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Dramatic Portuguese coast © Pixabay
Dramatic Portuguese coast © Pixabay
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A Seasonal Guide to Portugal's Best Attractions

Picture of Nina Santos
Updated: 20 December 2017
Portugal is a great destination regardless of the season. There is always something fun, entertaining or delicious to look forward to and the fantastic weather doesn’t hurt either. From the beaches in July to the comfort food in December, here are the best attractions on offer throughout the year.

Spring

Winter doesn’t last too long in Portugal but the warmer weather in spring is nonetheless celebrated with days along the coast and out in the countryside.

Indulge in seafood

There is an old belief that states the best time to eat seafood is any month with an “r”, so get your fill before May. All along the country, fishing villages are lined with coastal restaurants specializing in their own seafood dishes and the mixed seafood platter is a popular menu item, too.

Visit a vineyard in the Alentejo

Before the heat of summer kicks in, head to the Alentejo and sip on wine under the warm spring sun while enjoying some fresh air and floral scents. On those days when the sun feels a little too strong, sit under the semi-shade of a cork tree. The Alentejo is one of Portugal’s traditional regions where time seems to move slower and wine hotels are less likely to be in high demand during spring, meaning it’s a great time to go.

Souvenir hunt in the Algarve or Lisbon.

Before the tourism rush in the summer, market hop in the Algarve and Lisbon for deals on souvenirs. Azulejo tiles, ceramics, and beautiful textiles with intricate needlework are just a few cultural treasures that will be lining the doorways and market tables.

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Order a mixed seafood platter | © Nina Santos

Summer

Summer may be Portugal’s biggest party season, with music and aromatic smokey clouds from grilled sardines following pedestrians who wander the narrow streets. During summer, everyone relaxes a bit more and the beaches fill with water sports enthusiasts and sunbathers.

Lots of festivals

A highlight of June is undoubtedly the Popular Saints Festivals when each city/region celebrates their own popular saint. In Lisbon, this is Saint Anthony, celebrated on June 12-13, and in Porto, it’s Saint John on June 23-24. Roads close to traffic and open to tables upon tables of grilled food (especially very yummy sardines) and plenty of beer and wine. Music also fills the streets, serenading happily tipsy locals and the lucky tourists who know to visit during this celebratory time.

The perfect time to visit the Azores

While continental Portugal fills with tourists during the summer (especially Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve), the Azores maintain a slightly hidden-gem-like quality. Take advantage to explore these beautiful islands.

All of the beaches

With over 1000 miles of coastline, visiting the beaches in the summer is a no-brainer.

Partying in the Algarve

Summertime attracts many party-hungry tourists to the Algarve, especially along the Albufeira Strip and in downtown Lagos, and the bars prepare for these crowds spectacularly with special themed nights and drink specials. Of course, there is much more to see and do in this region that will satisfy nearly every type of visitor.

Douro River tour

Hop on a boat in northern Portugal and cruise past the Douro’s countryside and vineyards.

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Try snorkeling in the Azores | © BKD / Pixabay

Fall

Head to the mountains

From Madeira’s cloud-covered peaks to the remote Serra da Estrela range in central Portugal and the national gem of the Peneda-Gerês Park (and more), there are many areas to go hiking and trekking. Fall may be the perfect time to go with its warm days and slightly cooler nights.

Wine harvest

Go one step further from enjoying Portuguese wine and participate in the harvest and production process. September is the month when this usually takes place, although it sometimes extends to October (depending on the year’s weather patterns).

Web Summit

Lisbon became the new home of the global Web Summit in 2016 and two years later it will take place during the first week in November. As one of the biggest tech conferences in the world, attending the conference is an exciting opportunity in the Portuguese capital that attracts many famous faces and names from around the world.

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Hike in Madeira island | © Laborratte / Pixabay

Winter

Visit the must-see landmarks

Despite the mild weather, ever-present sun, and lower prices, winter continues to be Portugal’s down season for tourism. Lisbon’s Belem Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, Porto’s Clérigos Tower and famous Lello bookstore, and Coimbra’s University are only a few landmarks that should be visited in the winter when lines are short or non-existent. Winter is also easily the best time to visit Lisbon’s famous pastry shop with its 200+ year-old secret recipe for delicious egg-cream pastries.

Watch the pros surf

Another major attraction during the winter is surf season and the giant waves make this an exciting time. Head to Nazaré or Peniche and watch the pros tackle some monstrous waves. However, if you’re new to the sport, this may not be the best time to try surfing (summer may be a better season to learn).

Eat a francesinha in Porto.

Winter is the time for comfort food, so wear layers to cover the tell-tale signs and indulge in rich recipes. Perhaps the mother of all calorie bombs is Porto’s francesinha, a sandwich filled with various meats, topped with cheese, and smothered in sauce.

New Year’s Eve in Madeira

Madeira island is home to one of the most popular New Year’s Eve celebrations and fireworks displays around the world. Why not ring in the New Year right by visiting this subtropical paradise?

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Visit major landmarks, like the Belém Tower, in winter when lines are shorter | © AntonioCalado / Pixabay

Portugal has something for everyone and the best time to visit depends completely on what you’re looking for!