Holidays in the winter in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon Winter Weather: Getting Ready to Go

When people ask me about the weather in the winter in Lisbon, I remember my mother’s first trip to Portugal. It was January and it was the first time my mom came to visit me. Of course she asked me before the trip about the temperature, precipitation, etc., and she couldn’t understand why I said “+12+15” and asked her to bring a woolen jacket with a lining or better still a down jacket. When she arrived, however, and it was a typical chilly January evening, she finally understood what I meant.

So today I will tell you about the peculiarities of our Portuguese winter, and how best to prepare for travel to not get cold and wet, and on the contrary to get only positive impressions from the trip.

Weather in December

December in Lisbon is Christmas. The fragrance of chestnuts in the air, fairs are open in the squares, windows shine and coffee houses draw you in for a warm welcome, toasted shopping. Unfortunately, the Christmas atmosphere is somewhat overshadowed by the rains, which sometimes interfere with plans to walk around the city.

In my opinion though, Lisbon will not be spoilt by rain, it has too many options for entertainment and even if you don’t have enough rain, you will always find an alternative: museums, concerts, the oceanarium or shopping! Well, for example, I even like to walk on a wet from the rain calzada, in which the reflections of New Year garlands.

And we got away from the topic. So in December in the city it is cloudy, humid and the thermometer in the morning and in the evening falls to +8. During the day the temperature rises to +15, but if the sky is overcast you will still feel chilly in light clothing. The rains, as I said above, are very possible, though in my memory I had some “dry” months. Nevertheless, I advise you to take umbrellas, waterproof jackets with a warm lining, scarves and waterproof shoes.

By the way, a little tip: as tourists come back to the city towards the end of the month for the Christmas vacations, I advise you to think about booking accommodation in advance, as prices during this period may go up slightly.

So, in December in Lisbon:

  • +8 in the morning and evening, +15 in the afternoon.
  • Cloudy with cloudy skies.
  • Rainy about 15 days a month (but no snow!)
  • Windy

With you:

  • Waterproof jacket with a warm lining / down jacket
  • Sweaters
  • Warm pajamas and warm socks
  • Scarves
  • Waterproof shoes
  • Raincoat
  • Umbrella
  • Sunglasses (never hurts in Lisbon)

January weather

In January, Lisbon life returns to normal. Visitors go home, Christmas lights go out and the city sort of “lives itself. Ancient, beautiful, and a little melancholy. I really love January in Lisbon. For me, it’s a time when I can be alone with the city (as much as possible, of course).

So, what about the weather? January is considered the coldest winter month, although temperatures are certainly much higher compared to other, more northern countries. It’s also quite a rainy time, so I advise you to bring a spare pair of shoes, waterproof jackets or coats with linings, and umbrellas. Yes, you may get lucky with the weather. I remember, in the few years that I visited Lisbon as a tourist (which I did in January) it never rained. However, after moving to Lisbon I realized that rainfall is normal. So, I recommend you to go, armed with the right things.

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And a piece of advice: when you book accommodation, be sure to check that the apartment or room has a heater or air conditioner. Portuguese homes are not equipped with central heating, so the rooms can be quite cold and damp. Advice, by the way, applies to the previous month.

So in January in Lisbon:

  • +7-8 in the morning and evening, +14-15 during the day
  • Windy
  • Sunny days for sure! (After all Lisbon is the only European capital that can boast 290-300 sunny days a year)
  • Rainfall – 15 days a month on average.

With you:

  • Waterproof jacket with warm lining / down jacket or coat
  • Sweaters or clothes that can be worn in layers
  • Warm pajamas and socks
  • Scarves
  • Waterproof shoes
  • Raincoats
  • Umbrellas
  • Sunglasses

Weather in February

February is almost the last month of winter. Why almost? Those who have read my previous articles know that the seasons in Portugal are counted according to astronomical principles, so officially winter here lasts until March 19. Nevertheless, for convenience (and because it is more familiar to us) we will consider February as the last winter month.

So, February is much like January, but the air temperature is slowly beginning to rise (if only by 1-2 degrees). It rains quite often, so before the trip I advise to check the weather forecast. Although, to be fair, I still remember the year when it rained in February just a couple of times. But this, unfortunately, is the exception, not the rule.

Anyway, February is a nice time to visit the capital of Portugal (especially for those who don’t like heat and crowds of people in the streets), there are not many tourists and prices haven’t risen yet. In February there is plenty to do in Lisbon: besides museums and walks you can celebrate Valentine’s Day in one of the many romantic restaurants such as Chapitô à Mesa or head to the largest carnival in the city, Torres Vedras, for a full day of sightseeing.

Quixos, wine and sunshine in Lisbon in winter

Winter is a great time to visit Portugal. This was not the first time my husband and I decided and set off for Lisbon in January for sunshine, walks, open-air café terraces, new and trendy Portuguese cuisine, contemporary art and promenades by the sea. On vacation, in short. Wondering where to escape from the grayness? This post is for you!

1. This is not my first time in Portugal. Seven years ago Paul and I have traveled in this country – were in Lisbon, rode around Madeira, walked around Porto. We both liked Portugal, but we couldn’t find an excuse to go back. In the years since our first visit we had forgotten how things were at this distant edge of Europe, and decided this year to refresh our impressions. The days of January were all just right – sunshine and not a single cloud for the entire time.

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2. Lisbon is very hilly and very peculiar, and Portugal itself is quite different from the countries with which one is drawn to compare it – Spain, France, Italy. Lisbon has its own recognizable face. You recognize it by the incredible altitude differences, yellow streetcars, colorful houses with tiled roofs, the neighborhood of painted tiles azulejo and graffiti, a small number of tourists. Lisbon breathes more freely than Rome, Nice and Barcelona, and its fame as a tourist destination is not so great. Both Portugal and its capital are modest, separate, with dignity. I love that.

3. to be under such blue skies and surrounded by such bright colors in January is incredible. Portugal generally has a lot of sunny days; winter is mild, with cool mornings and well warmed afternoons. Ideal time for sightseeing trips – you can walk without fear of either heat or cold, wear everything most stylish and layered, travelers in the cities are not so many and no queues on the 28 streetcar, in which people stand in line for an hour in August, are not in sight.

Pictured is the city’s main square, Commerce Square. The man on the horse is José I, whose reign included the event that made Lisbon what it is in my photos. In 1755, the city was destroyed by an incredibly powerful earthquake, hit by a tsunami, and then rebuilt from virtually nothing – only 15% of the old Lisbon remains. The 1755 earthquake is one of the key events in the history of the country. Researchers agree that it was the beginning of the end and the reason for the country to part with its colonial ambitions and led to the eventual collapse of the empire.

4. While in Portugal you will often hear the term saudade, saudadi, used to describe the national character of the Portuguese. Saudade is a light colored mixture of unspeakable longing, sadness, nostalgia, unfulfilled hopes and lost happiness. I think that living by the ocean and the constant struggle with it, whether it be paving new paths or catching sardines, and parting with the hope of a beautiful future, not to mention the loss of thousands of compatriots in the disaster of 1755, is an essential part of saudadi. And the fact that both the luminous sadness and the lingering Fado melodies that express it, the unimportant economic and demographic situation, and the general decay unfold against a background of blue skies, bright sunshine, and openwork tiles make Portugal so beautiful and unlike others.

5. One of the symbols of Lisbon are the yellow-sided streetcars and funiculars. The city is very hilly, in its old parts the subway was expensive and difficult to build, so the streetcars, which were the first public transport in Lisbon, have successfully survived attempts to urbanize and modernize and continue to crawl through the narrow streets, grumbling with stress. And thank goodness! Without streetcars and funiculars Lisbon would not be Lisbon.

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6. It seems to me that cities with streetcars have more charm and coziness than those without. My childhood was spent in Samara, in the center of the city, where streetcars were the most convenient and understandable form of transportation. Going somewhere with my father, we always took the streetcar. It was a special pleasure to wait for the one with three carriages and to sit on the red seat. In Lisbon, of course, there are no such big streetcars. Riding the old yellow tram on route 28 through the city is an important Lisbon experience. The locals are not happy about tourists’ attentions to their streetcar, but if you arrive in winter you won’t notice it – the streetcar will be free and you will probably get a window seat. It’s better not to go from Alfama, but from the other side, from Campo de Ourique.

8. Another symbol of Lisbon is the openwork quiosque (the mysterious quiosque, as it is called in Portuguese, from the title of this post). At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries there were more than a hundred quiosques in Lisbon. They sold drinks, both alcoholic and soft, lottery tickets, cigarettes and newspapers. During the Salazar dictatorship, street gatherings, even at the kiosks, were discouraged, and so almost all of them closed. And so Lisbon would have remained without its lovely kiosks if it were not for a local businesswoman who decided to bring them back to life and got through to City Hall.

9. There are now dozens of kiosks in Lisbon, with their own names and run by different companies. They still make coffee and sandwiches, pour wine and cocktails, and Lisboetas also stop by the quioche for a shot of Portuguese cherry liqueur.

10. And we have absolutely no reason not to follow their example! Kiosk, wine and sunshine are the formula for a Portuguese winter.

The Santa Justa elevator is another symbol of Lisbon built in the beginning of the 20th century not for beauty but to connect two parts of the city, the low and the high one. The views from above are great.

13. Two newer symbols of Lisbon in this photo. The April 25 bridge over the Tagus River is another reason, besides the streetcar, to compare Lisbon, if only superficially and visually, with San Francisco. The building next to it is the MAAT museum opened a few years ago, dedicated to art, architecture and technology.

14. And pastel de nata, delicious cakes made of crispy puff pastry and delicate egg cream, are quite the symbol of the city. Take note of the place where they’re insanely delicious – Mantegiara, it’s right in the center. Do you know how the idea for this dessert was born? From a surplus of yolks, which was formed in the monasteries. Monks used the whites to filter wine and starch collars and cuffs…

15. And the azulejo tile, of course, the symbol of Lisbon and Portugal!

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16. Be sure to go to the azulejo museum to admire the bizarre examples, medieval and Islamic-influenced, Dutch-influenced, and modernist. I liked the weird cat with the striped legs and the dot mouse.

17. And the streets themselves are like an open air museum.

29. In this photo you can see another symbol of Lisbon – mosaic-lined sidewalks, calçada portuguesa, as they are called. The bright sidewalks, reflecting the sun’s rays, fill the city with a gentle sparkling light.

30. Old facades give Lisbon its charm. This candle store, for example, has been open since 1789!

32. Light! It’s the protagonist in these photos.

37. Yes, this is January.

39. A lot has changed in Lisbon in the seven years since my first visit. Both in the city and in the country as a whole, there are more tourists, including young people. Hipster trends have reached the edge of Europe, new small boutiques, shops, and restaurants have opened. Many of them are concentrated in LX Factory, a creative space, as they say in the advertising brochures, right under the April 25 bridge. For coffee, new glasses, a Monocle magazine and a gin and tonic for 15 euros, this is the place to go.

41. And for ornate stone carvings, lancet arches and sloping vaults, go to Geronimus Monastery in Belém. Last time for some reason I was not inside – I made up for that on this trip.

42. A beautiful building, excessive and restrained at the same time. This is the Manuelino style, the national version of Renaissance.

46. A little bit of street life. For it one must go to Alfama and Muraria, the old, largely earthquake-survivable neighborhoods of the city. From Muraria comes the musical style of fado, the epitome of that very saudade .

48. A beautiful morning in Alfama. The woman at the makeshift counter offers a glass of ginzinha, the traditional Portuguese cherry liqueur, for a euro. And immediately life becomes more fun!

49. On Saturdays, there’s a flea market in Alfama. I love to hustle and watch the buyers and sellers. Especially since there is good coffee nearby – Copenhagen Coffee Lab. Portuguese coffee is a special world that I never really understood, that is, I couldn’t find practically decent coffee in traditional establishments. And here they make my favorite flat white.

53. In Muraria, the walls of houses are decorated with portraits of Fado performers. Life here is very simple and poor. The narrow streets are dark and damp, the tourists are few and the mood is more rural than metropolitan.

54. On the walls of Alfama are portraits of prominent residents of the neighborhood – couples who lived together forty years, local store owners, or other notable characters. Cool idea! In Alfama, the neighborhood where the fishermen lived, the mood is like the hinterland of Venice.

57. One of the main and most important attractions in Lisbon is the Museum of Galust Gulbenkian, an oil magnate of Armenian origin, who was born in Istanbul and lived in Lisbon for 13 years. Gulbenkian has amassed an amazing collection that includes everything from old Greek coins to masterpieces sold to him in the 1930s from the Hermitage, from 16th-century Persian carpets to works by Monet. The museum building is a fine example of brutalist architecture, efficient and discreetly effective. The building is surrounded by a very beautiful garden. And the cafe in the museum, by the way, has very good coffee.

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58. Inside. I love the architecture of the mid century and so I was pleased to look at not only the collection, but also the building itself.

70. A 17th century rug from the collection of the museum.

71. Portrait of Madame Claude Monet by Renoir.

72. And this is already Andy Warhol from the collection of the Berardo Museum of Modern Art. A great museum, very visual about the development of art in the 20th century. Do not miss it!

73. There will be a separate post about Lisbon restaurants. I gathered all the best places for you, from Michelin to the most simple. Pictured here is one of the dishes from the two-star restaurant Alma. I highly recommend it and the two-star Belcanto as excellent examples of modern Portuguese cuisine.

74. The easiest day trip one can take from Lisbon to the town of Sintra is an hour by train. We decided to take the train from Oriente Station to see the building itself, built by Santiago Calatrava for EXPO 1998. The station is as beautiful as it is desolate. The glass is dirty or broken, the metal structures are rusted, the concrete is stained, and the trash is not cleaned up. It is a pitiful sight.

75. Sintra is on the outskirts of Lisbon, full of palaces and mansions of the Portuguese nobility who valued the city for its green hills and ocean breezes. Sintra is reserved for the multi-coloured Pena Palace, the Royal Palace with its great white chimneys and Quinta da Regaleira, a busy Manueline style paragon.

76. My husband and I hadn’t been to Quinta da Regaleira last time, so we decided to catch up. I liked it very much. It is devoid of pomp in volumes (but not in decoration!), it has a very beautiful and mysterious shady park – an endless series of descents and ascents.

77. The owner of the palace, Carvalho Monteiro, was a Freemason. With the help of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he transformed his park and estate into a game of symbols, riddles and guesses, fantasies and dreams.

79. From Sintra it’s a forty-minute Uber ride to Cascais, an oceanic fishing town. I had never been to a Portuguese resort, neither in winter nor in summer, and I was curious to see what it was like here. It turned out to be very nice, provincial, fresh and, surprisingly, very lively in January. However, the water is not heated above 20 degrees here, and therefore for the summer holidays I’ll go again this year to Sardinia.

81. January is the best season for such an ocean. Sitting on the shore, basking in the sun, breathing the sea… Without such a break our winter is hard for me to survive.

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