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A Seasonal Guide to the Best Attractions in Portugal

Summer may be when most tourists flock to Portugal, but you can find things to do in the country no matter what time of year it is.
Summer may be when most tourists flock to Portugal, but you can find things to do in the country no matter what time of year it is. | © freeartist / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Nina Santos
2 September 2021
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Portugal is a great destination regardless of the season. There’s 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.

Want to visit? Let our local insider show you the best of Portugal on our specially curated nine-day Northern Portugal adventure.

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

Visit a vineyard in the Alentejo

© Studio Barcelona / Alamy Stock Photo

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 shade of a cork tree. Wine hotels are less likely to be in high demand during spring, meaning it’s a great time to go. You can visit Alentejo and sample some of the region’s best wines as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated nine-day Portugal tour, led by our local insider.

Souvenir hunt in the Algarve or Lisbon.

Before the tourism rush in the summer, market-hop in the Algarve and Lisbon for some good 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.

Summer

Summer is the party season in Portugal, with music and aromatic smokey clouds from grilled sardines following pedestrians who wander the narrow streets. Everyone relaxes a bit more this time of year, and the beaches fill with water sports enthusiasts and sunbathers.

Lots of festivals

© Sipa US / Alamy Stock Photo

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; in Porto, it’s Saint John on June 23-24. Roads close to traffic and open to tables upon tables of grilled food (especially sardines), as well as plenty of beer and wine. Music 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 hidden-gem-like quality. Take advantage to explore these beautiful islands.

All of the beaches

With more than 1,600km (1,000mi) of coastline, visiting the beaches of Portugal 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. The bars prepare for these crowds with special themed nights and drink specials.

Douro River tour

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

Fall

Head to the mountains

© Giulio Ercolani / Alamy Stock Photo

From the cloud-covered peaks of Madeira to the remote Serra da Estrela range in central Portugal, there are many areas to go hiking and trekking. Fall may be the perfect time to go, thanks to the warm days and 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 weather patterns).

Web Summit

Lisbon became the new home of the global Web Summit in 2016. Attending the conference is an exciting opportunity in the Portuguese capital that attracts many famous faces and names from around the world.

Winter

Visit the must-see landmarks

© Boris Stroujko / Alamy Stock Photo

Despite the mild weather, ever-present sun and lower prices, winter is the down season for Portuguese tourism. The Belem Tower and Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, and the Clérigos Tower and Lello bookstore in Porto are only a few landmarks that should be visited in the winter, when lines are short or non-existent.

Watch the pros surf

Another major attraction during the winter is surf season. 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 francesinha: a sandwich filled with various meats, topped with cheese and smothered in sauce.

New Year’s Eve in Madeira

© EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo

Madeira island is home to an endlessly popular New Year’s Eve celebration. Why not ring in the New Year right by visiting this subtropical paradise?

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