Every year Christmas approaches and we start thinking about the family members that are about to return home from abroad, eating the so awaited cod and roasted turkey, cosy nights by the fireplace and Christmas decorations. And outside the house there’s some kind of a “competition” going on...
From north to south there are several spots on the run for “Sparkly Destination” or “Santa’s Paradise” and other Christmassy titles. Picture everything from trains, to ice skating rinks, massive Christmas trees and even real reindeers!
There are many places worth visiting during this time of the year and here are some of the very best.
In Funchal Christmas is celebrated with a bang!
Apart from the incredible Christmas lights that fill the main streets, in Funchal there are many catholic-related events throughout the month.
From the 16th to the 24th of November there are 9 masses in a row meant to celebrate the pregnancy of the Virgin Mary (Missas do Parto). The night of the 23rd is the Noite do Mercado. Locals head to the market at night to finish their Christmas shopping and stock on everything you can imagine, from fresh fruit to sandwiches and wines.
The parties continue till the last day of the year, when an incredible fireworks show brightens up the sky and the whole bay area. But the celebrations aren't over yet... there's also Cantar dos Reis, when locals head to the streets on the 5th of January to sing songs together door to door.
All of the above are part of the reason we chose Funchal as our December destination! Read more out this city and Madeira island here.
Christmas markets everywhere in Lisboa.
Being the biggest city in the country, Lisboa is also big when it comes to Christmas celebrations. During this month there will be several markets. Some focus on Christmas decorations, treats and drinks, others are more alternative and highlight the work of local artists and designers. Plus the biggest Christmas market in the country, known as Wonderland, can be found in Parque Eduardo VII, right in the heart of the city. You can also expect music and dance performances, interesting workshops and other surprises too! It’s Christmas after all!
Half an hour from Lisboa, in the coastal town of Cascais, there’s also a Christmas village. The magical world involves many attractions that will wow both kids and adults.
Christmas village inside the walls of Óbidos
Óbidos is already a charming town no matter the time of the year, so with a sprinkle of Christmas dust it is for sure one of the best destinations in December.
There are loads of attractions spread inside the ancient walls during this month: a maze, a foot pool, a carrousel, a train, donkeys, a Ferris wheel, trampolins and even a virtual reality simulator. Apart from all of the above, face painting workshops and a handful of games that will entertain the kids for hours in a row will also be available. The perfect excuse for parents and loved ones to go get a ginja and warm up!
Viseu and its Christmas lights
Picture 507.000 light bulbs adorning streets, squares, gardens and roundabouts… The whole city will come to life when the sun goes down. Apart from the beautiful Christmas decorations, there will be many fun activities for the little ones, from arts&crafts workshops to musical shows. The adults don’t need to start huffing and puffing because there are activities for them too: music concerts, a big market selling regional products, literary events, wine tastings and even an Xmas Run on the 16th where hundreds of santas will run across town and all profits go to a local charity.
Aldeia da Cabeça takes sustainability to another level
In the small village of Cabeça, located inside Serra da Estrela Natural Park, there is a peculiar Christmas celebration that cannot be found anywhere else in the country. Locals head to the forest to pick pines, branches, leaves and other natural ornaments to create beautiful Christmas decorations. Everything is hand-made with sustainable resources by the local inhabitants, who decorate the streets and their own houses during this festive time. They also leave their doors open to the public between the 15th of December and the 1st of January, welcoming visitors who are curious about their work. To light up the village locals use LED bulbs, energy saving lamps and they are proud of being the very first LED village in the country.
The community work, dedication and sustainable efforts are the reason why this Christmas celebration is one of our favourite.
The magical village of Perlim in Santa Maria da Feira
At the fairy tale village of Perlim there will be loads of events to entertain the younger ones. However, even for grown-ups it is kind of a magical world… Perlim is one of the biggest Christmas parks in Portugal and it includes so many attractions it will easily fill up a day. There’s a train, a carrousel, little toy soldiers playing at the bandstand, puppet shows, musical theatre plays, circus performances, a slide and many educational sessions focusing on environmental issues and food awareness. It’s without a doubt a good day of fun for the whole family!
Human-sized crib across the town of Monsaraz
We have a soft spot for this enchanted little town in the heart of Alentejo and during December there is an extra reason to visit! A local artist created 46 human-size figures that represent the people involved in the birth of baby Jesus. John, the Virgin Mary and the baby are inside the medieval castle and the other characters are spread across town giving the impression they are all on their way to congratulate the family. The figures' structure is made of iron and ceramics and then covered in clothes and vests. During nighttime they light up and create a magical atmosphere in the old cobble streets.
In the nearby village of São Pedro do Corval it is worth visiting the display of ceramic cribs. After all, it is where the biggest concentration of potters in Portugal can be found.
Do you need some help planning a winter escape?
Let us know what your interests and expectations are and we'll help you come up with an itinerary and sort out everything else for you.
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