Roasted chestnuts and cherry liqueur are the flavours of Lisbon at Christmas time. With festive decorations illuminating the historical centre and choirs heard singing traditional Portuguese songs, December is a great time to come and enjoy the holiday season in this Portuguese city. Here are some tips on how to enjoy Lisbon this Christmas.
December in Lisbon
Apart from all the Christmas shopping and festive partying, Lisbon has a great romantic ambiance in December. The narrow streets are filled with a haze of smoke from the street vendors’ tempting chestnuts roasting, and the lights make it particularly beautiful to just stroll around and enjoy. The historical centre is completely decked out in festive lights and there are plenty of choral concerts and traditional Portuguese songs that can be heard in the churches and theatres. Wander around the streets and soak up the festive atmosphere.
The decorations are worth seeing in the shopping districts such as the Chiado, Bairro Alto and Baixa (at the waterfront) where all the historical buildings and cobbled streets are lit. This is also where you can find the big Christmas Tree in the Praca do Comerico – this is also the centre of town for the New Year celebrations. If you are listening to Fado in Alfama then walk up towards the castle for a great view of the lights from the top of the city.
What to Drink
For a taste of the local very popular cherry liqueur, try a ginjinha – it’s pretty strong so be prepared. The best place in town to try it is Ginjinha, Largo Sao Domingos 8. If that’s too much for you then grab a Bica – a coffee with a cinnamon stick, or a cha – a tea.
What to Eat
The first thing you have to eat is the traditional “Bolo-rei” pastry – named after the Three Kings. It’s a kind of Christmas cake and it’s sweet and round and full of nuts, fruit and raisins. There’s also another Christmas cake – the “Rabanada” which is a milk cake, with cinnamon, sugar and maple syrup. It’s very sweet!
When you’re done celebrating, drink some caldo verde – the traditional Portuguese soup (normally potato, onion and cabbage) that is the best remedy for a night of partying. Granger Velha does a great one.
Running Around Town
For those who have over indulged in the party season, the famous São Sylvestre Race takes place on December 26th. This involves a thorough 10 km run across Lisbon – from sponsor’s El Corte Inglés in the center of town. This is the 8th year that the run has taken place and over 12,000 participant runners are expected to take part. What a great way to see the city!!
New Year in Lisbon
Lisbon has a reputation for partying and is a great city to meet people, have a good time, and enjoy some Portuguese hospitality as the locals show you how to have a good time. New Years Eve here will definitely be a big night!
The biggest public celebration takes place in the old town and Parque das Nações. There are plenty of street parties and also traditional ‘Janeiras’ – groups of singers who sing traditional New Year’s carols as they make a procession through the streets, wishing everyone a happy new year as they go. The biggest fireworks are in the Terreiro do Paço but with all those fabulous hills you will probably see them all over Lisbon!
At midnight on New Year’s Eve the tradition is to eat 12 raisins – one for each month of the year. You make a wish for each month with each raisin for good luck all year. All washed down with some good champagne of course! Feliz Ano Novo!
Our beautiful building dates back to the 1800s and has been restored to give it a sense of history, with great fireplaces and high ceilings; even private balconies on most of the rooms! We have the perfect central location, all the facilities you would need while staying in Lisbon and all at a great price. Best of all, we make sure our guests have a great time while they stay with us. Check out our Facebook page for pictures of our Christmas Parties. Feliz Natal!
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