How to Spend a True Lisbon Christmas

Here's your guide to experiencing an authentic Lisbon Christmas.

Dec 20, 2023
view over lisbon with tree with lightsview over lisbon with tree with lights

When it comes to Christmas and the holiday season, the Portuguese capital of Lisbon goes all out with lights, decorations, and Christmas spirit to create a scene that both locals and tourists won’t want to miss. Most people usually think of visiting Lisbon during the spring and summer months, but the mild winter temperatures and buzzing festivities make Lisbon the ideal destination for the holiday season. Here’s a bit of what to expect during a Lisbon Christmas.

Lisbon weather during Christmas

Lisbon is blessed with a mild climate in the winter; however, in December, it can be slightly unpredictable if it will be sunny, cool, or wet outside. In fact, there is almost an equal chance for each of those climates during a Lisbon Christmas.

On average, you can expect it to be about 15ºC (59ºF) during the day and around 8ºC (46ºF) during the night. This tends to make it chilly, but still comfortable outside during the day, which is perfect for bundling up and doing some winter activities in the Portuguese capital.

people waiting for tram in lisbon winter

Local traditions

Portugal has its own mix of local holiday in Lisbon traditions that can be broken into three parts: Christmas (Natal), New Year’s (Ano Novo), and Epiphany (Dia de Reis). Each holiday has its own unique traditions that are worth checking out.


A Lisbon Christmas usually revolves around a shared meal with family. On the 24th of December, most families will indulge in bacalhau com todos, meaning codfish with everything. The cod fish is usually prepared with vegetables and potatoes for all to share. After dinner, it’s customary to attend a midnight church service called Missa do Galo which marks the birth of Jesus. After mass, you return home and place an image of the baby Jesus in a crib, which starts the exchange of Christmas gifts with loved ones.

On Christmas day in Lisbon, the main tradition is sharing a roasted stuffed turkey for lunch. This dish originated in the 16th century when turkeys filled the streets and were sold for Christmas. And of course, no Christmas meal is complete without dessert! Bolo Rei, filhoses, azevias, and sonhos are popular Christmas day in Lisbon treats. After lunch, locals spend time with their family or go meet their friends on a terrace.

New Year’s

Like with most places, New Year’s is a huge party night. Whether you want to visit a club, go to some bars, hang out in a restaurant, or party in the streets, there’s plenty of options to ring in the New Year in Lisbon.

In Lisbon, most of the outdoor celebrations take place at Praça do Comércio or Belém. These places have live music, dancing, and a great environment to celebrate. As midnight approaches, everyone gets their bottle of espumante (Portuguese sparkling wine) ready to begin the countdown and welcome the New Year. A firework show happens, and then you can choose to go to some of the surrounding bars, restaurants, or nightclubs, or you can choose to continue the party in the streets.



Dia de Reis is celebrated on January 6 each year, and it commemorates the Magi Kings who delivered gifts to the baby Jesus. In modern Portugal, it’s known as the day that officially ends the Lisbon Christmas season.

Today, this is celebrated by singing “janeiras”, or Christmas songs, and by eating a Bolo Rei. Bolo Rei is a circular cake with a hole in the middle that is decorated with candied fruit and powdered sugar. Inside the cake, you will find a little present and a raw bean. Whoever finds the bean gets to pay for next year’s Bolo Rei.

The top Christmas markets

The easiest way to soak up the holidays in Lisbon, Portugal is to visit some Lisbon Christmas markets. These markets sell a variety of food, wine, and local gifts. Some standouts include bacalhau, pastel de nata, port wine, and mulled wine. There’s also, of course, plenty of ceramics, jewelry, tiles, and artisanal goods to take home that will always remind you of your time spent during your Lisbon Christmas.

The most popular Lisbon Christmas market is Wonderland Lisboa in Parque Eduardo VII. This large event is complete with an ice skating rink, ferris wheel, live music, and plenty of stands. Other popular markets include the one at Campo Pequeno and Rossio Square. These options have plenty of stalls to explore and gifts to choose from.

Holiday lights and decorations

christmas lights at christmas market in lisbon

From the minute the Christmas lights turn on around the city, Lisbon becomes a winter wonderland with the magic of the holidays filling the streets. In recent years, the city has invested a lot of money on the Christmas lights in Lisbon, so they’re a spectacle to be seen. They stretch over 210 kilometers and reach over 50 locations in the city. Some of the best places to take in these Christmas lights in Lisbon are on Avenida da Liberdade, Chiado, and Terreiro do Paço.

If you want to go beyond the lights, you have to check out the Christmas tree in Praça do Comércio . This tree stands 30 meters tall and provides the perfect Christmas photo shoot opportunity. Another classic Lisbon Christmas decoration is the nativity scene, with the best being at Wonderland Lisboa. The nativity scene is very intricate and locals go all out in creating their own at home. If you want to buy a little keepsake for your time spent during Christmas in Lisbon, this would be the perfect piece.

Finding holiday accommodation in Lisbon, Portugal

If you’re lucky enough to spend the holidays in Lisbon, you’re in for a treat because the Portuguese capital provides a magical holiday experience. There’s Christmas markets, holiday decorations, fabulous seasonal food, and much much more. So, if you’re wanting to get in on the action, be sure to check out Ukio for the perfect holiday apartments in Lisbon, Portugal.

We offer fully furnished and artfully decorated holiday accommodation in Lisbon, Portugal that is designed specifically to make you feel at home. Choose from one of the many neighborhoods in the city to find your perfect fit to kickstart your Lisbon Christmas experience. Start learning some “janeiras” and collecting your best cod fish recipes because you’re spending Christmas day in Lisbon.