Porto has many tourist attractions throughout the year. But the festivities of Christmas make it even more special during the holiday season.
For starters, its climate, although cool and humid, is not as cold as other European cities, allowing outdoor activities, where you can visit markets, ice skating and even visit a theme park. In addition, the Catholic devotion of the Portuguese and the Christmas events make Porto a great option for a Christmas getaway.
1. Visit the most important Nativity Scenes in Oporto
You have probably already noticed the importance of the Christian faith in Portugal and Christmas is an ideal time to witness it. From the first days of December you will see in all the churches the classic nativity scene or manger, which represents the birth of the baby Jesus.
In addition, it is very common to see next to the crib between Christmas Eve and Epiphany, the famous "fogueiras do menino", bonfires or bonfires that are lit to represent the victory of light against darkness. This tradition is very common in the north of Portugal due to the cultural influence of the Celtic peoples that is kept alive to this day.
Admiring the beauty of the Nativity Scenes is a perfect activity to take a tour of the most important churches in Porto. While the most important of them is obviously the Cathedral of Porto, I also recommend you to visit the São José das Taipas Church and the São Nicolau Church, as they are very famous for the beauty of their nativity scenes. Book a tour of Porto and get to know the main ones, you will love it.
2. Do your Christmas shopping in the beautiful markets of Oporto
One of the most interesting features of Porto is that it does not have large shopping malls for Christmas shopping. The custom is to visit the small Christmas markets scattered throughout the city that bring together the best artisans and entrepreneurs of the city.
Another advantage of these markets is that you can taste classic Christmas food and drinks, as many times you will find food stalls, food carts and even stalls where the best wineries in the area offer their wines to tourists. Remember! Porto is known for its wines and a very interesting activity is to take a guided tour of a winery.
Facts about the best Christmas markets
- Artesanatus: Located in Praça D. João I and shaped like a transparent is a beautiful market of handicrafts and souvenirs that is available from the first days of December until January 6 from 11 am to 7 pm.
- Arts and Crafts Market: Located on Avenida D. Afonso Henriques between the Sao Benito train station and Porto Cathedral, this Christmas market focuses on products made by artisans from all over northern Portugal. Here you'll find everything from wooden toys, handicrafts made in ceramics, linen, wool, leather to homemade liqueurs and skin care items. It is open from December 1 to 23 from 11 am to 7 pm.
- Mercado da Alegria: With more than 40 stalls in this market you can find handmade toys, clothing, jewelry and regional foods. In addition, this market has a beautiful decoration of lights, garlands and Christmas trees that will increase your Christmas spirit. It is located in Praça da Batalha and is open from December 1 to 31, from 10 am to 8 pm.
3. Enjoy a fado show
A very typical Christmas activity is to book tickets for a Fado concert, a musical genre characteristic of Portugal that is characterized by an explosion of emotions. Stories of love, pain and/or nostalgia are told, accompanied by the music of a Portuguese guitar.
The concert, which lasts about an hour and a half, will not leave you indifferent and you can chat with the musicians who usually improvise in each performance, while enjoying a glass of the popular port wine.
Live the most typical experience and get to know this musical genre recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
4. Visit the Avenida dos Aliados Christmas Tree
Avenida dos Aliados is one of the most important central points of Porto and with the arrival of the holidays, it is transformed into a beautiful place thanks to its incredible Christmas decoration. That's why every year from December 1st you will see the emblematic Christmas Tree, as well as all the classic holiday decorations all along the avenue and Liberty Square.
This Christmas tree is 35 meters high and almost 15 meters wide. I recommend that to enjoy this place in its entirety, you approach when the sun goes down, as it has spectacular lighting. With more than 50,000 LED lights, it is a true work of art. In addition, the tree is synchronized with music and images that are born with the lights and reproduce a real Christmas show.
It is an ideal place to go with the whole family and enjoy the classic Christmas carols, Christmas lights and all the excitement that this time of year generates. You can comfortably approach this point if you book the Porto tourist bus.
5. Attend the Clérigos church for a free recital
Every year, the brotherhood of Los Clérigos organizes free Christmas recitals playing the carillon or aerial organ of the tower of Los Clérigos. This tower is one of the most characteristic points of the historic center of the city.
The tower of more than 75 meters high was built in 1763 and its baroque architecture makes it stand out from the rest of the buildings that surround it. From the top of the tower every day in December you can listen to Christmas songs from 4 pm.
I recommend that before or after the recital you climb the tower to admire from the height the beauty that Porto offers. To find out where it is, you can book a bike tour of Porto beforehand.
6. Ice skating in the squares of Oporto
Although Porto's temperatures are not cold enough to freeze lakes, several years ago the City Council had the brilliant idea of installing ice skating rinks in different squares of the city.
Ice skating is ideal for young and old, as it spreads the Christmas spirit like few other activities. In addition, around these rinks there are craft stalls to buy gifts, as well as food carts to satisfy your hunger after skating for hours.
Due to its location, the most important main square for skating is Batalha Square, located a few meters from Liberty Square and Aliados Avenue. If you think it is too crowded you can go to Praça de D. Joao I or Praça de Mouzinho de Albuquerque. At the Boavista traffic circle is Praça de Fantasia, which besides having an ice skating rink, has games, activities and events for the little ones.
- Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 9.30 a.m. to midnight.
- Price: 8 € per hour approximately.
7. Visit Perlim, the Christmas Theme Park
If you're looking for a place to take the little ones to enjoy Christmas, then consider visiting Perlim, a Christmas theme park. Only about 20 kilometers from the city of Porto, in the village of Santa Maria da Feira, the park is located next to a Medieval Castle and represents a village straight out of a cartoon movie.
This Christmas theme park has lots of rides, attractions and activities for children. You can find everything from a carousel or a train that runs through the park, as well as farm animals. The best restaurants in the city offer Christmas menus for all tastes and to end the day you can enjoy a beautiful fireworks show.
Perlim is also open from December 1 to December 30, from 13 to 19 hours. But please note that on December 24 and 25 it is closed for the holidays. The entrance fee is approximately 20 €, and includes admission to all the rides in the park except the train, which costs 2 € per person.
How to get to Santa Maria da Feira from Porto
- By car or cab: This is the most comfortable option, as it takes about 25 minutes to get there.
- By bus: Buses leave from the Oporto terminal every 30 minutes and will take you to the Santa Maria da Feira terminal, and from there you will have to walk or take a cab to Perlim, which is about 1 km from the terminal.
Another essential museum for the little ones is the World of Discoveries, a place to learn about the history of Portugal and its discoverers with numerous interactive exhibits. You have all the information in this post on how to get tickets for the World of Discoveries in Porto.
8. Attend a typical Portuguese Christmas Dinner
Christmas in Portugal is a very important time and food plays a central role. According to tradition, on December 24 the family gathers near the Christmas tree and waits for Santa Claus by fasting, what the Portuguese call "consoada". A curiosity is that besides being a moment to spend with the family, it also includes the tradition, remembering the relatives who are no longer there, leaving an extra piece of cutlery on the table. The famous consoada ends at midnight when the Christmas dinner begins.
The typical Christmas dish is cod with potatoes, cabbage and vegetables, seasoned with lots of olive oil. For dessert, "rabanadas" are usually served, which are very similar to Spanish torrijas, along with the traditional broas de mel.
To celebrate Christmas dinner I recommend you to book a place in the beautiful restaurants of the Ribeira neighborhood. This area is full of restaurants, bars and terraces on the banks of the Douro that are ideal for a traditional Christmas table.
9. Don't miss the Midnight Mass or Midnight Mass
According to the tradition of the Portuguese, after the "consoada" and once the Christmas dinner is over, believers usually attend the traditional midnight mass. This event is also known as Missa do Galo or in Spanish as Misa de Gallo.
The name comes from an ancient Christian tradition, which says that at 12 o'clock at night a rooster crowed to announce the birth of the baby Jesus. It is also said that the name comes from the tradition that existed in the Iberian Peninsula where a rooster was offered at Christmas Eve Mass to share with the less fortunate.
Regardless of whether you are a believer or not, the rooster mass is a unique opportunity to walk to a nearby church and observe firsthand a very important moment for the Portuguese tradition. Besides being a perfect occasion to listen to the nice carols in Portuguese.
10. Enjoy the Férias de Natal in Serralve with the little ones.
Porto is a very friendly city to visit with children, due to the large number of events and activities designed for the whole family. Every year, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Serralves Foundation organize didactic games and Christmas workshops focused on three themes: environment, science and art. These activities are geared for children from 4 to 12 years old, and are intended to be interactive, as well as helping children to do home experiments.
These workshops take place in the gardens of the Serralves Museum, a perfect setting where children will not only learn about the environment, but also how to work as a team while learning about natural sciences and art.
I recommend that you bring a warm coat, as the workshops are outdoors and if the day is not sunny it can be a bit chilly. It is an ideal opportunity to visit the museum's facilities, which have very interesting contemporary works of art. In addition, the museum's foundation organizes small flea markets during this time of the year where you can look for an ideal gift for Christmas. You have more cultural information in our guide to the 10 best museums in Porto.
- Where: Porto Museum of Contemporary Art Address: R. Dom João de Castro 210.
- When: Every Tuesday to Friday in December from 10 am to 5 pm. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 8 pm. Closed every Monday.
11. Send your Christmas wishes to San Nicolás
If you are traveling with children to Porto or want to treat your inner child, Christmas is not complete without a visit to St. Nicholas. Every year the World of Wine of Oporto organizes a Christmas market, whose main star is undoubtedly St. Nicholas.
The World of Wine is a modern shopping complex that has inside museums, restaurants and stores so you can buy Christmas gifts. Another plus point of this complex is that it has an incredible view of the Ribeira, and a spectacular Christmas decoration.
For children to take pictures with St. Nicholas and ask for their Christmas wishes you should go any weekend in December between 11 am and 7 pm.
- Where: Rua do Choupelo, 39 4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia (Across the Douro River).
- When: From December 1 to December 24.
- Hours: Midweek, from 10 am to 7 pm; weekends, from 10 am to 7 pm.
The weather in Oporto at Christmas
December is one of the coolest months of the winter in Porto, where the maximum temperature is usually no higher than 16 degrees, and minimum temperatures are rarely below 0.
It is also a month where there is quite a lot of cloudiness, but the winds coming from the coast make them constantly moving, so you will have the chance to see the sun. But this amount of clouds is related to rainfall, so there is more chance of encountering sporadic showers.
Porto has plenty of outdoor and indoor activities and tourist attractions, so your plans will not be cancelled by the weather. Keep in mind that although December in Porto is one of the months with more rainfall, it does not exceed eight days a month. However, I recommend that you bring a coat and something for the rain, as these are cool and humid months.