When I lived in London, long weekend getaways were easy! Cheap flights weren’t hard to come by and last minute trips were often planned on a whim. In spring, summer and autumn, there was never a shortage of amazing destinations to choose from, but when winter rolled around, the travel forecast would always look a bit gloomier and a lot less fun. Sure, there is a certain charm in visiting Christmas markets in Germany, skiing in Switzerland, or experiencing the quintessential fairy-tale winter in Denmark, but what if you are dreaming of warm weather and sunny beaches?

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Queue Portugal with its beautiful country side, incredible beaches, and unique culture, it also happens to be one of the warmest European countries. While the rest of Europe braves through cold and windy weather, Portugal enjoys winter averages of about 15°C in the North, 18-20°C in the South and the best of the Mediterranean sun in the Madeiro archipelago.

What To Do in Portugal in Winter

Wine Tasting in Porto

At first glance, Porto may seem like another rugged shipping port and an industrial metropolis, but its beauty and charm lie in the medieval old city, the Ribeira, stretching from Douro River to the hills. In the summer the waterfront square, Praça da Ribeira, is filled with cafes and restaurants that overflow with tourist crowds, but in the winter, this UNESCO World Heritage site is peaceful, somewhat undisturbed.

Cobblestoned streets and medieval charm aside, there is no secret that the real allure of Porto is its port wine! From riverside wine caves in Vila Nova de Gaia, to the outskirts of the Vinho Verde region, Douro, and the Dão, the options for wine connoisseurs and young enthusiasts are plentiful. Take a guided tour and discover the inner workings of the wineries or admire the rolling hills of vineyards that maintain their appeal, even in the winter months.

View of Duoro Valley vineyards
View of Duoro Valley vineyards. Photo credit: Flickr CC Varun Shiv Kapur
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New Years Eve in Lisbon

If you are looking for a unique way to ring in the New Year, look no further. The country’s capital invites you to share the Portuguese spirit at the famous Torre de Belém (Belém Tower). Admire the incredible fireworks over Rio Tejo (Tagus River), then spend the night dancing away at street festivities and club parties all over town.

New Year's Eve celebrations in Lisbon
New Year’s Eve celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo Credit: www.lisbonxperience.com

When the magical night comes to an end, you can spend a few days indulging in traditional Portuguese cuisine near Chiado square, refreshing your wardrobe in Baixa, the famous shopping district in the city, getting lost in the maze of alleyways in Alfama, the city’s oldest district, or exploring the monument packed Belém neighbourhood.

Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon
Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon

Relaxing in Algarve

Winter in Algarve, Portugal’s most popular holiday destination, is short and mild. During the day, the temperature hovers around 15-20 degrees, warm enough to ditch your winter coat and expose your skin to the warm rays of sun. Without the hustle and bustle of the summer crowds, Algarve in the winter is a great place to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings in a relaxed atmosphere.

Winter is also a perfect time to try many outdoor activities in the region: from kayaking to explore 200km of Algarve coastline, unspoiled by the crowds of tourists that normally flock here in the summer, to golfing at some of Algarve’s famous golf courses. For those craving a bit of local interaction, there is no better time to learn about the local life then during the quieter winter months.

Carvoeiro, a coastal village in the Central Algarve, Portugal.
Carvoeiro, a coastal village in the Central Algarve, Portugal. Photo Credit: Flickr CC Tom Jutte
view from praia dos pescadores in Albufeira, Portugal
Albufeira, Portugal. Photo Credit: Flickr CC Daniel Antunes
Algarve West, Portugal
Algarve West, Portugal. Photo Credit: Flickr CC Alan A. Lew

Explore the Remote Madeira and Azores

If paradise is what you are after, then the subtropical archipelagos of Madeira, Porto Santo, and Azores are what you need.. Located just 1.5hr by flight from mainland Portugal, these Pearls of the Atlantic are home to some of the best resorts in all of Europe. The islands are unpopulated, but are visited by over 2 million people per year.

Beautiful coastal drives, hikes, scuba diving, mountain biking, horse riding, and surfing, are accompanied by spectacular views of the Atlantic and volcanic rock formations, famous Madeira wine, and flowers. The plethora of activities makes these relatively undiscovered islands ideal spots to get away from the cold and snowy weather, no matter where in the world you come from.

Clifs at Camar de Lobos town, in Madeira island southern coast. Portugal. Photo Credit: Flickr CC J. A. Alcaide
Clifs at Camar de Lobos town, Madeira, Portugal. Photo Credit: Flickr CC J. A. Alcaide
Winter in Madeira, Portugal
Winter in Madeira, Portugal. Photo Credit: Flickr CC Don Amaro
Fortaleza de São Tiago do Funchal
Fortaleza de São Tiago do Funchal. Photo Credit: Flickr CC by Don Amaro

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The allure of Portugal in winter goes far beyond beautiful beaches and rich culture!


Have you ever visited Portugal in the winter? What activities would you recommend to others?

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13 thoughts on “Portugal – an Ideal Destination for a Winter Break”

    1. You definitely should! If you can’t get there in winter, try to go during the shoulder season: March/April. You’ll get the best of what you can do there in the winter, plus slightly warmer temperature and plenty of beach options! All of that without the high costs of traveling there in the summer!

      1. I live in Russia, so you can imagine that I like to get away to somewhere warmer during the winter holidays. Last year I went to Spain, and this year I’m considering Portugal…though I’ve heard it can be foggy and rainy.

  1. Hi Oksana,

    I love traveling, but the more I see the more I love my country.
    Lisbon is an amazing city to live and to visit, and we have amazing city escapes.
    It’s one of the europe’s countries with the cheapest and better food.

    Give a look at this small village, Cacela Velha. It’s near my hometown, in the other side of Algarve and for me, one of the best beaches in the world. It’s one of the few places where we can find a desert beach in August in Algarve! It’s amazing!

  2. I’m heading over to the Algarve side during the Christmas season…still contemplating whether I should stay right through to New Years Day. Got to say there are some interesting things to do for New Years Eve!

  3. Gorgeous Portugal! I will say that this place really catches our interest for a unique escape. Albufeira, Portugal see you soon!

  4. Great post! Thank you! I’m hoping to be in Portugal for about 2 weeks during Christmas and to ring in the New Year. I’m hoping to do some hiking. Can you suggest anywhere?

  5. We have been to Carvoeiro this March and we absolutely loved it! Just reading through your post made me wanting to go to Madeira so much..its a beautiful country! Happy travels 🙂

  6. We have been to Carvoeiro this March and we absolutely loved it! Just reading through your post made me wanting to go to Madeira so much..its a beautiful country! Happy travels

  7. Mia Williams

    Your unique experiences of Portugal have indeed nudged me to apply for a Portugal Visa from UK instead of visiting other countries. However, my wife has been insisting on me to get a Schengen visa so I will have to see about that. But, to be honest, your blog made me love Lisbon even more. I would love to take some tips from your blog to make my Portugal trip even more delightful. I hope my wife likes our Portugal travel itinerary.

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