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Portugal has a special place in my heart. This southern European city boasts miles of stunning coastline, sprawling wine country, tasty seafood and large cosmopolitan cities. The weather is warm all year-round, and the country attracts all kinds of travelers, from surfers to wine-lovers, beach bums to history nerds.
So when is the best time to visit Portugal? Well, that depends on what you’re looking to do. If your trip involves an Aperol spritz and a beach towel, the summer months are your best bet. To avoid crowds, aim for May or October, when it’s still warm but a little less busy. If you’re on a tight budget, visit Portugal during the off season, anywhere between November and March.
Whether you prioritize good weather, cheap flights, avoiding crowds or catching big waves, we’ve got you covered with this all-inclusive Portugal travel guide.
Read More: 10 Portugal Beaches that Deliver the Ahhh
The overall best time to visit: May-June, September-October
The overall best time to visit Portugal is at the beginning of the summer, between May and June, or towards the end of the summer, from September to October. This is called the shoulder season, and lies right somewhere between the high season and the low season.
The weather is still beautiful during this time of the year, but prices are lower, there are fewer lines and cities are less crowded. Just be sure to do your research ahead of time and make sure all the attractions you’re planning to see are open.
Best time to avoid crowds and save money: November-March
If you’re really looking to avoid crowds, plan your trip during the off-season, between November and March. In addition to the lack of crowds, prices are also much lower this time of year. That also means that certain activities may not be available and temperatures are colder, so make sure you’re adequately prepared for the trip.
The winter is also Portugal’s rainy season, and storms are not uncommon, especially in northern Portugal. To avoid the rain, stay in the south where there’s still plenty of sun, even in the colder months.
Best time to hit the beach: June-August
Believe it or not, but the water off the coast of Portugal is actually quite cold. If you’re dreaming of a beach vacation and want to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s best to plan a summer trip when temperatures spike.
July and August tend to be the hottest summer months in Portugal, with an average temperature of around 75 degrees. While this time of year brings beautiful warm weather and sunny skies, it also attracts lots of tourists, causing an increase in prices. Be sure to book accommodations far in advance, to get the best deals.
If you do want to go sightseeing during your visit, plan a day-trip or weekend trip to Sintra, one of the best places to visit in Portugal. Even during peak season, the temperature in Sintra is mild and there are endless historical attractions, including several castles, ruins and other architectural wonders.
Best time to go surfing: summer for beginners, winter for pros
Planning a surf trip? Portugal is the perfect destination. In fact, Nazare, a coastal town in Central Portugal, is famous for being one of the best surf spots in the world. Nazare is home to some of the world’s biggest waves, but Portugal offers opportunities for all kinds of surfers, from complete beginners to professionals.
If you’re new to the sport, visit Portugal during the summertime, specifically sometime between May and September. Waves are smaller during this time and there are fewer swells. The beaches close to Lisbon can be quite packed in the summer, so the Algarve might be a better place to learn.
You’ll find powerful swells and big waves during the winter, usually between December and February. In fact, these waves are some of the best in all of Europe. Just keep in mind that surfing can be quite dangerous during the winter, so try to find south-facing spots, which are a little less extreme.
Best time to go hiking: all year-round
There are opportunities to hike all year-round in Portugal, but the overall best months are in the fall or spring. The weather is mild during this time and there are fewer people.
Summers, on the other hand, are very hot and crowded in Portugal, so while hiking is certainly still a possibility, it’s best to go in the mornings or afternoons. If you’re planning a winter vacation, stick to Southern Portugal, as the north can be rainy.
Many of Portugal’s islands, such as Madeira and the Azores, are popular hiking spots. Luckily, these islands have great weather all year-round, so feel free to plan your island hiking vacation whenever you’d like.
Best time to see festivals: all year-round
Immerse yourself in Portuguese culture by attending one of the many festivals held across the country. These may include religious holidays, parades, music festivals, concerts and much more. The most popular festivals are typically hosted in the country’s major cities, and take place during the summer.
- The Festa de São João do Porto is a big festival hosted during midsummer. The streets of Porto fill with parades and processions in celebration of St. John the Baptist. The festival includes fireworks, dancing, bonfire-jumping and live music.
- Another popular festival is the Festas dos Santos Populares, a jazz festival that takes place in June. Streets are decorated with colorful balls and banners, and there are parades and lots of outdoor events. The best way to celebrate the festival is in Lisbon, specifically in the Alfama district.
- Easter is also a big holiday in Portugal. Also called Semana Santa, or Holy Week, this holiday takes place in March or April. The biggest celebration is in Braga, a small city in Northern Portugal. The entire city is decorated and hosts elaborate religious processions. Be sure to see the procession of Ecco Homo, where hooded figures march through the streets carrying bowls of burning pine cones on the end of poles.
- We can’t forget about Christmas, of course. Since Portugal is a catholic country, Christmas is a very important holiday here. Celebrate Christmas on Madeira, a stunning Portuguese island. Here, you’ll find nativity scenes, performances, carolers and traditional dancing. The weather is also mild, so you can go hiking and explore the island.
As Portugal’s religious capital, Braga is another great place to spend a Christmas in Portugal. This town is home to lots of unique Christmas traditions, including one in which everyone eats a banana and drinks wine on Christmas Eve.