Although Lisbon is beautiful any time of year, there’s something extra special about visiting Lisbon in November. Of course, a few of the major benefits to traveling during shoulder season are a reduction in tourists and lower hotel prices. But there are plenty of other reasons why visiting Lisbon in November is an ideal time to go.
Lisbon’s Mediterranean climate means hot, sunny summer days and mild, rainy winters. The rainiest months are typically between October and February. The average temperature in November ranges between 12-18 degrees Celsius.
However, during our visit, some days averaged around 25 degrees, which was unseasonably warm. But we were also lucky in that we didn’t experience any rain during our stay. The temperature dropped quickly after the sun went down, though.
What to Wear
The drastic change in temperature between midday and evening made choosing what to wear a bit tricky! I would recommend to bring layers, including a light sweater or jacket as well as a waterproof layer or umbrella.
Comfortable walking shoes with good grips will help you navigate the slippery paving stones, especially if it rains.
What to Eat
Start your mornings with a delicious pastel de nata, or Portuguese custard tart. Catholic monks at the Hieronymites Monastery came up with the recipe for these flaky, buttery tarts before the 18th Century. Convents and monasteries used a large volume of egg whites to starch their clothes. Rather than wasting the egg yolks, they used them to bake wonderful sweet cakes and pastries.
Luckily these pastries are available all year long. But they’re especially nice on a brisk morning in November paired with a steaming hot cappuccino.
Mid October to March is chestnut season. During this time you’ll find street vendors selling warm roasted chestnuts packaged in paper cones.
For lunch or supper, stop at the Lisbon Wine Hotel and share a tapas plate or charcuterie board:
What to See and Do on Rainy Days
If you’re visiting Lisbon in November, keep in mind that they receive an average of 127.6 mm of rain this time of year. You’re likely to see approximately 13 days of rain in November. So having some alternatives to see and do on rainy days is a must!
A great way to spend a rainy day is, of course, going to a museum. Lisbon has numerous museums covering a wide range of time periods and subject areas. The MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) is one of its newest additions. It opened in 2016 on the riverfront of the Belém district.
Changing exhibits cover a wide range of themes and subject matter. You can expect to see paintings, photography, films and other forms of art here on any given day.
Tejo Power Station
Just a short walk from the MAAT is the Tejo Power Station. This gorgeous red brick building dates to 1914-1930 (construction was completed across three phases). It acted as the city’s thermoelectric power plant until 1972. It used coal as the primary fuel, which arrived via the Tagus River.
You may not think that a power plant museum would be very interesting. But this one is. It contains interactive elements as well as scale models. It also hosts temporary art exhibits.
The Roman Theatre Museum
Lisbon’s full name in ancient Roman times was Felicitas Olisipo Julia. Emperor Augustus had the theatre of Olisipo constructed under his rule in the 1st Century BC.
The ancient Romans performed plays, orations, poetry and musical performances here. The theatre could easily seat 4000-5000 spectators.
Everyone had access to the theatre – slaves and citizens, rich and poor alike. However, the entrances and seating typically divided the social classes.
For example, senators had individual seats. Meanwhile, knights/cavalry of the Roman army occupied the first fourteen rows of seats. Women of all social ranks had their own section of seats, in the covered portico at the very back of the theatre.
After the 5th Century AD, societal changes and the introduction of Christianity, which condemned pagan activities, meant the theatre lost its usefulness. Urban housing popped up over the theatre’s structure. Meanwhile, builders re-used some of the masonry in the construction of new buildings, which was a common practice at the time.
For example, this is a 17th Century house, which re-used a 16th Century archway.
The Lisbon Oceanarium is the world’s largest salt water oceanarium. It holds over 450 different species of animals. Along with permanent exhibits, it also hosts temporary exhibits. The four marine habitats showcase terrestrial and marine ecosystems across temperate, tropical and cold oceans around the world. Aquariums are great places to spend a rainy day, and you can easily spend a few hours here.
Of course, shopping is always a great rainy day activity. Lisbon boasts several modern shopping malls across the city. A few favourites include:
- Colombo Shopping Center – the largest shopping center in Lisbon, with 340 stores, 60 restaurants and a children’s playground
- Embaixada – a 19th Century palace turned upscale shopping mall
- Centro Vasco da
Gama – located within walking distance of the Oceanarium and Estação do Oriente transit station
The malls are festively decorated by November as well, making Christmas shopping even more fun.
What to See and Do on Sunny Days
If you’re lucky enough to have warm, sunny weather on your visit to Lisbon, there are several activities to get you out and about.
The Carmo Convent and Archaeological Museum is a former Catholic convent. It was partially destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, losing its roof and rose window. What remains is a stunning gothic skeleton of times gone by.
The open-air ruins now house architectural remains from other churches and cathedrals from the region. I wrote a full post about the convent ruins which you can read here: The Carmo Convent and Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, Portugal
Monument to the Discoveries
This monument overlooks the bank of the Tagus River. You can climb a flight of stairs to reach a viewing platform, or enter the monument to see a rotation of different exhibits.
The Monument to the Discoveries celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th Centuries. During this time, Portuguese navigators and explorers traveled to lands previously unknown to Europeans. These journeys opened up new trade routes and helped map out the world. Unfortunately, it came at a steep price for those in outlying countries who were shipped back to Europe as slaves.
King John II commissioned the Torre de Belem, or Belem Tower in the late 15th Century as a defence system for the city of Lisbon. Unfortunately the king passed away before the plans could be drawn. Approximately twenty years later, King Manuel I of Portugal forged ahead with the plans. The tower took about 5 years to complete (between 1514 and 1519).
The building design follows the Portuguese Manueline style. Named after King Manuel I, the style is a reflection of late Gothic, with elements of botanical or oceanic symbols, Christian symbology and ornate carvings.
The Manueline style only lasted from around 1490 to 1520. (King Manuel I died in 1521.) But it still influenced the architecture of Portugal. You can see elements of Manueline style in numerous buildings still standing today, such as churches, monasteries and palaces.
If the shape of the crosses on the tower remind you of the Knights Templar cross, you’d be right. The pope at the time disbanded the Knights Templar in 1312. But King Dinis I of Portugal created the Order of Christ in 1317 for the remaining knights who escaped the mass slaughter across Europe.
King Manuel I received the title of Grand Master of the Order in 1516, hence the crosses.
King Manuel also sent Vasco de Gama, a member of the Order, to sail around the African cape to India. Both King John II and King Manuel I believed heavily in exploration. This is where the maritime influences come from in the architecture. These journeys to other lands also brought a great deal of wealth and prosperity to the country.
By 1589 it became a prison for political prisoners. The dungeons below the tower were actually used as a prison all the way up to 1834!
The tower was a customs post in the mid-1600s, a telegraph station in 1810, and a lighthouse in 1865. In 1983, the building was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As of 2007, it’s also on the registry of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
São Jorge Castle
The first fortifications on this hill overlooking Lisbon date to the 1st century BC. But signs of human occupation go as far back as the 8th century BC. Periods of construction and demolition, along with earthquakes in 1531 and 1755 changed the look of the castle over the centuries.
A visit to the castle doesn’t take very long, but the walk up the hill is worth it just for the views of Lisbon.
When you visit Belem Tower or São Jorge Castle, keep an eye out for the Wine with a View wine truck. This cute little truck serves a variety of Portuguese wines on site. You can sit and watch the sunset with a glass of locally sourced wine next to a famous landmark!
November Events in Lisbon
1 November – All Saints Day (Public holiday)
11 November – St. Martin’s Day – the celebration of the year’s wine reaching maturity. The Portuguese celebrate by eating roasted chestnuts and holding magustos – wine tasting parties. To find a magusto in Lisbon, ask your hotel or the tourist office.
Late November – celebrate the Christmas season by strolling through the shopping districts – particularly Baixa and Chiado.
If you swing by the Armazens do Chiado shopping center in the evenings, you might even hear a local choir singing Christmas carols from the balconies.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Christmas markets in November. Portuguese arts and crafts are second to none and beautifully crafted. Look for gifts made of cork, leather, and ceramics to bring home for the loved ones in your life. (And maybe even a few for yourself!)
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