Nowadays, Portugal seems to be on everybody’s “Summer bucket list” and rightfully so! Summers here are vibrant and locals live it to the fullest. However, you do not need to wait until next year to have your chance to visit Portugal, because – guess what? – Portugal is a great winter destination too!
Starting with its Mediterranean climate, which usually rounds between 14ºC and 17ºC (57ºF and 63ºF) , depending on where you are, of course. These mild temperatures provide a comfortable environment for outdoor activities and exploration. And you will also be able to uncover all the popular monuments with more tranquility since there are less tourists and smaller lines.
Last but definitely not least, winter also means lower prices on accommodation and flights. Are there any real disadvantages to travelling to Portugal in the Winter? You should start planning your trip right away! And to help you out, we have prepared a list featuring ten of Portugal's most captivating destinations, ensuring your experience is anything but chilly.
The first region that comes to mind when thinking of Winter in Portugal is the Algarve, where the city of Lagos and its warm temperatures stand out. Even though it will be a little too cold to go sunbathing and swimming at the beach, there is plenty more you can do. Exploring the coastal landscapes, including the famous Ponta da Piedade, can be a serene and awe-inspiring experience without the hustle and bustle of peak tourist season.
The town's rich history is evident in its well-preserved architecture, with notable landmarks such as the Ponta da Bandeira fortress and the Church of St. Anthony. Wander through the cobbled streets of the historic centre, where traditional whitewashed buildings are adorned with colourful tiles that showcase Moorish influences.
If you are a history buff, you must visit Lagos’ new maritime interpretation centre, which is actually a replica of the 16th century “Boa Esperança” caravel, that played a pivotal role during the Portuguese Discoveries. Embark on the caravel to learn more about the significance of Lagos and the Algarve in this crucial period of Portuguese history!
Beyond its historical allure, Lagos is a lively destination with a delightful local cuisine marked by a blend of of fresh seafood and Mediterranean flavours, with numerous restaurants offering a taste of authentic Portuguese dishes.
Another amazing city in the Algarve is Tavira, a hidden gem nestled on the eastern coast of Portugal. It was founded in 400 BC and was an important trading post between Europe and North Africa. Nowadays, Tavira boasts well-preserved architecture that reflects its strong Moorish and Roman influences, including the Roman Bridge and the Tavira Castle.
The Castelo de Tavira has a rich history that dates back to the 10th century during the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula and reflects a mix of Moorish, Islamic and medieval architectural influences. It played a strategic role in the defense of the region, which means that today it has the best views of the town and the Gilão River.
Tavira is situated near the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a true haven for nature lovers. Winter is an excellent time for birdwatching, as migratory birds flock to the area. The park's diverse ecosystems, including salt marshes, offer a peaceful environment for nature walks. While you are here, take a short ferry ride to Tavira Island, known for its pristine beaches and sand dunes.
When it is time to eat, immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting Tavira's market, Mercado da Ribeira, the ultimate place to find fresh produce, seafood, crafts and regional products!
You are now driving towards Lisbon, but it is mandatory to stop and discover this amazing city of the Alentejo region, a striking UNESCO World Heritage site with a fascinating history dating back to Roman times. Évora shows off an impressive blend of architectural wonders and cultural landmarks worth uncovering.
The ruins of the Roman Temple, also known as the Temple of Diana, is a well-preserved Corinthian-style temple that has become one of the most iconic symbols of the town's Roman past. Évora Cathedral, on the other hand, is reputed for its resplendent Romanesque and Gothic architectural style and rooftop with some of the best views of the town.
Another emblematic attraction that will leave you in awe is the eerie Chapel of Bones, inside the Church of São Francisco. The interior is adorned with human bones and skulls hanging from the walls accompanied by a thought-provoking message above the chapel door: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos”, which translates to “Us bones that are here, await yours”.
For a more relaxing atmosphere, we recommend you visit Giraldo Square. This site is surrounded by cafes, restaurants where you can try the popular migas and black pork.
You have reached the capital, Sunny Lisbon! No matter where you start your day, you will inevitably end up in Commerce Square, Lisbon's beating heart that opens up to the Tagus River. From here, you can catch the Tram 15 to got to Belém, the neighbourhood that stands as a testament to Portugal's Age of Discoveries. Nearby Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage site, beckons with its intricate Manueline architecture.
Just as important as these 16th-century monuments are the Pastéis de Belém (cream custard tarts)! These heavenly pastries feature a flaky, buttery crust that cradles a rich, creamy custard filling made with a secret recipe offers a true taste of tradition.
If you find yourself standing in Commerce Square once again and are full of energy, dare to walk up Lisbon’s cobbled streets (it is not that bad!) and enter the Chiado neighbourhood, a place with a deep-rooted cultural legacy, housing ancient bookstores, theatres and historic cafés that were once gathering places for Portugal's literary greats, including Fernando Pessoa and Eça de Queirós. Looming above Chiado is Bairro Alto (“high neighbourhood”, obviously), known for its party and nightlife culture.
Lisbon's mix of history, culture and modern flair is what makes it such a sought-after destination!
5. Arrábida and surroundings
If you are staying in Lisbon for a few days and want to have a change of scenery, a 45-minute scenic drive can take you to the Arrábida Natural Park.
Spanning 108 square kilometres, this protected area, located along the stunning shoreline of the Setúbal Peninsula, is dominated by the Serra da Arrábida mountain range, where limestone cliffs rise dramatically from the Atlantic Ocean. These rugged peaks not only provide a striking backdrop but also offer hiking trails with astonishing views. Be adventurous and climb to the Cabo Espichel viewpoint! If you need help, there are visitor centres scattered around the park. It is advisable to check in for guidance before embarking on your exploration.
Even though it is colder out, it is worth passing by the pristine beaches, some of the best in the country, like Portinho da Arrábida, Praia da Figueirinha and Praia dos Galápos and walk through their golden fine sand and marvel at the sea caves and rock formations.
Are you feeling hungry yet? Then it is time to get to the city and order some delicious grilled fish or seafood accompanied by the region’s famed wines! And where there are local wines, there are wineries! You can always visit Setúbal’s vineyards, discover its winemaking traditions and taste its flavourful Moscatel.
Welcome to Cascais, a coastal paradise nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Sintra Mountains. Cascais has long been a favoured retreat for Portuguese royalty and its elegant ambiance is evident in the refined buildings and manicured gardens.
Cascais’ proximity to Lisbon makes it an ideal day trip. A 45-minute train ride will whisk you away from the bustling city to the soothing sounds of waves and delicious fresh fish.
Start by uncovering the vibrant historic centre and the winding streets leading to the bay, a postcard-perfect location right next to the ocean. Follow along until you reach the marina, where sleek yachts bob on the azure waters. This is the place to enjoy a delectable seafood meal while soaking in the picturesque views of the Atlantic.
Cascais is steeped in history and its cultural heritage is on display at every turn. Explore the Cascais Citadel, a 15th-century fortress that once protected the town from pirate invasions. The Museum of the Sea (Museu do Mar) is also a site to consider if you want to deepen your knowledge of Portugal's maritime history, naval expeditions and fishing traditions.
After being familiar with the heart of Cascais, venture west to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. Stand on the rugged cliffs and witness the meeting of the land and the vast expanse of the Atlantic, a jaw-dropping scenery.
Next stop, Sintra! A fairy-tale destination located amid the lush greenery of the mountain range, acclaimed worldwide for its whimsical palaces that seem to emerge from the pages of a storybook.
Similar to Cascais, Sintra is also a 45-minute train ride away from Lisbon and a mandatory day trip that will take you to a whole new magical world. As soon as you leave the train, a big castle will rise from the mountains. That is the Moorish Castle, from the 8th century, that waits for you to wander along its ancient walls, breathe in the mountain air and immerse yourself in the echoes of centuries past.
The National Palace of Sintra, distinguished by its two conical chimneys, stands as the centrepiece. This is the oldest palace in the country, first built in the 10th century. However, the most sought-after and unique palace of Sintra is the Pena Palace, a kaleidoscope of colours perched atop a hill.
After reliving your royal dreams, delve into the mystic Quinta da Regaleira, an estate that captivates with romantic gardens, enigmatic caves and its crown jewel, the Initiation Well, adorned with Masonic and alchemical imagery.
Amid this big adventure, take a break in the town centre and sample Sintra's delectable pastries, the travesseiros and queijadas. The charming cafes and traditional restaurants offer a taste of Portuguese hospitality, making every culinary experience a delightful journey.
You have arrived in Coimbra, nestled on the banks of the Mondego River in central Portugal. Known for its ancient university, medieval charm and young atmosphere, Coimbra invites you to embark on a journey through time and knowledge.
Begin at the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest in Europe. Its historic Joanina Library, adorned with magnificent baroque architecture is a must-visit. Ascend to the Royal Alcáçova of Coimbra, a medieval fortress that integrates the University, where you can visit the Armory, the Great Hall of Acts and the Private Examination Room.
Another relevant historical landmark is the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery, founded in 1283 nearby the Mondego River. The presence of water was an added value for the monastic community, but the cyclical floods forced a definitive abandonment in 1677, for the new convent, Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova.
Coimbra is also renowned for its unique style of Fado music, characterized by its association with the university and the city's poetic atmosphere. Attend a Fado performance in one of the intimate venues to experience the soul-stirring melodies and melancholic lyrics that encapsulate the essence of Coimbra.
Nestled along the picturesque shores of the Ria de Aveiro, this charming city captivates everyone with its winding canals, colourful moliceiro boats and mouth-watering local specialities.
Begin your journey by gliding along its canals on a moliceiro boat, one of the ex-libris of the city, decorated with vibrant hues and intricate paintings. These traditional boats, once used for harvesting seaweed, now offer a relaxing cruise that provides an intimate view of Aveiro. In the town's heart, you will be faced with numerous Art Nouveau buildings, an artistic movement characterized by its intricate details, flowing lines and decorative motifs. One notable highlight is the Arte Nova Museum that offers a fascinating glimpse into Aveiro’s Art Nouveau heritage.
Indulge your taste buds with the beloved regional pastries. Ovos Moles, egg-based pastries usually shaped like shells or fish, are by far the most popular of all and date back to the nuns of Aveiro's convents.
For nature enthusiasts, the salt pans of Aveiro are a must-see! Also known as Salinas de Aveiro, these salt pans are a historic and picturesque salt production site that has been in operation for centuries, traditionally producing salt through natural evaporation methods. The best part is that the salt pans attract various bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatching!
Known for its astonishing natural beauty and unrivalled views, Madeira is the perfect destination for some island fun! Begin your journey in Funchal (the capital), where the lush Monte Palace Tropical Garden and the Botanical Garden await. Wander through these botanical havens, and marvel at their exotic plants, lakes and ample views.
Embark on an unforgettable adventure along Madeira's levadas, ancient irrigation channels that crisscross the island. These levada walks take you through verdant landscapes, laurel forests and cascading waterfalls. The Levada do Caldeirão Verde and Levada das 25 Fontes are particularly popular routes, providing a scenic immersion into Madeira's natural beauty.
After so much adrenaline, you must be in deep need of recharging your batteries! There is no better way to do so than by savouring the flavours of Madeiran cuisine. Indulge in fresh seafood and traditional dishes like espetada (grilled meat skewers) and bolo do caco (sweet potato bread). The famous Madeira wine is a fine combo!
Embrace a winter getaway!
Portugal's allure extends beyond its summertime charm. Embracing winter in this enthralling country promises a unique and rewarding experience, meddling cultural richness, culinary delights and diverse landscapes, making it an enticing destination for anyone seeking a memorable winter getaway.