After running around shopping for gifts and the best bacalhau for Christmas Eve’s dinner, Lisboetas slowly return to their daily routines in January.
November and December are busy months leading to the holiday season, but Lisbon in January is the quietest. What may seem like a lack of things to do in the Portuguese city is actually an opportunity to visit tourist attractions that are typically crowded the rest of the year, enjoy the city at its normal pace, and get to be one of the few tourists in Lisbon.
1. See a New Year’s Concert
The first day of the year (January 1 is a national holiday) and the first weekend of the year welcome the traditional New Year’s Day Concert by local orchestras. Centro Cultural de Belém (also known as CCB) hosts two concerts by Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa on January 1 (one concert in the morning and another in the afternoon). Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian has its traditional concert on Saturday evening (January 4) by the in-house orchestra Orquestra Gulbenkian, with a reprise on Sunday, January 5.
2. Celebrate Three King’s Day
Although Three King’s Day (January 6) is not a national holiday in Portugal, it marks the official end of the holiday season. It’s when most Portuguese families take down the Christmas trees and decorations and store them away until next year, and the Lisbon City Council will do the same.
It’s also the last day of the year to eat Bolo Rei (King Cake), although most locals would have had their bellies full of the sweet pastry by now after the Christmas’ dinners. Considering it’s a holiday season pastry, most pastelarias and bakeries will stop baking fresh batches.
3. Enjoy Low Tourism Season
Lisboetas slowly return to their normal daily routines after two busy weeks of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and most tourists don’t include Lisbon on their January trips. Since winters in the Portuguese capital are warmer than in other places in Europe and tourist numbers decrease, visiting the city’s attractions in January is perfect. Take the time to explore the landmarks and attractions in Belém that are typically busy the rest of the year: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Torre de Belém.
If you’re in the mood for some shopping, all stores start their winter collection sales in January to prepare for spring and summer. For bargain hunters, this month is the perfect time to get them. Pick weekday mornings for all your shopping to avoid crowds.
4. Start Preparing for Carnaval
Technically Carnaval (or Mardi Gras) is many weeks away, but it’s the next big festivity on the calendar here in Portugal. Christmas decorations on shop windows are replaced with costumes for Carnaval, the time of year when we Portuguese dress up and goof around.
The cities that take Carnaval very serious are already hard at work since the summer of the previous year choreographing parades, building floats, and sewing costumes. Some of them are less than one hour from Lisbon and include destinations like Torres Vedras, Sesimbra, and Ovar.