Guide to visiting Algarve in December and what to do in Algarve in December for an unforgettable trip
In the summer months, the Algarve is packed with tourists from all over Europe, but an Algarve December is much more relaxed.
Outside of the busiest season, it is easier to get to all of the things to do in Algarve in December.
Additionally, the weather in Algarve in winter has a pleasant average high of 17 degrees Centigrade.
With the perfect conditions to enjoy excellent cultural experiences, you will need to make sure that you plan a packed itinerary of the best things to do in Algarve, Portugal during December.
My list helps you to get started by introducing many fantastic options I’m sure you will love as you travel Portugal.
Pssst…!!?? You can’t get enough of Algarve? Have a look at my other posts:
- Best Places in Algarve You Must Visit
- Amazing 5-Star Hotels in Algarve, Portugal
- Where to Stay in Algarve in 2023 [12 Top Areas]
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Table of Contents
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Overview: Top 5 Things to Do in Algarve in December
- Have a Traditional Portuguese Christmas Dinner
- Explore the Caves in Carvoeiro
- Attend a Christmas Market
- Visit the Algarve Capital of Faro
- Go Out Horse Riding
1. Visit the Algarve Capital of Faro
Since 1756, the cultural capital of Algarve has been Faro, but the city is often overlooked on people’s list of things to do in Algarve in December.
This is a mistake, and I urge you to spend time in Faro and not just fly in and leave immediately as there are many fun things to do in Faro.
Instead, you can enjoy a tremendous day exploring the stunning old town, which will be much quieter than usual.
Make sure that you don’t miss the Cidade Velha, which is the historic gateway to the old town.
As with all of the Algarve, there is a risk of bad weather when you visit Faro in December.
To avoid getting wet, you might want to put some indoor activities on your Faro itinerary. Luckily, there is plenty to choose from, including the Faro Municipal Museum.
The second oldest museum in the Algarve features stunning artifacts from across Southern Portugal’s history, including archaeological remains from the prehistoric, Roman, and medieval periods.
2. Have a Traditional Portuguese Christmas Dinner
Christmas in Algarve isn’t complete unless you get the chance to enjoy the traditional Christmas food enjoyed by the Portuguese.
On Christmas Eve, the Portuguese enjoy Consoada. This dinner includes cod, boiled potatoes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, all soaked in plenty of olive oil.
Towards the North of Portugal, it becomes more common to enjoy octopus at Christmas. The octopus is usually boiled until soft, with plenty of olive oil and garlic cloves.
You can find this delicacy in some places for your December in Algarve.
If you decide to have a meal for your Algarve Christmas, you have a couple of options.
Firstly, you can make the meal yourself, using the local markets to pick up some delicious local produce.
Alternatively, you could have your Consoada in a restaurant, but make sure that you book in advance.
3. Attend a Christmas Market
The Christmas markets that pop up all over the Algarve in December are far too often overlooked because of the dominance of German Christmas markets.
However, the markets of the Algarve at Christmas are an unmissable hidden gem and one of the highlights of visiting Algarve in December.
Some markets follow German traditions, and these are usually located within Algarve’s luxury resorts.
The most famous is the Vila Vita Christmas market, which includes a Biergarten and a range of traditional German delicacies.
However, you can have a more authentic experience on your Algarve winter holidays if you find the markets locals are more likely to go to.
The Christmas Market at LiR Galeria Arte is the leading example, featuring locally made handicrafts and food products, which will allow you to get your family some brilliantly unique gifts.
4. Enjoy the Resort Town Albufeira
The most well-known resort town in the Algarve is Albufeira. Once a quiet fishing village, it has swelled to become one of Europe’s most popular tourist hotspots.
In the summer, this town is packed with tourists who love the beaches, resorts, the fantastic range of bars, and all the other fun things to do in Albufeira.
However, visiting Albufeira at Christmas will show you that there is so much more to do in the town than lounging on the beach.
Like Faro, Albufeira also has a magical historic old town where you can enjoy locally run restaurants and shops when you visit the Algarve in December.
This will make for a more relaxed way to do your Christmas shopping than the chaos of a Christmas market. Plus, you can access tremendous cultural experiences in Albufeira in December.
To learn about the town’s religious and cultural past before tourism, I recommend that you visit the Museu Municipal de Arqueologia and the Igreja Matriz de Albufeira.
5. Explore the Caves in Carvoeiro
The former fishing village Carvoeiro is infamous for its caves, and many strong swimmers swim out to them in the summer season.
This includes the iconic Benagil Caves, which is one of the top things to do in Algarve, and much more.
However, swimming out to them in winter is not a good idea as the sea will be very cold, and you might get into trouble unless you have a wetsuit.
Yet I still think that the caves of Carvoeiro are one of the essential things to do in Algarve in December because of the scores of boat tours that continue to go to the caves year-round.
With domed roofs, the way the light will come in at the end of the shorter days in the Algarve in December will be incredibly beautiful.
Be aware that you can expect rougher seas when you go to Algarve for Christmas. This means a boat tour to the Benagil caves won’t be a good idea if you get seasick.
6. Take a Cliff Walk in Sagres
The most south-westerly point in Europe is known for its towering cliffs and windswept landscape, and for being the most remote location in Portugal.
The landscape becomes even more spectacular if you visit during your trip to the Algarve in winter. With the weather becoming stormy, the seas will rise into giant waves.
Look out to the ocean to capture nature’s terrifying beauty when you go for a cliff walk. Ensure you bring waterproofs because the weather in this part of the world can get extreme.
On top of Sagres’ natural beauty, you will also be able to explore the man-made attractions in a much quieter environment.
You can see the fort, lighthouse, and fishing harbor at your own leisurely pace.
7. Go Out Horse Riding
Horse riding in the summer in the Algarve is an unpleasant experience for both you and the horse, struggling onwards under the relentless sun.
However, as the weather cools, horse riding becomes one of the primary things to do in Algarve in December.
You can find great riding centers located throughout the Algarve, particularly along the coast. Here, you can book a private or group experience, riding well-trained horses along the beaches and forest trails.
If you choose a guided tour, you can enjoy a guide’s undivided attention as they tell you all about the history and culture of the area.
8. Go For a Round of Golf
Golf is another activity popular year-round, but I think that it is amongst the best Algarve winter activities.
Golf has long been a hugely popular pastime in Algarve for tourists, locals, and expats alike.
In this area, there are some of the world’s best golf courses, perfectly maintained and with superb views over the ocean.
There are a few reasons why golfing in the winter in Algarve is better than in the summer. Again, you will be able to get active without roasting in the summer sun.
Moreover, the fantastic Algarve courses will be far quieter in the off-season. As a rookie golfer, you won’t have to worry about better players getting annoyed at having to wait for you to finish a hole.
Before you head out to a golf course during your trip to Algarve, Portugal, in December, make sure to check online if they are open during the off-season.
Most will be, but checking is the only way to avoid disappointment.
9. Visit Zoo De Lagos
The zoo is amongst the most popular things to do in Lagos, and it is a particularly strong choice of activity if you are visiting in December.
This zoo has one of the best collections of native and international species in Portugal.
They have over 140 species of animals to look at, including birds, mammals, reptiles, fishes, and amphibians. You can also enjoy the 200 botanical species.
December is the perfect time to take your children to Lagos Zoo. With fewer guests, they can watch the animals and participate in animal feedings in a much calmer setting.
Plus, even if the weather is bad, there are plenty of indoor attractions to enjoy while waiting for the bad weather to pass.
If you decide to visit the Lagos Zoo, make sure that you book online in advance. Doing so will get you a 2 euro discount on every ticket.
10. Sample Local Wines
The climate in Algarve is perfect for growing grapes, and the region produces distinctive wines.
The reds tend to be soft and easy to drink, while the less common whites are full-bodied and refreshing.
The quality and unique character of Algarve wines make tasting sessions amongst the best Algarve winter events.
A wine tasting is the best way to learn more about wines in the region. You will get to know how the grapes grow over the course of the year.
Then, you will discover the complex winemaking process that makes Algarve wine unique.
After discovering the winemaking process, you get to the fun part: tasting.
The guide will help you to understand what to look for when you are tasting the wine, and you can gain a deeper understanding of the drink.
Visiting in the winter should guarantee you a smaller group, so you will be able to ask the guide more questions.
You will usually get a chance to buy your favorite wines at the end of the tour.
Use this opportunity to do any last-minute Christmas shopping before you head home, or simply treat yourself at the end of your holiday.
11. Go Cycling
Cycling is one of the best things to do in Algarve in December for both seasoned and novice riders. Despite being one of Portugal’s smaller regions, it offers a good variety of landscapes.
Along the coast, you will find a flat and rolling landscape that is very accessible for new riders. As you go inland, the hills begin to rise up steeply, posing a serious challenge.
This is the reason that some of the world’s best cyclists, including Julian Alaphillipe, choose the Algarve for their training.
The roads in Algarve also make for highly pleasant riding in the winter months. While the coastal roads are too busy in summer, they get much quieter as the winter months approach.
As you move inland to the north along the N125 and A22 highways, the roads get way quieter. Riding in the hills will often be car-free.
Meanwhile, December is the perfect month to go cycling because of the cooler weather.
This means that you won’t roast and risk heatstroke climbing the big hills inland, and you won’t have to weave around tourists when riding on the coast.
12. Hike at Praia da Marinha
With some of the most stunning coastlines in the world, you will find plenty of options for hiking in the Algarve whenever you visit.
However, as winter comes and the beaches get quieter, spots that were previously for relaxation only become accessible for hikers.
Praia da Marinha, one of the most famous beaches in Algarve, is one such example.
Next to the stunning turquoise waters are majestic cliffs and arches that can only be truly explored by taking your time to walk amongst them.
Having witnessed these natural beauties created by wind and rain erosion, you can start on Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos (Seven Hanging Valley).
This is an incredible 7km coastal footpath that takes you up onto the cliffs. Make sure to look out for The Arcos Naturalis, sometimes called the “Heart of Algarve”, which is a fantastic double arch.
13. Visit “A Christmas Dream” in Portimão
Plenty of the Algarve December events will help get you and your children in the Christmas spirit, including “A Christmas Dream” in Portimão.
The whole event starts with Santa and his elves arriving on a sleigh and turning on the Christmas lights. This precedes a whole month of magic in the town put on by the local council.
Aimed at children, there is a huge amount to see and do, including an ice rink, Christmas train, Christmas market, life-sized Christmas crib, and Santa’s House.
Each day also features festive performances put on by local people making it one of the most fun things to do in Algarve Portugal in December.
Make sure to check the itinerary online so that you don’t miss out on any that you know your children will love.
While you’re here, be sure to enjoy all the other amazing things to do in Portimao.
14. Visit a Tavira Christmas Fair
The Christmas fairs are amongst the essential things to do in Tavira in December.
These events are run multiple times throughout December and are held at Jardim das Palmeiras.
The main feature of the fair is a brilliant market with local produce. Every time you spend money there, you will be put into a raffle with the chance to win vouchers to further bolster your Christmas shopping.
You will also never be short of entertainment at this event in Algarve at Christmas. Musical performances are held at Mercado da Ribeira throughout December.
Book the best tours around Tavira
15. End with a New Year’s Party
The things to do in Algarve in December don’t run out until the end of the month because of the huge amount of partying opportunities available on New Year’s Eve.
You can find officially organized fireworks displays in all the big towns in the Algarve, including Faro, Quarteira, and Portimão.
Before you see the fireworks, make sure that you enjoy a traditional Portuguese New Year’s meal. This includes a minimum of three courses and the Bolo-Rei fruit cake.
One slide of the cake contains a broad bean, and according to tradition, whoever’s slice has the broad bean pays for the cake the following year.
The traditions carry on right until the New Year is ushered in.
When you are counting down to midnight, it is tradition to eat 12 raisins, one for each month of the year, washed down with a large glass of champagne.
Alternatively, Lisbon and Porto have world-renowned New Year’s parties of a truly impressive scale.
However, you won’t have any chance of traveling to and from these cities in a single night, so you will need to organize a couple of nights’ stay there.
As my guide has shown, there is a huge amount of things to do in the Algarve in December.
This includes events that are specific to December festivities and year-round activities that are more enjoyable in the off-season.
When planning your trip, make sure that you consult my list of things to do in Algarve in December and pick those that are most suited to you and where you would like to stay.
FAQs About things to do in Algarve in December
Is it worth going to Algarve in December?
Absolutely! Algarve in December is a great time to visit if you want to enjoy the festive holiday season in warmer weather.
Are things open in Algarve in December?
Although the winter months are quieter and not everything is open, there are still many shops, restaurants and sites open in December in Algarve.
Can you swim in Algarve in December?
Legally, yes, you can swim, but test the waters before you dive in. The water temperature in Algarve does stay relatively warm year-round but can get a bit too uncomfortably chilly in the winter months for some people.
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries. Consider trying some of these eco-friendly vegan hiking boots.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case. Pack smart with these organic cotton clothing companies.
- Be environmentally friendly and get one of these awesome backpacks made from recycled materials.
- Get in the mindset with these amazing wilderness survival books.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel is protected against all odds with HeyMondo.
Hola! I am Paulina, a fervent travelette who crossed the Atlantic Ocean by Boat HitchHiking. On my blog, I help you to make the most of your holiday. Get ready to enjoy outdoor and sustainable travel like hiking, cycling or sailing. Let’s hit the road!