Christmas in Lisbon: markets, lights and food
The weeks before Christmas are my favourite time to visit Lisbon. The city is full of activity, pretty lights and decoration, creative markets and roasted chestnuts stalls. There are also many great shops, that make it easy to find presents for the whole family. Check out these things you can’t miss to find Christmas in Lisbon.
Christmas Markets in Lisbon
Campo Pequeno Christmas Market
One of Lisbon’s most classic Christmas markets is the one at Campo Pequeno. More than 150 vendors will offer you their jewellery, clothing, books, toys, decoration and more, making it the perfect place to find that special present. All products on sale are Portuguese and there’s a special focus on sustainability. Tickets are €2,- for one day or €5,- for unlimited excess every day. Of that last option, one euro is donated to Make a Wish and 1 euro to the local Clown Care.
November 29 – December 2, Campo Pequeno
Capital do Natal
If you’ve brought your kids to Lisbon, you should go to Capital do Natal. This Christmas fun park is the biggest Christmas event in Portugal and will make you feel like you’ve booked a trip to the North Pole. It includes a skating rink, ferris wheel, a 40 metres high Christmas tree and even real snow from Finland! You can see how Santa and his elves live and work, enjoy music and theatre, shop for presents and try some Portuguese Christmas flavours. Tickets are not very cheap, starting with €20,- for children and €24,- for adults, but you can get a family discount if there are two adults and two children.
November 29 – January 12, Passeo Marítimo Algés
The Christmas Fair at the park Eduardo VII is called Wonderland Lisboa. It’s a smaller version of Capital do Natal, also offering the ferris wheel, skating rink and different stalls. And of course Santa and the Christmas tree will be present. Admission is free.
November 30 – January 5, Parque Eduardo VII
Mercado Crafts & Design Market Natal
Back to shopping at the Crafts and Design Market, perhaps my favourite market in Lisbon. This market is held several times a year, but the weeks before Christmas, there’s a special Holiday edition. Creative Portuguese people sell their handmade crafts and designs. I have seen (and bought) spectacular lamps here, but also notebooks, clothing, toys, accessories and more. There is no entrance fee.
First three weekends of December, Jardim da Estrela
Xmas Time Market
When you’re in Lisbon you will always want to pay a visit to the Time Out Market. This food market is one of the most lively places in town and great to taste delicious food and drinks. The Portuguese Red Cross organises a Christmas market here, where it raises funds for humanitarian operations. Again this is where you will meet Portuguese creators in areas like fashion, design, illustration, gourmet, decoration and toys. You pay a €2,- entrance fee, which includes a voucher giving a €1,- discount on any purchase worth €10,- or more.
December 7 – December 9, Time Out Market
The Christmas market Natalis is held in Lisbon’s big exhibition centre. A wide range of products and gifts for the Christmas season and toys are presented, particularly for children. There’s a lot of attention for food as well, with tastings, workshops and even a vegan area. Of course Santa will pop in, to chat with the little ones.
December 4 – December 8, Feira Internacional de Lisboa, Parque das Nações
Christmas Lights in Lisbon
Lisbon is full of pretty Christmas decoration, but there are some places you can’t miss. Make sure to stop by the biggest squares in the city centre, like Rossio (also called Praça D. Pedro IV) and Terreiro do Paço (also called Praça do Comércio. Here you will find the biggest Christmas trees and prettiest lights.
In Chiado, the Christmas lights from the shopping centre Armazéns do Chiado are famous. Hundreds of people gather in the streets when they switch on the façade lights for the first time (sorry, you’re too late for that this year). In the Rua Garrett, the street leading to the shopping centre, there is usually a nativity scene with real animals.
From Chiado walk to the Praça Luís de Camões for more Christmas decoration. The fancy shopping street Avenida da Liberdade will also have beautiful lights.
Christmas Food in Lisbon
What to eat to get that real Portuguese Christmas spirit?
Bolo Rei and Bolo Rainha
The most obvious Christmas food in Portugal is the Bolo Rei, the ‘King Cake’. It’s a sweet, brioche-like cake with nuts and dried, crystallised fruits. In the weeks before Christmas the people of Lisbon are willing to stand in line to get their Bolo Rei from the best pastry shops in town. Pastelaria Benard on the Rua Garrett is one of them.
A similar cake is the Bolo Rainha, which doesn’t have the candied fruit, but instead carries a larger mixture of nuts and raisins. Although less traditional, it is just as popular as the king cake.
Sweet desserts are a big thing in Portugal and during Christmas a lot of Portuguese will go for the Leite Creme. You could say this creamy, custard treat is similar to a crème brûlée, although the ingredients vary a little. It’s topped with brown sugar, which is made nice and crispy with a blow torch. It will be on the menu in many restaurants throughout the city.
Another famous Christmas treat is a rabanada. It’s like French toast, coming in all sorts and varieties. Wine lovers as they are, the Portuguese sometimes dip the slices of bread in wine instead of milk. After soaking them in eggs, the rabanadas are fried and topped with cinnamon, honey or maple syrup. A place to try these is Pastelaria Versailles on the Avenida da República.
The castanha assada is not a typical holiday treat, but when you’re visiting Lisbon in the weeks before Christmas you will find the hot chestnut carts all through the city. The smell is so typical for the colder months of the year. Chestnuts in Portugal are traditionally eaten on Saint Martin’s day, the 11th of November. But they can also easily make their way into a dish at the Christmas table. You will definitely want to try them, for example when strolling around the next Christmas market.
How pretty is the black and white patterned pavement in Lisbon? This is where you find the best designs.
Try the typical Portuguese custard tarts in one of the shops in Lisbon or Porto
Café da Garagem is the perfect spot to end your busy sightseeing day in Lisbon. Relax with an amazing view.