When to go to Lisbon

Never too hot and never too cold, Lisbon is a year-round destination with something appealing in every season. It’s also off the radar enough to ensure it’s never too overcrowded in peak seasons.

Spring - April Showers keep the crowds at bay 

As with the rest of the world at the moment, weather patterns are unpredictable but the term ‘April Showers’ is well known in Lisbon, indicating that you can get a little wet in this time. The city’s Atlantic-facing position means that storms are a little more frequent than in the neighbouring and more placid Mediterranean cities. Usually, it’s not until May that the weather properly turns to the good. Easter week isn’t quite the massive deal it is in Spain, but there are still national holidays around this time, and you’ll find a small bit of revelry as people come out of their winter shells and street-life reignites with the dawning of warmer weather.

Summer - sun, sangria and sardines

Lisbon comes alive in June with the city’s biggest celebration, Saint Anthony’s Day, on the 13th. The patron saint of Lisbon and matrimony, the mayor offers free weddings in Saint Anthony's Church, which is followed by street parades down the Avenida da Liberdade. Each neighbourhood parades through the town, vying for prizes for the best costumes, songs and dances. In the evening, everyone stumbles up the cobbled lanes to the Alfama district, where paper lanterns, coloured lights and streamers fill the winding lanes that surround the castle. Locals spill out of their houses, onto the streets and sizzle sardines on barbecues and get merry on sangria and cold lager. For the week surrounding the date, the whole city usually takes a holiday and it’s a fun time to join in with the early summer buzz. Hotel prices are also usually more affordable in June than in the peak summer time.

By July and August the city really begins to swelter and it’s advisable to stay out by the beach in Cascais or Estoril if you’re visiting in this time. For the entire month of August, much of the city takes off on holiday, and there’s a quiet air about the city.

Autumn - surf's up as the city celebrates the changing seasons

The summer usually lingers around in Lisbon for most of the final months of the year, making the autumn one of the most pleasant times to visit. The last gusts of hot wind usually blow up from Africa around the Dia de São Martinho on November 11, which is also a celebration of the change of seasons and the day when that year’s wine can be tasted. Needless to say, there’s plenty of alcohol-fuelled merriment with água-pé (a boozy grape pomace) being passed around. The city’s streets are suddenly lined with roast chestnut vendors and there are a few bonfire celebrations as people warm up for the winter months.

Surfers might note that some of the biggest swells come in around this time of year and the usually freezing Atlantic is at its warmest after the long summer months.

Winter - despite the cooler temperatures the festivities continue

Winter in Lisbon is cold enough that you’d need a jacket but it’s not unbearable. The sky is usually as blue as Paul Newman’s eyes and the air glistens like tinsel. The early buds of spring will begin to show around February when there’s also big Carnival and Mardi Gras festivities, depending on when Easter falls.