What to wear in Portugal

what to wear in Portugal

I almost spend more time in Portugal than in the UK these days! It’s my second home! A lot of people ask me ‘what to wear in Portugal’ and the answer to this question will vary on a few things, including the time of year that you visit Portugal and whether you are visiting the north or the south. You wouldn’t pack for Porto in winter as if you were spending summer in the Algarve! And lots of people don’t realise that Portugal can be cold and rainy in the winter months particularly in the norther cities. So, in today’s blog I’m going to prepare you for different seasons and different locations so that you can be comfortable knowing what to pack and what to wear in Portugal.

what to wear in the Algarve
What to wear in Portugal – my cotton trousers, vest tops and gladiator sandals were perfect for summer in the Algarve

What to wear in Portugal – Things to Consider

when you pack for Portugal, as a general rule there are a few things to consider. A variety for a variety of weathers is a good option. Even if you were visiting the Algarve in the summer, I would still pack a waterproof jacket just in case the weather turns.

what to wear in Porto Portugal
Me and Aunty Deb rocking it in Porto! Vest tops, T-shirts, light jeans and long skirts are perfect for Portugal.

A Summary of things to consider….

Here’s a summary of things to consider when packing for Portugal….

  • Beach, countryside or city?
  • Lisbon or Porto or Algarve?
  • Winter or summer?
  • Do I need sun protection?
  • Will I be eating out at fancy places?
  • Specific activities e.g camping, hiking, surfing or skiing (Serra de Estrela)

Are you visiting Religious Buildings such as Churches and Cathedrals?

I would also consider whether or not you will want to visit any cultural or religious buildings. Most churches in Portugal are catholic and it won’t be appropriate to have short skirt or shorts on and spaghetti straps. You don’t want your legs or cleavage on show for that!

Are you travelling in the winter or in the North of Portugal? It CAN get cold!

In the north the weather can get very cold particularly at night in the winter. So you would need to add a fleece, mini umbrella, rain jacket and walking trousers or jeans.

what to wear in Portugal in winter
Here we are enjoying a beer in Coimbra towards the start of spring – our selection of jumpers, fleeces and long dresses/skirts was perfect!

Consider smart clothes for eating out and party clothes!

Lastly, consider how much you would like to go out or eat out particularly in nice restaurants. In Portugal, people do dress smartly for work and evenings out. You don’t want to rock up at the majestic cafe in Porto in your hiking gear, for example! With this in mind you probably want to pack at least one relatively fancy outfit with proper shoes.

Portugal Essentials – Pack these items whatever the weather!

The following are necessary to pack to take to Portugal any time of year…

  • One pair of comfortable jeans or joggers to travel in.
  • T-shirts – great to wear all year round in Portugal and in the winter cover with a fleece.
  • A light fleece – for cooler evenings and day trips.
  • A bikini and sarong – sometimes even in the winter you will have swimming opportunities in hotel pools!
  • Light hiking trousers that are comfortable and have plenty of pockets.
  • Walking boots – get some sturdy boots with good insoles and ankle support as you will do a lot of walking in Portugal.
  • A light cardigan or comfortable blazer – great for evenings out and cooler daytime lunches.
  • Pyjamas – sometimes it is cooler than you expect at night in Portugal and PJ’s are also perfect if you are travelling with others or staying in dorms.
  • One nice outfit and shoes with evening wear – e.g. a nice dress for ladies and trousers and shirts for men.
  • One fashionable yet practical bag such as a soft leather handbag – this is great for going out to restaurants (you don’t want to be taking your backpack for this – you will look out of place!)
  • Plug converter UK to Portugal – Portugal uses the two prong pin plugs type F.
  • Portugal Lonely Planet – I love to have a guide book handy for when I’m sitting on the plane or in the hotel lobby.

As an overall rule, make sure that you are packing clothes for Portugal that are a mix of neutrals that will go together – for example, a selection of black, white, blue/navy and burgundy work well. Also, as a general rule, the Portuguese seem to dress a little less casual than we do in the UK and the USA, so bear this in mind!

What to wear in Portugal light fleece
What to wear in Portugal – a light fleece in essential and great for attending spring carnivals

What footwear to wear in Portugal

Consider the fact that wherever you are staying in Portugal, you are likely to do a fair bit of walking (even if you don’t intend to!) Ok, so if you are doing a resort holiday on the Algarve rather than a week in Porto and Lisbon you will be doing a bit less walking. However, even the smaller coastal towns require some walking home or walking down to the beach and Portugal can be very hilly. So consider getting some decent walking boots whatever the case – they will support your ankle and take the pressure off your knee. As well as that you can pack a pair of flip flops for beach and showering, and one pair of nice shoes or sandals. Ballet pumps are great for a second set of shoes, because many of the streets are cobbled and so you probably want to avoid heels.

My husband recently bought me these Merrell Gortex walking boots for Portugal, after over-doing walking in everyday trainers in Coimbra! You see trainers are great for light walking, but they don’t support your ankle or reduce the constant impact of steps. I now use these with a gel insole cut to size, and it’s great for all the walking that I do in Portugal, particularly considering all of the steps and uphill walking!

It might also be a good idea to consider getting a pair of smart walking sandals that can be worn with skirts and dresses on a day trip without looking too out of place or bulky. Sandals with arch support are a good idea.

What to wear in Portugal – Underwear

Light cotton undies and comfortable sports bra are perfect for Portugal, because it can get hot and you will possibly be doing a few different sporty activities. Don’t take harsh underwired bras that could dig in you. I sometimes take an extra bikini and wear the bikini tops as bras in Portugal too!

Another good thing to pack is comfortable walking socks. You can buy different grade walking socks depending on the time of year you are travelling. You can buy lightweight loophole socks from companies such as Under Armour or Bridgedale. For the winter, go for the medium or heavier walking socks or even comfortable ski socks that will support your feet and keep them warm.

Packing for Portugal – What to wear to the Algarve in Summer

The summer gets very hot in the Algarve (often reaching or exceeding 30°C) and so sunglasses, sun hat and sun cream are essentials.

what to wear in Algarve in summer
This cotton dress, sun hat and sun reactive glasses were perfect for my summer holiday in Lagos

If you are travelling to the Algarve in the summer then you are pretty much guaranteed decent beach weather! Wear just one pair of leggings or jeans to travel in and the rest of your clothing can be a mixture of the following….

  • Soft cotton or lycra cycling shorts – comfortable for walking to the beach and also to wear underneath skirts and dresses! I usually pack 2-3 pairs for a fortnight in the Algarve.
  • T-shirts – at least two or three T-shirts will be perfect for travelling in.
  • Vest tops and spaghetti strap tops for beach wear and lounging around.
  • A comfortable mid length flowy skirt – I love my reversable wrap around skirt from India as it essentially does two different outfits!
  • Bikini and swimming costume – if you plan on a lot of beach time I would recommend at least 2 bikinis and a sarong.
  • Comfortable cotton day dresses – at least one short and one long.
  • One pair of full length cotton or linen trousers or hiking trousers if you like walking a lot and plan to do some treks.
  • One conservative linen or cotton top that covers your cleavage and shoulders (e.g. a 3 quarter length blouse). This will be ideal for visiting Churches.
  • Flip flops for beach wear
  • One pair of comfortable sandals for walking locally or around the resort.
Slow travel Portugal
Enjoying Castelo Branco in the middle of summer – vest tops and dresses were perfect!

This above list would also be suitable for destinations such as Porto or Lisbon in summer, but mix it up with an extra pair of jeans and a fleece in case of changeable weather, which is more likely in the North.

What to wear in Portugal in Winter

If you are travelling to Portugal in the cooler winter months, particularly if you are going to the North, you will need to switch up your wardrobe slightly to allow for all weather eventualities. Add to your packing…

  • A warmer zip down fleece.
  • Fleece pyjamas for the cooler night time.
  • An extra pair of warmer trousers such as jeans or joggers (walking trousers are also a great option for hikers)
  • A waterproof and wind proof jacket – it rains more up North and in the winter months.
  • A beanie or comfy warm hat.
  • A couple of long sleeved outdoors tops such as long sleeved running tops, checked shirts or tunics.
solo travel in Portugal
A fleece and rain coat are essentials for Portugal in winter

Choosing a ‘Going out Outfit’ for Portugal

As the Portuguese are very fashionable and have good dress sense, you will feel out of place in beach and hiking gear all of the time. So it is important to choose one or two ‘going out’ outfits for evening meals and going for drinks with new friends.

For men, take at least one set of well fitting trousers and shirt with some smart shoes. One light shirt and one dark shirt with black or grey trousers that you can mix and match would be good.

For women, take at least one nice evening dress, or a couple of nice tops and skirts that you can wear with smart sandals or a pair of cure flats, such as ballet pumps. A smart cardigan or casual blazer would be a nice alternative to your hiking fleece. You could also consider a light scarf or poncho for evening wear. Although neutral colours that go together well are perfect for holiday packing, in Portugal their fashion can be quite colourful and one bright piece (such as a colourful patterned or paisley dress) wouldn’t go amiss!

Further Reading on Portugal

If you enjoyed this article and are travelling to Portugal soon, then you might also like to read some of my other blogs….