With life in Portugal practically back to normal, the lights and joy of Christmas events are back this year! After a pause forced by the COVID pandemic in 2020, many of Portugal's most popular Christmas markets and events are now returning, allowing the Portuguese and tourists alike to rejoice in the magic and sparkle of this special time of the year.
Christmas events in Portugal are a wonderful opportunity to buy gifts in traditional shops while sharing memorable moments with family and friends. From North to South, several Portuguese cities and villages transform themselves into open-air amusement parks, sparkling with lights and Christmas joy.
Regardless of whether you prefer more traditional Christmas celebrations, some of which are century-old and filled with unique local customs, or the glow of city lights and fun-filled experiences, there are options for all tastes, budgets and age groups available until the end of 2021.
This year, the season’s festivities have started earlier than usual, allowing a longer period for everyone to enjoy the amazing decorations and do their Christmas shopping in quaint local shops and open-air Portuguese markets.
Below are some of our favourites spots to celebrate Christmas in Portugal:
Lisbon - Christmas lights brighten Portugal's capital
In Lisbon, Christmas festivities kicked off with Portugal’s biggest display of Christmas lights. In all, Portugal’s capital shines bright with more than 2 million LED lights, spread over 770 light installations and 50 locations, including some of Lisbon’s most beautiful squares, streets and avenues, including the pedestrian area of Rua Augusta and Praça Luís de Camões.
Among the highlights of Lisbon's Christmas lighting is the Christmas tree in Praça do Comércio, which is 30 meters high.
You can see Lisbon's Christmas lights until January 6 (known as “Dia de Reis” in Portugal), from 5:30 pm to midnight, Sunday through Thursday, and from 7:30 am to 1 am Friday and Saturday.
Águeda: Biggest Santa Claus in Portugal
In Águeda, in Central Portugal, Christmas is also celebrated with lots of colour and cheer, with a programme filled with events for all ages. Concerts, dance shows, merry-go-rounds, ice skating rings, outdoor markets selling handicrafts and regional gifts are some of the attractions available.
This city is already well known for the thousands of colourful umbrellas that usually decorate its streets. Last year, CNN Travel further increased the popularity of this tourist attraction, after including Águeda in the list of the "most beautiful streets in the world”.
The city's brand image is now displayed in its Christmas version: a sky of white and gold umbrellas illuminate Águeda's festive season, spread across the iconic Luís de Camões street.
This art installation also includes a mantle of snowflakes suspended over Vasco da Gama and Soberania do Povo streets, many colourful Christmas trees, park benches painted especially for the festive season, Christmas characters climbing the stairs, sleighs and snowmen.
Another highlight of Agueda’s Christmas is the World's Largest Santa Claus, whose 21 metres of height has earned this famous Christmas character a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Penamacor - Where the "madeiro" tradition still burns bright
Penamacor, in central Portugal, is a wonderful spot to discover a more intimate Portuguese Christmas. Known as 'Vila Madeiro' during this time of the year, here Christmas magic isn’t made of strings of LED lights, but in the aromas of the damp forests and the warmth of a community lit wood-burning fire that shines bright in the heart of the village.
Every year, on December 7th, young men from all over the municipality of Penamacor join together to cut the logs that will feed the fire to warm Baby Jesus. This age-old custom continues into the night, with locals gathering around music, food and laughter.
The following day, the wood, known as the “Madeiro", is then transported to the village centre while the locals and visitors take to the streets to greet the procession of tractors. Custom dictates that the organising group has to try to outnumber the previous years, all while singing along to the sound of a Portuguese “concertina”.
The "Madeiro" is then positioned in the churchyard and is lit at 11:50 pm on December 23rd, burning for several days. After Christmas eve dinner, the locals gather around the bonfire, in a simple, yet age-old community ritual, that makes this Portuguese Christmas tradition one of the country's most heartwarming and unique.
In other parishes of Penamacor, as well as in the Beira Interior region of Portugal, the log is lit at nightfall on December 24 .
Christmas in Silver Coast Portugal
In the Silver Coast, one of the best places to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in Portugal, the celebrations have also begun!
In Caldas da Rainha, kids and adults alike can make the most of this wonderful season in numerous initiatives, such as:
several family-friendly events;
a life-size sleigh;
beautifully decorated streets and squares that you can visit aboard a Christmas train;
ice skating rink and a carousel in D. Carlos I Park;
or admiring the giant 33m heigh Christmas tree from a hot air balloon!
Óbidos has also recreated the fairy-tale magic and wonder of previous years. This year, Óbidos Vila Natal, one of the most famous Christmas events in Portugal, will have an even bigger ice rink than in previous editions, as well as an ice ramp, train, carousel, lots of entertainment, shows and the wonderful Santa Claus House.
Running until January 2, 2022, the medieval village of Óbidos is once completely transformed, decorated from top to bottom and filled with traditional Christmas fun.
This event has paid admission, with prices varying between €5.50 (children's ticket) and €8.50 (adults), depending on the day and time of visit. Family discount tickets are also available and can be bought online (http://obidosvilanatal.pt/).
Portugal may not be able to give you a white Christmas (unless you are lucky enough to be in Serra da Estrela and it snows!), but this time of the year is still very special, offering countless ways to experience the simple joys of this magical season.
Don't miss the opportunity to visit Portugal until the end of the year, with cities and villages lavishly decorated with Christmas lights or filled with traditions that continue to celebrate the genuine merriment of yesteryear. As well as the many Christmas markets offering original gift ideas for everyone on your Christmas list. Put on your gloves and cap, slip on something comfortable to brave the cobblestone streets, and hit the road… an unforgettable Portuguese Christmas awaits you!
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