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Many travel to the charming capital of Portugal in pursuit of the heat and sun, but how many go out to see the city in the middle of December when the sun sets at six and the weather is chilly from time to time? However, if for some reason you find yourself in Lisbon during the Christmas time, the city has a lot to offer to its visitors and as a passionate Christmas person myself, I am really looking forward to my first Christmas here in the middle of the twinkling lights of Lisbon and the smell of local mulled wine. And it’s of course also wonderful that you can still enjoy the sunny days and temperatures of almost 20 degrees even in the middle of Christmas!
This Christmas will be different for me in many ways, as this is my first Christmas in Portugal, but also my first Christmas away from Finland and away from my own relatives and loved ones. In just over six months, I have created a new life here in Portugal and met wonderful new people and made new good friends. I get to live with absolutely awesome roommates with whom we are like family and this year I will spend Christmas with this new and awesome crazy family handing out gifts, cooking and eating a variety of each countries own traditional Christmas food and just enjoying being together. We have already been in the local Christmas markets together and we were there celebrating in Praca do Comercio Square even when the city’s Christmas lights were finally turned on.
I am especially grateful for this new funny little family now that after eight years of being together, my long relationship ended and I spend Christmas for the first time in a long time as a single girl. Sitting in the middle of our crazy miscellaneous Halloween and Christmas decorations in our living room near downtown Lisbon, I couldn’t be genuinely happier right now. If I had heard in the spring how much my life would change here with the move, I wouldn’t have believed, but despite the difficult moments, the move has brought more good than bad into my life, so luckily I decided to leave Finland and come here.
Inspired by a new kind of Christmas and this wonderful city, I also wanted to share some of the Portuguese Christmas vibes and my own best tips for spending Christmas here in Lisbon for you here on the blog!
WHAT TO DO AT CHRISTMAS IN LISBON?
ROSSIO CHRISTMAS MARKET
Praca do Rossio is right in the heart of the city center and is surrounded by stunning views of Alfama’s beautiful rugged old town and the popular nightlife center of Bairro Alto on the other side, with its interesting narrow alleys and bars and restaurants. Rossio is filled at Christmas with several stalls and craft vendors booths as well as, of course, delicious food and drink stalls where you can also taste the famous local hot mulled wine. Rossio also has a Christmas tree, of course, which does not compare to the magnificent giant light tree in the Praca do Comercio, where you can also walk inside the light tree to take a closer look at the lights.
WONDERLAND LISBOA CHRISTMAS MARKET
Wonderland Lisboa is in my opinion the most magnificent Christmas market in Lisbon. Wonderland is located in Parque Eduardo VII, in Eduardo Park, right at the top of Avenida de Libertade, with stunning city views. Here you will find lovely stalls with various handicrafts and discoveries as well as tasty delicacies with mulled wine and regular wine. The area is decorated with beautiful Christmas lights and the large Ferris wheel and artificial skating rink allure many people to come back here again and again to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere of the market of the Wonderland.
CHRISTMAS TREE AND LISBON CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Lisbon city center is fully illuminated with beautiful Christmas lights and every street is different. The beautifully lit Christmas light tree in Praca do Comercio Square is the biggest attraction and inside the tree it is so wonderful to sit around admiring the lights from the inside perspective. The surrounding streets flicker with various Christmas light decorations, and many visit the lights in the form of a self-guided Christmas light tour. Personally, I love the light hearts of the Avenida de Libertade, which are hung along tree branches, and my biggest favorite are the jellyfish lights found in the Baixa-Chiado area, which are a really popular and a truly wonderful sight to see. Book yourself here* a Christmas light guided tour through the best Christmas lights in Lisbon and the most atmospheric spots of the city center!
PORTUGUESE CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
Portuguese Christmas traditions usually include a cod-based Christmas dinner on the evening of December 24th, and the dessert is traditionally Bolo-Rei, a fruit-decorated pastry cake. According to tradition, there is also a bean hidden inside the cake and whoever grabs the slice where that bean is hiding will have to buy or bake the Bolo-Rei for everyone next year. In addition to cod and the cake, there are also many other delicious dishes and Portuguese pastries on the families Christmas tables. Also according to the local tradition, gifts are usually exchanged only on the 25th, but everyone nowadays of course create their own traditions and customs. Our Christmas here may not follow the Portuguese ways, but this Christmas we will create our own new traditions and enjoy it to the fullest anyway.
EXPLORE THE BEST OF LISBON WITH THE LISBOA CARD*, THE BEST TRAVELLERS CHOICE FOR DISCOUNTS AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTS AROUND THE CITY EASILY AND AFFORDABLY!
With the Lisboa Card*, you can easily travel indefinitely by public transport and at the same time take advantage of good offers as well as free admissions to museums and various attractions, for example. Choose the option that suits you the best and enjoy the city’s offerings with this card. 🙂
SAVE THE CHRISTMAS VIBES OF LISBON ON PINTEREST!
HAVE YOU SPENT CHRISTMAS IN PORTUGAL? WHAT DID YOU LIKE? SHARE YOUR OWN CHRISTMAS TIPS FROM PORTUGAL OR OTHERWISE AROUND THE WORLD TO THE COMMENTS! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna
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Setúbal & Tróia together are the perfect weekend destination from Lisbon. Setúbal is a cozy fishing town about an hour’s train ride away from Lisbon, and the Setúbal area includes both the Arrábida Natural Park and the idyllic fishing village of Sesimbra, with its cozy surrounding attractions. Setúbal has lots of unspoilt nature, incredibly beautiful beaches, a variety of water activities and stunning hiking sceneries, making it the perfect place to spend a weekend and relax from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon.
The Troía Península is located opposite the port of Setúbal and is most easily reached by a water taxi, or by a regular ferry. The ferry costs about 7 euros and the water taxi about 5 euros and both can be found in the port. One of my beautiful summer days with a friend I headed across the Sado River from Setúbal to Tróia, just by water taxi, as the ferry had left right in front of our noses and it would have taken an hour for the next one to arrive. A water taxi is a fun and fast way and you can get to just the place you want on the peninsula, but if you don’t like the fast pace and splashing water, I recommend choosing a ferry.
SETÚBAL – VIBES OF SOUTHERN PORTUGAL
Setúbal offers a southern Portuguese atmosphere right next to Lisbon. When asked for recommendations for wonderful day trips and weekend getaways from Lisbon, as well as the best beach favorites, I always answer Setúbal. Here I myself have spent numerous successful beach days and entire weekends in the middle of a hectic city life and enjoyed everytime to the fullest. Setúbal is a compact and cozy fishing town with a beautiful old town with its cafés, boutiques and restaurants, as well as a port area and easy access from one place to another. Setúbal is great for walking and public transport, as the train from Lisbon comes right on the edge of the old town, there is a local bus near the beaches and you can always order Uber or a cheaper, local Bolt for other needs.
In Setúbal, the best thing is to aimlessly stroll through the beautiful streets of the old town and admire their decorations, which can sometimes even surprise you. The streets are full of small boutiques and good cafes for every taste, as well as excellent restaurants, the best of which are worth booking in advance or at least on weekends you should be prepared to queue up if there is no booking. As a local food tip, you should definitely try choco frito, a deep-fried cuttlefish that is a popular treat in Setúbal. Unfortunately, there is no choco frito for vegans and the supply in this fishing town may not be very huge for vegans anyway, but there are some good alternatives and us vegans we don’t have to go hungry either. The HappyCow app is a great guide for vegans around the world looking for restaurants!
The city’s history is strongly linked to fishing and the sea, as well as the canning industry, and you can learn more about this history at the Museu do Trabalho Michel Giacometti, built in the old canning factory. Outside the museum is also Setúbal’s beautiful observation deck Miradouro de São Domingos, which is somewhat the same style as the Lisbon’s Miradouro de Santa Luzia, but unfortunately the views are not as spectacular as in the Lisbon version.
TRÓIA PENINSÚLA – WONDERFUL BEACHSIDE AND LUXURY ACCOMMODATION
The Tróia Peninsula is beautiful and is surrounded by a 13km long white sandy beach coastline. Surrounded by pine trees in Tróia, those looking for peace and luxury are offered affordable accommodation and holiday homes, as well as, of course, a few restaurants from fine dining to bars and basic cafés. You can also shop a bit in Tróia, where you can find, for example, Lacoste and a few other more expensive boutiques for clothing lovers. In addition to accommodation and boutiques, the Port of Tróia also has a Casino, which is certainly not for playing only with a small amount of money. I myself wasn’t terribly interested in this side of luxury and I think all the holiday homes were even quite ugly (at least on the outside) and soulless, and I don’t understand why such a beautiful place has had to be filled with such, but we all like different things of course. Maybe I just don’t really understand “that something” here, heh. 😀
Tróia’s reputation as a luxury destination dates back to the 1980s, when Tróia Golf Resort was created. This golf course is considered one of the most spectacular ones in Portugal.
The best thing about the peninsula, in my opinion, is its beautiful coastline, which offers a magnificent seascape as far as the eye can see, as well as views of the Arrábida mountains. On the bay side, the water is calmer and maybe a little warmer (so at least it is claimed, I personally did not agree), and here again there is a more quiet shoreline. So I definitely recommend taking the time and going beyond the peninsula, as here you can also find your own little spot on the beach, without other people nearby.
Tróia also has the ancient Roman ruins of Cetobriga, located right next to the coastline. These have once served as fish processing facilities, spas and burial sites.
THE SADO DOLPHINS
The Sado River runs between Setúbal and the Tróia Peninsula and is home to a flock of bottlenose dolphins. This flock is the only flock of dolphins in Portugal to inhabit locally in a similar bay, and is therefore very interesting and rare. It is known that there are only three similar flocks in Europe. There are an estimated three dozen individuals of these dolphins that are closely monitored and boaters in the area are aware of dolphins and the appropriate way to approach them, at least local people and the professional dolphin tour providers do.
From both Tróia and Setúbal it is possible to go on a dolphin trip to see these lovely dolphins and there are many ways ranging from catamaran rides to smaller boats and speedboats. Everyone has their side and the difficulty of choice can strike here too, but the main thing is the dolphins, not the boat itself. Personally, I have spent a very comfortable catamaran sailing cruise along the river and searching for dolphins, sunbathing and swimming in the bay, but no dolphins were to be seen on this trip. However, the trip itself was a relaxing and fun experience, so it was nice anyway. I once went on a dolphin-watching trip specifically focused on dolphins, in the middle of heavy rain in a dinghy without a roof, and I didn’t see a single dolphin at the time. This time there wasn’t even a “nice experience” left in my hand and I was already sure these dolphins aren’t even here. 🙂 The third time is the charm though, because, when we finally got to admire the dolphins on the third attempt, the sun was shining and both the dolphins and the experience itself were great.
ARRÁBIDA NATURAL PARK
Arrábida is the greatest pride and attraction of Setúbal, with its natural scenery and greenery, as well as its lovely clear natural beaches. These are my own favorite beaches and they are also a little calmer compared to the many natural beaches on the Algarve coast, for example (at least in my opinion).
READ MORE ABOUT ARRÁBIDA:
CHECK OUT SOME OTHER AMAZING ACTIVITIES AND SIGHTS AROUND SETÚBAL AREA:
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LISBON CARD IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR TRAVELLERS
Those traveling to Lisbon should also check out the Lisbon Card *, which provides easy access to all forms of public transport, such as metro, bus and tram, as well as trains to Cascais or Sintra. The card also gives you free admission to all the best attractions and museums, as well as discounts on restaurants and cafés. Check it out and get yours here! *
HAVE YOU BEEN TO SETÚBAL OR TRÓIA? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES ON THE COMMENTS BELOW! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna