But this is the time of year when Europeans like to go to the beach right there, in the Algarve. This means that attractions such as the famous Benagil Cave and parking lots are crowded, and accommodation prices rise absurdly.
This way, the months of May and September are ideal for getting away from the crowds, while still having good weather with warmer temperatures to go for a nice swim.
From October to April, the Algarve is great for people who just want to drive around, visit the sights, and enjoy the scenery. Or, for surfers, because this is when the best waves arrive in Portugal!
Best time to visit the Azores islands
The popular Azores archipelago is also part of the Portuguese territory. With a volcanic origin, these islands are located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and deserve special attention.
In the Azores, it is warm and humid throughout the year and there are small temperature fluctuations. But what is unique about the place is that you will witness sun, fog, rain, and wind… All in a single day! So, pack both your rain jacket and sunscreen when visiting the islands.
Also, as the weather is quite unstable, you need flexibility in your itinerary to go to the viewpoints as soon as the blue sky opens, and also to see a beautiful sunset.
Not to mention, if you plan on visiting more than one island you might have to change your plans instantly due to weather conditions that might leave you stranded in a specific place. But it is all part of the adventure!
And it is worth considering that because the islands are so small, during summer they can be quite crowded. But of course, if you have the availability to choose the month, give preference to traveling in May or September, especially if your goal is to visit more than one island.
That way you will catch the seasonal boat routes between the archipelago in full swing and avoid the summer crowds.
Best time for wine
Portugal is internationally known for its wine production that goes beyond the limits of the mainland and also reaches the islands that make up its territory.
From north to south, Portugal’s wineries are an excellent outing to dig into the Portuguese culture. The most famous wines are produced in the north of the country, in the Douro Valley, one of the most popular landmarks in Portugal. But the plains of the Alentejo region also hold their surprises.
Obviously, you can go on wine tours and taste all sorts of wine any time of the year. But in Portugal, you can also participate in the process of wine production and tread grapes yourself. If this interests you, September is the month to go.
This is the harvest season of the grapes that make wine all over the country, including the acclaimed Port wine and Vinho Verde.
It is also when the landscape is more beautiful! This is why this is also the best time to visit the Douro region.
Best time for surfing
For years, Portugal has been a popular surf destination. First, because it is a country where you can surf all year round.
That is, regardless if you have vacations in winter or summer, you can go surfing in Portugal. Maybe, the quality of the waves and the crowd in the surf spots might vary, but it is definitely possible.
Second, because the beaches in Portugal are great for those who practice surfing, at any level, whether you are learning or already are a professional.
Now, if you are a beginner and want to start this surfing experience, it is best to wait for the summer or spring, when the waves are smaller and easier to catch. During winter and autumn, the waves are usually bigger and more powerful due to the weather and storms.
And if you are interested in witnessing the famous giant waves of Nazaré, the best time to visit Portugal is between October and January.
That is when the waves can reach up to 98 ft and depending on your luck you might be able to see the professional big wave surfers in action!
Trust me when I say this: it is once in a lifetime opportunity, even if you are not that into surfing.
Best time to see snow in Portugal
Not everyone knows, but it is possible to see snow in Portugal. After all, Portugal is not one of the European destinations that come to mind when you think of seeing snow in Europe.
Portugal’s geographical position on the European continent means that winter temperatures are not as low as, for example, in Germany, Switzerland, and France. Thus, the places with higher elevations are also those with cooler weather.
The Serra da Estrela, located in central Portugal, is one of those spots, with an altitude of 6,500 ft at its highest point. So, if you want to see snow in Portugal, this is your best bet. There is even a ski resort in Serra da Estrela!
The period with the greatest possibility of snow in the Serra da Estrela is in winter, of course. However, cold fronts usually pass through Portugal between November and April, increasing the chance of the long-awaited snowflakes falling on the beautiful mountain landscape.
Portugal travel seasons
Peak season (July to August)
Besides climatic issues, to choose the best time to travel to Portugal, it is good to pay attention to the peak and low seasons. As in most European countries, summer is always sought by both foreigners and citizens of the country, also because of school vacations in the continent.
Summer, which for many is the best time to go to Portugal, is from the end of June to the beginning of September, with July and August being the high season months. During this period, the days are very long, and it gets dark around 9 or 10 pm, which means that you can enjoy yourself a lot.
But it’s not all roses. Most places get very crowded from late spring to early autumn when everything is more expensive and you end up having fewer options of accommodations.
Shoulder season (April to mid-June and Mid-September to October)
The shoulder seasons in Portugal are neither crowded like the peak season nor cold like winter meaning it might just be the best time of the year to visit Portugal. This happens during spring and autumn because of the pleasant and more “neutral” climate with cool mornings and evenings, and warm days.
Remember that the tourist movement in the country, especially in Lisbon and Porto, starts to grow from April on. But even then, the central streets and monuments are not as crowded as in summer. The same happens in September and October when there is a drop in demand.
Overall, during the shoulder season, temperatures are favorable for those who do not want to be cold, and the lines are shorter. This also means the prices are not as exorbitant as during peak season, but you still get to see some movement and excitement around the country.
Low season (November to March)
Just as most of the world, the low season in Portugal coincides with winter, which occurs between December and March.
In Portugal the winter is cold, but with temperatures that are not at all unbearable, being much milder than in the rest of Europe. It never snows there, except in some small towns in the inland areas and the Serra da Estrela.
It is also worth mentioning that Portugal is one of the countries with more sunny days in Europe. So, the days with blue skies are very frequent even in winter!
Portuguese Events and Festivals
Portugal is well known for its popular festivals. The month of June is when most of them take place. Several cities in the country organize incredible festivals, with lots of food, shows, and traditions.
For example, it is during summer that music festivals happen. Not to mention a large number of international concerts take place in the European country. Lisbon hosts most of the major events, but there are shows all over the country.
Summer in Europe is synonymous with parties, fairs, and festivals because it is also the time of the longest school holiday of the year. In Portugal, it is no different. In June, July, and August there is a wide variety of events happening all over the country.
I would first like to highlight the popular saints’ festivals, which take place all over the country during June (from late spring to early summer), such as Santo António, in Lisbon, on June 13, and São João, in Porto, on June 24th.
São João is compared to New Year’s Eve for the Portuguese. More than 200,000 people take over the streets of Porto to celebrate with typical music and roasting sardines on the sidewalk. The atmosphere is very relaxed and with people of all ages.
Fans of the Middle Ages can enjoy the medieval fairs in Óbidos and Santa Maria da Feira, which usually take place in July and August.
And in Viseu, in the central region of Portugal, there is the secular São Mateus Fair in August and September.
At Christmas, the Portuguese like to celebrate with their families, traveling to their respective cities in the country.
But they soon return to the big cities for New Year’s, which is illuminated by beautiful decorations. If you go at this time, do not miss the fireworks near the Tagus River in Lisbon and the Douro River in Porto.
Also in December, some cities have ice-skating rinks throughout the parks and the streets get special decorations.
During the winter months, more specifically around February, there are also the Carnival festivities in Portugal, with many parades and street parties.
Many people go out to watch the parades and get in the mood by going out to celebrate carnival with costumes and masks.
So, what is the best month to visit Portugal?
As I mentioned before, there is no bad time to visit Portugal. At any time of the year, you can make incredible itineraries. Everything will depend on your itinerary and plans.
But since Portugal is a common holiday destination for many Europeans, and even Portuguese tourists, summer can be very busy. Not only the amount of people increases but also the prices and depending on your Portugal itinerary, your trip can become very expensive during summer.
On the other hand, winter usually has lower prices. The price variation is most noticeable in the beach regions, such as the Algarve region.
So, to summarize, by combining your holiday interests, which Portugal landmarks you want to explore, the weather, and whether or not it is peak season I can say that
- Winter is the best time to visit Portugal if you want to see snow or go surfing
- To explore Porto, summer might be the best option
- And to make the best of the most touristic cities of Portugal, such as Lisbon and Sintra, go during spring or autumn
With all that in mind, are you ready to plan your Portugal itinerary?
About the author
I’m Camila, an Oceanographer from Brazil which is where my journey began. My studies have taken me to unique places around the world since I was a teenager. I found in my academic career the chance to come across different cultures and languages while working as a scientist. By having lived in several countries I have been able to share my experiences as a travel content writer for the last 4 years and I still have plenty more to tell. I have a great passion for the outdoors and animals, especially dogs and seals (which, let’s be honest, are basically sea dogs!).