I have a love affair with Portugal and because my husband is Portuguese, I have had the pleasure of visiting many times. For my first trip, I spent a ridiculous amount of time wondering what to wear in Portugal. Now, I have it nailed. I can go for 2 or 3 weeks in a carry-on suitcase and have the clothes for all of our activities.
What to Wear in Portugal: A Trip to Lisbon, Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Algarve
Like all my trips I start with the 54321 Travel Capsule. (Check out this method of packing and get a free printable HERE).
The four primary steps of planning this type of capsule wardrobe are:
- Know what types of activities you will be doing
- Research the weather
- Choose a color palette and plan your mix and match capsule
- Add in your toiletries and other necessities
Portuguese Style: What to wear in Portugal
Portuguese style for day-to-day is “Snappy Casual”, meaning Portuguese people are very put together and have an elegant sort of style, but don’t dress super formally. (Unless is it a fancy occasion, in which case they take “formal” very seriously, but that’s a whole different post). In Lisbon you will see people dressed for city life. Suits if they are going to work, and well put together if they are just out and about town and casual. Beach towns like Porto Santo and the Algarve are quite casual, sundresses and Birkenstocks can be seen everywhere, at every time of day.
Lisbon is my favorite European city, it has so much to do and see. Regardless of the season, your visit will include a lot of walking so make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes. You may find yourself visiting the Castelo de Sao Jorge, wandering the cobblestone streets of Chiado and Bairro Alto, exploring the waterfront near Belem, or taking day trips to Sintra or Cascais. You will certainly enjoy the delicious food, and maybe even an evening of fado.
Madeira is about a 90-minute flight from Lisbon, and it is where I truly began to love Portugal. Madeira is both the name of an archipelago and the name of the primary island in the group. It was formed by volcanos, and so has extremely hilly terrain. Your activities may include exploring the vibrant capital city of Funchal, taking a gondola up to the Monte church, and a toboggan ride down the hill. You may do a day hike on the extraordinary system of Levada trails, and you will likely have some good ole pool or ocean time.
Porto Santo Activities
Porto Santo is an additional island in the Madeira archipelago and a summer destination with a 7 mile stretch of beach on one side of the island. Madeirensas flood to Porto Santo in the summer, mainly August, but you also run into other nationalities when you are out and about. There is a small city center, which is most hopping after dinner with families meeting up to socialize. The island itself has a seven-mile stretch of beach, and many people consider the sand to be healing.
A quick note on timing for your days: The Portuguese don’t go to the beach before 2 or 3 in the afternoon because the sun is so intense, and it is not uncommon to stay at the beach until 7 or 8. At that point you had back to your rental, shower and head out to dinner around 9 or 9:30. And, they go to the beach on both sunny days and cloudy days. They simply bring a good book and enjoy the sea. The island itself is casual, so your days will be chill, and your clothes reflect that. Beach clothes during the day and a sundress or casual summer outfit at dinner are the norm. Evenings can sometimes become cool so it is always good to have a light jacket.
PRO TIP: Expect and embrace a slow pace in Porto Santo. Porto Santo is the only place in the world where I can truly relax. My husband is from Madeira so we try to visit each summer, and Porto Santo is always on the itinerary. When you go, expect rugged beauty, a slow pace, and lots of relaxation on the beach.
The Algarve has a variety of beach towns complete with miles and miles of beautiful beaches. When you are there you may find yourself relaxing on the beach or doing any number of water sports so a bathing suit or two is an absolute necessity. You may explore one of the many villages or towns, horseback ride, or play golf. You can find marinas with restaurants and Blue Flag beaches. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Portugal typically has good weather in the summer months, with slight regional differences. You will find lots of days of sunshine, very few, if any rainy days. That said, I always bring a nice lightweight raincoat just in case. Before your trip, I always recommend checking the weather.
Summer days in Lisbon can be HOT. You will find the average daytime temperatures to be 80 degrees f or higher. There are very few days of rain, if any. The evenings can cool to the mid 60s at this time of year as well. I always have a light cardigan or wrap in my travel wardrobe. The evening often cools off so it is good to have one in your bag.
Funchal, the capital city of Madeira is often in the mid 70s and has that same cooling off in the evening. If you venture out of the city and into the hilly terrain, you will find microclimates where it can be cooler and maybe even a little rain. Bring an extra layer and a light rain jacket on those excursions just in case.
Expect warm days in Porto Santo during the summer. The average temperature in July and August is ranges from high 70s during the day to high 60s in the evening. The evening breeze brings cooler temperatures than the day, but it is still quite mild. I like to have a nice lightweight raincoat/windbreaker in case the wind picks up.
The summer months are hot and sunny with daytime highs in the 80s. Evenings are milder and can be breezy, so like the other areas, having a light jacket is a good idea.
Portugal Packing List: What to Pack for Portugal in July
First things first, let’s start With Your 54321 Travel Capsule Wardrobe
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Tank 1 | Tank 2 | Graphic Tee | 3/4 Sleeve Shirt | Denim Shirt
Camo Travel Pants | Shorts | Skort | Cropped Pants
Jumpsuit | Sundress | Maxi Dress | Sneakers | Flats | Sandals
Swimsuit 1 | Swimsuit 2 | Crossbody Bag | Beach Bag
Sun Hat | Baseball Hat | Coverup | Scarf | Sunglasses | Earrings | Windbreaker
Start Your Packing: Choose your color Pallette
As I am thinking through what to wear in Portugal, or any trip for that matter, I choose a palette for the colors of my clothing. I also plan to pack in a way that I can have light layers for temperature changes and different activities.
5 Tops: For this trip, bring 2 sleeveless tops that match your bottoms, a graphic tee, a white and navy striped top with 3/4 or long sleeves, and a denim shirt for layers.
4 Bottoms: Crop Pants, long skirt
3 Dresses or Jumpsuits: One black and lightweight jumpsuit, one breezy sundress and one maxi that can be dressed down for the beach and up if you need a nice dress
3 Shoes: A pair of sandals or flip flops, comfortable shoes like sneakers that go with all your outfits, and some neutral flats are all you need.
2 Swimsuits: One you can wear and one can dry for the next day
2 Bags: One crossbody purse for sightseeing and a beach bag
2 Hats: One sun hat and one baseball cap, both that match your color pallette
1 Each: Cover Up, Scarf, Sunglasses, Earrings
PRO TIP: I play with what is in the "2" and "1" sections. For example, on this upcoming trip I am only bringing one scarf, but I will often bring two. Sometimes, especially for beachy vacations, a couple of nice big scarfs can serve many purposes. They keep you warm in the evening breeze, they add style to your outfits, and they can even be used on the beach as a wrap or a towel. Use your own judgement if switching out the amount of these items makes sense.
Other Travel Necessities
Hopefully, with the list above, you have a solid idea of what to pack and what to wear in Portugal in summer. Now let’s turn to the rest of your packing. In addition to your Travel Capsule Wardrobe, you will need the following items:
- Workout wear
- Running Shoes if Necessary: I usually bike in the gym or walk while traveling. Therefore my Taos sneakers are all I need
- Electronics and Cords
- A book or Kindle
- Day Bag: No need to take an extra one, your personal item from your flight is your day bag
Finally, do not forget the sunscreen. I take a small tube that will fit in my carry-on and then buy a bigger bottle there. Use this list as a great jumping-off point and customize it to your trip!
Frequently Asked Questions: What to Wear In Portugal
What clothes to wear in Lisbon?
In the cities, Portuguese style for day-to-day is “Snappy Casual”, meaning Portuguese people are very put together and have an elegant sort of style but don’t dress super formally. (Unless is it a fancy occasion, in which case they take “formal” very seriously, but that’s a whole different post). In Lisbon, you will see people dressed for city life. Suits if they are going to work, and well put together if they are just out and about town and casual. Because of the cobbled streets, I advise you to leave the heels at home. A pair of sturdy sandals is a better bet.
What should I wear in Porto?
The same “Snappy Casual” style you find in Lisbon will be in Porto as well. Portuguese people are very put together and have an elegant sort of style but don’t dress super formally. (Unless is it a fancy occasion, in which case they take “formal” very seriously, but that’s a whole different post). In Porto, you will see people dressed for city life. Suits if they are going to work, and well put together if they are just out and about town and casual. Like Lisbon, pack shoes that can handle uneven surfaces. Comfortable sandals or comfortable walking shows will help you get through long days of sightseeing.
What clothes to take to the Algarve?
The Algarve is a beach destination, and therefore much more casual than the larger cities of Lisbon and Porto. There are a huge variety of activities in the Algarve besides the beach, so before you pack have a good idea of what activities you will do. Then, pack a beachy travel capsule that will allow for whatever other activities you decide to do. If you need help with creating a travel capsule wardrobe, you can check out this post for help! Whatever you do, do not forget to pack sunglasses!