The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
May is one of the best months to visit Lisbon, and you should go if you get the chance.
The city is buzzing with the energy of late spring, the weather is glorious, and Lisbon’s outdoor culture has fully started.
The weather in May is among Lisbon’s finest, with bright sunny days that have shaken off the unpredictable rains of mid-spring, but not yet scorched by the summer heat.
This is the time of year for sightseeing, exploring and activities, and towards the end of the month you may be even considering trips to the beaches.
Visiting Lisbon in May is fantastic as the city is geared up for summer but is not yet swamped with the droves of tourists arriving by cruise ships or for holidays.
As May is not quite yet the peak season, flights and accommodation will not be fully sold out or pushed to exorbitantly high prices. There may not be bargains, but it is an excellent month for last-minute holidays and city breaks.
This article will explain why you should visit Lisbon in May and help you get the most from your trip.
Lisbon’s outdoor café culture starts in earnest during May – this is the Miradouro da Graça viewpoint
May is an outstanding month to discover Lisbon and its surrounding region. Some of the highlights which you should not miss include:
• Exploring the ancient streets of Alfama, which meander up to the castle.
• Browsing the varied stalls of the Feira da Ladra market (Tuesdays and Sundays)
• Discovering the delightful riverside district of Belém, home to the charming Torre de Belém
• Heading to the stunning beaches of Cascais on a warm sunny day
• Socializing with new friends in one of the many bars in Bairro Alto
• Have a day trip to Sintra with its spectacular palaces and villas, including the colourful Palacio de Pena
• Surfing on the huge waves of the Costa da Caparica coastline
• Watching the sunset on a romantic boat tour along the Tejo Estuary
• Trying Portugal’s unique cuisine in one of the many excellent restaurants of Baixa district
• Seeing the murals and urban art of the Graca district
• Admiring the city and suspension bridge from the Cristo Rei viewpoint
The Torre de Belén
Lisbon is blessed with some of its best weather in May, and boasts some the finest weather of mainland Europe. May is the transition from the unpredictable rains of mid-spring to the hot summer months.
Official statistics for Lisbon in May state a daytime high of 22.1°C (72°F) and a nighttime minimum of 14°C (57°F). There are nine days with some rain, and an average of 9.6 hours of sunshine per day, with a UV index of 8.
Monthly averages mask possible variabilities, but the key point is that there is an average of almost ten hours of sunshine every day, with the UV index pushing up to a strong 8. There is a chance of the occasional grey or wet spell, blown in by the strong Atlantic winds, but these will pass as quickly as they arrive.
Every day in May gradually becomes warmer as the city approaches summer. At the end of May, the weather will be warm enough to head to the wonderful beaches of Cascais or Costa da Caparica.
The sun will be gloriously shining, but it won’t be as intensely hot as in the peak summer months. In the evenings, it cools down, and on sunny days, there will be a pleasantly strong evening breeze that refreshes the city.
Simply put, May offers some of the best of Lisbon weather.
Lisbon in May is fantastic, and it is one of the best months to visit the city.
The improving weather gives a boost of energy to the city – people start visiting the beaches, outdoor dining venues open, and Lisbon's outdoor culture begins. The city itself also looks its best, with parks lush and green, flowers in full bloom, and the distinctive purple Jacaranda trees flowering.
Lisbon fully opens up to tourism after Easter, though in reality, it never truly shuts down. May is a slight lull in tourist numbers between Easter and the start of the peak season, which begins with the Popular Saints festivities (first two weeks of June) and the arrival of the first cruise ships.
This means the city will be pleasantly busy, with enough people to create a buzzing atmosphere, but not so busy that you're endlessly standing in queues or jostling with cruise ship passengers to explore Alfama.
In May the nightlife of Lisbon picks up. Every night, the bars and clubs of the Bairro Alto neighbourhood and Pink Street are crammed with tourists and locals having a good time. At the weekends, the socialising spills onto the streets.
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 bright warm weather of May is ideal for sightseeing. This could be simply wandering the city and discovering the many varied districts or adventuring further away via day trips. There are many fantastic day trips from Lisbon which include:
Sintra – Wonderous palaces, ruinous castles and opulent villas all set within hills of the Serra de Sintra - Sintra guide
Cascais – The best beach resort close to Lisbon, offering beautiful beaches and grand 19th-century buildings – Cascais guide
Setúbal – A traditional fishing port with an authentically Portuguese atmosphere and famed for its seafood – Setubal guide
Évora – A charming city in the Alentejo region with a rich and varied history – Évora guide
Óbidos – A delightful walled city – Óbidos guide
Sesimbra – A pretty beach town surrounded by the hills of the Serra da Arrábida – Sesimbra guide
Costa da Caparica – Magnificent surfing beaches and a modern resort town
Óbidos is a tradition Portuguese walled city
When packing for Lisbon in May, it's important to consider the city's mild but variable spring weather. To stay comfortable, focus on layering: pack lightweight, breathable items such as t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, and a medium-weight sweater or cardigan. A waterproof or light raincoat is maybe needed for the occasional showers. For bottoms, comfortable jeans or trousers are suitable, and towards the end of May, you might also consider shorts or a skirt.
Footwear should prioritize comfort and versatility, as Lisbon's cobbled streets and hills can be challenging to navigate. Comfortable walking shoes, preferably waterproof, are a must, and you might want to include a pair of more formal shoes for evening outings. Lisbon's nightlife and dining scenes are vibrant yet relaxed, so pack a smart-casual outfit for these occasions.
Lisbon in May is ideal for a last-minute city break and a suggested itinerary could include:
Morning: Alfama District
Begin your Lisbon adventure in Alfama, the city’s oldest quarter. Stroll through the narrow, winding streets lined with pastel-coloured houses. Don't miss the São Jorge Castle, perched atop a hill, offering panoramic views of the city. Enjoy a traditional Portuguese breakfast at a local pastelaria, indulging in pastéis de nata (custard tarts).
Afternoon: Baixa and Chiado
Head to the Baixa district, renowned for its neoclassical architecture and bustling squares like Praça do Comércio. Lunch at a café in Chiado, Lisbon’s elegant shopping district. Visit the famous Bertrand Bookstore, considered the world's oldest operating bookshop.
Evening: Bairro Alto
As evening sets in, wander up to Bairro Alto, a picturesque neighbourhood known for its lively nightlife. Dine at a Fado restaurant, where the soulful sounds of traditional Portuguese music complement your culinary experience.
Morning: Belém District
Start your second day in Belém, the district famous for its monuments and museums. Visit the Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Don't forget to try a pastel de Belém, the original version of the custard tart.
Afternoon: LX Factory and MAAT
Explore the LX Factory, a creative hub set in a repurposed industrial complex, offering quirky shops, cafes, and art spaces. Then, head to the MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, for a glimpse of contemporary culture.
Evening: Sunset cruise
Conclude your weekend with a sunset cruise along the Tejo Estuary taking in the sights of the city with a waterside view. This is a romantic activity for a couple on one of the many sailing boats or riotously fun on a party boat.
Discover more of Lisbon with our most popular guides
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