When looking for the best Christmas markets in Europe, Lisbon probably doesn’t register. Most people head further northeast to France, Germany, and Austria to have their Christmas market needs met. But what if you want to avoid the crowds and the cold? The Lisbon Christmas Market is a fun alternative!
Elegant strings of lights showoff the city’s gorgeous tile sidewalks, and decorated trees brighten public squares. Plus, the pleasant weather makes it possible to stay outside for hours enjoying the festive atmosphere. If you are looking for a non-traditional European Christmas destination, you might want to give Portugal a try!
Campo Pequeno, Lisbon’s lovely 1890 red-brick bullfighting arena, is home to one of the city’s Christmas markets. Several dozen artisans and vendors set up tables around the floor and visitors can browse at their leisure. I bought some wine and cheese, of course, and regretted not having more room in my suitcase for a few pieces of pottery.
If you miss the Mercado de Natal, you might still be able to catch the Mercado de Baxia. I found lots of good food here, including smoked sausages and wonderfully stinky cheese. And I loved perusing all the local handicrafts with a cup of hot sangria in hand!
Don’t worry if your visit to Lisbon doesn’t coincide with either of these markets. You’ll still find plenty of treats to put you in the holiday spirit. One such treat is ginja, a sweet-and-tart cherry liqueur that owes its origins to Francisco Espinheira, a Galician friar who made creative use of the local Portuguese cherries. The potent drink was first sold commercially in Lisbon at A Ginjinha bar in the Rossio over 170 years ago. Join the crowd outside for a shot or two and you’ll soon be a festive mood!
Another centuries-old Lisbon specialty is the egg custard tart. In the 1830s, after a revolution resulted in the closure of monasteries, an out-of-work monk began selling homemade pastries to make ends meet. He operated out of a shop next to a sugar refinery in the Lisbon suburb of Belem. The venture was so successful that the bakery Pasteis de Belem was officially opened in 1837.
The recipe for the famous tarts has remained a closely guarded secret ever since, known only to the shop’s master bakers. Whatever’s inside, you won’t be able to have just one!
Would you like to celebrate Christmas in Lisbon, Portugal?
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