Lisbon in January: 12 reasons to visit and guide to 2023

Yellow vintage tram on the street in Lisbon, Portugal. Famous travel destination

Are you wondering what Lisbon in January is like? Read on, as I detail all you need to know about the Portuguese capital in the off-season!

It was freezing when I boarded a plane at London Stansted, bound for Portugal.

As I flew due south, I saw a multitude of winter landscapes: the chilly English Channel, the verdant north Spain and snow-covered Iberian mountains, before we descended into Lisbon.

But in Lisbon, it was like summer never left.

Sunshine and mild weather greeted me and stuck around for the entire trip to Portugal.

I spent a week in Lisbon in January, and adored how I could enjoy the city at a relaxed pace, free of crowds and oppressive summer temperatures (I’ve visited Lisbon in July, and it’s a totally different experience!).

So, here are some of the best reasons to plan that January trip to Lisbon.

Reasons to visit Lisbon in January

Lisbon, Portugal skyline at Sao Jorge Castle at sunset.

From continuing festive celebrations to mild weather, to wintery walks along the coastline taking in some of Europe’s biggest waves, there are ample reasons to visit Lisbon in January.

1. Fewer tourists

Lisbon’s one of my favourite cities in Europe – and it seems I’m not the only one.

In the summer months, attractions from Belem Tower to the Estrela Basilica are teeming with tourists.

In January, it’s like they breathe a sigh of relief!

There’s something quite exceptional about strolling through the Belem district, with the Monument of the Discoveries looming overhead, without the usual queues and crowds.

The districts of Alfama and Mouraria, known for their narrow winding lanes and colourful buildings, areall but deserted – which looks so much better in photographs!

With the drop in tourist numbers, securing a table at some of Lisbon’s top-rated eateries is also a lot easier!

I went to Pasteis de Belem in Belem, the home of the original pasteis de nata, and didn’t wait in line at all before being shown to a table.

Conversely, I also went here on my summer trip to Lisbon – and was waiting for an hour!

2. Winter sunshine

Cityscape image of street of Lisbon, Portugal with yellow tram.

Gloomy skies, biting cold are a couple of common misconceptions about European city breaks in winter.

But Lisbon defies such expectations – you’ll often find winter sunshine here.

The mercury rarely drops below 8 degrees Celsius, and often rises to a comfortable 15 degrees during the day. When I was there, it was 17 degrees and sunny most days.

Snow is virtually unheard of in Lisbon – although it has happened once or twice.

This isn’t to say that it never rains in Lisbon – winter is the rainiest time of year.

But that being said, it rarely lasts all day, unlike other countries in Europe (England, I’m looking at you!).

The warmer weather lends to more locals enjoying the sunshine, the city’s many viewpoints, or ‘miradouros‘, bathed in a golden glow and outdoor activities like walking tours being feasible.

It’s one of the warmest places in Europe in January, which makes it well worth visiting!

3. Lower prices on accommodation

Rooftops in Lisbon at sunset

Western Europe’s generally thought of as a pricey place – but Lisbon is actually one of the cheapest capitals in the region.

And when is it most affordable? January.

Post-Christmas, the tourist season lulls, which means that hotels and tours want to attract whatever visitors there are in Lisbon.

This means you can snap up some excellent deals!

Whether you’re looking for a plush hotel with Tagus River views, a quaint guesthouse in Alfama, or a contemporary pad in the hip Bairro Alto district, you’re likely to land these at much cheaper prices than the cheaper season.

Affordable luxury? Yes please!

4. And cheaper flights!

Flights are much more affordable in Lisbon in January.

As the primary base for TAP Air Portugal, Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport operates a vast network of connections between cities all across Europe and further afield.

Budget carriers, like RyanAir and EasyJet, also fly into Lisbon.

And in the winter, flight prices are slashed. Because there’s less demand, you can easily nab a bargain price – sometimes €20 or less!

Humberto Delgado Airport is conveniently situated just 7 kilometres from the city centre, and the Metro’s red line links the two.

Taxi app Bolt is also popular in Lisbon and readily available throughout the year.

5. There are ample museums and indoor attractions

Lisbon’s cultural scene has plenty on offer, and it doesn’t stop in the winter.

For starters, the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian is stuffed with everything from Egyptian treasures, Greco-Roman art, Islamic orientalism, to European masterpieces.

If you’re keen to discover Lisbon’s obsession with azulejos, the shiny ceramic tiles that decorate the city’s façades, don’t miss the National Azulejo Museum.

Situated in an old convent, it traces the journey of azulejos from 15th century Moorish patterns to modern interpretations.

Fancy a deep dive into Portugal’s seafaring history? The Maritime Museum is just for you. Models of ships from different eras, royal barges, and age-old navigational instruments paint a vivid picture of Portugal’s big part in worldwide exploration.

There are plenty more museums for every taste – think the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), the Carmo Archaeological Museum, and the Fado Museum.

With the tourist crowds slight and queues barely existant in January, it’s the perfect time to get lost in Lisbon’s buzzing cultural scene.

6. January sales

Lisbon’s a paradise for shoppers, with its mix of age-old shops and sleek boutiques. But come January, it gets even better – it’s sale season!

All across Lisbon, from fancy brands to local shops, prices take a nosedive.

A prime example? Avenida da Liberdade, the city’s posh shopping avenue. It’s your chance to grab high-end designer goodies for a steal.

Whether you’ve been daydreaming about Portuguese leather shoes, designer must-haves, or classic cork bags, the January sales can make them yours without breaking the bank.

Local boutiques and markets even jump on the sale bandwagon.

They offer a smorgasbord of Portuguese goodies – think unique ceramic items, cork products, artisan soaps, and handcrafted jewellery.

For vintage lovers, don’t miss the iconic Feira da Ladra, Lisbon’s legendary flea market. It’s not officially part of the sales, but with fewer tourists around in January, you might just land a killer deal.

7. Last few days of Christmas markets

Christmas tree on Commerce square at twilight in Lisbon, Portugal

If you’re visiting in early January, you should catch the Christmas markets!

That’s right, Lisbon keeps the festive mood rolling into January, with the Christmas markets open in the first week.

Rossio Square hosts one of the star markets right in the city’s heart.

The square glows with fairy lights and lively decors, packed with stalls boasting Christmas-themed gifts (often joining in the January sales!) and food.

These markets are a hub of live gigs – carol singers belting out Portuguese Christmas hits and street performers all add to the cheery, warm atmosphere.

Tuck into a piping hot pastel de nata, sip on a soothing mug of hot cocoa or nibble on the seasonal ‘pasteis de bacalhau’ (codfish cakes).

8. Dia de Reis

typical portuguese Christmas cake Bolo rei

In Portugal, the holiday season lasts till January 6th, marked by a nationwide fiesta known as Dia de Reis, or Three Kings’ Day – you’ll also experience this if you’re in Spain in winter.

The day commemorates the biblical tale of the three wise men, or kings, bringing presents to the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem.

Dia de Reis sees Portuguese families gather around for a big feast, and one dish steals the show – the Bolo Rei.

This ‘King Cake‘, a round sweet bread topped with candied fruits to mimic a crown, is a central part of the celebrations.

It usually comes with a surprise dried fava bean and a tiny trinket hidden inside. Whoever finds the bean is destined to buy the Bolo Rei the next year, and the one who finds the trinket can look forward to a year of good luck!

9. Janeiras de la Noche de Reyes

And the night before Dia de Reis is Janeiras de la Noche de Reyes!

This custom sees locals hit the streets to sing, welcoming the New Year and bidding a tuneful goodbye to the festive period.

These songs, known as Janeiras, are marked by their buoyant melodies and lyrics full of well-wishes for the coming year.

You’ll often see some playing traditional instruments like the accordion, the Portuguese guitar, and tambourines.

10. Early sunsets

Golden sunset in Lisbon

The days are shorter in Lisbon in winter, but this means one good thing: sunsets are earlier!

Generally, you’ll experience the sunset long before you eat, meaning you can take your time watching the spectacle of reds, oranges and pinks before getting ready for dinner.

A prime spot to appreciate this spectacle is Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

This viewpoint offers an unobstructed panorama of Lisbon’s terracotta rooftops, the River Tagus, and the 25 de Abril Bridge, all steeped in a warm, orange glow as the sun descends.

Another well-loved sunset spot is Miradouro de Santa Catarina, also known by locals as Adamastor for the statue stationed there.

11. Proximity to winter sun on the Algarve

Algarve region in south of Portugal is very popular tourist destination

While Lisbon’s an incredible city in its own right – I spent a week there in January and didn’t run out of things to do – it’s also not far from the sun-drenched Algarve region, which is one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in January.

It’s around a three-hour train ride from Lisbon to Faro; from here you can access places like Albufeira and Vilamoura.

Beaches like Praia da Marinha and the rocky Ponta da Piedade are all but deserted in the winter, but the sun still shimmers down on them!

If you’re into golf, you have to head to the Algarve.

The region hosts world-class golf courses, with well-groomed greens and fairways.

The Algarve is renowned for its seafood delicacies, with restaurants serving up everything from fresh oysters to cataplana – a traditional seafood stew prepared in a clam-shaped copper pot.

Paired with local wines, these meals offer an authentic taste of Southern Portugal!

12. Peak surf season

Did you know that January is the peak surf season in Lisbon?

But this doesn’t mean that I’m recommending everyone surfs there. The waves can be pretty rough and should only be attempted by people who know what they’re doing!

Instead, one of the draws to visiting Lisbon’s beaches in the winter is to spectate.

Guincho Beach, positioned on Cascais’s outskirts, is one of the region’s most acclaimed surfing locales. Renowned for its vigorous waves and steady winds, it draws both spectators and surfers and is well worth walking along to see the sheer size of the waves – and the brave surfers who attempt to ride them!

You could even venture up to Nazaré, which has allegedly the largest (and most dangerous) waves in the world and is around an hour and a half from Lisbon.

What’s the weather like in Lisbon in January?

Rua Nova Do Carvalho - Lisbon Pink Street with bars. The Heart Of Lisbon's Night Life in the daytime with no people, Portugal, Europe

Despite being the coolest month in Lisbon, January still offers relatively mild conditions compared to much of Europe.

On average, you can expect daytime highs of around 15°C, though nights can be chillier.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

Average high temperature15°C (59°F)
Average low temperature8°C (46°F)
Days of rain14
Sea temperature16°C (61°F)

What to pack for Lisbon in January

So, what to pack for a trip to Lisbon in January?

Pretty much as if you’re packing for spring or autumn/ fall anywhere else!

Given the average temperatures and possible rainfall, don’t forget to pack warm layers for the evening, a waterproof jacket, and comfortable shoes for exploring Lisbon’s famed cobblestone streets.

Remember to also include a lighter layer or two; if you are blessed with one of Lisbon’s sunnier winter days, you may find a heavy coat unnecessary during the warmer parts of the day.

As Lisbon is a city of hills, you’ll be doing a considerable amount of walking, making comfortable footwear an absolute necessity.

A good pair of walking shoes can help you navigate the city’s charming but often steep and uneven streets.

To document your trip and stay connected, don’t forget to pack essential tech items like your phone, camera, power bank, and necessary adaptors.

Portugal uses type F power sockets, so ensure you have the appropriate adaptor if travelling from a country with different plug types.

Given the cost of some items in local shops, it’s advisable to pack the necessary toiletries before you depart.

While Lisbon is abundant in pharmacies, you may find items such as sunscreen and toothpaste to be more expensive than back home – on one of my trips there, I ended up forking out €12 for a tiny bottle of suncream!

Things to do in Lisbon in January

Sunny square in Lisbon in January

Here are some of the best things to do in Lisbon in January! For them all in detail, check out my guide to visiting Lisbon in winter.

  1. Visit the Belem Tower, a fortified tower that’s an icon of Lisbon and offers stunning views over the Tagus River.
  2. Wander around the Jeronimos Monastery, a stunning example of Manueline architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  3. Explore the Alfama district, one of Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhoods, known for its narrow streets, traditional homes, and historic sites.
  4. Ride the historic Tram 28, which takes you on a picturesque journey through some of Lisbon’s most charming neighbourhoods.
  5. Browse the Feira da Ladra, Lisbon’s famous flea market, for unique and interesting finds.
  6. Take a day trip to the charming town of Sintra, home to colourful palaces and enchanting gardens.
  7. Visit the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian to see its diverse collection of art and artefacts.
  8. Savour the delicious pasteis de nata, a traditional Portuguese egg tart, at Pastéis de Belém.
  9. Marvel at the stunning view from the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, one of Lisbon’s highest points.
  10. Step back in time at the National Azulejo Museum, dedicated to the traditional tiles that decorate many of Portugal’s buildings.
  11. Visit the Oceanário de Lisboa, Europe’s largest indoor aquarium, for a close-up view of marine life.
  12. Stroll through the peaceful Jardim Botânico, a tranquil oasis in the middle of the city.
  13. Check out the LX Factory, a vibrant creative complex housed in an industrial site, known for its restaurants, shops, and art installations.
  14. Enjoy a glass of port wine at a local wine bar and learn about Portugal’s rich wine-making tradition (although if you really want to learn about this, I’d recommend heading to Porto).
  15. Visit the MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, a striking modern building housing thought-provoking exhibits.
  16. Walk along the Ribeira das Naus, a waterfront promenade, for a relaxing stroll with beautiful views of the Tagus River.
  17. Take a day trip to Cascais, a picturesque seaside town known for its charming old town and beautiful beaches.
  18. Discover the city’s music at a Fado performance in a local tavern.
  19. Explore the unique collection of the Carmo Archaeological Museum, located in the ruins of the Carmo Convent.
  20. Stroll through the trendy Príncipe Real neighbourhood, filled with boutique shops, charming gardens, and popular eateries.

Considerations for Visiting Lisbon in January

While Lisbon in January’s an absolute treat, there are a few important things to bear in mind, such as:

  • Lisbon experiences mostly sunny days in winter, but there can also be periods of rain and cooler temperatures. So do keep your itinerary flexible to allow for these!
  • Lisbon’s terrain is hilly and features slippery cobblestones, which can be challenging in wet weather.
  • Major attractions such as the Jerónimos Monastery and the Torre de Belém can still draw school groups in winter.
  • The Portuguese love to celebrate and winter is no exception! If you’re travelling during the holiday season or January festivals, check local event schedules for potential closures or reduced hours.
  • Day trips to nearby attractions like Sintra or Cascais may be subject to differing weather conditions. Check the local weather forecast before setting out!

Are you ready for Lisbon in January?

Visiting Lisbon in January isn’t just doable – I much prefer it to the warmer season!

With winter sunshine, relaxed tourist attractions and plenty to do, it’s the ideal new year break.

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