When you think of Portugal, you probably consider it to be a summertime destination.
Turns out that the Portuguese capital of Lisbon is actually a great place to visit during the winter months too.
You can beat the crowds and still enjoy sunny days during the winter months in this vibrant capital – as well as indulge in Portuguese tarts!
Here’s six reasons why you should visit Lisbon in winter.
1. It’s warmer (and sunnier) than many other European capitals during winter
While the majority of Europe is shivering throughout November to March, you’re likely to enjoy pleasant, sunny days to explore Lisbon.
During my February visit, most days were a pleasant top of 16 degrees Celsius – with barely a cloud in the sky! When the sun was shining and I was busy walking around looking at all the pretty plazas and buildings, I didn’t even need a jacket – it wasn’t that cold.
2. Getting up all those hills won’t give you heatstroke
There’s lots of hills in Lisbon. In the summer months, you would work up a pretty decent sweat negotiating all the hills when the mercury peaks above 30 degrees Celsius.
While the hills will still have you a little out of breath in the wintertime, you won’t be dripping with sweat at the top or verging on heatstroke – making for a much more comfortable visit.
3. Port wine is perfect on a winter’s day
A winter’s day and port wine are a perfect pairing. Take a break from your wanderings and down a port wine or two.
Some pastelerias serve a pastel de nata (custard tart), salted codfish (known as Bacalhau), expresso and a port wine for around €4 ($6.50 AUD).
4. You don’t have to queue for anything
I’ve been to Portugal in the summer before and you have to line up for everything. From grabbing a pastel de nata to riding the elevators to nab scenic views of Lisbon – you have to join a queue for all the tourist themed activities in peak season.
In the winter months, you’ll get a seat straight away on the funiculars, walk right into the decorative elevators to reach the miradouros, or simply get a sweet treat as soon as you want one.
5. Roasted chestnuts
Among my favourite things in European countries during the winter months are fresh roasted chestnuts.
At dusk, you’ll see the smoky haze from the roasted chestnut stalls waft along the Rua Augusta.
The chestnuts are prepared fresh in front of you and you can grab a bag for €2.50 ($4 AUD). And you won’t even have to wait in line to get your hands on some.
6. Wintertime makes for pretty streetscapes
The softer light, illuminated streetlamps and no crowds make for pretty streetscapes along the streets of Lisbon.
You can get some great photos of streets with no people in them, snap a photo from the miradouros as soon as you get there without any annoying photobombs, and even wander down the funicular lines with hardly a person in sight. In the summertime, you’ll be jostling with all the other tourists to get a photo.
Even around the castle wasn’t busy and this is one of Lisbon’s main attractions. I could easily walk the Alfama (Old Town) streets without bumping into another tourist every two seconds. Some streets I had all to myself.
What to see and do in Lisbon
Make sure you check out these following budget activities when you head to Lisbon.
- Admire the city and river views from the top of the Rua Augusta Arc for €2.50 ($4 AUD). Head there when they open at 9am and you’ll have the place to yourself.
- Get a free view of Lisbon from the many miradouros. Try the centrally located Portas Do Sol, Graca and Santa Luzia miradouros.
- Try a pastel de nata (or two, or 10!). These are delicious egg custard tarts found all over Lisbon. You can even buy them in supermarkets for nearly half the price of downtown bakeries.
- Save yourself a steep walk up to Lisbon’s higher neighbourhoods and ride a funicular for €3.70 ($6 AUD). But if you’re on a budget and feeling fit– simply walk up the side of the funicular line and get the views for free (and work off those pastel de natas at the same time!)
- Take the train out to Belem Tower and walk along the Tagus River. The train costs €3.10 ($5 AUD) return (including the purchase of the reloadable travel card). From the train station, it’s a pleasant 20 minute walk to the tower along the riverside. Entrance is €6 ($9.50 AUD). Afterwards, picking up some treats at the famous Pasteis de Belem is a rite of passage.
- Tour the San Jorge Castle and get great views of Lisbon. Entrance is €8.50 ($13 AUD).
- Wander the beautiful neighbourhoods around the city centre such as Alfama, Baixa Chiado and Bairro Alto.
- Do as the locals do on a sunny winter’s day. Find a cosy café and enjoy a coffee outside, or sit on the riverside and watch the sunset.
- If you’re in Lisbon on a weekend, browse the handifcraft market near the Rua Augusta Arc.
- Consider a day trip to Sintra to see the Quinta de Regaleria villa, the Castle of the Moors, and the colourful Pena Palace.