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.
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.
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, Quarteira, Portimão, 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.