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Algarve in December: Events & Festivals, Holidays, & Weather Guide

Last updated: October 2019* | 11 Comments

Bing dreamt of a white Christmas, but if you’d prefer Santa to bring you blue skies and sunshine then flights to the Algarve should be top of your Christmas list.

Reasons to visit the Algarve in December

  • Escape the grey! Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is no laughing matter. It’s caused by a lack of sunshine, so a short break in the Algarve will sort you right out.
  • If you’ve always wanted to have Christmas on the beach but don’t fancy a long-haul flight, this is the best chance you’ll get within Europe.
  • The beaches are peaceful and quiet, but you’ll have them all to yourself. Temperatures still soar up to 18°C so, even though it’s not really warm enough for swimming (although some people still brave it), it’s still great for topping up your tan.
  • If you live in Northern Europe, it’s a great way to escape the Christmas chaos. While there is an air of festivity, it’s not quite as commercialised. The supermarkets are busy, but not crowded: more like an average Saturday afternoon back home.
  • You can get a really good deals on luxury hotels during December. Hotel prices are often half what they are during July and August, so a good opportunity to treat yourself.
  • It gives you a chance to see a different side of the Algarve. During summer its busy and vibrant, but during December it’s sleepy and calm. It also gives you a chance to munch on seasonal treats like bolo rei, bolo rainha, and the ubiquitous roast chestnuts.

For cheap hotels in the Algarve, booking.com is always a good place to look. For car rental, comparison sites like rentalcars.com are worth looking at. 

Christmas in the Algarve

Christmas in the Algarve is a unique experience for anyone visiting from Northern Europe whether it’s the lack of commercialism, being able to take a walk along the beach on Christmas day, or even have Christmas dinner outside.

If you’re planning on self-catering, you could try and put together a traditional Portuguese Christmas dinner of something bacalhau or octopus, along with other Portuguese dishes, desserts, and cakes. Alternatively, you can pick up traditional British ingredients at Iceland in Algarve Shopping and Portimão and more German ingredients at Apolónia.

If you plan to say in a hotel, it’s best to stay along one of the major coastal resorts like Albufeira, Carvoreiro, or Praia Da Rocha where some restaurants will be open on Christmas Day.

Christmas shopping in Portugal is hard, be warned. Most people end up doing a lot of their shopping in the big supermarkets (e.g. Jumbo or Continente) and inevitably end up giving each other Port or some other type of alcohol.

There are shopping malls which have clothing shops like Pull & Bear and C&A. The biggest is Mar Shopping Algarve, and there’s also Algarve Shopping near Albufeira, Forum Algarve near Faro, and Aqua in Portimão. It’s also worth heading to a Christmas market, as the locally-made products that are for sale there can make great gifts.

Alternatively, and if you’re prepared, you can do a lot of your shopping on Amazon. This can take a few days to arrive, although you can get fairly speedy delivery from Amazon Spain.

What’s on in the Algarve in December?

The Algarve is fairly peaceful this month, but each town has small-scale Christmas events. We’ve put together a brief guide to what you can expect from them.

Christmas markets

They’re not as big or elaborate as the Christmas markets you find in Germany, but the Algarve’s Christmas markets are still well worth keeping an eye out for. There’s usually food and drink, including glühwein, and the stalls are great for picking up Christmas gifts as well.

For more information, read the guide to Christmas markets in Portugal (including the Algarve). 

New Year’s Eve Fireworks

There’s a big display in Albufeira with a live band, with other celebrations taking place in Armação de Pêra, Faro, QuarteiraPortimão, and right across the Algarve (more about NYE in the Algarve). Alternatively, if you want an even bigger party, you could head up to Lisbon or Porto.

For more festivals and events in the New Year, check out the month-by-month Algarve events list which covers everything that’s happening on the Algarve from January to December. 

Weather in the Algarve in December

You can expect highs of 18°C and lows of 9°C, although the average temperature is about 13°C or 14°C during the day. December is the wettest month in the Algarve, although it’s definitely not as wet as northern Europe. In our experience December days are bright, sunny and rather warm although the nights can be chilly. We recommend packing some jumpers and coats for the evenings (and maybe stick a hot water bottle in your suitcase too). For more tips, read our Portugal packing guide.

Have you visited the Algarve in December? Did you come for Christmas or NYE? Share your thoughts, recommendations, and reviews by leaving a comment below. 

Updates: Some updates are as small as a spelling correction. If you spot a mistake or want to suggest a contribution, leave a comment below.

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11 comments on “Algarve in December: Events & Festivals, Holidays, & Weather Guide”

  1. Hi James,
    We are considering coming during the holiday time and want to see both Lisbon area and Algarve. Our son is an avid surfer and we were reading the surfing is very good in December. With that is mind what areas would you suggest to stay and of course we have to eat so want to have access to restaurants and food markets. Thank you! Trish

    • Hi Trish,

      The surfing is mainly on the Western Coast of the Algarve. You could consider Sagres or Aljezur, both of which are popular with surfers. There isn’t a lot for non-surfers to do in either of the towns, but they do provide a base for exploring that part of the Algarve.

      Alternatively, a lot of people stay in Lagos, which is a good bit bigger, and make the daily drive over to the West Coast.

  2. Hi James,
    we are aiming to book a weeks self catering apartment in Olhao for Christmas with our 2 boys (late teens & early 20s) in need of chilling out and family time and real Potugese culture/architecture.Chosen Olhao because it looks like a proper Portugese town rather than a touristy place. Is there anywhere that would be better or is Olhao the place to go?Many thanks in advance for any help!

    • Hi Melanie,

      Anywhere in the Algarve is always going to be somewhat touristy, but I think Olhão is a good choice. It’s very popular with the Portuguese as it’s known for great fish and seafood. It’s also close to Faro – you can even get the train there – which has a few cultural and architectural attractions.

        • Hi Angela,

          There is obviously a chance that you’ll get bad weather in December (it is winter after all) but generally it’s quite mild. You should hope for temperatures in the high teens. Even if it’s warm in the day, it can get cold in the evenings and indoors so be sure to bring at least one jumper and some trousers.

          Tavira is a beautiful little town and I’d definitely recommend visiting.

    • Hi Liz,

      There’ll definitely be enough bars and restaurants open for the five days that you’re there, but be aware that it is the off season. It won’t be like the summer time.

      As Algarve towns go, Albufeira is one of the best options for the winter time. It still gets a good number of visitors in the off season, and plenty of people live there as well.

    • It’s normally pretty mild in the Algarve in December, and you’ll see plenty of people in shorts and a t-shirts (especially in coastal towns like Albufeira and Carvoeiro). It’s definitely not going to be as hot as the summer months, but it’s usually warm enough for anyone visiting to have Christmas dinner outside.

      Of course, it is winter and you could get unlucky. There are no guarantees, but it’s worth a gamble.

      (I assume you mean the Algarve. The rest of Portugal, especially North of Lisbon, will be a cold colder and damper.)

  3. I have spent many Decembers in Eastern Algarve. I love everything but the bathrooms, if you are not careful you freeze your butt off! Coming from Denmark I sit outside every time the sun is shining – and it does a lot of shining. It’s poor bliss to have lunch in the sunshine in December. I bring along my own styrofoam toilet seat! and I am good. Going there again this year – I’ll spend December, January and February this winter season.

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