Spending Winter in the Eastern Algarve: Here are Some Ideas to Entertain you

Portugal’s Eastern Algarve may bring to mind sunshine and sea, but it’s also a great place in the winter. Here are some ideas of things to do, especially with the festive season in mind.

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“Winter in Portugal” may not make you think of mulled wine and snow like Christmas in New York or London, but it’s a very pleasant place to spend the festive season, and the rest of the winter.

Focussing on the Eastern Algarve, between Faro and the Spanish border, we have five “must do” activities for this time of year – some for the sunny days, and others that will work whatever the weather.

Christmas in Vila Real de Santo Antonio

Of all the Eastern Algarve towns, the border town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio is probably the one that does Christmas best of all. 

The highlight is an enormous indoor nativity scene in the town hall, consisting of thousands of figurines and features in unbelievably intricate detail.

There’s also a small Christmas market in the café-lined town square, along with visits from Santa, and an ice-skating rink. There are also various musical performances, details of which will be available on billboards or in local papers.

A Trip over to Spain

Winter is as good a time as any to take advantage of the Eastern Algarve’s close proximity to Spain. Ayamonte, the Portuguese border town, is a pleasant place to spend time, and you can enjoy tapas in the sun on one of the numerous squares, assuming you’re fortunate with the weather.

Even if the climate is not on your side, a trip to Spain is still worthwhile in order to stock up on some local treats. If you’re visiting in the run up to Christmas, you’ll find the supermarkets filled with sweet and temping turron in a bewildering range of varieties, not to mention inexpensive local sherry.

As an extra insider tip, if you’re on the hunt for parsnips and sprouts and not finding them in Portugal, you may get lucky in a Spanish supermarket!

Christmas on the Beach

Christmas Eve is the main time of celebration for Portuguese families, with a big meal and gifts exchanged at midnight. 

Many families follow this, weather permitting, with a trip to the beach on Christmas Day. If the sun is shining, you can enjoy the rather surreal experience of following Christmas lunch with a paddle in the sea.

Cacela Velha

Cacela Velha, a picture-postcard old town between Tavira and the Spanish border, is always a popular stop-off place for tourists, but it’s not ignored by locals either, especially on warm winter days. 

The cliff top views from here are arguably the most stunning in the whole of the Eastern Algarve, and there are a couple of cafes and restaurants in which to pass the time. There’s also a fantastic artisan Christmas market here in mid-December – you’ll need to check the local press to find out exactly when it is.

New Year in Tavira

While Vila Real de Santo Antonio excels at Christmas, Tavira really comes up trumps when it comes to New Year.

New Year’s Eve is obviously the main event, culminating in a huge fireworks display, but the celebrations go on for about three days, complete with live music on the town square by the “Roman” bridge. 

While Tavira fits the bill perfectly for family entertainment, the young and energetic may instead want to head to Monte Gordo, where the celebrations are more about capirinhas and dubstep than chestnuts and fireworks!


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