For a packed calendar of traditional celebrations, decadent food festivals, outdoor concerts and many other events, head to Portugal. Summer is the time to catch the biggest range of activities, but in truth, there’s always something happening here.
Festivals aside, it’s not easy to pin down the best month to visit Portugal – that really depends on what you’re after. Outdoor activities in the south? Go in winter, when the crowds are thinnest, the prices are lowest, and the weather is pleasant but not hot. Beach days with plenty of time in the surf? Visit in summer, when the water temperatures are warmest. A mix of urban exploration and hiking adventures in the wilderness in the north? Opt for the shoulder season, when it’s not so rainy and the cities aren’t yet filled with tourists.
No matter what type of experience you’re seeking, you’ll find your ideal scenario in our comprehensive guide to what's going on when in Portugal. Here's what's happening month-by-month throughout the year.
The high season – June to August – is the best time for the beach
Early summer is one of the liveliest times to visit Portugal, as the festival calendar is packed. Warm, sunny days are the norm, and while tourism picks up, the hordes have yet to arrive, particularly in the first half of June.
During the summer months, you’ll also find warmer ocean temperatures, especially as you head south to the Algarve. Water temps and crowds both peak in July and August, though, so plan on sharing those pretty beaches with plenty of other sunseekers. Lisbon and Porto also swell with crowds, and prices soar in July and August. Book outdoor dining at terrace restaurants overlooking the seaside, catch open-air concerts and film screenings and browse for treasures at street markets. August is Portugal’s busiest tourist month, and reserving months ahead is essential.
Expect higher prices wherever you go, as accommodation prices typically increase by 30% or more during the summer high season. On the plus side, summer is one of the most festive times to be in Portugal, with big national celebrations and lots of local outdoor events.
Low-season months of November to March are a cheaper time to visit
If you want to escape the crowds and enjoy rock-bottom prices on accommodations, plan your trip for the low season. Many museums and other attractions keep shorter hours, though you’ll still find a full lineup of performances in cities and bigger towns.
If you come in the winter, you’ll need to prepare for changing weather conditions – rain in Porto and the north, and freezing temperatures at higher elevations. The south, however, has ample sunshine, so it’s a fine time for clifftop walks in the Algarve.
Visit in November and stay along the coast, and you’ll have lovely seaside views all to yourself – but you'll need to pack a light jacket for cooler days and nights, plus the odd rain shower. In the north, it's getting even colder and wetter.
Long nights and cooler days can’t dampen the Christmas spirit in December, with holiday markets, roasted chestnuts and colorfully decorated squares. Days are mostly pleasant in the south but brisk at night, while the north sees cold, rainy days and nights. The sea is quite cold, too, but the biggest waves arrive this month, making it a big draw for surfers.
January is a peaceful time to visit, though the weather can be patchy and cool. Dia de Reis (Three Kings' Day) brings the Christmas festivities to a close on January 6.
February is one of the quietest times for overseas visitors, meaning you won’t have to book lodging months in advance. It can be quite rainy in the north, and you can even go skiing at Torres (Portugal’s sole ski resort). Coastal temperatures are cool but mild.
March days are rainy and chilly in the interior and the north of Portugal, though the south sees ample sunshine. Prices and visitor numbers remain low.
Go in April, May, September and October for outdoor adventures
During the shoulder season, you’ll find mild, often sunny days that are ideal for hikes, bike rides and other outdoor activities. This is a great time to check out Portugal’s top natural wonders without the heavy crowds.
Spring arrives with a flourish, bringing warmer temperatures and abundant sunshine in both the north and the south, as well as some major religious holidays, like Holy Week. April sees a profusion of wildflowers in the south, and Easter processions add excitement, as does Liberation Day (April 25), when you can see parades and fireworks in some towns.
Lovely sunny weather makes May an ideal time to visit, especially if you’re hitting a long-distance trail, such as the Via Algarviana or the Rota Vicentina. The crowds are beginning to arrive in Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, though it’s still a fairly relaxed scene compared to the summertime high season.
The fall can be a magical time to visit Portugal, with changing leaves in the north coupled with grape harvests (and harvest festivals). As in spring, the beaches are much quieter and quite inviting, though ocean temperatures can be bracing. Ongoing warm weather ensures beaches remain packed until mid-September, when peak tourist season officially ends. Then things cool down a bit and prices dip, as the crowds dissipate toward the end of the month.
As the temperatures cool, head to the vineyards of the Douro, where you can see grape harvesting and treading, and even help out. October is also a great month for bird-watching, with many species passing through en route to Africa during the annual fall migration.