10 Things to Do in Lisbon in the winter

Its romantic, bohemian and somewhat decadent atmosphere, as well as the number of activities on offer, make Lisbon a winter destination on a par with the great European capitals.

Joaquín Montaño

Joaquín Montaño

9 min read

10 Things to Do in Lisbon in the winter

Sunset in Lisbon | ©Gloria

Although temperatures are somewhat milder than in other latitudes, the Portuguese capital experiences the winter with far fewer visitors than in high season. For those who prefer to visit the attractions of Lisbon in a quieter way, this is a perfect period, especially if you take into account the amount of things to do: markets, Christmas, carnival, half marathon and a suggestive winter atmosphere full of lights, colors and pleasant aromas.

1. Discover the Christmas Markets in Lisbon

Market in Campo de Santa Clara| ©Andrea Mann
Market in Campo de Santa Clara| ©Andrea Mann

As you can read more in depth in my article on Lisbon at Christmas, in the Portuguese capital are installed several markets that will delight young and old:

  • Campo Pequeno Square Christmas Market: the stalls that are installed in this former bullring offer all kinds of products, from food to handicrafts, all national product.
  • Lisbon Wonderland Christmas Market: the Eduardo VII Park hosts every year this different Christmas market whose attractions (Ferris wheel, carousels, an ice rink or a Christmas village) make it perfect if you have gone to Lisbon with children.
  • Alvalade Christmas Market: it is undoubtedly one of the favorites of Lisboners. Its wooden huts offer food, Christmas decorations or handicrafts. In addition, you can visit the house of Santa Claus himself.
  • Christmas market of the Santa Catalina viewpoint: although its size is not very large, it is one of the most attractive, as it is located in one of the most spectacular viewpoints of the city.

Book a guided tour of Lisbon

2. Participate shamelessly in Lisbon Carnival

Lisbon Carnival| ©Genn
Lisbon Carnival| ©Genn

Admittedly, Lisbon' s carnival does not have the same recognition as that of other European cities. However, many claim that it is not only one of the oldest in Europe, but also the origin of the famous carnivals of Rio. The animation in the streets of Lisbon is well worth joining the party, and hiring a tour of Lisbon can be an excellent way to do it.

If you are in Lisbon in February, the month during which the carnival is celebrated (the dates are not fixed) you should participate in the so-called Carnival of the Villains. In addition, many of the city's neighborhoods organize their own parties. It is especially the children who dress up, although some adults can also be seen following this custom.

Of course, enjoying the carnival is also one of the best things to do in Lisbon at night. Practically all nightlife venues organize their own activities for the enjoyment of locals and visitors.

Book a tour in Lisbon

3. Cheer at the spectacle of the Lisbon Half Marathon

The Jerónimos Monastery| ©Minh TRAN
The Jerónimos Monastery| ©Minh TRAN

If you are in Lisbon in March, you can join a race that has reached the world record number of participants. It is also a unique opportunity to cross the 25 April bridge on foot and have a unique view of the entire Portuguese capital.

Actually, two different races are held on that day:

  • The first, more official, is the Lisbon Half Marathon, in which the best athletes in the world participate. This race starts at Largo da Portagem and ends next to the Jerónimos Monastery, which you will know if you have done a route through the Belém neighborhood.
  • The other race, open to all amateurs, is the Mini-Marathon. In this one, 7,200 meters are run and more than a competition, it is a day of conviviality.

Of course, there is no shortage of recreational activities during the day of the race.

Book a guided tour of Belem

4. Escape the cold in Lisbon's coffee shops

Belem's pastries| ©André Luís
Belem's pastries| ©André Luís

**Lisbon'**s coffee shops, as well as the confectioneries, are a true institution in the city. Although they are obviously open all year round, few sensations are better than entering them to shelter from the cold or rain on winter afternoons while sipping a great coffee and a sweet.

You cannot leave the city without tasting one of the most typical sweets of the country and if it is freshly made and still a little warm, the better the experience will be. The Belém cake is omnipresent in all the coffee shops, such as Café Nicola, in Rossio, and A Brasileira, perhaps the most famous in the whole city.

However, few can compare to the one prepared at Pasteis de Belém, next to the Jerónimos Monastery. Fancy a plan that combines culture with gastronomy? Visit the Jerónimos Monastery and, when you leave, treat yourself to some Belém pastries.

Buy tickets for the Jeronimos Monastery

5. Enjoy winter gastronomy in Lisbon

Chestnuts| ©andreaseves
Chestnuts| ©andreaseves

Tasting Portuguese gastronomy, in this case in Lisbon, is one of the best experiences any traveler can have. In winter, in addition, you will find some dishes typical of that season with which you will want to repeat:

  • Caldeirada: this dish is made with fish, seafood or cod with potatoes, tomato, bell pepper, garlic and onion in a broth with white wine.
  • Cocido a la portuguesa: this winter stew includes meat, potatoes, various vegetables and legumes. Ideal to forget about the cold for a few hours.
  • Caldo verde: its ingredients include chorizo sausage, potatoes, cabbage, onions and beans and is considered one of the best you can have in winter.
  • Feijoada: beans with carrots are the base of this dish which is usually accompanied by bacon, white rice and chorizo. Quite hearty and appropriate for winter.
  • Chestnuts: if you travel to Lisbon in December or in the following months you will find in many of the corners of the city stalls selling these roasted chestnuts.
  • ** Ginjinha liqueur**: one of the most traditional drinks in Lisbon's winter. Traditionally, it was thought to be a great remedy for colds typical of the winter season.

You can also book a table with a menu for the Hard Rock Cafe in Lisbon to enjoy a lunch or dinner with drinks and live music included.

Buy a menu for the Hard Rock Cafe in Lisbon

6. Take an excursion to Sintra and Cabo da Roca

The Pena Palace| ©laredawg
The Pena Palace| ©laredawg

In winter, booking a tour to Sintra and Cabo da Roca from Lisbon has the advantage that you will not find crowds, not to mention the beauty of the forests and gardens under the winter light, which gives them an even more mysterious atmosphere than in other seasons.

As I tell you in my article on how to get to Sintra from Lisbon, you will not lack options. Whatever you choose, however, I recommend that you do not miss the main attractions of Sintra:

Also make sure that the excursion includes a stop at Cabo de Roca. This will offer magnificent views of the Atlantic, whose force breaking against the cliffs is even more spectacular at this time of the year.

Book your excursion to Sintra

7. Experience the Chinese New Year in the heart of Lisbon

Chinese New Year Lisbon| ©Zhang Liyun
Chinese New Year Lisbon| ©Zhang Liyun

The celebration of the Chinese New Year in Lisbon has been taking place for a few years now, but it is becoming more and more popular in the city. The event, with all its color and beauty, is highly recommended if you are in the Portuguese capital when it takes place (there is no fixed date, but it is usually in late January or early February).

One of the main events of this celebration is a big parade along Almirante Reis Avenue, an artery that crosses a district where the largest Chinese community in the city has settled, where hundreds of people dressed in traditional clothes parade and perform martial arts demonstrations and traditional dances.

In addition to the parade, several stalls are set up in a square selling food, handicrafts and Chinese clothes. When night falls, a big party is held in a nearby park. Hundreds of people usually come to enjoy various traditional Chinese performances, including a spectacular dragon and lion dance.

8. Avoid the rain with a streetcar ride.

Night Tram| ©Lisa Fotios
Night Tram| ©Lisa Fotios

Few images are more representative of Lisbon than its streetcars, so booking the Lisbon sightseeing streetcarwill allow you to take a short sightseeing tour where, in winter, you will also be safe from the rain and cold.

Trams, whether modern or antique, are nowadays a tourist attraction in their own right. Undoubtedly, the most used by visitors is line 28, which I recommend you use to tour part of the city. Not only will you avoid the bad weather, but it will also help you learn to move through the streets and then be able to walk back.

This line goes uphill to go through the neighborhood of Graça, Baixa or Estrela and passes near important places such as the castle of St. George, the Sé Cathedral, the Bairro Alto or Chiado. My advice is to finish the tour at the Graça viewpoint, one of the most spectacular in Lisbon. If you have walked around Alfama you may already know it, but whether or not, its views will captivate you.

Book the Lisbon sightseeing streetcar

9. Protect yourself from the cold by visiting the most interesting museums in Lisbon

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum| ©Mark
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum| ©Mark

Although Lisbon's winter weather is not too cold, the rain does make an appearance on many occasions. My advice is to prepare a trip taking into account these circumstances and that you are encouraged to visit some of the most interesting museums in the city.

The beauty of the streets of Lisbon makes that many times its museums are left aside. However, some of them are worth a leisurely visit.

Book tickets for the Royal Treasure Museum: the National Palace of Ajud houses the most impressive collection of jewelry in Portugal.

  • National Tile Museum: the visit provides a very complete overview of one of the most typical and present objects in Portugal, the tiles.
  • Oceanarium: the largest indoor aquarium in Europe is a true work of art and simulates a floating harbor. It is located in the Park of Nations.
  • Fado Museum: if you have enjoyed a dinner with a Fado show, you will already know something about this musical genre. In this museum they explain its history, characteristics and who are its main exponents.

Book tickets for the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

10. Take the opportunity to buy with the sales

Taking advantage of the sales| ©Artem Beliaikin
Taking advantage of the sales| ©Artem Beliaikin

The Christmas season, with its illuminated streets in the center, is usually identified with shopping. However, if you went to Lisbon in January you will have the opportunity to take advantage of the sales that start right after the holidays.

The best places to find amazing deals are on Avenida da Liberdade, as this is where you will find many luxury fashion stores with heavily discounted prices during the sales.

Another interesting area if you want to find some bargains is the neighborhood of Chiado, one of the most traditional in the center of Lisbon. The best thing to do is to wander through its streets and go into the stores that catch your eye, with small stops for a drink in its great cafes.

Book a guided tour of Lisbon

Weather in Lisbon in winter

Lisbon Christmas market| ©F Delventhal
Lisbon Christmas market| ©F Delventhal

Winter is considered the low season in Lisbon, which has a significant impact on the influx of tourists with the exception of the end of the year and Carnival.

The maximum temperature in December does not usually exceed 15 ° C, while the minimum stays at about 9 º C. On the other hand, in that month it gets dark around 17:15 (remember that Portugal has one hour less than Spain).

January is the coldest month of the year, although the cold is not too intense, with maximum temperatures of 15 ºC and an average minimum of about 7ºC. There are hardly any differences in temperatures in February compared to the previous month. The averages only show a one degree difference, above, with those of January.

What to pack for traveling to Lisbon in winter

Preparing your luggage| ©Kindel Media
Preparing your luggage| ©Kindel Media

More than the cold, what you should take into account when traveling to Lisbon in winter is the rain. For that reason, an umbrella should never be missing in your luggage, as well as a good raincoat.

If possible, also take some waterproof and rubber-soled shoes, but always keep in mind that they should be comfortable so that you do not suffer during the long walks on the slopes of Lisbon.

Do not forget a good coat either, especially if you plan to go out at night. As for scarf and gloves, it all depends on how cold you are.