If you want to spend a magical Christmas and an exciting New Year's Eve away from home and experience different traditions, Portugal and Spain are the best options! Apart from the magically lit streets and fabulously decorated houses, you can also enjoy the typical local festivities in the different regions of these two countries. Explore the top destinations and traditions in Portugal and Spain and make sure you have the best Christmas break!
New Year's Fireworks in Madeira
The New Year's fireworks show in Madeira was considered in 2006 by Guinness World Records as the “Greatest Fireworks Show in the World”. This incredible display and tradition currently last almost 10 minutes and are spread over several fire points located in the Funchal’s amphitheater, on the seafront and downtown, at the sea and at a post on the Porto Santo Island. Thousands of lights illuminate the sky and the city, offering visitors an unusual and unique perspective of the Madeira skyline. Enjoy this island full of life that majestically welcomes the New Year, and enjoy the cultural, religious and artistic celebrations that take place throughout December and early January.
New Year's Eve at Puerta del Sol in Madrid
Puerta del Sol, Madrid
In Madrid, on New Year's Eve, all roads lead to the Puerta del Sol! In this square, thousands of people from all over the world gather to welcome the New Year, while the clock of the Real Casa de Correos chimes and music plays. In this event (the most famous in the Spanish capital at this time of year) there is a tradition that consists on eating 12 grapes at the same time as the last 12 “campanadas” (chimes) of the year are announced. This gesture symbolizes good luck and prosperity for the next twelve months. A few seconds after midnight, the ball at the top of the tower begins to descend, and everyone gathers to fulfill the tradition and enjoy themselves in a magical moment. Enjoy the pleasant and festive atmosphere, with good music and many celebrations!
Fira de Santa Llúcia and the Caga Tió tradition in Barcelona
Christmas in Bracelona
In the heart of the picturesque El Gótic district, in front of the Cathedral, you will find the Fira de Santa Llúcia, one of the most traditional markets in Barcelona and probably the most incredible one in Europe. This popular market takes place during the Christmas season and has been a tradition since 1786. It sells a wide variety of products, from complete nativity scenes to Christmas decorations, wines, natural and artificial trees, craftwork and even musical instruments. It is undoubtedly a tradition for locals and visitors to stroll through the lively and vibrant stalls of this market. Another famous and curious tradition is the Caga Tió ("poo log"), a thick wooden log dressed up with the typical Catalan hat (the barretina), and with small wooden front legs and a smiling face. Supposedly, this log defecates Christmas presents and candy. As of December 8th, Tió begins to appear in homes and schools, and on Christmas Eve the children beat it with sticks to make it excrete sweets and presents. An unusual and funny tradition, no doubt! One more reason why you will spend the best Christmas break in Barcelona.
Downtown Lisbon at Christmas and New Year’s
During the Christmas season, downtown Lisbon is filled with bright lights and colors, and families, couples and friends stroll the streets at night to enjoy them. Take a photo next to the large Christmas tree set up on Praça do Comércio, and take the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping downtown. Try the delicious roasted chestnuts sold on the street, while admiring the illuminated façades and exploring the picturesque streets of Lisbon. On New Year's Eve, the historic center is filled with people and music. One of the most popular New Year's Eve parties in Lisbon takes place at Praça do Comércio, where an incredible celebration brings together many artists, lots of entertainment, fireworks and good vibes!
New Year's Eve in Algarve
The southern region of Portugal is the perfect place to go to the beach and enjoy the hot summer nights, but on New Year's Eve locals and visitors take advantage of the mild climate to explore and enjoy the region. At night, the wonderful beaches fill with thousands of people who want to end the year in the best way possible, with lots of partying, music and entertainment. For this special night, there are several cities as options, such as Albufeira (perhaps the most famous destination for New Year's Eve), Portimão, Vilamoura, Monte Gordo, Quarteira, Carvoeiro, Lagos or Faro. Whichever place you choose, you can count on great music and incredible firework shows. Who knows, maybe you'll take a dip in the waters of the Algarve's beaches to start the year off right?
New Year's Eve in Mallorca
Mallorca's typical mild winter makes this island the ideal destination to spend New Year's Eve. The largest of Spain's Balearic Islands is rich in historical and cultural sites and breathtaking viewpoints to enjoy at this time of year. Just like the Algarve, Mallorca is known for its amazing beaches, making it a great place to spend New Year's Eve overlooking the sea. Most of the events and celebrations take place in Palma, and you can enjoy the many street parties throughout the city. In Plaça del Rei Joan Carles I and Plaça de Cort you can have a great time to the sound of live music and watch the fireworks shows over the cathedral while drinking a glass of cava, a famous sparkling wine. On the beaches, you can marvel at the many fireworks shows, and do not forget to eat the 12 grapes at midnight. You can dance until the sun rises, or spend a relaxing evening on the beach with your friends and family after eating at one of the island's excellent restaurants. Either way, the fun is guaranteed!
White Christmas at Serra da Estrela
If you are looking for a truly Christmassy atmosphere and a white and calm Christmas, Serra da Estrela is the perfect destination for you. This is one of the few Portuguese regions where you will find snow, and it is also an absolutely wonderful region to visit. If you like to be in touch with nature and feel adventurous, you can always explore the many hiking trails that this area has to offer, which can be a great plan for your Christmas holiday. The truth is that Serra da Estrela is the perfect choice for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, preferring the magic of a quieter and undoubtedly Christmassy place. The village of Cabeça, on the southern slopes of the Serra da Estrela, is a must-see, as it is considered the most beautiful Christmas village in the country. This village of only a few inhabitants, decorated exclusively with 100% natural materials, is definitely unique and special, and at nighttime the streets and alleys exude an unforgettable magic.
Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos in Oviedo
One of the most famous Spanish traditions at this time of year, and one that is taken very seriously in the city of Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, is the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, a traditional parade in which the Wise Men give out candy to children. In this historic event, considered the most joyous and typical Christmas celebration in Spain, the streets fill with floats, carriages, horses and performances by artists from all over the world, as well as children and families who gather to watch the parade religiously. On this day, the Wise Men take over Spanish cities and towns. Although this event traditionally takes place in many cities in Spain, Oviedo can be a great spot for you to enjoy the parade, as it is particularly charming around this time of year. Take the opportunity to explore the picturesque streets and the artistic and cultural heritage of the area, as well as the lovely historic center.