What to do during Christmas Holidays in Porto?
The Christmas holiday season is around the corner, and if you are planning a visit to Porto during the holidays, keep reading! We gathered 9 foodie tips to help you catch the Christmas spirit while staying in our beloved city.
Like most of Portugal, in Porto and the north, the Christmas holidays are dedicated to our families and loved ones. It all starts on Christmas Eve with a ‘Consoada‘ aka Christmas Dinner, where all the family gathers around a carefully dressed Christmas table and enjoys and easily three to four hour dining experience. What we put on our Christmas dinner tables? To have an idea, see The food and wine of Christmas in the North of Portugal article.
Christmas in Portugal is defiantly about families and food, yet it is also about so much more, like creating long lasting memories, caring and sharing the time with loved ones. Below you will find our foodie recommendations for Christmas in Porto.
1.Participate in or organize a Consoada – Christmas Dinner
If you happen to be invited for a Consoada traditonal Portuguese Christmas dinner at someones home – go! If not, do not worry, as on the night of December 24th there will still be some restaurants open to gather your friends and travel buddies to organize your own dinner. You can expect the restaurants to have a special Christmas menu for you to enjoy our traditional food. Many hotels will also offer special Christmas dinner activities, so check with yours too!
2. Eat Bacalhau
Our Christmas is not imaginable without eating at least one dish with cod fish, aka bacalhau. When here, you will see that we love it a lot! Not only do we have more than 100 ways of cooking it, some of us could eat it every single day. Traditionally on Christmas tables for dinner or next day lunch you will see bolinhos de bacalhau, bacalhau a bras or bacalhau com natas. Try it and let us know which of the bacalhau dishes was your favorite.
3. Visit the Christmas markets, sample local foods and wines
Starting as early as by end of November many Christmas markets will open their doors, some taking place the whole month of December while others happening on certain weekends. Different events will liven up the streets, squares, and other spaces of our beloved Porto. These markets are not only great place to find special gifts for your loved ones, but also to enjoy performances and taste our regional food and wine, usually coming from small local producers.
Below are couple markets for Christmas 2018 to get started with. When you arrive in Porto, also check at the closest tourist information center and you`ll get a list with the other ones taking place at that particular moment.
On Dec 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th starting at 10am you will find Mercado do Alegria taking place at Jardim do Passeio Alegre.
For all the wine lovers, on Dec 1st and 2nd Yeatman hotel is hosting Christmas Wine Experience 2018. A unique event where you will be have the opportunity to discover more than 200 Portuguese wines. Additionally, a Bazar do Natal (Christmas market) will take place too.
4. Enjoy the Christmas lights
Like many other European cities, Porto is no exception on decorating its streets. Starting already at the beginning of December the streets will proudly carry the Christmas lights till the first week of January. Be sure to go for a nighty walk before or after the dinner to see what city has to offer. Some of the neightbourhoods to visit are Praça Batalha, Avenida Dom Alfanso Henriques, and the streets of Bolhão, Alegria, Damião de Góis, Oliveira Monteiro and Loureiro. You might also end up your walk at the Galerias area for a glass of wine, cocktail or some Port.
5. Enjoy Roasted Chestnuts
Starting from beginning of October streets of Porto gets filled with smoke and smell of roasted chestnuts. You can easily come across sellers on many corners pf the city. Traditionally, the celebration of Sao Martinho – a weekend of sun in November – is unimaginable without eating chestnuts. We love them so much, that we keep eating them until Christmas. So don’t pass by the vendors of chestnuts, but stop by and taste some! It is perfect as an afternoon snack.
6. Taste or Make Rabanadas
Like we cannot imagine Christmas without Bacalhau, we also cannot imagine it without various desserts served during the holiday season. One of most typical deserts, that can be easily eaten also during the breakfast is Rabanada. In the winter months it also becomes available at many Cafés, just ask the staff for one Rabanada.
It actually is so easy to make, that here is a quick recipe on how you can master our traditional dish.
- 2 loaves of sturdy bread, sliced up in 1/2 inch thick pieces
- 12 eggs
- 3 litres of milk
- 12 tablespoons of sugar
- Additional 500g of sugar for coating
- the peels of 4 lemons
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- Additional 200g of powdered cinnamon
- 2 litres of oil for frying
- Let the bread sit out for 2 days before until it is hard – this helps to ensure it doesn’t fall apart during the soaking and cooking
- In a pot, warm the milk with the sugar, lemon peels and cinnamon sticks on the stovetop over low heat
- Scramble the eggs in a bowl
- Warm the oil in a deep pan
- Mix the additional sugar and ground cinnamon together in a bowl
- With tongs, place the bread into the milk mix, allowing the bread to coat and soak a bit
- With tongs, pick up the bread, allowing the extra to run off before placing it into the eggs
- Again, let the extra run off before placing the bread into the oil
- Allowing the bread to fry until golden brown on each side, flipping just once
- Using other tongs, remove the bread and place it in the sugar and cinnamon mix
- Coat well with the mix before placing in a deep pot with a lid for storing
- Enjoy right away or, even better, the next day when all the juices have had the chance to soak and create a delicious syrup. It is even good up to three days.
Expert tip: Don’t do this alone! Gather your friends and family for an assembly line approach and you will be truly embracing the Portuguese way!
7. Receive, Give or Taste Licor Beirão
While Porto is defiantly known for its Port wines, there are other traditional drinks, that one should try at least once, like Licor Beirão. We would drink it as an aperative or also after a desert. What else is so special about this drink, last year for Christmas season Licor Beirão surprised everyone with their social-good campaign. They encouraged people to exchange Christmas presents for a bottle of the well-known Beirão. All the presents were donated to organizations in need, making the Christmas special for so many in need.
8. Try Bolo Rei (King Cake)
A cake that is made in the shape of a crown, filled and decorated with dry and crystallized fruits. Traditionally we eat it on Christmas and also on King’s Day, the 6th of January. Older traditions dictate that the chef hides inside the cake a broad bean. The lucky one who ends up with the slice containing the broad bean is the one who should provide the next cake. So eat your slice carefully!
9. Come join us on a Food & Wine Tour
Last but not least, a perfect start of your Christmas holidays is joining one of our Food Tours. Lead by a passionate local guide you will discover what locals eat, visit off the beaten path eateries, try our traditional food, and that is not all! You will also learn about history, culture and architecture of our beloved Porto. After the tour our guide will also be happy to help with other recommendations for you to enjoy the Christmas holidays. Are you in?
Merry Christmas & Enjoy the Holiday season!
Taste Porto Foodie Team