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Travel Agony Aunt

Winter vacation in Portugal

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Travel Agony Aunt received the following question from a traveler planning to spend Christmas holidays in Portugal:


Dear Travel Agony Aunt,
Please give me your thoughts regarding the weather in Lisbon and Porto over the holidays (Christmas and New Years). I like to take my family to a different place each year for the holidays but weather is always a factor for us ‘walkers’. A couple years ago, the rain in Spain became a pain the entire trip. We have had good luck in various parts of southern Italy, but would like to venture to Portugal for something different. Should I stick to Italy and feel safe?
JBR, age 70, from Houston, Texas


I’m a walker too and know exactly how it feels to be on a journey and to end up walking through the rain! Now my aging bones need some warmth and I’m planning a trip somewhere warm and tropical this year. But getting back to the point, I asked my young nephews about the winter season in Lisbon and Porto and they told me that during these cold months the weather in Portugal is milder in the south and colder and rainier in the north. Unfortunately, the winters are wet and windy both in Lisbon and Porto. Due to its Atlantic coastal location, Lisbon can be very misty and has an average rainfall of over 100 mm in December and in Porto the winter can be even rainier than in the Portuguese capital.

If you still want to visit Portugal and be sure to find great sunny weather, I would suggest you to go a little bit further South. The Algarve region could be the ideal destination for a winter break, because it enjoys typical Mediterranean weather and has particularly dry winters. Additionally, it is the best time of the year to find off-season budget accommodation options and fewer tourists. Especially the Eastern part of the Algarve doesn’t really have a winter season and if you are lucky, it could be great for walking and even bird watching.

Of course, winter is also a great time to visit Italy and the ideal vacation destination if you want to get a better cultural immersion and take advantage of low hotel prices. Southern Italy and Sicily are excellent for winter holidays, especially for seniors like me escaping from cold climates! If you wish to discover new places, try the beautiful area around the Como Lake. Here the rainfall can be very heavy in May but is generally moderate in December.

I wish you all the best for the New Year and a dry Christmas !

Photo of Lisbon originally posted by Filipe Saraiva

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7 responses to “Winter vacation in Portugal”

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  1. Algarve Weather says:
    October 29th, 2008 at 21:51

    Hi JBR,

    I totally agree with the travel agony aunt. The Algarve is your best bet, the weather can be very nice at winter compared to other destinations in Europe.

    If you want to check out the weather forecast then there are many websites this can be done from.

  2. graciosa says:
    February 9th, 2009 at 04:00

    I agree, stay away from the north as it can be quite cold. It is not unusual to see snow-falls a la canadiana in Minho and Tras Os Montes. Stay in the Algarve and you’ll be fine.

  3. David Alves says:
    January 16th, 2010 at 00:41

    Hello, well I am portuguese and live in Portugal (Lisbon) and the weather here it is bad too. People think Portugal is just sun and good weather, but are just wrong ideas.
    Yes in Algarve (South of Portugal) is the best place in winter, with nice temperatures.
    Lisbon weahter is a little bit weird, because sometimes snow, rain, or the sun shine. I can to say you now in winter(2010) already snowed and temperatures were very low.
    In Porto a little bit more north, it is the same situation.
    In Lisbon or in Porto not always snow, but you can be sure you will find everydays rain and gona be wet.
    Italy is the best place in Europe to spend winter, because winter is just very cold in north.

  4. Holiday Apartments in Lisbon says:
    December 24th, 2010 at 05:26

    Snow in Lisbon?? David, i am also portuguese, and living in Lisbon and i am sure it didn´t snow this 2010 winter… well at least until now. Snow in Lisbon is a very rare situation, last time it happend was on the 29 January 2006. Also in the 2007 winter, some fluries of snow fell in some areas near Lisbon but melted when reaching the floor! So what i can say as a Lisboner is that Lisbon has the mildest winter from all the european capital cities and that temperatures bellow freezing point are quite unlikley to happend. So if you are planning Lisbon Holidays in winter don´t be afraid of snow or frost. Average winter temperatures for the month of january vary from 8º to14º. On colder days they might fall near freezing at night and about 8º during the day. As for the rain: winters can be really rainny in Lisbon. it is happening this winter, and also happend last winter (2009) almost every day is rainning, but this can change from winter to winter. I remenber that the winter of 2004/05 was on the opposite side an extremly dry winter with sunny clear blue skies, days and days in a row and that is due to the global climate changes!

  5. Holiday Apartments and Villas says:
    January 24th, 2011 at 13:16

    I would always recommend checking a travel review site like TripAdvisor before going anywhere. Most people include info such as weather, prices, landscape etc so you can learn a lot from other people just like you.

    It also helps tackle a new growing problem – holiday apartment fraud. More and more people (accordnig to a recent BBC report) and being stung by paying for a place that doesn’t really exist.

    It’s important to verify the apartment by either checking with a holiday booking site or by reading reviews on sites like Trip Adviser from people who have actually been there!

  6. Bill P says:
    February 13th, 2012 at 14:40

    Every day for the last 10 days we’ve had a frost here in the Algarve. Today it was still minus 2 at nine o clock in the morning. Many Portuguese restaurants dont have proper heating and you end up eating in your coat! If you want warmth in the winter head for the Caribbean!!

  7. Joao says:
    February 5th, 2013 at 08:14

    If you want to avoid rain you should not come in the winter to anywhere in Portugal or to Italy or Spain. Unless you are addicted to gamble.
    Most of Spain can actually be drier than Portugal or Italy, but for all southern Europe, winter is rainy season. The Algarve is also rainy in the winter, even more than in most of Spain albeit less than in Lisbon or Oporto. Think of California as a comparable example. Do not think of Texas or the US south as these regions have different weather patterns (humid subtropical climate).

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