The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
March is a fantastic month to visit Lisbon. The city has transitioned from the grey weather of winter and looking forward to the start of the tourist season, which traditionally begins at Easter.
This is the time of year to discover the city, free from the hordes of summertime visitors, while avoiding the worst of the winter's weather.
A visit to Lisbon in March does require some flexibility. This is not a month for rigid plans but to have a range of ideas that are flexible based on the weather.
You may be blessed with a glorious sun-filled day, when you could visit the beaches of Cascais or the wondrous sights of Sintra. Conversely, your March holiday could involve skipping between bars or museums due to the rain blowing in from the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean.
Fortunately, Lisbon has many sights and activities if it does rain (and a full guide can be seen here).
One main advantage of visiting Lisbon in March is that it is considered the low season. This means flights will be at their lowest prices, and there can be bargains to be found with accommodation, especially at the higher end.
This article will explain why you should visit Lisbon in March and help you get the most from your trip here.
Lisbon has wonderful sunsets in March
Before visiting Lisbon in March, you should be fully aware of the weather and not be seduced by glossy summertime images, especially if visiting from outside Europe.
Official statistics state a daytime high of 19C (66F), a nighttime minimum of 11C (52F), with 10 days that have some rain and 7.0 hours of sunshine per day.
These values can mask the possible variability that Lisbon experiences in March. It could be delightfully sunny and warm, or awfully wet and drab, which typically change in blocks of three days.
Insight: Lisbon generally has some of the best weather of any major European city in March. This makes it the best destination for a city break at this time of year.
If you're reading this article, chances are you're either considering if a trip to Lisbon is a wise choice this time of year, or you're comparing Lisbon with other potential destinations.
For both considerations, Lisbon is an outstanding choice, especially in March.
While March might not typically be the best month for a European holiday or city break, Lisbon is by far your best option.
One of Lisbon's key advantages in March is its relatively favourable weather compared to other major European cities. Even on the less sunny days, the city's expansive size ensures there's no shortage of activities to engage in. For those occasional grey days, Lisbon offers a variety of indoor attractions, such as:
• A ride on the number 28 tram
• The food scene in the Time Out market
• Discovering Lisbon’s creative scene at LX Factory.
• Visiting one of Lisbon’s many exceptional museums
• The awe-inspiring Lisbon Oceanarium.
• Engaging in an escape room adventure.
• An afternoon of socialising and drinking in Bairro Alto
• A Fado performance
• The excellent Pavilhão do Conhecimento interactive science museum (for families)
Have you booked your hotel yet?
During the peak season, demand for hotels and accommodation in Lisbon is very high. It is recommended that you book your accommodation as early as possible to secure the best prices.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Lisbon. By altering the date to suit your trip, the map will display current availability and prices:
The following is a suggested itinerary for a seven-day holiday to Lisbon which has been tailored to March’s unpredictable weather. This itinerary is designed to offer a blend of historical exploration, cultural immersion, and local experiences, ensuring a memorable visit.
Day 1: Alfama and Baixa
Begin your Lisbon adventure in the historic heart of the Alfama district. This labyrinth of ancient alleys offers a glimpse into the city's Moorish past, with sights including visiting the imposing São Jorge Castle, marvelling at Lisbon Cathedral, and admiring the view from the Miradouro da Graça viewpoint. No trip to Alfama is complete without riding the traditional number 28 tram.
For the afternoon, descend to Baixa, the downtown area. Marvel at the magnificence of Praça do Comércio and Rossio Squares, constructed in the grand Pombaline architectural style. Wander along the shopping street of Rua Augusta, ride the Elevador de Santa Justa, and end the day with a Ginja (a sweet cherry liqueur) from A Ginjinha.
Day 2: Belém
The charming district of Belem should be your destination for the second day, as this historic area is synonymous with Portugal's Age of Discoveries. The iconic Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, are essential visits.
Don't miss the Berardo Collection Museum for contemporary art enthusiasts and head to the top of Padrão dos Descobrimentos for a wonderful panoramic view.
For the evening (if the weather permits), join one of the sunset boat tours to see the city from the waterside and marvel at Lisbon’s legendary sunsets from the Tejo Estuary.
The Torre de Belén
Day 3: Sintra day trip
A day trip to Sintra, is a must for any longer trip to Lisbon, even in March. Be flexible with this day and visit on the day with the best weather. Explore the whimsical Pena Palace with its colourful terraces and magnificent staterooms, followed in the afternoon by the mysterious Quinta da Regaleira with its enchanting gardens.
Further sights include the ruins of the Moorish castle with its stunning views, the historic Sintra National Palace or the Arabian inspired Monserrate. There is so much to see in Sintra that you could easily spend two days here.
Travel: Sintra is connected to Lisbon by a regular and inexpensive train.
Day 4: Alcântara, Estrela, and Bairro Alto
Alcântara, known for the LX Factory, a hub of creativity and innovation, presents the contemporary side of Lisbon. Nearby, the Estrela neighbourhood boasts the majestic Estrela Basilica, and this area is where to experience the authentic side of modern Lisbon.
For the afternoon, head to Bairro Alto, a neighbourhood famed for its vibrant nightlife and Fado venues (a traditional style of Portuguese music). While here, ride the delightful Elevador da Bica, wonder at the interior of the Igreja de São Roque, and watch the sunset from the Miradouro de Santa Catarina.
In the evening, Bairro Alto comes alive with trendy bars and a social atmosphere that spills onto the street – this is the place to head to for the weekend, and there will be an amazing atmosphere even in March.
Day 5: Setúbal day trip
For your second day trip, it is suggested to visit Setúbal, a traditional fishing port south of Lisbon. Setúbal is renowned for its excellent fresh seafood, along with having a historic centre, a lively daily market, and charming waterfront that overlooks the Sado Estuary. Close by is the Serra de Arrábida Natural Park, with its forest-covered hills and picturesque beaches.
An alternative option, if the weather is good, is a day trip to Cascais. Cascais is the Lisbon coastline's premier beach town and is an elegant mix of 19th-century grandeur, beautiful beaches, and traditional Portuguese character.
Travel: Both Setúbal and Cascais can be easily reached by train.
Day 6: Parque das Nações
Experience the ultra-modern side of historic Lisbon at Parque das Nações, the site of the 1998 World Expo. This area represents the city's forward-thinking spirit. Highlights include the amazing Lisbon Oceanarium, one of Europe's largest, showcasing a diverse marine ecosystem. Running along the waterfront is a cable car and the area contains many excellent restaurants such as Senhor Peixe, D'Bacalhau and The Old House (Chinese).
Day 7: Príncipe Real and northern Lisbon
Conclude your week in the affluent Príncipe Real district, known for its vibrant food scene and higher end shopping. Ride the number 24 tram to Amoreiras and marvel at the city from the amazing viewpoint atop the towers. For the afternoon, head to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, which houses an impressive collection of ancient and modern art; it is a fitting end to your cultural journey through Lisbon.
The view from the top of the Amoreiras tower
The transitional season of March is the ideal time to find real bargains for flights and accommodation.
There can be incredibly low prices for mid-week flights booked three months in advance of your trip. Flights are typically more expensive at the weekend when there is more demand. The national airline of Portugal is TAP and they offer many routes to Europe and the rest of the world. Generally, to find the best prices, compare the low-cost airlines (Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air) and then use a flight comparison website such as Skyscanner.
Insight: For the low-cost airlines, we always recommend taking a flight in the morning or early afternoon, as delayed and cancelled flights tend to occur in the evening and night, due to the accumulation of delays during the day.
March is an ideal time to find bargains in mid to high end hotels. Often there can be last minute reductions or special promotions with hotels trying to fill rooms, but it does take effort and is not as easy as it once was. Suggestions are to look on accommodation websites and then compare on prices on multiple other websites.
Warning: It's important to be cautious of scam offers, especially on platforms like Facebook groups. Never do money transfers without being 100% sure that the accommodation is legitimate and the person you are talking to is the property owner or manager.
A practical and effective strategy is to re-contact the accommodation through a verified source, such as an official website, immediately before transferring any funds. This step helps confirm the identity of the person you've been interacting with. Industry professionals, well-aware of the detrimental impact of scams on their business, generally understand and appreciate such vigilance.
When planning a trip to Lisbon in March, it's essential to consider the city's mild yet variable spring climate. Packing should focus on versatility and comfort. Start with lightweight, breathable clothing as the base, such as cotton or linen shirts and trousers. Lisbon's weather can be unpredictable during this time, so layering is key. Include a mix of long-sleeve tops and a few warmer options like lightweight sweaters or cardigans.
A waterproof, yet breathable jacket is a must for occasional rain showers. For footwear, comfortable walking shoes are essential, as Lisbon's streets can be hilly and cobbled. Don't forget to pack a scarf and a hat for cooler evenings, and consider a pair of sunglasses for sunny days. Lastly, remember to bring an umbrella for unexpected rain and a sturdy, comfortable backpack or bag for daily excursions.
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