10 Things to do in Lisbon in December


Portugal is seen as one of the best places to be in Europe in both the summer and in the winter. This is because the temperatures on this part of the coast never really drop below ten degrees, which is a big difference to the surrounding countries where they see lows of below zero.

December in Lisbon very much revolves around the Christmas spirit. There is much to do, see and eat, and indoor activities are defiantly favored over outdoor ones. Here are a few things you must do!

1. Enjoy the Christmas Lights in Lisbon in December

During December, the city of Lisbon puts a lot of effort into making itself as aesthetically festive as possible. The city center, in particular enjoys a makeover of lights and decorations strung between the narrow streets and adjacent buildings.

Chiado and Bairro Alto would be the best neighborhoods to get into the ambiance, with certain parts of the Alfama also getting into the spirit. You can also do all of your Christmas shopping here. 


Lisbon – by Shadowgate – Wikimedia Commons

2. Shop at Christmas Markets in Lisbon in December

It wouldn’t be December in Europe without a few Christmas markets from which to do your shopping. There will be a few of these popping up throughout the month; the two you can count on to be open for the majority of the time are the Rossio Christmas Market or the Praça do Município Christmas Market.

Come for gifts, souvenirs, Christmas foods, hot wine and entertainment for children!

by Mauricio Photography – Wikimedia Commons

3. Experience the Church Services in Lisbon in December

The church of Lisbon can be trusted to join in on the December festivities as well. While you can attained services at all of the Lisbon churches year round, in December they take on a far more festive role and incorporate more child-friendly content.

Nativity scenes, carol evenings, gospel bands and charity fundraisers are just some of the services that the Lisbon churches implement during December. Find one nearest to you and request a copy of their program for the month so you can plan your evenings.

4. Try Portuguese Delicacies in Lisbon in December

Trust the Portuguese to save some of their best recipes for the festive season only. Every December, Portuguese households break out the holiday cookbooks and everyone gets to enjoy some special treats.

One to look out for are rabanadas; a dish similar to French toast but with a Portuguese twist. Broas castelares are Portuguese Christmas cakes made using sweet potatoes and I do wish they were available year round.

Rabanadas – by Francisco Antunes – Wikimedia Commons

Keep an eye out for filhós and sonhos, too. Especially if you have a sweet tooth.

If you’re unsure where to sample Portuguese Christmas treats in December head to the Christmas markets or any of the patisseries in the city center.

Sonhos – by Carlos Lopes – Wikimedia Commons

5. View the Big Christmas Tree in the Terreiro do Paço in Lisbon in December

The Terreiro do Paço is the biggest and most iconic public square in Lisbon. It sits just below Chiado, and merges the city with the water from the Tagus.

This massive square is festive year round; it boasts ample space for teenagers to congregate, tourists to take photographs, lovers to stroll, buskers to make music and skaters to perfect their skills.

Every December, a giant Christmas tree is erected in the center of the square. It’s a must see if you’re in town during this time!

by OsvaldoGago – Wikimedia Commons

6. Cozy Up Over Dinner and Fado in Lisbon in December

Lisbon might not be the coldest city in Europe in December, but cold is cold, and everyone likes to snuggle up regardless of if it is ten degrees or zero.

Venturing out for a night on the town in Lisbon in December is best enjoyed with an evening of warm, hearty food and fado music in the background.

The fado venues of Lisbon don’t shut down in the winter; on the contrary they actually fill up with locals for a change instead of being overrun by tourists like in the summer.

Book your dinner at any of the cozy fado venues in either the Alfama or Bairro Alto.

Fado in Lisbon – by Jimmy Baikovicius – Wikimedia Commons

7. Make Use of the Arthouse Cinemas in Lisbon in December

Keeping indoor activities in mind, the arthouse cinemas in Lisbon are wonderful December activities to get you out of the chilly air.

There are a handful of these scattered across the city; I took a closer look at them here.

Perfect for date nights, family outings, entertaining kids or even a blind Tinder date in Lisbon.

8. Day Trip to the Most Beautiful Library in Lisbon in December

Lisbon’s usual day trips like Cascais and Sintra tend to be better enjoyed in the summer months. In the winter, I like to do things differently and head to a lesser explored part of the county.

Taking a day trip to the Mafra National Palace is fantastic in December! This historic palace lies just thirty kilometers from Lisbon, making it easily accessible from virtually anywhere in the city.

Mafra Palace Library – by Joseolgon – Wikimedia Commons

While the palace itself is a work of art, people really come to see the palace library. This is often thought to be one of the most enchanting spaces on the planet; there really is nothing quite like it, even elsewhere in Europe.

A beautiful day trip during a colder season.

9. Got to the Theatre in Lisbon in December

Another industry that thrives in December is the world of Lisbon theatre.

The Portuguese love the theatre, be it musicals, comedy shows or even opera.

Any theatre productions in Lisbon showcased in languages other that English will always have screens with subtitles available.

10. Make the Most of the Museums in Lisbon in December

When Lisbon gets chilly, the museums warm up.

Travelers are encouraged to take full advantage of the Lisbon museums in the winter months. They’re indoors, they’re world class and they don’t change their opening hours depending on the season.

Some of my favorite museums in Lisbon include the MAAT Museum and Museu Coleção Berardo both in Belem, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and the Lisbon Tile Museum (highly recommend!).

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MAAT Museum – by Maria Eklind – Wikimedia Commons