Looking for a fantastic off-season travel opportunity? Why not take a city break to Lisbon in January? 

It may be the coldest month with the lowest tourist traffic, but you’ll be able to appreciate a completely different side to the city without the crowds.

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Fewer tourists

Cobblestoned winding street with old classic vintage beetle car in Lisbon
The streets of Lisbon will be all yours Andrii Lutsyk/Shutterstock

This is one of the greatest appeals of travelling off-season in January; Lisbon streets that would normally be crawling with packs of tourists stopping to take photos are almost empty. In fact, if you visit on a weekday, you may get the surreal experience of seeing usually crowded hotspots without a soul. The lack of visitors may make your experience quieter, but the lack of long queues, enjoying the architecture without being elbowed out of the way, and never having to find a bakery sold out of pastéis de nata will make up for it. 

Read more: Where to go in January

Temperate climate

January may be Lisbon’s coldest month, but odds are if you’re coming from North America or northern Europe, Lisbon is still going to be warmer than your hometown. The temperatures don’t usually drop below 8°C, even at night, and it only rains for about a third of the month (to compare, Paris and London get about half the sunny days Lisbon gets in January). So technically, it is still a warm sun destination to someone coming from, for example, Yukon Canada.

A downward angle of empty public steps surrounded by colourful buildings
See Alfama without the crowds ©Jonathan Stokes/Lonely Planet

Photography opportunities

The architecture of Lisbon is stunning; winding streets, plant-covered doorways, colourfully painted buildings. It's a pleasure to see but difficult to photograph in high season because of the sheer number of people doing the same. The quiet streets in January beg to be captured on camera; you can get your beautiful Instagram outfit photographed all over the city with no pesky neon jackets in the background. The overcast days will also help if you like a softer photo that picks up more of the background and distinction between the buildings.  

Better prices

A bookshop on the left and a cafe on the right. The outside tables of the cafe are empty.
Better prices and lots of seating? Yes please. © Rosa Kumar/Lonely Planet

January is one of the cheapest months to fly into Lisbon; flying in from the rest of Europe and the UK can cost as little as €10 for a one-way flight. Other than the cheaper flight prices, hotels and Airbnbs are also at their lowest in January, with lots of winter-escape package deals or off-season discounts. Many of the restaurant deals this month are also far more affordable than a similar special in the summer. As for attractions and internal travel, there is off-season ticketing available at many places, so it would be a great excuse to take advantage of museums and galleries.

Easier day trips

The day trip options from Lisbon are ample, and you can get to these places faster and cheaper than in the high season. One popular destination, Sintra, is about an hour on the train from Lisbon, and experiencing it in the winter is magnificent. The normally extremely crowded palaces are half as busy, though you can still expect quite a few other people to be there. The surrounding forests also have a magical winter mist covering them, and the palaces like Pena Palace, Castelo dos Mouros, and Quinta da Regaleira develop a surreal fairy-tale quality that is unforgettable.

Cascais is a nearby coastal city and, instead of spending the day drinking pints on the coast as you might do in the sun, you can visit the Palácio da Cidadela or Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães for some art and history.

Sustainable travelling

Empty Lisbon street with yellow tram and the bell tower of Lisbon Cathedral in the background.
Yes, photos like this are possible in January © Rrrainbow/Shutterstock

Travelling off-season is also great for a slightly more sustainable trip. By travelling in the slower months, you’re helping the local economies of Lisbon not to come to a standstill, which helps to even out the spread of income. Overtourism is also an issue affecting Lisbon, and by taking a trip in January instead of July, it helps to regulate the number of people entering the city, which is great for both the city, and the local environment. 

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