Lisbon is one of the best places to travel in winter. We’ve been to the city all year round and always had a blast. However, there is something magical about winter in Lisbon. The temperature is mild, there are fewer people, and the soft winter sun always shines.
The Portuguese capital is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. We believe it’s all about the locals. The Portuguese are fantastic hosts. They know how beautiful their city is but never boast about it. It’s such a pleasure to mingle with the locals and take things easy.
Portugal is not a big country. However, it’s very diverse and blessed with gorgeous nature. Besides, it’s got a fantastic transportation system. You can go everywhere by train, bus, or driving. Due to its location, Lisbon is the perfect city to discover other places in the country, including Porto.
Why Visit Lisbon in Winter
Splendid Weather is Everything
Lisbon in winter enjoys mild temperatures. It doesn’t rain that much either. The average high temperature in Lisbon in December and January is 59 F (15 C). The average low temperature in both months is 48 F (9 C). Though both months are the wettest in the city, it only rains 10 days each month.
Temperatures in Lisbon in February go up a bit. The maximum average goes to 61 F (16 C) while the average minimum to 49 F (9 C). February sees only 8 days of rain. Things improve a bit next month. Lisbon in March has an average maximum temperature of 66 F (18 C) and a minimum of 51F (10 C). It rains for just 6 days.
As you can see, the city is perfect for a winter break. In fact, to enjoy it, all you need is a coat, proper shoes, and an umbrella. You don’t even need to bring anything! Lisbon is ideal for some winter shopping too.
In the year 2019, some 17. 3 million people visited Portugal. It was the record ever for the country. We all know what happened next, so let’s not even think about it. As you can imagine, the majority of tourists visit the country in summer.
Portugal has splendid beaches that attract millions of tourists each summer. Evidently, most stop in the capital and continue to their favorite beach. Most Europeans spend their vacation in July and August and flock to the south, searching for some sun. That’s why the city is the most visited place in the country.
As you can imagine, it can be too hot and packed in Lisbon during peak season. The city is beautiful in summer too. Come winter, everything changes. You will have a lot of space and time to enjoy the city’s attractions. Moving at your own pace is what to do in Lisbon in winter.
As every experienced traveler knows, fewer people mean lower prices. As in the rest of Europe, prices in Lisbon skyrocket in the summer months. Everybody travels at the same time, especially to the south of the continent. Therefore, hotels can charge pretty much what they want.
You can expect to pay for hotels up to 50% less in winter months than in the summer. This is particularly true regarding fancy hotels. We stayed in the best hotels in the city in winter and couldn’t believe the deals we got. The admission price for attractions is more or less the same all year round.
The same can be said for restaurants and bars. You will end up paying pretty much the same. However, you won’t have to queue! If you like shopping, you will love the city’s winter sales. These begin in late December and end in mid-February.
Things to Do in Lisbon in Winter
Roam the Streets of Baixa
Of all the things to do in Lisbon in winter, spending time in Baixa is mandatory. Baixa means low in Portuguese. It’s the historic core of the city beneath the hills. The area is next to the Tajo River and is flat. Therefore, it’s a pleasure to walk about without a plan.
Begin your walk at the Praça do Comércio. It’s the big plaza in the center, next to the coast. The Lisbon Museum is on the plaza. From there, cross the Augusta Street Arch from 1875. The city’s most important pedestrian area in the city begins here. You’ve got several streets to discover!
You have to take the Santa Justa Lift. The 1902 lift takes you to Carmo Convent. The views over the city from there are iconic. Don’t forget to check the Dom Pedro IV square. The incredible Saint Dominic Church is around the corner. From there, walk to Martim Moniz square.
Visit the Castelo de S. Jorge
Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George’s Castle) crowns the hill in the center. You can see it from everywhere in the city. The 11th-Century fortress is a sight to behold! Due to its location, the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Arabs occupied it at one point or the other.
The Portuguese took control of the hill as soon as they conquered it during the Second Crusade. Access the castle through the 19th-Century gate and climb the hill at your own pace. The first structure you will see is the castle’s museum. Keep walking until you see the remains of the Royal Palace.
The medieval castle is to the left. You can spend hours checking out different buildings and structures. The castle is set in one of the nicest green areas in Lisbon. The views from the platform will leave you speechless. Go in the afternoon to enjoy a killer sunset.
Get Lost in Alfama
Alfama is the most atmospheric and traditional neighborhood in the city. You will love it! The area extends from the river all the way to Saint George’s Castle. Since the 1755 earthquake did not destroy the neighborhood, it is one of the oldest in the city. You can take the historic tram 28 there.
Every single little street in Alfama is worth your time. Begin your tour at the Fado Museum, next to the river. Walk east to Chafariz del Rei, one of the oldest fountains in the city. The Jose Saramago Center is to the east. Lisbon’s Cathedral is behind the center.
You will enjoy awesome views from all over Alfama. The best viewing platforms are Santa Luzia and Santo Estavo. Don’t miss the 17-Century National Pantheon to the east. Our favorite restaurant in Lisbon is Affair to the east. For drinks and live music, we always go to Tejo Bar.
Spend Some Time in Parque das Nações
Lisbon has some of the best contemporary architecture in Europe. The Parque das Nações is 5 miles (8 km) north of the center. It’s the area where Expo 98 took place. Today, tall corporate buildings dot the area. You can take a bus or bike there. It’s a beautiful trip next to the river.
On your way there, stop at the Tile Museum, housed in an impressive 16th-Century Monastery. The park is fairly big. Begin your tour at the marina. Lisbon’s aquarium is there. The casino is in front. Walk north to see the iconic Iberian Lynx statue. Don’t skip the Science Museum.
You have to take the cable car to enjoy memorable views of the park, the river, and the incredible Vasco da Gama Bridge. Likewise, go up the Vasco da Gama Tower. The iconic tower offers the best views in the city. You can dine at the restaurant on the tower. Pricey, but unforgettable.
Have Coffee in a Historic Café
The Portuguese have a special relationship with coffee. Brazil, the world’s top producer, used to be one of its colonies. Besides, thanks to the Portuguese, coffee reached Africa two centuries ago. You will see friends and families chatting over a cup of coffee all around the city.
However, some coffee houses are special, and having a cup of Joe in them is a local tradition. A Brasileira is in the heart of the city, a couple of blocks from Praça do Comercio. The coffee house opened in 1905 and became an instant hit. No other than Fernando Pessoa used to visit every day.
There isn’t a single Portuguese that doesn’t know about Pastelaria Versailles. The elegant restaurant opened in 1922. It’s on Republica Avenue, close to Eduardo VII Park. You can have coffee, pastries, and top-quality Portuguese food. Confeitaria Nacional opened in 1829 on Figueira Square. The place is beautiful, and the food is delicious.
Enjoy the Views from Parque Eduardo VII
One of the nicest walks in Lisbon is from the center to Eduardo VII Park. Walking from Rossio Square to the park should take less than half an hour. The park is on the top of a slope, but since it’s not that steep, it’s an easy walk.
Walk along Liberdade Avenue, a wide boulevard lined with splendid trees. When you get to the Monument to the Dead of the Great War, turn left to visit the Botanical Gardens. The garden holds thousands of plants from all over the world. The Capitolio Theatre is next to the gardens.
There’s always something going on in the park. The park is Christmas central in December. There’s a sports club with a pool and all types of courts. They have day passes. Walk to the end of the park to the Amalia Rodrigues gardens. You will see the city, and beyond from there.
Spend the Afternoon in Belem
Belem is a suburb on the River Tajo 5 miles (8 km) from the center. You can walk there in approximately 2 hours or take the train to Cascais and stop there. You have four museums to visit. Cordoria Nacional used to be a rope factory from the 19th-Century.
Today, it’s dedicated to modern art. The National Coach Museum is inside a lavish horse riding arena. The Museu Coleção Berardo is the most important contemporary museum in the country. The futuristic MAAT Museum is next to the river. The collection inside is as impressive as the building.
Belem is famous for its lovely parks and houses with tiled facades. The Belem Nacional Palace is the pink building next to the Vasco da Gama gardens. The lush Tropical Botanical gardens are behind. Don’t miss the Jerónimos Monastery and Imperio Square. The medieval Belem Tower is next to the river.
Party With the Locals at Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is where locals come to drink, dance, and socialize. It attracts a bohemian and fun crowd. The neighborhood is up a hill east of the center. You have to take the historic Bica Funicular to get there. Barrio Alto is full of curvy cobbled streets.
Before you party, check out the 16th-Century Sao Roque Church. From there, walk to the San Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint. Don’t skip the San Pedro de Alcantara Monastery, next to the park. To dine with the rich and famous, go to 100 Maneiras, a couple of blocks from the park.
Wine lovers should go to From the Vine, beneath the park. For live jazz music and great cocktails, head to the Associação Loucos e Sonhadores. Our favorite LGBT bar is Finalmente Club, a classic that opened 50 years ago! Dancing we usually go to 5A Club.
Look for the Colorful Street Art
Lisbon has some of the best street art in Europe. You will see incredible graffiti, sculptures, and art installations all over the city. One of our favorite areas is on the stairs that lead to Bairro Alto. Locals call it GAU Urban Art Gallery.
Another area popular with street artists is near Eduardo VII Park, next to a field on Fernando do Sousa Avenue. In the center, go to the area around the San Cristovao stairs. Locals call it Fado Vadio. Two of the most famous pieces near Parque Das Nacoes are Obey and Rocket.
Lx Factory used to be an industrial complex halfway between the center and Belem. Today, it’s a popular cultural center. The place attracts all types of urban artists. You will see incredible street art and live performances. Every Sunday there’s a craft market. There are also fantastic restaurants and bars.
Go on a Day Trip to Sintra or Cascais
When in Lisbon, you have to go on a day trip to Sintra or Cascais. Better still, spend at least a couple of nights in both places. No matter how many palaces you’ve seen in your life, the ones in Sintra will take your breath away. The area has stunning nature too.
Cascais is a luxurious seaside town with great bars and restaurants. No wonder the world’s rich and famous has been going there for ages. The coastline is splendid! In Cascais, you have to stay at the Grand Hotel Estoril, and in Sintra, at the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais.
Don’t go to both places on the same day. You won’t have time to see anything. Trains to Sintra leave from Rossio station and take some 50 minutes. The ones to Cascais depart from Cais do Sodre and take 40 minutes. The journey to Cascais along the coast is an attraction in itself.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
The best places to stay in Lisbon are in the center. Our favorite hotel in the old town is the Avenida Palace. The luxurious property is next to Rossio Square. Thus, you can walk everywhere in no time. The rooms are extra plush and the service is in a class of its own.
In Alfama, we strongly recommend the Hotel Convento do Salvador. You will love it here! The hotel used to be one of the oldest convents in the city from 1392. Fully refurbished to include modern-day conveniences, it retains its quaint atmosphere. It’s a small property so book ahead of time!
If you are looking for serviced apartments, we suggest Aurea Once Upon House. The historic property is two blocks from Praça do Comércio. All of their units are fully equipped and super comfortable. Considering its class and location, the hotel is great value for money.
Moving Around Lisbon
Walking is the best way of moving in winter in Lisbon. As mentioned, it’s never that cold so you can walk everywhere. All you need is a coat, proper shoes, and an umbrella. Besides, since there are fewer tourists, you can walk about the center without crowds and actually see things.
Biking is another way to discover the city. There are bike lanes everywhere. The city operates a bike-sharing system with stations almost everywhere. That said, Lisbon has a great transportation system that includes buses, metro, ferries, trams, and funiculars.
Four metro lines cross Lisbon and open from 6:30 AM to 1:00 AM. The city has 6 tram lines. Tram 28 is the most popular and scenic. There are buses to every corner of the city. Buses operate regularly from 5 AM to 11 PM and on a reduced schedule at night.