Travelers on a budget should visit Portugal outside of the summer months and major holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Since these are the seasons when most people plan their long weekends and vacations, flight and hotel costs soar, even outside of the major cities. Generally speaking, the most cost-effective months are January and February, with late spring and late autumn coming in tied for second place.
The Portuguese coast isn’t known for having very warm water, and temperatures may still feel a bit frigid in early summer. July to September are the warmest months, meaning the water temperatures will be the most ideal during that time too. For travelers who prefer comfortable swimming conditions, plan a trip to the Algarve, the Azores or Madeira island during the summer when the water temperatures are slightly warmer.
Although the warmest season is obviously the summer, winter is when surfers will find truly magnificent waves. To watch the pros in their element, visit Nazaré or Peniche between November and January. Anyone wanting to jump into the water themselves, but aren’t ready to hit colossal waves, can head to Ericeira, Figueira da Foz, Sagres or the beaches near Porto.
June is known as the month of the Popular Saints’ Festivals in Portugal. In Lisbon, the street parties reach their peak around the 12th and 13th in celebration of Santo Antonio, while Porto’s streets come alive on the 23rd for the São João Festival. No matter which city you are in during June, the locals are celebrating one saint or another. Winter and spring are also good times to plan a trip, however, with Madeira hosting one of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations (including a phenomenal fireworks display) and all of Portugal taking part in Carnival festivals between February and March.
Then there are the music festivals, which normally take place between spring and early fall. A robust list of times included for 2018 is already available online, showing June to August as the peak of the season.
Avoid the scorching sun and droves of crowds by visiting the Algarve between late April and early June or between mid-September and late October. While the spring season may still be a bit too cold for swimming, it’s the perfect time to sit on the beach and enjoy the water’s aesthetic appeal, while the water should stay warm halfway through fall. Spring and fall are also ideal seasons for golf and hiking, two popular activities in this region.
Portugal’s north may not see as much sun as the south, especially in the winter, but that doesn’t detract from this stunning and historical part of the country; rather, it adds to it. Fall may arguably be the best time to visit, when day temperatures range between 24° and 17° Celsius (75–62°F)—early fall to late fall—during the day but drop at nights, providing great weather for wandering the streets or hiking paths while the sun is out and retreating for comfort food (and wine) indoors at night. Fall is also the harvest season, and the northern part of Portugal is well known for its delicious wine.
In general, the best times to visit and experience as much as possible in Portugal are between March and early June or mid-September and mid-to-late November. In spring, blooming flowers add extra color to the cities already brightened by pastel-painted buildings, while autumn is the time for harvest, meaning the wine season too.