Planning to go to Lisbon in winter? This article’s has got you cover.
Charming, historic, dramatic. The city of Lisbon presents itself to the world and to travelers as a fantastic place full of secrets to be unveiled. Although Lisbon is mostly visited during summer, when the weather is more pleasant for sightseeing, the city is just as beautiful in the colder months. Actually, Lisbon in winter has its charms that deserve attention.
The capital and largest city of Portugal is also one of the oldest cities, with records dating back to the 12th century. Besides its role in the Great Navigations of the 16th century and being the residence of the Portuguese royalty, Lisbon also has a tragic history which occurred in 1755, when a great earthquake hit it.
So much history to learn about. Lisbon is also quite known as a cosmopolitan city with a very rich cultural scene which has been attracting young people more and more.
It is even one of the top destinations for digital nomads and solo travelers! And the main factor behind this fame is that Lisbon has much more affordable prices compared to other traditional destinations in Europe.
With so many good reasons to visit the city, let’s discover why visiting Lisbon in winter is so special! After all, when planning your Portugal itinerary you probably imagine warm sunny days, right?!
How to Move Around Lisbon
One of the things I love most about Lisbon is how easy it is to get around the city. Not to mention, cheap!
Overall, Lisbon’s transportation network is pretty good and covers all of the regions you could want to visit. But, as you might imagine taking the metro is the most convenient and cost-effective choice.
Getting the VIVA VIAGEM CARD in Lisbon
The VIVA VIAGEM card, a rechargeable card for all public transportation, can be purchased at metro ticket machines for only 0.50€. It is good for a year, and once purchased, you simply insert as much money as you wish to spend on public transportation.
To be honest, since the subway in Lisbon is limited in the number of lines, there are alternative options such as buses, trains, the famed streetcars (or trams), and elevators.
And the VIVA VIAGEM card is valid in all of them!
Getting the Lisboa Card in Lisbon
The Lisboa Card is another viable alternative. This card offers admission to various monuments and attractions as well as train tickets to Sintra and Cascais, in addition to public transportation.
This card costs roughly 17,50€ for 24 hours and 36€ for 72 hours.
Renting a Car in Lisbon
Obviously, renting a car is also an option. Although to travel around a city like Lisbon, I prefer taking public transportation, if you plan to visit the surrounding areas and take some r day trips from Lisbon in an independent way, it would be ideal renting a car.
This way you can visit the charing nearby villages and the most remote attraction at your own pace and schedule.
If you decide to rent a car, I recommend using an aggregator such as DiscoverCar Rentals to compare different rates and prices.
Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!
Choosing a guided tour
But what if you are traveling alone and do not want to plan or go away on your own? Or do you want to simply sit back and relax? Well, then joining a guided tour might be the way to go.
These package excursions typically include round-trip transportation on a private bus, as well as a guide who will explain the history of the monuments and some really interesting fun facts.
Organized tours can take you around Lisbon itself or even to other cities and towns around the area.
Some guided tours selected for you
How is the winter in Lisbon
First things first… When is winter in Lisbon? I guess you probably know this but just to confirm know that the coldest season in Lisbon starts around December 21st and lasts until more or less March 20th.
The coldest month is usually January but nothing that should prevent you from visiting the Portuguese capital in winter.
At this time of year, it is also a little more likely to rain compared to the rest of the year.
Also, keep in mind that the months from November to January are also quite windy, which lowers the thermal sensation. So, how cold does it actually get in Lisbon? What are the average temperatures?
Lisbon in Winter – Temperatures
Lisbon in December: 48°F – 59°F
Lisbon in January: 46°F – 59°F
Lisbon in February: 48°F – 61°F
Lisbon in March: 50°F – 64°F
But remember that despite the cold, the intense wind speed, and the rainy days this might be the best time to visit Portugal and explore Lisbon.
Precisely because it is the low season, prices are lower for flights and accommodation and queues are much shorter to get into the attractions which, of course, have way fewer tourists than during peak season.
What to pack for Lisbon in winter
Now that you decided to visit Lisbon during winter, it is time to pack!
As I said, winters in Lisbon can be fairly cold and, in particular, highly humid. However, even if the weather forecast shows cooler weather for the early morning, daytime temperatures can rise a lot.
So, considering how fast the Lisbon weather can change in this season, bring a rain jacket as well as sunglasses.
After all, you do not want to miss out on exploring the city if it is raining, and you do not want to have your eyes closed on your photos if it is too sunny, do you?
As a result, it is critical to dress in layers so you can slowly get “undressed” throughout the day. The hardest part when packing for a winter vacation is not to make your suitcase heavy and bulky.
So, the idea is to bring a half-dozen long-sleeved shirts to be washed and changed every day, as well as only two very warm pullovers or fleeces.
Wear a lined and waterproof jacket or parka over it all. Remember that you will certainly wear lighter clothes than you would if you went to other European capitals during this same period.
Besides clothes, the essential items you should take are resistant shoes, an umbrella, and accessories such as scarves and gloves.
Finally, there are some items you cannot forget to include in your packing list for Portugal. Make sure to bring your passport, cash, and a working phone with a valid SIM card. And one of the most important items… a camera (or your phone might be just fine, as well).
Remember you might want to save these memories for a lifetime!
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Best things to do in Lisbon in winter
Viewpoints of Lisbon
Since Lisbon is also known as the city of the seven hills, there are incredible lookouts around the capital that allow for some amazing views from the top of the city.
Almost all of them have cafes or bars, that work both in summer and winter. Although in the winter months they offer blankets, so you can be more comfortable and admire the views of the city the same way.
It is a very nice program that, especially in winter, gets away from the hustle and bustle of tourism in the capital. The best viewpoints are: Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Miradouro das Portas do Sol, and Miradouro de Santa Luzia.
Wine Tasting in Lisbon
There is no better climate to drink wine than the cold winter weather. Portugal produces many of the best wines in the world, so tourists tend to enjoy a lot of it (or should I say, drink a lot?).
And all this wine tasting comes with good reason since it is very difficult to find such good and cheap wine outside Portugal.
The best places to go wine tasting include BytheWine in Chiado and Wines of Portugal in Terreiro do Paço. Besides the famous Port Wine, be sure to try the Hot Wine, a traditional wine in this time of the year.
Winter Festivals in Lisbon
During winter season, Lisbon usually hosts some very interesting festivals, such as the Rhodes Winter Festival.
This pop and electronic music festival rotates through some European countries, such as Portugal, Spain, and England.
Its editions are usually sold out, so it is a good idea to buy your tickets in advance if you are interested in going. Each year the program is different, with different artists and varied attractions.
Besides Rhodes, also during winter, Lisbon hosts many cultural, artistic, and musical attractions. An excellent site to stay informed of everything that is happening in the city during this time is the Lisbon Cultural Agenda.
There, you can see everything that is going on at the moment and plan your itinerary to fit some of these events.
Eating well at the Mercado da Ribeira
What goes better with winter than good food? For me, this is the best thing to find in Lisbon, whether in winter or even in the summer months.
And the place to do so is at the Time Out Market.
Also known as Mercado da Ribeira, this is a kind of central market in the city. With restaurants arranged in a “food court” style, it is a great refuge on a cold night.
And if you think you will only find typical Portuguese food, you are wrong! The Mercado da Ribeira is a gastronomic complex that brings together great chefs and restaurants with international cuisine.
There you will find from hamburgers and fries to ceviche, tuna loin sandwiches on homemade bread, crab sandwiches, and of course, codfish of all kinds. The best of all? The excellent cost-benefit.
Things to do in Lisbon when it rains
Well, I suppose checking out the viewpoints in Lisbon is not the best idea in bad weather conditions. So, what to do if it is raining?
In my opinion, museums are a good option to visit any time of the year, but indoor programs are especially welcome when you do not want to be outside.
Lisbon has some very unique museums, of all kinds. Here are some of the best museums you can find:
National Tile Museum
This museum is responsible for gathering more than 7,000 pieces of the famous Portuguese tiles, which you can find all over the country, in churches, houses, facades, train stations, etc.
Although it is possible to see the tiles in the streets, the best place to admire them is at the National Tile Museum, which is all dedicated to this artistic expression so traditionally Portuguese.
The museum also counts with a souvenir shop where you can get your own piece of tile and take home one of the best souvenirs from Portugal.
Berardo Collection Museum
Located in the large Centro Cultural de Belém, this is said to be Lisbon’s main center for modern and contemporary art.
With more than 900 pieces, the collection allows you to visualize the great modern artistic movements. Signing the exhibits are names such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, and Andy Warhol.
National Coach Museum
The Coach Museum is nothing more than a carriage museum. Located in a contemporary building, the museum has a unique collection of old carriages used in past times, some of them belonging to the Portuguese royal family.
After you are finished with your visit, head over to the old part of the museum (using the same ticket!). This was the royal riding arena for games!
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
This is considered a cultural space of excellence in Lisbon and it is one of the most important museums in Portugal. The museum gathers a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, decorative pieces, modern art, and much more.
The Calouste Gulbenkian is very conceptual, having as its mission to promote the universal values of the human condition. The museum gardens are also worth a visit, in case the rain stops.
Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT)
Being the newest and most innovative project in the city, the MAAT building is one of the national examples of industrial architecture from the first half of the 20th century. The museum is all focused on contemporary art and is bringing another concept and panorama of museology to Lisbon.
Christmas in Lisbon
If you go to Lisbon during winter, chances are you will be there just in time for the festive season! Lisbon’s nightlife takes on a special glow at this time of year, with colorful Christmas lights throughout the historic center and on its main squares and avenues.
Just so you have an idea, there are about 2 million LED bulbs scattered around the city. Besides the special illumination, throughout December you can experience the magic of the Christmas markets.
The most famous one in Lisbon is by far the Wonderland Christmas Market at the Eduardo VII Park. It is an enchanting place for the whole family, full of fun for children and many attractions, such as a carousel, a Ferris wheel, and even an ice rink.
Since it is a fair, there are many stalls with typical handicrafts and Christmas foods, including the traditional Bolo Rei. And, of course, the Christmas Village, which is an enclosure for the little ones to visit Santa Claus. A full plate for kids and adults alike!
And best of all… The entrance is free!
Lisbon’s City Hall also organizes several activities including exhibitions, performances, and cultural programs for the entire family.
Therefore, planning where and how to spend these two days in Lisbon is a must. The inauguration of the Christmas lights is one of these events and it usually takes place between the last days of November and the beginning of December.
Another important event is the unveiling of Lisbon’s Christmas tree in Praça do Comércio.
With more than 86,000 bulbs the tree is 98 ft tall! And among the best Christmas concerts is the dance of the famous “Nutcracker” organized by the Belém Cultural Center.
There are also other performances by the Metropolitan Orchestra and the Lisbon Choir, which are not only beautiful but also very emotional shows.
New Year in Lisbon
And if you plan it right, besides Christmas you might end up spending New Year’s Eve in Lisbon! The last day of the year in Lisbon is a very lively one. Until 6 pm there are several attractions open as well as most stores.
But be aware: the Castelo de São Jorge and the Pavilhão do Conhecimento are usually closed on these days. A key point is that public transportation (metro and buses) have special schedules on New Year’s Eve to make it easier for people to go to the historic center and enjoy the party in Praça do Comércio.
Yes, this is where the magic happens at midnight! At Praça do Comércio is where you will find Lisbon’s traditional New Year’s Eve party with live music and fireworks burning from the Tagus River.
Many Portuguese families and tourists choose to spend the last hours of the year in the main square of Lisbon’s historic center.
A good tip for those who wish to see these fireworks is to head to Praça do Comércio from Cais do Sodré since Rua Augusta gets overly crowded.
But, if you do not want to join this party, know that in Parque das Nações there is also usually a small fireworks display.
And another special tip: at the top of Parque Eduardo VII and Jardim Amália Rodrigues it is possible to see part of the fireworks from the Tagus River. Both from Praça do Comércio and also from other cities located on the other side of the river, but in a much calmer atmosphere.
And what about January 1st? Is there anything to do in Lisbon? The truth is, not a lot. January 1st is one of the most expressive national holidays in the city’s routine and Time Out Market is one of the few attractions that open in Lisbon on that day.
Also, the Wonderland Lisboa that I just mentioned is another very nice alternative.
Where to stay in Lisbon in winter
Choosing where to stay in Lisbon is one of the toughest decisions to make while planning any trip. Regardless of your choice of neighborhood, when visiting Lisbon in winter look for accommodation close to public transport so you do not have to walk a lot if it is raining.
So, which area in Lisbon is the best to stay during winter?
Here are my recommendations.
Although it is not official, I consider Baixa to be the center of Lisbon. This is mainly because it is the commercial center in an urban-looking scenario with many people walking from one side to the other every day. This is where locals live. Staying on Augusta Street ensures a fantastic location close to the city center.
Cais do Sodré
My personal favorite spot to stay in Lisbon is in Cais do Sodré, a very cozy area in Baixa. Close to the subway and with the Tram 28 cutting right through it, this is also where the famous Pink Street is located. Here you can find nice bars and restaurants. And if you are looking for a place to stay there, check out the City Lofts Lisbon which has a great cost-benefit.
In Chiado, you can experience the traditionalism of Portugal while still being amid a bohemian ambiance that merges with the neighborhood’s modernism and beauty. It is a small part of Lisbon that nearly combines with Baixa and Bairro Alto. For those who are willing to share a hostel room, Alface Hall Hostel & Bar is an excellent choice. They also have private rooms.
Similar to Chiado, Bairro Alto stretches uphill past the Luis de Camões square. If Chiado is the bohemian area, Bairro Alto might be termed the “after-party.” It is the ideal area to spend the night in the capital, surrounded by pubs, clubs, and a large number of people on the streets.
If you are traveling alone, I recommend staying at the Lookout Lisbon! Hostel. The hostel is modest, but very popular among visitors on a tight budget.
On the other hand, Bairro Alto Hotel is the finest alternative for individuals who like a hotel with charm and individuality.
What to eat in Lisbon in winter
We all know that Portugal is synonymous with excellent food, from fresh fish made with their local olive oil to juicy pastries. After all, it is impossible to go to Portugal and not think about eating the one and only Bacalhau A Brás (codfish) and the famous Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts).
But what else should you taste while visiting Lisbon in winter? Here are some ideas.
Although this is a specialty of the Algarve region, it is also very popular in Lisbon. The name is that of the metallic container with two concave parts where seafood or meat are places, accompanied by vegetables and condiments. The best place to eat Cataplana is Frade dos Mares.
It is in the northeast of Portugal, in the regions of Trás-os-Montes and Beira Alta, where alheira originally comes from.
The horseshoe-shaped alheira is a smoked sausage usually made with poultry, bread, olive oil, garlic, and chili. This traditional homemade sausage is actually quite spicy!
Where to eat Alheiras in Lisbon: A Provinciana
This is the most famous sandwich in Portugal. It is made by placing meat and sausages on toasted bread, which may include sausages, ham, mortadella, beef, or pork fillets.
It is then covered with another slice of meat that is topped with slices of cheese au gratin and, usually, an egg on top. But this would be nothing without its spicy sauce, made with beer and tomato. It might sound messy and greasy, but it is to die for!
Where to eat Francesinha in Lisbon: Restaurante Marco
The most popular soup in the country is the perfect appetizer, especially during winter. Originally from the north of the country, this green broth is made with Galician cabbage or kale. It is prepared with a frying sauce of onion, garlic, and sliced potatoes which are cooked with water or broth and then mashed. The recipe ends by adding the cabbage cut very finely and chorizo sausage, to add a special flavor to it.
Where to eat Caldo Verde in Lisbon: A Merendeira
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Best day trips from Lisbon in winter
There is so much to discover surrounding Lisbon, from idyllic beaches and little villages to royal palaces and medieval castles. But of course, not all of the day trips from Lisbon go well with winter weather, right? So, what are the best options in this case?
A visit to the Sintra is undoubtedly the most traditional of Lisbon’s day trips. And in winter, Sintra becomes even more magical!
Located at the top of the Sintra Mountain Range, the town is very often covered in a thin fog which makes it very mysterious and mystical.
Home to some of the most famous landmarks in Portugal, including the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Pena Palace, Montserrat Palace, Moorish Castle, and Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Aside from many historical buildings from various centuries, there are several tasty restaurants to enjoy the town’s dreamlike ambiance.
The nicest part is that you do not need a car to explore Sintra! Check out how to get from Lisbon to Sintra on a day trip because this is an ideal escape for anyone, including solo travelers! I actually visited Sintra in December and it was a great idea since the queues were not too long and the castles were not so crowded as it would be in the summer months.
Queluz and Mafra
With a similar vibe to the Sintra castles, Queluz also offers a mystical ambiance in the cold weather. In fact, the Queluz National Palace is sometimes coupled with a visit to the Sintra palaces and is referred to as the “Portuguese Versailles“.
The undeniably beautiful palace was formerly the main summer retreat of the Portuguese royalty. And, due to its location on the outskirts of Lisbon, it is an ideal stop on a day trip to Mafra.
And speaking of Mafra… Aside from its proximity to Lisbon, what draws so many visitors there is its majestic palace and one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.
Visit the National Palace of Mafra, the Garden of the Siege, and the Tapada Nacional de Mafra, the country’s largest walled natural area, with around 819 hectares.
Óbidos, a Portuguese medieval town with fewer than 12 thousand residents, is surrounded by a Roman-era wall, which gave rise to the town’s name, which means “fortified town”.
This is actually one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal! In fact, Óbidos is so beautiful that King Dinis gave it to his wife D. Isabel as a wedding gift. This way, the town has always been carefully cared for.
Because the town is small, it can be explored on foot in only a few hours. Walking about town, you will be in awe at how many churches and chapels there are. The narrow streets resemble mazes of lovely white buildings with flowery windows!
Finally, a day trip that does not involve a castle, right?! Well, going to Fátima is a pilgrimage that is especially dedicated to catholic faith observant, since it is one of the world’s major Catholic centers.
However, regardless of your religion, the Sanctuary of Our Lady proves to be an interesting visit and a source of energy worth contemplating. The Sanctuary, one of the most well-known landmarks in Portugal, is a work of art in its own right. A half-day is sufficient time to tour the churches.
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!).