As Seasons Change, Portugal’s Charm Remains Year Round

Winter, Spring, Summer, And Fall—It’s All Magical Here

One of my favorite things about living abroad is the seasons…

Yes, I enjoy having changing seasons, especially when the change is milder than where I came from. I do miss snow at Christmas, but usually I end up back in the States for part of the holidays anyway, so I get my fill then.

Then when spring arrives each year in Portugal, it reminds me of all I have to look forward to.

Here are a few of my favorite things about the seasons here in southern Europe… 

Portugal In Springtime

The fact that it comes so early is a gift. I’m not sure what that groundhog said this year, but already I can smell freshness in the air.

I hear birds singing in the morning, and I am able to open all my balcony doors, even on days with rain, as the showers are fewer and shorter and the air warms quickly.

Now I run on the beach in the morning rather than at dusk. I no longer have to wait for the warmest part of the day.

The only downside is that, on the beach in the mornings now, I am not alone. If I want the beach to myself I have to wait until dusk, when everyone else has moved to the sidewalk tables to start their happy hours and watch the sunset.

Everything comes alive and everyone opens their homes and greets the day outside when spring arrives in this part of the world. I love that about Europe. Everyone is out walking, getting their vitamin D and exercise. It’s hard to get too upset about anything when everywhere you go you hear the waves crashing and you feel and smell the salty sea breeze in your tousled hair.

The rain keeps the countryside green and fragrant, and the blooming flowers beg you to slow down and take a deep breath. The extra hours of sun and warmth bring an energy that is palpable. You feel like all things are possible.

And, yes, alas, in spring we begin to see a hint of the coming frenzy that is summer… as bigger and bigger numbers of tourists begin arriving on the weekends.

Portugal In Summer

Come summer, European beaches take on a life of their own. Everyone flocks there, locals and tourists alike, from near and far. On the weekends, the crowds can be crazy.

Festivals abound, as each area works to draw the tourists its way. A huge sandcastle exhibition continues through most of the summer in the Algarve. It’s well worth the small admission fee; you’ll see sandcastles more elaborate than you’ve ever imagined.

Open-air markets take place year-round, but in summer they become tourist attractions. Additional stalls are set up, and more local crafts are available in the high season.

Meantime, this time of year museums and local attractions open their doors, and temporary kiosks pop up all over, in city and beach areas alike.

In deference to the longer lines, higher prices, and increased traffic, I sometimes choose to travel to the States this time of year for visits with family and old friends.

Portugal In Fall

Fall is a wonderful time to be in Europe. The tourists are leaving and prices are lower, but the weather is still amazing. The ocean water is as warm as it gets, but, remember, Portugal is in the Atlantic, which will never seem warm to you unless you are a hardy, northern soul.

The sunsets are fantastic in fall, and tennis fans and golf enthusiasts continue their play. Most all attractions remain open, though some shorten their hours or close an extra day during the week. Artists continue to stage concerts, and some fall festivals are legendary (think Oktoberfest).

Portugal In Winter

Winter is one of the biggest benefits of living in southern Europe.

As a Midwestern girl, I don’t miss the miserable weather and cold days that last far too long in that part of the United States. Frankly, Midwestern winters are depressing. Even if you’ve never had SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a Midwestern winter will still test your spirit.

Here in Portugal, we have cold days, but cold is relative. A cold day here is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Bundle up a bit, and you can still enjoy strolls on the beach, and there are rarely more than a few bad days in a row.

Winter quiet is a welcome change from the frenetic crowds of summer. It’s a time for reflection and healing.

Before I moved here, I was told that everyplace would close for the winter, but I found that that is not the case. I have plenty of options for shopping and eating out all winter long.

And I love having cliffs all to myself for discovery and hiking.

Yet I can’t seem to find a beach to myself! I think as Portugal gains in worldwide popularity, winter will become indistinguishable from fall.

I find winter a perfect time to meet locals, practice my language skills, and become seen as part of the year-round community, which is a huge benefit. As a result, I enjoy local prices and insider knowledge and am offered a level of support not available to others just passing through.

Winter is a wonderful time to ease into a new life here in southern Europe. And sitting outside at a café in capris and a fleece top while having your evening wine in January and February isn’t bad, either.

Melanie Veah