When is the best time to visit Lisbon?
When planning a trip to a new destination, we often wonder when is the best time to visit. In fact, marketing efforts will attract our attention to specific times of the year that are supposedly great because of a confluence of favorable factors: when most people have vacation time, a set idea of what pleasant weather is all about, availability of things to see and do, and more.
No wonder we nowadays talk about a high season and a low season of a given destination, when prices of basic services for travelers, such as accommodation, tend to vary greatly. Much has been advocated about the advantages and joys of traveling during the low season, when generally things are more affordable and, depending on how busy the destination tends to get, the likelihood of facing crowds also diminishes.
When it comes to Lisbon, we believe there’s no such thing as the best time of the year to visit. Because, truly, it all depends on what you like best.
The warmer months of the year tend to be very popular in Lisbon by default but, thankfully, the weather could be considered fairly moderate all year long, particularly when compared to other European capitals. It never gets way too cold even during the peak of winter, so Lisbon can be a great place to be even if you’re not a fan of lower temperatures. Even during December, for example, it’s possible to do outdoor activities around Lisbon, without meaning you’ll end up freezing and even if you need that extra comfort, there are plenty of wintery dishes in the Portuguese gastronomic repertoire to make you feel cozy.
There are great excuses to travel to Lisbon all year long and, in fact, visiting several times during different periods can give you a new appreciation for different still unknown sides of the city and its people.
Because we don’t advocate for a specific time of year, we’ll love to highlight some events that take place in Lisbon and nearby regions of the country across the seasons, and which you may want to keep in mind when planning your next trip to Portugal. We hope these tickle your fancy and we get to see you around here very soon!
Winter in Lisbon
January, February and March
If Christmas is a busy time around Lisbon, January can be lovely for travelers who are keen on exploring the Portuguese winter. You can expect no crowds around, particularly past the first week of January, and you’ll still have the chance to try some of the Portuguese holiday treats that pastry shops will still be serving. January is a good month for travelers who like to do things against the current and want to feel the city for what it really is.
After Christmas and New Year, there aren’t a lot of organized events taking place during January, but you can certainly have plenty of opportunities to enjoy Lisbon more like a local – and we’re here to help you accomplish that!
Things start picking up in February, with more events, namely Carnaval. While not as big of a deal when compared to Brazil, Mardi Gras festivities can get really lively not in Lisbon as such, but in the close-by cities of Loures, Torres Vedras and Nazaré, where colorful parades take place and everyone’s welcome to join the fun.
Highlighted events in and around Lisbon during January, February and March include:
LAFF: Lisbon Art & Antiques Fair is the most prestigious antiques fair in Portugal.
Monstra: Lisbon’s Animated Film Festival shows audiences the best animation movies being made across the world.
Moda Lisboa: designers and fashion lovers get together at Lisboa’s Fashion Week.
Lisbon Half Marathon: one of the most important athletic events in Lisbon and your only chance to cross 25 de Abril bridge on foot!
Spring in Lisbon
April, May and June
Summer in Lisbon can get pretty hot, easily averaging 30°C (90°F) during August. Unless you are used to this kind of temperature or you’re planning to stay indoors during the peak hours of day heat, the spring season would probably be more inviting to roam around.
If you are into doing nature related activities, such as trekking, hiking or biking, along with Autumn, this is definitely the best time of the year to do so in Lisbon. If you need ideas of beautiful things to do in the city and beyond, we have gathered some tips for great day trips from Lisbon, just like us locals often do in our free time.
There are several food festivals that take place during these months, and that represent good opportunities to explore Portuguese gastronomy beyond the staples often served at local restaurants. If you’re a seafood lover, we’d definitely recommend heading to Setúbal during the week dedicated to oysters, or to Ericeira to indulge in sea urchin.
June is one of the most happening months of the year in Lisbon, as this is when the festivities that celebrate St. Anthony take place. Even though St. Anthony’s parties officially take place on the 13th of June and on the eve of this day, the truth is that there are outdoor things happening in the city’s most historic neighborhoods all month long. Apart from concerts and street gatherings for hanging out and drinking, you’ll have the chance to eat grilled sardines and bifanas, while mingling with people of all ages. The scent of grilled fish that takes over central Lisbon during June is unmistakable, explaining why many refer to Lisbon’s June festivities in English as the “sardine festival”.
These are the most popular events during April, May, and June in the Great Lisbon area:
25th of April’s Freedom March: on the day of the Portuguese Revolution, celebrate freedom with Lisbon locals joining a street march with a red carnation in hand.
International Chocolate Festival: Óbidos hosts this international festival dedicated to everyone’s favorite candy, with workshops, cooking demonstrations, tastings and more!
Millennium Estoril Open: tennis tournament held in the Portuguese Riviera.
FIMFA: marionettes and animated forms from all over the world descend on the Portuguese capital.
Indie Lisboa: binge-watch independent movies at Lisbon’s biggest independent film festival.
ARCO: international contemporary art fair in Lisbon.
OutJazz: on weekends from June until September, enjoy free jazz sessions on different parks and gardens across the city.
Arraial Lisboa Pride: celebrate diversity and equality in Lisbon’s pride parade. Besides the actual parade, the month of June hosts several LGTBI events, ranging from serious discussions to fun parties.
Popular Saint’s Festivals: celebrate St. Anthony, the biggest outdoor party in Lisbon! This is one event that surely attracts many travelers to Lisbon, and that locals love to partake in as well!
Summer in Lisbon
July, August and September
If we could highlight two things that make this time of the year special, they would be: the beach and the many music festivals that take place around Lisbon.
If you come to Lisbon during the summer, you’ll see first hand how Portuguese people adore going to the beach and follow closely the many rituals that are involved when spending a day at the beach Portuguese style. It’s about disconnecting from the city, soaking up the sun, taking refreshing dips in the ocean and, of course, eating treats that are closely linked to spending time at the beach.
The list of music festivals that take place during these months can virtually please any music lover, regardless of the genre of preference. From pop-rock to jazz, there are big productions that take place mostly outdoors, that will entertain the local crowds and that are indeed the perfect draw for music aficionados from abroad to come to Lisbon. Some of the most popular music festivals that take place in and around Lisbon during the summer, include:
NOS Alive: one of the biggest music festivals near Lisbon, taking place in Algés’ riverside.
Super Bock Super Rock: rock, alternative, heavy metal, electronic, hip hop and pop artists have a place in this festival’s several stages.
Sumol Summer Fest: a celebration held in the Portuguese coastal town of Ericeira, bringing together elements of surf and skate culture.
EDP Cool Jazz: this festival in Cascais brings together world class musicians in the genres of jazz and more.
O Sol da Caparica: the biggest Lusophone music festival, taking place in Costa da Caparica.
Jazz em Agosto Gulbenkian: jazz concerts happening in the Gulbenkian foundation gardens.
September marks the return from summer vacation and the beginning of a new school year, and it generally comes in with great cultural programs.
Other key events in Lisbon and nearby cities during July, August and September include:
Óbidos Medieval Evening: the birthplace of Portuguese sour cherry liqueur, ginja, hosts a medieval themed fair with opportunities to dress up, wander the streets with medieval decoration, eat and drink medieval inspired recipes.
Lisboa na Rua | Com’Out Lisbon: during August, Lisbon becomes an open-air stage offering theatre, cinema, music, dance, literature and magic, for free!
Festas do Mar: ten days of concerts by the Cascais bay during August.
QUEER LISBOA – International Queer Film Festival: Lisbon gay and lesbian film festival, which is considered one of the most important European forums of international LGBT film/video.
MOTELx: Lisbon International Horror Film Festival, screens the best international horror movies from recent years.
So if you thought the summer in Lisbon was all about the beach, it’s time to broaden your ideas and let the good times roll!
Autumn in Lisbon
October, November and December
Fall and winter can be pretty magical in Lisbon. It’s certainly a calmer time of the year when compared to the hot months, even if the city does get busier around Christmas time, particularly with European travelers who make good use of their holidays at the end of the year.
Cold weather in Lisbon is synonymous with the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air, as you’ll see many street vendors with portable charcoal ovens selling these nuts in corners all over the city. These represent a lovely and delicious way to warm your hands, as you walk around with a cone of freshly roasted chestnuts in hand.
The colder the weather the roughest the sea, and so October (to March) bring some of the biggest waves known to mankind, which can be observed in the nearby town of Nazaré. This is where some of the biggest waves ever surfed happened, putting Portugal in the book of world records. The gigantic waves of Nazaré are certainly not for everyone to surf, but you can stand by the town’s lighthouse to see Nature put on a show for you and how some fellow humans dare to defy these natural forces on their surfboards.
On the food side of things, there’s always something taking place. In October, Santa Cruz hosts a festival by the name of Festival da Sapateira where you can indulge in all-you-can-eat crab at a very fair price. Feira da Golegã, the biggest event in Portugal dedicated to horses, also involves entertainment and, of course, regional foods.
December is all about Christmas. In the beginning of the month the lights that decorate the city centre come on, and a huge Christmas tree is usually installed in Praça do Comércio, officially inaugurating the holiday season. The holiday spirit is fed with multiple Christmas markets around the city, where both children and adults will find plenty of entertaining opportunities.
The last couple of weeks of December and early days of January have lots to offer to classical music lovers as well as those who are fond of ballet. Catch concerts such as the iconic New Year’s concerts, which several cultural organizations such as CCB or Gulbenkian present, and classical dance performances which often include choreographies like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
These are some of the best events in Lisbon and nearby areas during October, November and December:
MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira: surf competition in Ericeira, part of the World Surf League.
Doclisboa: Lisbon’s biggest documentary film festival, with movie screenings taking place in the historic São Jorge cinema.
Lisbon Art Weekend: a great occasion to get acquainted with the panorama of contemporary Portuguese art.
Octopus Festival: head to Ericeira, a heaven on earth for seafood lovers, this time to indulge in octopus dishes.
Comic Con Portugal: Portuguese edition of this world-wide famous event dedicated to pop culture.
Web Summit: annual technology conference held in Lisbon, drawing lots of visitors to the city.
Wonderland Lisboa: Christmas themed park with stalls, live entertainment and, of course, the opportunity to meet the real Santa Claus!
Lisbon is great all year round and the best time to visit is up to you! No matter when you decide to book your trip to Portugal, we’ll be here with arms wide open to welcome you and show you around.
Are you planning a trip to Lisbon? Tell us via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook when you’re thinking of visiting and why you’ve chosen that time of the year – we’d love to know – We may even help you planning it: @tasteoflisboa #tasteoflisboa
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