Since I’ve lived in Lisbon for nearly a full year now, so I can offer some first-hand information on the best time to visit. For tips on places to see in Lisbon, be sure to check my city guide!
Visiting Lisbon in winter
Is winter the best time to visit Portugal? No, objectively speaking, it’s not. If you want to get the most out of visiting Lisbon (and Portugal), you should wait at least for the spring.
However, can it be a good time to visit? Sure! The month of January in particular is great for visitors from Northern Europe who want to kick off the new year with a city trip in a mild climate.
December and January may get quite rainy and cold, but there are also fewer tourists, which makes it easier to have a more personal and unhurried experience. You may actually get onto Tram 28 without queuing for ages!
Rainy days are very likely but there are countless museums and historical buildings you can visit, not to mention the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. On a bright day, you can still sit outside while wearing a summer coat and enjoy a ginjina (cherry liquor) or vinho verde (green wine) at one of Lisbon’s typical koisks. The castles of Sintra are worth it even in winter, although the Quinta da Regaleira gardens are much better when there’s leaves on the trees.
I’ve been to both Lisbon and Porto in winter and I can recommend either city if you’re looking for a low-key escape from the harsher northern winters.
Visiting Lisbon in spring
This is an excellent time to visit, and arguably the best time of the year. The average number of rainy days drops from around 12 in March and April, to 8 in May and just 5 in June.
If you’re lucky, you can already feel like you’re in summer at the start of spring. This year I had my first beach day in mid March, when on one day temperatures reached 26 degrees C. In April, I already spent time around the beaches in the Algarve in the south of Portugal, though realistically most weeks were still too cold for beaches, with the warm season kicking off in earnest in May.
From about late April or early May, the city of Lisbon is at its most beautiful time of the year, as Jacaranda trees begin to blossom and many of its squares and avenues turn purple. Outdoor activities begin to dominate the city life again, with people having drinks outside in the cobbled streets of Barrio Alto and along the Tagus river once again.
You may want to visit Lisbon in June, as this is a month filled with festivities around the Popular Saints. There is music in the streets, colorful buntings everywhere, and vendors selling grilled sardines. The biggest night is St. Anthony’s day (early June) and the week leading up to it is a pretty big deal as well, though the entire month sees all sorts of festivities.
Visiting Lisbon in summer
Summer is a beautiful time to visit, especially if you’re keen on going to the beach.
The Atlantic waters around Lisbon are quite cold, but the air temperatures reach the right levels in summer to properly enjoy those icey baths. Day time temperatures will regularly reach up to 35°C.
By the way – for some reason sun tan lotion is super expensive in Portugal. Bring some from your home country as it’s likely to be 3x or 4x cheaper!
As anywhere in Europe, it makes sense to avoid the month of August if you can. For some people this is the only time to take a holiday, but if you have any flexibility, the other months will give you a better experience. In August, the beaches around Lisbon are packed.
Visiting Lisbon in autumn
Autumn can be a lovely time to visit. You can have bright and pleasant days well into October and even November. You can walk around in just a tshirt or a light summer coat.
It’s especially a great time to visit Sintra, where the gardens of Quinta de Regaleira become even more photogenic thanks to the colorful leaves and the late afternoon autumn glow from the sun.
The biggest crowds have passed now, so you can have a less hurried time in Lisbon. If you’re looking to go out in Barrio Alto or Pink Street, you’ll find the streets much more easy to navigate, and a more chilled out atmosphere outside of the bars.
Avoiding the crowds
- You may wish to avoid the week of Web Summit, an international conference attracting over 60,000 attendees, at least if you’re intending to go out in the center (as restaurants and bars get flooded with conference attendees).
- The historical area of Alfama can be very busy on days when multiple cruise ships happen to be docked there. Cruise schedules here.