Both Portugal and Spain have several regions that are perfect to explore in the winter. If you prefer avoiding the blazing summer sun while travelling and visiting sites when there are less people around, then you can take advantage of the cooler temperatures to get to know some of the most famous regions of Portugal and Spain, as winter in these countries is milder compared to other parts of the world. Explore the top winter destinations in Portugal and Spain and make the most of your stay in these countries!
Plaza de España, Seville
In Seville, Andalusia’s main city, it is extremely hot in the summer. Therefore, the city is perfect to explore in the winter, as temperatures are relatively mild during this time of year. In this lively and romantic city, rich in culture and traditions, there are several sites worth visiting, such as the Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic building in the world. In fact, this vibrant city is known for its Gothic architecture, Arabic influence, delicious cuisine and flamenco dancing. Next to the cathedral, you will see La Giralda, originally the minaret of a mosque, from whose tower you have a magnificent panoramic view of the Seville skyline. Being winter, you can take advantage of the fact that there are less tourists and calmly stroll through the alleys of the charming historic center, while enjoying the typical tapas bars and restaurants, and through the marvelous squares (you should definitely visit the Plaza de España!). Visit the Real Alcázar, one of the city's main tourist attractions. Marvel at the imposing rooms and courtyards, as well as the charming gardens and fountains. Stop by the Archivo General de Indias, a Spanish historical archive located downtown that houses historical records of the Americas. All of these monuments have been designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO!
Plaza de España, Barcelona
Since Barcelona is located by the sea and is a rather temperate region, it is the ideal place to visit in the winter. And since this city is a highly popular destination, you can avoid the crowds by visiting at this time of year. In this charming city, the second largest in Spain, there is nothing better than strolling through the historic center and exploring the city's four neighborhoods. Visit the picturesque El Gótic district, a maze of narrow, winding medieval streets that form the city's oldest core. Stroll through Barcelona's cosmopolitan city center and visit the traditional shops and street markets or marvel at the colorful buildings full of detail. Admire the Sagrada Familia, the city's most visited landmark, and visit Parc Güell, a famous park with incredible views. Take a walk along La Rambla (or Las Ramblas), the most famous avenue, where you will find a wide variety of shops, markets, restaurants and even street performers (do not miss La Boqueria market!). Make a stop at Montjuïc, a hill with many incredible views, surrounded by nature. Admire the wonderful magical fountain with a light and water show, the castle and botanical garden, and visit the museums. Also visit Casa Milà, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as La Pedrera, designed by Gaudí. Here are all our suggestions on what to do in Barcelona (perfect for winter too!).
In the province of Girona, you will find the Costa Brava, the stretch of coast in northeastern Spain, marked by rugged and wild cliffs. Girona is where some of the scenes from “Game of Thrones”, a television series that recreates an epic medieval fantasy, were filmed. So, you can already imagine the ambience that awaits you here ! This area is usually swamped with people wanting to hit the beach in the summer, but you can enjoy the landscapes and artistic and cultural heritage in the winter. Besides the crystal-clear coves and incredible beaches, there are also incredible natural parks to admire as well as medieval villages and Salvador Dalí's artwork (especially in Figueres and Cadaqués). In fact, Salvador Dalí left his mark in various parts of this region. Visit the Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres, the Dalí House-Museum in Portlligat (Cadaqués) and the Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol. There are also many protected natural areas on the Costa Brava, such as the Cabo de Creus Natural Park, with magnificent views, and the Los Aiguamolls Natural Park. Be sure to visit the fishing villages in Cadaqués, or Calella de Palafrugell, a white village full of craft shops and restaurants where you can indulge in the delicious local cuisine. Within the most enchanting towns, some of which have already been mentioned, be sure to stop by Begur, a pretty medieval town with winding streets and whitewashed houses perched on the slopes of a hill.
Ourense is the thermal capital of Galicia and an ideal place to visit in the winter, as you can warm up in the hot thermal springs. In addition to the thermal baths, this city and province also has a charming historic center, with its stone houses and buildings that form a kind of stone labyrinth. In this Roman and medieval city, which is great to explore on foot, stop at the fountain d’Burgas and pass by the old Ponte Vella (there are seven high bridges that cross the Minho River, with fantastic views!). Most of the hot springs are located in the outskirts of the capital, and there are many options: from the A Chavasqueira, to the Muiño da Veiga or the Outariz hot springs. There are also fantastic viewpoints with breathtaking landscapes, such as the Mirador de Vilouxe, the Mirador de Los Balcones de Madrid or the Mirador de As Penas de Matacás. Enjoy the ancient architecture and Galician gastronomy, and stop by the original Plaza Mayor, a quirky square in a historic district full of churches. Last but not least, you can always explore the Ribera Sacra wine region in the north of the province. Known for its astonishing landscapes, this area is famous for producing high quality wines.
Lisbon, like Barcelona, is a region with a temperate climate, as it is located by the sea. In the Portuguese capital, you will find different urban landscapes, different cultures and contrasts at every corner. Filled with attractions such as churches, museums or night-life spots (Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré are places known for their bars and clubs), this city has charming architecture and gastronomy that will leave you screaming for more! Enjoy the various viewpoints scattered around the city, such as the Miradouro das Portas do Sol or the Miradouro Santa Luzia; get lost in the historic center and stroll through the alleys of the charming historic neighborhood of Alfama or Graça; enjoy a fado show and walk along the river near Praça do Comércio; visit the markets and explore the many green areas, such as Monsanto or Eduardo VII Park. Here are all our suggestions on what to do in Lisbon!
The Alentejo is undoubtedly a great region to explore during the coldest time of year, as it experiences extreme temperatures during the summer. Known for its wines and delicious cuisine, this region in the interior of Portugal is a true paradise for those who love the countryside and the tranquility that a cosmopolitan city fails to offer . Stroll through the historic center of Évora , a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visit the Capela dos Ossos, a macabre chapel where you will find human remains! While you are at it, have a drink on the grand and famous Praça do Giraldo. In Monsaraz, a charming medieval and templar town in the Alentejo, walk through the picturesque streets of white houses and slate, and wander along the imposing city walls. In the heart of the Alentejo, be sure to visit Vila Viçosa. Explore the Casa dos Arcos and the castle, and admire the magnificent architecture. Finally, stop in Estremoz, the region's "white city" with endless olive groves and vineyards. Enjoy the lovely castle and stroll through the winding streets. Wherever you go in the Alentejo, do not forget to try some comfort food, such as açorda, migas or dogfish soup, accompanied by a wonderful Alentejo wine, renowned for its quality. After this, there is no doubt why the Alentejo is a top winter destination!
If you’re really a winter lover…
…you’ll want a destination where you feel like it's actually winter! In Portugal, you should explore the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain in the country. There is plenty to do here in the winter, including snowboarding, skiing, sledding or moto-skiing. Climb to the Torre, the highest point, visit Lagoa Comprida and Covão dos Conchos, an artificial lake in Serra da Estrela Natural Park, famous for its mysterious funnel. Also visit the many viewpoints and waterfalls! Loriga, one of the most famous towns in the Serra da Estrela, known as the “Portuguese Switzerland”, is also a great stopover. In Spain, you should visit the Sierra Nevada, in the province of Granada, where you can get a real taste of winter, as there is a ski resort there. This mountain range is home to Spain's largest natural park, known for its icy slopes and whitewashed villages. The snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada are the highest elevations in Spain. Both the Serra da Estrela in Portugal and the Sierra Nevada in Spain are perfect destinations for those seeking inspiring landscapes and an escape into nature.
Islands where the climate is milder
If you are looking for a milder climate, you can always visit the volcanic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira. The Azores is a nature lover's paradise, filled with amazing boiling springs and hot thermal baths, breathtaking waterfalls and unique natural monuments. Plus, you will be surprised with the mouth-watering gastronomy . The cozido das Furnas, the cheese and the fresh delicious fish will make you scream for more! Without a doubt, the island of São Miguel is a must visit. Not only is Madeira Island naturally beautiful, but it also has a temperate subtropical climate that makes it a good winter destination. Visit the capital, Funchal, and stroll along the “levadas”, where you can delve in the heart of the Island and discover the lush vegetation. While you are in this Island, be sure to watch the sunset while drinking the famous poncha. In Spain, opt for the island of Mallorca, the largest of the Spanish Balearic Islands. Here, in addition to the famous beaches, you will find many historical and cultural sites, medieval towns, churches and beautiful viewpoints to enjoy in the winter. Take advantage of the lower temperatures and fewer tourists to visit this beautiful Spanish island!