The pastéis de nata are waiting.
In 2023, Portugal set a new tourism record when more than 1.8 million people visited in May. And, as Reuters reported, more than 6.4 million travelers paid the Iberian nation a visit in the first five months of 2023, up from 5.7 million during the same time period in 2019, prior to the pandemic. So, what makes this place special enough to attract that many people? Well, just about everything.
“Portugal is one of the smallest countries with the largest plethora of touristic activities on offer,” Nick Roucos, managing director of Bomporto Hotels, which owns The Vintage Lisbon and The Lumiares, shared with Travel + Leisure. “In such a small territory, you can, in a very short framework of time and space, immerse yourself in the culture of city life, enjoy natural wonders from beaches to rivers to gardens, taste its rich yet diversified gastronomy across every region, or just lay back and relax in the most peaceful surroundings.”
As a resident of Portugal, I can attest to its bounty of activities, history, and delicious food (don't miss the pastéis de nata, bacalhau, or garlic shrimp). I can also promise it’s a place worthy of exploration throughout the year. And experts like Teresa Barros, founder and CEO of Xpose Consulting, couldn’t agree more.
“Portugal is a magical country. Imagine a place where the ‘old world’ meets the ‘new world’ — Portugal has the best of both. Here, you still have the slow living of the ‘old world’ mixed with the creativity and energy of a country that has recently been ‘discovered,’” said Barros. As for when she thinks it’s best to visit, it’s all about the renewal period.
“Portugal is known for its year-round good weather. Having said this, I suggest visiting in the spring (April to June ), when nature is awakening and brings incredible light and energy,” she shared. “As an alternative, I suggest visiting in the fall (September or October), when the weather is still great and places are generally more chill than in August (when everything tends to be fuller). It's also a great way to extend summer.”
Portugal experiences four distinct seasons, but it never gets too cold to venture out. Still, the weather can swing wildly from summer to winter, as can the crowds and prices for hotels, excursions, and more. Portugal’s tourism seasons fall into three categories:
High Season: June through August
Shoulder Season: September to November; April to June
Low Season: December to April
Best Times to Visit Portugal for Smaller Crowds
The best time to visit Portugal for smaller crowds is during the colder months from December through April. This is when you’ll find far fewer tourists crowding the streets. That said, the weather will indeed be colder up and down the coast, making it a less-than-ideal time to hit the beach. However, it’s an exceptionally good period to explore places like Lisbon and Porto, the country’s two largest cities. In both, you’ll find plenty of historic attractions, like Praça do Comércio and Belém Tower in Lisbon, as well as the World of Wine in Porto, which will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about Portuguese wine. And really, there’s no better time to try one of the nation’s famed red wines than on a chilly winter day.
Best Times to Visit Portugal for Good Weather
For warm, long days, pay Portugal a visit over the summer months. As Weather Spark explained, the warm season in Portugal typically lasts from mid-June to mid-September, when the average daily high hits above 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest month is August, with an average high of 83 degrees. The only thing to note during this time is that the winds tend to pick up, which is why most people who frequent the beaches in Portugal own screen guards to keep the sand from whipping up around them and getting into their swimsuits while sunbathing.
Best Times to Visit Portugal for Lower Prices
The best time to visit Portugal for lower prices is in both its shoulder and low seasons. While we’ve discussed the low season above, it’s key to point out Portugal’s shoulder seasons in the spring and fall can be fantastic, too. You’ll typically find thinner crowds in highly touristed areas like Lisbon, Faro, and Porto, but the weather will still usually be sublime. It's also a great time to find deals on hotels and excursions, plus visiting during this period gives you a much better shot at snagging coveted reservations at the country’s hottest restaurants. If you don’t mind cooler temperatures and are a fan of beautiful wildflower blooms and bright green pastures, make your way to Portugal in its spring shoulder season. For still warm (and even potentially hot) days, try the fall shoulder season instead.
Best Times to Visit Portugal for Festivals
Portugal is a nation that loves its festivals. A personal favorite is Festas de Santo António, which is celebrated in Lisbon and beyond and honors the city’s patron saint, Santo António. The main celebrations happen from June 11 to 13, when people take to the streets to enjoy sardines and watch the fabulous parades. (Seriously, the parties happen in every corner of the city, and people spill out onto the streets all night long, so don't expect to get a good night's sleep over these few days).
Other major festivals in Portugal include Carnival, which occurs in February and March; Holy Week in April and May; and Sintra Festival over the summer.
It's also worth visiting during the festive season, as the nation takes its Christmas joy seriously. Travelers can find twinkly lights and nativity scenes just about everywhere, along with a number of Christmas markets in places like Lisbon and Porto.
Worst Times to Visit Portugal
There's no bad time to visit Portugal, as every season offers its own rewards. However, if you want to avoid the destination's rainy season, avoid coming in October and November. This is when you’ll be hard-pressed to find a fully clear day, plus temperatures may be a bit cooler and the days get a lot shorter. That said, you can always find something to fill your time here, so really, the best time to visit Portugal is whenever you wish.
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