Porto in Christmas becomes a very interesting getaway: on top of the city’s highlights that make it special the whole year (medieval walls, gleaming Baroque churches, and picturesque viewpoints), the city is bustling with a festive spirit, Christmas markets and a fair amount of illuminated buildings in the downtown area. And what’s even more interesting: sleeping and eating in Porto is still cheap!!
Here’s everything you need to know about Porto Christmas: Christmas markets, lights, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in Porto.
PORTO’S CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Porto Christmas season kicks off this year on November 30th with the Christmas lights switch-on around the city center. There will be more lit locations than ever! With over 80 streets, squares, gardens, and buildings, you’ll be tempted to grab your camera and walk around the city. (For you eco-friendly travelers, please note that the more than 2.4 million little bulbs are LED).
Porto built a great Christmas tree (30 meters in height and 12 in diameter) at Avenida dos Aliados in front of the city hall. This year it will be lit with bulbs wrapped in white, red, blue, and green.
There’s a complete programming to enjoy this day, with live music from 3.30 pm, but just make sure to be at Av. Aliados at 6.00 pm for the tree lighting, fireworks, and video mapping show!
If you’re not here for the grand opening, oh don’t worry! Lights will be shining until January 6th, the Three Kings Day.
Credit: Porto City Council
PORTO’S CHRISTMAS MARKETS
After visiting all the monuments, there´s nothing like popping up to the city Porto Christmas markets after sunset to browse the shops just for fun (or to actually find the perfect Christmas gift)
Mercado da Alegria: Expect music, workshops, and different proposals from almost 40 exhibitors. Runs till December 31st between Santo Ildefonso and Batalha Sq. from 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (Thursday to Sundays) but it’s open until 11.00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Feira Artesanatus Porto: Come here to find the greatest highlights of traditional and contemporary crafts made with true care! It will be held at the garden of São Lázaro from December 14th to 22nd between 10.00 am to 7.00 pm.
Credit: Artesanatus Porto Facebook
Handicraft and Trade Fair of Porto: It’s the place to go for all kinds of homemade souvenirs and goodies made of ceramics, wood, leather, or iron. Also, for artisanal soaps, toys, or liqueurs. Runs till December 23rd at Poveiros Square from 11.00 am to 8.00 pm (Thursday to Sundays) but it’s open until 11.00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Porto Christmas Urban Market: This event is organized by designers and handmade street sellers at Palácio das Cardosas, an emblematic building in Praça da Liberdade that is now home to the luxury Hotel Intercontinental. If you can’t afford to spend the night there, you can always come to buy art straight from the artists (and support local businesses!)
HOW TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS EVE IN PORTO
As in other countries, during Christmas Eve, Portuguese people gather together around a Christmas tree and wait for Santa Claus (Pai Natal). But we don’t like waiting until the next morning, we want our presents at midnight!! Consoada is the name for this wait, the family reunion after dinner.
And let’s talk about the Christmas dinner! Can you guess it? The main dish is naturally dry codfish (bacalhau) cooked with potatoes and cabbage or vegetable and a good amount of olive oil. Desserts play a big role in these celebrations: rabanadas are a sort of French toast, and broas de Mel are pastries made of syrup or honey. If you have a sweet tooth, get them at a bakery during the whole festive season!
After all this delicious food, the Christian tradition is to attend Misa del Gallo at midnight, the Christmas mass, where family and friends wish Merry Christmas to each other, and Jesus is kissed by each member of the congregation before being placed in the nativity scene.
Keep in mind: many restaurants will be closed on Christmas Eve, and some others will be super busy, so, book in advance!
PARTY & NEW YEAR’S EVE DINNER IN PORTO
New Year’s Eve celebration in Porto is a party like no other!! Watching the fireworks over Douro River from Vila nova de Gaia side or Porto side will be an unforgettable travel memory. At midnight, the skies of the city are illuminated with different colors and mark the beginning of an EPIC NIGHT.
There are different options to enjoy the New Year’s Eve in Porto:
Public festivities in the streets: See the Countdown at the big clock in the city town in Avenida dos Aliados. This free party for everyone involves concerts and fireworks for more than 3 hours. You can then head to La Ribeira area or Galerias de Paris to stay up ‘til late dancing in one of the nightclubs. Streets will be crowded this night, but it’s a lot of fun!!
New year cruise in Douro river: you can have dinner on a boat on Douro river and be one of the few privileged to have a front row ticket to the fireworks displays over Douro River! The experience starts at 7.30 pm and lasts for approximately 7 hours and you’ll have live music on board, delicious food, and a great wine selection, of course!
Have dinner in a restaurant: if you want to treat yourself with a great dinner, a lot of good restaurants will be offering specials menus on this night. For example, Maus Habitos, Porto Meu, Em Carne Viva, daTerra for veggies or éLeBê Baixa among others! For more info on where to dine in Porto, check out our post!!
Oh! Just one more thing, if you want to be lucky all 2020, you can’t forget to wear blue underwear on this night!
Credit: Facebook @CamaraMunicipaldoPorto
Sing Janeiras: Another Portuguese tradition is Janeiras (Christmas carols). These traditional seasonal songs are sung by groups dressed in traditional garbs throughout early January. You’re welcome to join and sing even if you don’t get a word!
Swim on new year´s day: On January 1st, there is a local tradition for the bravest ones: going to the sea for the first (and coldest) swim of the year!! You won’t see us there, but we believe it´s an effective way to get rid of a hangover!!
Eat Bolo Rei: This traditional Portuguese food is a cake. This cake is a prime delicacy of Christmas! It literally means King’s cake, as a reference to the Three Wise Men. Its round shape resembles a crown and it’s covered with crystallized and dried fruit. You can find it freshly baked at a local pastelaria normally since the end of December tiLl January 6th, but to celebrate Kings Day with you, we’ll invite bolo rei to all Cats Hostel guests staying with us in Porto the night of the 5th.
Credit: Confeitaria Porto Rico
Gaze at the beautiful “Belenes”: From the beginning of December, almost every house of the city has a nativity set, luckily for you, you don’t need to find a way to get a local to open their doors for you. You can visit those inside the baroque churches at Igreja de São José das Taipas or Igreja de São Nicolau.
Run the San Silvestre Race: Saint Silvestre 10k race takes place every December 31st. It starts and finishes on Avenida dos Aliados and brings together a lot of people. Maybe you don’t feel like running after eating franceshina, we know, but if you’re in the streets and see people running, at least cheer them up!!
MORE THINGS TO DO IN PORTO AT CHRISTMAS
Watch a concert: In addition to visiting the Christmas markets in Oporto. If you’re into jazz music, the festival Jazz at Porto will hold concerts in several places between December 6th-15th. But if you’re into gospel, don’t miss the special concert from Harlem Gospel Choir, perhaps the most famous gospel group in the world right now. It will be a special tribute to the brilliant Prince on December 4 at Casa da Música!
Xmas Circus: There’s always something magical about circus at this time of the year. It’s even more special, isn’t it? Come and see the best talents from around the globe at Coliseu Porto Ageas from December 13th to January 1st. From gymnastics trapeze to balancing acts or breath-taking acrobatics, the performances promise to be mind-blowing.
Drink Port wine: Are you dreaming of a white (wine) Christmas? Then head to one of the best Porto wineries in Vila Nova de Gaia and try the infamous port wine. As you can guess, Port Wine is a big thing here during Christmas!
Ice skating rinks: Even though we don’t have snow in Porto, we like to be part of this winter tradition too! There will be a rink at Boavista roundabout (also known as Praça de Mouzinho). Come and show everyone your magnificent (or inexistent) skills!
Credit: Praça da Fantasia
Are you already convinced to spend Christmas in Porto, Portugal? Start thinking about accommodation now before it’s too late!
We’re waiting for you with open arms at Cats Porto Hostel, the city’s best hostel.
*Wanna get the best possible rate? Then book through our website!!