Portugal has the ultimate mix of labyrinthine cities and oil-painting-worthy rural landscapes. It represents continental Europe perfectly, striking a romantic balance between classical and modern, urban and rural.
Whether you’re by yourself or with a group who have vastly different expectations from a holiday, there are places in Portugal to satisfy everyone. You may think the best that this country has to offer happens in the summer months, but Portugal retains its charm all year round. Here, we look at why visiting Portugal in the winter is just as enchanting as the summer.
Reason 1: In Portugal, you’re in for a more authentic experience
Away from the tourist markets are the Portuguese locals living their everyday lives, eating at hidden local restaurants and cafes, drinking traditional cortado coffees, or eating Pastéis de Nata at the world-renowned Pastéis de Belém.
Each day, expert bakers recreate the ancient secret recipe created by monks at the Jerónimos Monastery. This may sound like something out of a fairytale, but the allure is enough to entice tourists and locals alike in large numbers. In the summer months, queues for these delicious custard tarts stretch out of the door and around the winding streets of Lisbon. In winter there are still often lines, but you will find them much more manageable!
After fuelling up, why not visit the birthplace of the dish itself? Nearby lies the Jerónimos Monastery and the Torre de Belém, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These impressive sites not only offer unbelievable architecture but also contain the Portuguese National Archaeology Museum and the Maritime Museum. With the summer crowds long gone and the buildings bathed in golden winter sunlight, this could not be a better place to wander around in the off-season, going at your own pace and catching the perfect photos.
Reason 2: It’s still warm in Portugal
Given its unique position in Europe, the winter temperatures in Portugal do not suffer the dramatic drop seen on the rest of the continent. It’s always advisable to pack a jumper and long sleeves, but even the coldest days are often lit with the warming glow of low winter sun, especially in the evenings as the sun seemingly disappears into the Atlantic, extinguished for another day.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys a traditional wintery atmosphere, Portugal also has that in spades. Plenty of towns adorn their streets with Christmas lights, especially in the capital Lisbon and in more urban areas of the Algarve. Portugal has a rich collection of winter and Christmas traditions for you to partake in, too. Why not try a Bolo Rei or ‘King’s Cake’, a traditional Portuguese sweet bread made with nuts and crystallized fruit?
Reason 3: Visiting Portugal in winter is less expensive
One of the most compelling arguments for visiting Portugal in the winter is the cost. When you add all these benefits together, you might expect to pay over the odds for these experiences, but a trip to Portugal in the winter may be cheaper than you think. It’s also not just about cost but value for money. There are few places in the world that offer so much to do all year round, so it feels like the smart choice to take advantage of the lower prices during the winter months.