What is the best time to visit Porto?
Half day tour in Porto
Many of you have this glossy image of Porto as a beach destination, which couldn’t be more further away from reality!
Nonetheless, Porto has much to offer in terms of good weather, amazing restaurants, cultural activities, beautiful parks and gardens and much more.
Discover the advantages and disadvantages of travelling to Porto at each time of the year on this article that answers the question:
When is the best time to visit Porto?
Basic criteria to decide on the best time to visit Porto
1. The weather
Being a local, naturally I consider that any time of the year is the best time to visit Porto 😛 In any case, I gathered some information that might be useful when you’re making the decision of when to visit Porto.
So, let’s talk about the weather first.
As you can see by the graphics above, Porto has quite moderate temperatures all throughout the year, but it does rain a lot during Winter (and Spring and Autumn too, to be honest).
The last couple of years have been rather exceptional, as we had around 30/35ºC (86/95ºF) during July, August and even September, which is quite warm for our standards. We are used to have mild Summers, with temperatures rarely above 30ºC (86ºF), and mild and rainy Winters, with temperatures rarely below 5ºC (41ºF).
Another thing you should know about the weather in Porto is that it is temperamental, in the sense that it can be shiny one day and cloudy the following one. Sometimes the temperatures rise / fall dramatically from one day to the other, and variations of 10 degrees are not that uncommon.
So my recommendation is that whatever the season you choose to visit Porto, make sure that you bring a proper raincoat. It will prove more useful than using an umbrella, as this is also a very windy city.
2. Price of Accommodation and activities
Now, regarding the price of the hotels, you can see you the graphic that the prices of the hotels in Porto are above 100€ / night for a double bedroom between April and October. Then the lower season comes, between November and February, but clearly January and February are the cheapest months to travel to Porto.
Some people ask me if famous activities such as visiting the Port wine lodges and the 6 Bridges cruise get cheaper during the low season. The answer is no.
What usually happens is that the Port wine lodges and the museums in Porto tend to updated their prices at the beginning of the year, so usually in January things start to be more expensive (but the price will remain the same during that year).
Some tour operators make discounts during the low season but that is something that you need to negotiate individually as each companies follows its own policy regarding discounts.
Based on these criteria, these are the best times to visit Porto:
1. Autumn Months – September and October
At this time of the year Porto is still enjoying great temperatures but the city is not packed with tourists, especially after October 15th (September is still super busy).
In order to visit museums and other tourist attractions, such as the stunning Lello bookstore and the Bolhão market, you won’t face the annoying queues that exist during the high season. And even more important than that, you will not have to endure the terrible traffic jams that corrupt the city centre.
The photogenic autumn colours don’t hurt either, and it is a spectacular time to take a look at the amazing viewpoints of the city, where you can enjoy the dozens of skylights that make Porto a rather unique city in the world. But there are plenty of other Autumn activities in Porto.
Equally important, if you are planning to visit the Douro Valley, you will be able to experience the Harvest season! Don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the top vineyards at the Douro Valley – and if you are not that much into wine, you have also other activities to do there as well.
Like a boat ride departing from Pinhão, for example. You can buy your online ticket for a 1 hour Douro river cruise for only 10€ (which is a bargain!). Or you try out a longer ride and enjoy a complimentary glass of Port wine on your journey for only 20€ – you can buy an online ticket for the 2 hour Douro river cruise.
And yes: it is possible to go and come back on the same day – I actually organise private day trips on the Douro Valley 😉
2. Shoulder season: Spring months – April and May
Spring is also an interesting time to visit Porto as the temperatures are getting warmer, the days are getting longer but the city is not overruled by tourists as well. It is easier to get reservations at both hotels and restaurants, and the flight tickets tend to be at a reasonable fare.
In my opinion it is the best time to visit Porto if you’re traveling with kids, which is why I made a fun things to do in Porto for families with kids for you to enjoy with your family.
And, as there are not so many people, why not go for a bike ride along the seaside in Matosinhos, Leça da Palmeira or Vila Nova de Gaia? Read about the cycle friendly places in Porto.
Because the weather is already very nice but not overwhelmingly warm, it’s a great time to take a ride in the waters of the river. If you buy the online ticket for the 6 bridges cruise in the Douro river you’ll save a lot of time that you’d be wasting waiting on the loooooong queues at the deck (there are always queues to the 6 bridges cruise, it’s unbelievable).
Please remember that the online tickets are valid for all the boats that depart from the deck in Ribeira, in Porto, and not on the boats that depart from Gaia.
You can find more ideas about what to do during Spring in Porto.
3. June – Specifically June!
It might seems strange that I am suggesting a specific month for you to come to Porto, but there is a very special reason.
The most important festivity of Porto – even more important than New Year’s, I dare to say – is the celebration of St. John’s festival, that attracts thousands and thousands of both locals and tourists to the city.
It is a magical night that starts around 6pm on 23rd June and last all the way until noon the following day (yes, I wrote the time correctly – it lasts more than 12h!).
You should read my guide about São João, and learn about the funny traditions that we do on this very special night.
But the fun doesn’t last a single day. In fact, the City Hall organises plenty of São João related activities during the entire month of June, so it is definitely one of the best time to visit Porto!
4. High Season: July and August
Porto is COMPLETELY packed with tourists during the Summer months, when the weather is great, university students and families with young kids are on vacations, and most companies oblige locals to take a week or two off during these months.
It is the perfect time to enjoy the urban terraces of Porto, and the nights are also usually warm so you can go for a late drink at a rooftop as well.
During the high season there are a lot of events going on in Porto such as concerts, music festivals, open air cinema sessions, etc, so there is always something going on every night (which also gives you plenty of opportunity to meet new people, if you want so).
You must expect, however, long queues on every monument, booked hotels, packed restaurants and higher prices for plane tickets.
Therefore, you should plan your trip to Porto during the high season more carefully – my advice is to book flights, hotels, dinner reservations at that particular restaurant in advance, at least two weeks before.
How to save money during the high season in Porto:
If you are interested in checking out the best options to save money during this season, there are a few really good deals for you.
One is to get a combo ticket to visit Calém Port wine lodge followed by a Port wine tasting while watching a Fado show. This allows you to save A LOT of money as a visit to a Port wine lodge costs 15/18€, and a Fado show with dinner costs around 30€ / person. By getting this online ticket you pay only 21€ – this is really cheap!
If you want a more traditional experience of Fado music, I recommend a show at Casa da Guitarra. You can buy a ticket to a Fado show at Casa da Guitarra, get a complimentary glass of Port 😉
You can also get the full experience of the city with this ticket for a city train tour, river cruise and wine cellar visit. It is a great combo if you want to get the most of a single day and it’s cheap – only 22€.
I recommend you to buy the combo ticket because if you buy separately you will be paying double that price (over 40€). If water is not really your thing, you can get a similar experience by getting a ticket to the magic train tour and Port Wine tasting.
Another great deal is to get a combo ticket for the Hop On Hop Off Bus, river cruise and Port wine cellar for 25,20€. This is cheap because the river cruise costs 15€, a visit to a Port wine lodge around 15 / 18€ and the Hop on Hop off Bus around 18€ / day. Save yourself some bucks by getting this online ticket.
5. Low season: November to End of February
If you’d like to save money on hotels and plane tickets, the Winter season is probably the best option (with the exception of the holidays between Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, as the city is very busy during that particular week).
Moreover, the city is not packed so you can walk in the streets like a normal human being and not like you’re trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. If you are worried about the weather, don’t be – just follow my survival guide for rainy days in Porto.
In December, even though the weather is a little bit dark and cold, you have the charming Christmas markets to cheer you up and give you the opportunity to show your way around. Valentine’s day, in February, is also a good excuse for you to visit Porto, as it is a cute little city perfect for romance.
Also, and to be fairly honest, you’ll get a more authentic view of Porto as the city won’t be packed with large hordes of tourists, so you’ll see how the daily life actually is. And what could possibly beat that? 🙂