Lisbon may be at its most popular during summer period, but come December, the city becomes even more postcard-perfect. So much so that it’s considered one of Europe’s best winter getaways! You’ll feel Christmas is truly in the air, as the Portuguese capital wears its best festive decorations around the city. With the scent of roasted chestnuts, the sweet waft of pastries and bolo rei from bakeries, and hot mulled wine simmering in the city’s Christmas markets – you’ll fall in love with Lisbon even more.
When it comes to weather, you’re guaranteed some of the warmest winters in the European continent. It never snows in Lisbon and it rarely gets colder than 10-degrees. Often it is chilly yet sunny, sometimes with a splutter of rain and dose of humidity, but you can be assured to have a pleasantly mild December to enjoy both outdoor and indoor activities. So wrap yourself up, bring on some cheer, as we guide to some of the Things To Do in Lisbon this month. More importantly, when you’re staying with us at Cheese & Wine Suites and Apartments this Christmas, we’ve also compiled a list of restaurants that are open for Christmas Lunch and Dinner! Enjoy the best of December in Lisbon!
Christmas is big in Lisbon, and every year Portuguese is adding more and more decorations to make the city livelier than the last. The best place to start your Christmas Lights tour is in Praça do Comercio, where a magnificently illuminated Christmas tree is set up on the square, towering above nearly as high as the beautiful buildings that surround it. Get some castanhas, or roasted chestnuts, and a cup of ginginja (cherry liquor) and go inside the tree and glimpse in wonder the galaxy of green lights above you!
After the Commerce Square, walk around the grid-like streets of Baixa where you can see more decorative lights of various designs. You can explore Praça do Rossio, Praça da Figueira, and even set yourself along the hills around Chiado, Bairro Alto and Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara for more divine illuminations. And don’t forget to walk along Avenida da Liberdade, the main thoroughfare in Lisbon where it becomes even more beautiful with all this wonderful lights on. Then finish off your tour in Marquês de Pombal with its spectacular light arrangement that will surely give you the Christmas spirit.
Visit Wonderland Lisboa
Just ahead of Marquês de Pombal roundabout is one of Lisbon’s greatest parks, Parque de Eduardo VII, where Wonderland Lisboa happens all month of December. Although it doesn’t snow in Lisbon (thank goodness!), you can feel the winter vibe here as you can skate on an ice rink, and then drink plenty of mulled wine and plenty Christmas treats available in its vast Christmas market stalls and booths. There’s a fairground display of amusement rides and attractions, perfect for the whole family.
Experience Capital do Natal
If you’re craving for an even bigger theme park, then you’re in for a real treat as Lisbon is hosting Europe’s biggest Christmas theme park. It’s called Capital do Natal, or Christmas Capital, and has set up a vast winter landscape by the Tagus river at Algés Promenade (Passeio Maritimo de Algés). There will be an Arctic Wheel, ice rink, and a Winter Garden with real snow using Finnish technology. To add to the magic, there will be dressed elves to guide you around the park! Buy your tickets here.
Tickets – €24 Adults, €20 Child, €20 Senior, €88 Family of 4
Explore more Christmas Markets around the city
For lovers of Christmas markets, you’ll find that Lisbon has so much to offer in terms of festive treats, hot wine, ginginja (popular cherry liquor), and even artisan gifts and souvenirs for your shopping satisfaction. Two of the major, well-established ones are in the aforementioned Wonderland Lisboa and then in Praça Dom Pedro IV, or commonly known as Rossio Square. The square becomes even more magical being decorated with an enormous Christmas tree and strew with lights everywhere. Even better, there whole festive mood is present with plenty of booths offering food and drink to enjoy during the cold weather. There’s music here, too, to enliven the atmosphere even more. Nearby, do check out the neighbouring square, Praça da Figueira, Lisbon’s oldest market, for even more treats to behold.
Then there are pop-up Christmas market and fairs, hosting exhibitors from all over the country, showcasing products from food, gourmet, artisan crafts, ceramics, fashion, and so much more. These venues offer alternative concepts of Christmas shopping, usually promotion local design and handmade goods, as well as environment and sustainability.
Mercado do Natal at Campo Pequeno
Av. República // 29 November – 2 December // €2-5 Entry
Christmas Market at Centro Cultural de Belém
Praça do Império // 1st Sunday of the Month // Free
Christmas Flea Market at Anjos70
Christmas Crafts & Design Market at Jardim da Estrela
Villa Natal at Lx Factory
R. Rodrigues de Faria 103 // Every Sunday
Eat Bolo Rei at Confeitaria Nacional
It’s one of the many great traditions in Portugal — eating the delightful bolo Rei, or king cake. It’s become a staple during festive season, and you’ll see them on most bakeries around Lisbon during this month. But perhaps there’s nothing better than to try the cake where it originated from, Confeitaria Nacional in Praça de Figueira. This bakery, one of the oldest bakeries in Lisbon that was founded in 1829, apparently brought this “king cake” recipe from Tolouse, France, and it because incredibly popular in Portuguese life. Try the original form of this brioche-like pastry, with nuts and dried fruits. There’s even a more premium version that’s loaded with almonds, cashews and walnuts! It’s surely a Christmas dessert to be savoured.
Praça da Figueira, Praça Dom Pedro IV // 8am-8pm – Every day
Watch the free Christmas Concerts
Every year, EGEAC, the organisation managing Lisbon’s cultural agenda, hosts free Christmas concerts throughout December, fostering cultural and musical participation to everyone, from residents and visitors alike. This year, they’ve organised to fill seven churches around the city for classical and festival concerts, entirely for free! Aside from the chance of listening to musicians, it’s also a great opportunity to explore some of Lisbon’s magnificent structures such as Igreja de São Roque, Igreja de São Vicente de Fora, Sé de Lisboa, Basílica de Nossa Senhora dos Mártires in Chiado, and even the beautiful Teatro São Luiz. Read the full programme and times here.
Other Events & Places to check out this December
Pop Art Lisboa
If you’re a fan of pop culture artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel, there’s a major exhibition in Lisbon this month of December to January. Set in Cordoaria Nacional, this exhibition brings together these popular artists and their famous works. A total of 122 artwork will be on display, so it’s definitely worth a look.
Museu Nacional dos Coches
One of the most revered museums in Lisbon, this space exhibits some of Portugal’s glorious royal coaches of the 17th and 19th century, some of them unique and priceless. It’s set in a newly designed building in Belém, and would definitely suit your festive visiting programme in Lisbon this December.
Lisbon on Film
This is for photography lovers everywhere, especially for city and street photography. This exhibition pays homage to the city of Lisbon as captured by analogue photography by a group of photographers who formed a collective. It’s worth checking out also for the venue itself, one of Lisbon’s oldest bookshops, Livraria Ferin in Chiado.
Free Walking Tour of Alfama & Mouraria
A perfect pre-Christmas activity in Lisbon! Live History is hosting a free walking tour around two of Lisbon’s oldest and most fascinating neighbourhoods, Alfama and Mouraria. They invite you to leave the city centre, and embark on a journey back in time and explore the alleyways and backstreets that formed the city. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, and the cobblestones and pavements along steep hills and stairs have so much story to tell.