Lisbon enjoys a sunnier, warmer climate than most of Europe in the winter and makes for a rewarding travel destination throughout the entire year. In fact, with fewer crowds, more affordable travel and the festive atmosphere, winter can have even greater appeal. Portugal boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, with daytime temperatures in Lisbon reaching 16ºc December to February, with highs of 18ºc in November, although it can feel chilly at night with occasional rain.
It is therefore possible and equally enjoyable to do all of the usual things you’d want to see on a Lisbon itinerary regardless of the season, and the crisp scent of ocean air as you stroll through one of the many walking tours of Lisbon’s charming laid-back neighbourhoods feels all the more magical.
The holiday season is a special time to visit, and we’ve listed our best recommendations on the local Christmas traditions, how to celebrate it in Lisbon as well as ideas for the more chilly or rainy days where indoor activities take preference.
Christmas Lights Tour
The locals love the Christmas festive season, and put great effort into decorating the city with lights, presépios (nativity scenes) and Christmas trees. Take the kids to see the tallest Christmas tree in Europe in Lisbon’s Praça do Comércio, reaching a record-breaking 76 metres in previous years, before exploring the thousands of decorative lights that adorn the main avenues and squares. A creative display featuring traditional themes often inspired from local culture, like the strings of light designed to imitate Portuguese filigree.
Christmas Markets in Lisbon
Christmas markets pop up all over Lisbon from mid-November until the beginning of January, offering traditional Christmas food, decorative craft items and gifts. Four of the most famous markets to visit include Wonderland Lisboa in Parque Eduardo VII, the largest Christmas event in Lisbon, featuring a Ferris wheel and skating rink, Santa Claus visits and a giant lit Christmas tree. Enjoy a glass of mulled wine as you explore the unique gifts in Rossio Square Christmas Market in Baixa.
Open for just the first few days of December, Campo Pequeno is considered Lisbon’s main Christmas market, offering traditional Portuguese gifts such as vintage items, toys, clothes and jewellery. For a rainy day, Natalis offers the largest indoor Christmas market held at the Lisbon International Fair (FIL).
New Year in Lisbon
New Year’s Eve in Lisbon is an unforgettable experience. With firework displays all across the city, watching them from one of the city’s many viewpoints is a special scene to enjoy celebrating with friends and loved ones.
The largest public event is held at Praça do Comércio, the main square in the centre of town, with live music featuring the biggest Portuguese artists and a huge fireworks display at midnight. There is also a display along the river at Belém and you can enjoy lots of smaller New year celebrations across the city, including neighbourhood parties and local restaurants and bars that are packed throughout the night.
You can read all about our annual guide to Lisbon’s Festivals and Events here.
Lisbon Museums in Winter
Lisbon is a hub for fantastic world class art and history museums, and with fewer tourists and smaller queues, winter is the perfect time to explore them. Highlights include the National Museum Of Ancient Art in Santos, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Saldanha and the Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology (MAAT) in Belem. Or learn more about local crafts and culture by visiting the Museu Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, the Fado Museum, or the National Tile Museum. Kids will enjoy the Museo Nacional de História Natural in Principe Real, and the Oceanario de Lisboa is considered the largest indoor aquarium in Europe.
Old Churches in Lisbon
Lisbon has some beautiful ancient churches which feel extra magical in the winter, with the midnight mass on Christmas Eve known as Missa do Galo (Mass of the Rooster) a beloved tradition.
Worth visiting are definitely the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, the Church of Sao Roque and the Carmo Convent. The Basilica de Estrela is one of the grandest churches in the city, and Queen Mary I of Portugal and her son are buried there. Sé Cathedral, or Cathedral of Santa Maria Maior, is the oldest church in the city and the seat of the Patriarch of Lisbon.
Christmas at LX Factory
This quirky industrial complex beneath the 25 de Abril bridge is fun to explore all year round, with unique concept shops, cafes and restaurants, galleries and even a cinema.
Escape the colder temperatures and get cosy inside the chocolate themed café Landeau, before lounging and afternoon reading one of the thousands of books stacked in the high ceiling bookshop at Ler Devagar. Rio Maravilha gastro-bar on the top floor of one of the buildings has a great view and terrace overlooking the bay and bridge – a great place for a sunset drink.
Festive Night Life in Lisbon
Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodre districts are probably the most popular neighborhoods in Lisbon for nightlife and while it can get very hectic in the Summer, the winter seems to offer a more seasoned crowd. As the evening descends, you will find many bars, restaurants and clubs offering a vibrant and fun scene with music echoing through the narrow streets. Last call in Lisbon is at 3 a.m., with some clubs staying open until 6 a.m.
For live music, don’t miss watching a Fado performance, a Portuguese music style that dates back to the 1820s. You can book tickets in the city centre for a more formal experience, or enjoy watching a performance while eating in one of the cozy fado houses in Alfama, as the birthplace of this beautiful tradition.
Festive Food and Wine in Lisbon
From traditional food to fine dining, Lisbon is growing in its reputation as a culinary destination and while many restaurants close during the summer, in the winter, most of these are open and feel more cosy and local without the summer crowds.
Experience the different neighbourhoods by exploring some of the many places to eat. Alternatively, one of the best ways to enjoy tasting the variety of Portuguese cuisine and wine is by booking a Lisbon Food and Wine Tour [links when ready]. The Portuguese wine available in Lisbon is beyond compare, and port wine tasting at the Solar do Vinho do Porto academy in central Lisbon is is a fun night out.
The Time Out Market is also a great place to have food and stay warm on a wintery day. Located inside the historic Mercado da Ribeira in the Cais do Sodre waterfront district, it is very popular with locals and tourists, featuring a multitude of bars and restaurants to please all palates.
Alternatively, head to the Mercado de Campo de Ourique to enjoy some Portuguese cuisine in a more local Lisbon atmosphere. There are several options ranging from fresh produce, tapas, fish and more which you eat on one of the tables in the middle of the market.
So if you’re looking for a special destination to spend the holiday season, one that is full of tradition and festivity with plenty of interesting activities and places to visit, Lisbon makes for Europe’s most charming city in the winter.