Portugal has long been popular with travellers clued to its beautiful beaches, captivating cities and year-round sunshine. Yet, in recent years, Portugal has established itself as a European hotspot as it continues to climb the ranks of several travel lists.
Regions vary significantly with weather, landscape and attractions, so a journey from north to south brings a bounty of different experiences. A visit to the north will transport you back to Portugal’s beginnings, while the balmy shores in the south boast some of Europe’s best beaches. Portugal’s proud cities, like Lisbon and Porto, are characterised by their maze of cobblestoned streets and historic neighbourhoods, and if you make your way inland you’ll find a land of vineyards and fortress towns.
Many travellers make the mistake of assuming that Portugal is warm and dry year-round, due to its Mediterranean climate. While summer sees near-perfect weather, with barely any rain, winter is cool and relatively rainy – especially in the north of Portugal.
To help you prepare for your travels, I’ve put together the ultimate Portugal style guide, packed with tips on what to wear in Portugal throughout the seasons.
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What do the locals wear in Portugal?
Western-style clothing is the norm in Portugal. However, like many European countries, Portugal has deep religious roots and therefore the Portuguese tend to dress conservatively. Here are a few tips to help you perfect the Portuguese dress code.
- Smart Casual. The Portuguese tend to opt for smart-casual ensembles, with most locals wearing trousers outside resort areas.
- Understated. While Portuguese people take pride in their appearance, their look tends to be understated. And this is true of a night out. Smart casual is all that’s required when dining out or visiting the theatre – no need to pack your best frock or sky-high heels.
- Season-appropriate. The Portuguese are masters of mix-and-matching understated pieces to create season-appropriate ensembles that serve both function and fashion.
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Wardrobe Essentials for Portugal
What you pack will largely depend on where and when you visit Portugal. A summer beach escape in the Algarve requires a different wardrobe to a winter city break. However, there are a few fundamentals that you’ll want to bring, regardless of when you’re visiting Portugal.
- Comfy shoes. While steep and windy cobblestone streets are one of Portugal’s most beautiful assets, they are a dangerous place for your new summer wedges. Instead, opt for sandals or sneakers with thick rubber soles.
- Swimwear. From the Algarve to the Azores, Portugal has it covered when it comes to beaches. And with summer temperatures ranging from 24-30°C, you’ll be craving a refreshing dip in the ocean. Even if you don’t plan to brave the cold waters, swimwear is a must-pack item if you’re travelling to Portugal between June and August.
- Shades. With an average of 300 sunny days a year, it’s worth investing in a solid pair of shades to keep your eyes cool and comfortable.
- Day bag. If you’re planning to hike or head to the beach, a backpack is a must-have essential. Otherwise, a good day bag should be big enough to fit your camera, phone, ID and small wallet, yet small enough not to weigh you down. Don’t forget, it’s a legal requirement to carry your ID with you at all times in Portugal, whether you’re a local or not.
- Layers. Thin layers are the key to adapting to changeable weather, whatever the season. Despite Portugal’s year-round sunshine, you’ll want to pack a few layers for cooler evenings and the occasional shower, especially if you’re travelling during winter.
What To Wear In Portugal In The Summer
Seaside staples and subtropical temperatures are Portugal’s calling card during the summer season when temperatures average 24°C in the Algarve and low 30s in Lisbon. If you prefer hiking and biking to bathing on the beach, you’re better off visiting Portugal in May or October when the temperatures are more comfortable.
Summer in Portugal can be steamy, so it’s really important to pack well. There’s very little chance of rain during July and August, so unless you’re visiting the mountains, you can leave your waterproofs at home. Here are a few must-have holiday pieces that will help you beat the heat…
- Tops. Light-coloured, loose-fitting tees and cami tops are solid summer staples. Shoulder-bearing garments are frowned upon inside Portugal’s religious sites, so don’t forget to bring a shawl.
- Bottoms. Team a graphic tee or a cami with a pair of denim cutoffs or a breezy midi skirt. While an easy day option, denim shorts can be elevated with some smart sandals and cute accessories for a dressed-down evening look.
- Dresses. Nothing beats a ‘throw and go’ maxi dress or playsuit when you’re on holiday. Not only do these one-piece wonders save you room in your suitcase, but they can also take you from a lazy day at the beach to a lounge bar. To stay cool, choose breathable fabrics and lighter colour palettes.
- Swimwear. If you’re planning to spend your days lazing on the sandy shores of the Algarve, you’ll want to pack at least two swimwear options. A kimono is a perfect cover-up for grabbing an ice-cream or protecting yourself from the sun.
- Layers. It’s often chilly enough for a light cardigan or sweater on summer evenings in Portugal.
- Shoes. Pretty sandals might seem like the go-to footwear for a summer holiday, but Portugal's cobbled streets and hilly cities require something sturdier. Be sure to pack some non-slip sneakers or espadrilles for those long sightseeing days.
- Accessories. Don't let that cooling beach breeze lull you into a false sense of security: the Portugal sun is strong, so be prepared with a sun hat and a pair of shades. A trusty beach bag is a must for a seaside retreat. While basket bags are beautiful, a waterproof bag with zippers, and enough room for your beach towel and book, is a more practical option.
What To Wear In Portugal In The Fall
Early autumn is an ideal time to visit Portugal when the weather is still warm and the summer crowds have thinned out. Visitors can expect pleasant temperatures of around 21°C and mostly dry days, perfect for honing your swing on one of Portugal’s many world-class golf courses, getting your culture fix in Lisbon or Porto, or exploring Portugal’s lush interior. Beach bums should head to the Algarve where the weather is still warm enough for a day at the beach. The sea is also warm in autumn, though the official swimming season runs from June to mid-September.
While Portugal promises wonderful weather in autumn, you’ll still need to be ready for cooler climes and the occasional rainy day, especially if you’re visiting late in the season. Like all transitional seasons, the key to making the shift comfortably is to dress in layers. And with some strategic styling, your favourite summer staples can be repurposed for cooler climes.
- Tops. During early autumn, there will be lots of warm afternoons that call for short-sleeved tees, blouses and off-the-shoulder tops. But also pack some long-sleeved tops to layer up on cooler days. Thin sweaters, cardigans and blazers are all ideals for layering over t-shirts when the autumn chill sets in.
- Bottoms. Temperatures rarely dip below 20° in Portugal during spring, which means that shorts and skirts are still in play. For cooler days and nights, a pair of classic cut jeans or wide-legged trousers will serve you well.
- Dresses. Transition your dresses and skirts from summer to fall by teaming them with a simple tee or blouse.
- Swimwear. Whether your travels are taking you to the beach or the mountains, always pack a swimsuit. Because you never know when you’ll stumble across a spa or a gorgeous hotel pool.
- Shoes. Comfy and versatile, sneakers are a style that successfully thrives year-round and can be paired with anything from summer dresses to smart denim. Sturdy sandals and espadrilles will also keep your shoe game strong during autumn.
- Rain jacket. Wet days become more frequent the further north you travel. Be sure to pack a lightweight rain jacket to keep you dry and comfortable when the weather swings from sunshine to sopping wet. If you’re travelling in the north of Portugal, you may need something a little warmer.
What To Wear In Portugal In The Winter
Many travellers make the mistake of assuming that Portugal is warm and dry all year round. It’s not. Winters can get cold and wet, even on the sun-kissed shores of the Algarve. Most of Portugal’s rain falls between November to March, with December being the wettest month, and it’s not unusual to see snow in the north, especially in the Serra da Estrela mountains.
However, despite the rain, Portugal sees one of the warmest winters in Europe. Stick to the south of the country and you’ll experience mild daytime temperatures of around 15°C. And as the crowds of summer and autumn depart, tranquillity returns to the cities and beaches, making it the perfect time to see the sights of Lisbon, Faro and Porto with ease. Since you won’t need to worry about slipping into swimwear for a few months, you can hunker down over hearty dishes of delicious stews and indulgent desserts.
When the outside conditions are uncertain, the trick is to pack staple items than can be worn on their own or layered. Think simple and versatile, and work with neutral colours.
- Tops. Packing a mixture of sweaters and lighter tops will help you build a basic winter wardrobe of mix-and-match combinations.
- Bottoms. Versatile and warm, skinny black jeans will pair well with almost anything in your winter wardrobe. But, if you’re tired of relying on jeans and jumper combo, mix it up with a long maxi skirt paired with an oversized knit or blouse.
- Jacket. Your outerwear requirements will largely depend on which region you’re travelling to. Your thick winter coat might feel OTT in the coastal regions, though it will serve you well in the central and northern areas. A denim or leather jacket will keep you warm in milder winter climes, but if rain is forecasted, you’ll want a raincoat at the ready.
- Shoes. While there will be some sunny days, it’s unlikely to be warm enough for sandals. Sneakers or ankle boots will serve fashion and function in Portugal during winter. But, opt for something non-slip and make sure they are well worn-in before you hit Portugal’s hilly, and often slippery, streets.
- Accessories. A lightweight scarf is a great way to spice up and otherwise neutral outfit and will also keep you warm on a winter evening. If you’re heading north or hitting the slopes, you’ll want to wrap up warm in a woolly hat, a pair of gloves and a winter scarf. In winter, it’s wise to swap your leather handbag for a waterproof cross-body bag and invest in a sturdy umbrella.
What To Wear In Portugal In The Spring
Perhaps the best time to visit Portugal is spring when visitors can look forward to near-perfect weather and very little rain. While weather in the north is still wintery in early spring, the golden sands in the south of Portugal begin to fill with surf schools and sun-seeking tourists. By May, the country basks in a glorious 23°C – perfect for sightseeing or sunbathing.
However, since spring is a transitional month, the weather can be quite unpredictable with warm days giving way to chilly and damp weather. Like autumn, your spring wardrobe should be built with layers. Here’s a few items that will set you up for a spring shower, as well as a glorious sunny day...
- Tops. Never underestimate the power of a plain t-shirt. This throw-and-go wardrobe staple is cool and comfortable, and can easily be layered with a lightweight jumper on cooler days. For something more elevated, a floaty blouse or an off-the-shoulder top are great options.
- Bottoms. A pair of tailored shorts are the perfect middle ground between denim cutoffs and jeans and will work with everything from a simple tee to a dressy top. Temperatures might still be soaring in spring but it’s always a good idea to have a pair of trousers on hand for breezy evenings. To get the most wear out of them, opt for neutral colours like blue, beige or black.
- Dresses & Skirts. Easy and breezy, maxi dresses and midi skirts are warm-weather saviours and can be layered with a t-shirt or cardigan when the clouds creep in.
- Swimwear. Okay, I won’t go on about it. But, seriously, always pack swimwear. It takes up the tiniest amount of room in your suitcase.
- Shoes. Wedges and heeled booties are great transitional shoes, though they do not respond well to cobbled streets or public transport. Instead, choose comfy shoes that will work hard for you when you’re exploring the city.
- Accessories. Keep yourself cool and covered with a wide brim hat and some trusty shades. And if your trip is more city than the seaside, swap your beach bag for a sturdy cross-body bag.