Barcelos at Christmas

Visit Portugal in Christmas and take in this unparalleled atmosphere

Updated On: February 26, 2024 by   Ahmed SamirAhmed Samir

Wherever you choose to go for Christmas, Portugal is bound not to disappoint especially if you decide to explore Barcelos. Barcelos, a picturesque town in the heart of Portugal, comes alive with enchantment during the festive season. As the Christmas lights twinkle, the scent of chestnuts roasting fills the air, and the town’s historic streets are adorned with festive decorations, the town becomes a truly magical place to spend the holidays. In this article, we will explore the unique traditions, delightful cuisine, and charming atmosphere that make spending Christmas in the town a memorable and heartwarming experience.

The Essence of Christmas in Barcelos

Barcelos at Christmas
Barcelos Town

Christmas in Barcelos is when tradition and modernity come together to create a unique holiday atmosphere. The town beautifully balances the age-old customs with contemporary celebrations, making it an appealing destination for visitors seeking an authentic Christmas experience.

Festive Decorations

One of the most captivating aspects of Christmas in Barcelos is the town’s enchanting decorations. Streets are adorned with twinkling lights, colourful ornaments, and nativity scenes that transport you to a winter wonderland. The central square, Praça de Pontevedra, hosts a grand Christmas tree that is beautifully illuminated, becoming the focal point for festive gatherings.

Traditional Markets

During the Christmas season, the town hosts a variety of traditional markets, including the Feira de Natal (Christmas Market) and the Feira dos Pinheiros (Pine Tree Market). These markets offer an array of handmade crafts, locally produced goods, and delicious seasonal treats. It’s the perfect place to find unique gifts for loved ones and savour the local flavours.

Caroling and Music

Barcelos is known for its love of music and song. Carolers fill the streets with musical tunes throughout Christmas, adding to the festive ambience. Local choirs and musicians often perform in churches and public spaces, creating a harmonious backdrop to the holiday celebrations.

Midnight Mass

Christmas Eve is a deeply religious occasion in Portugal, and attending midnight Mass is a cherished tradition for many locals. The Igreja Matriz de Barcelos, the town’s main church, hosts a solemn and beautiful service, welcoming residents and visitors to partake in this meaningful experience.

Lighting of the Yule Log

The lighting of the Yule log, or Cepo de Natal, is a symbolic moment in Portuguese Christmas celebrations. Families gather around the record, traditionally made from a large piece of wood, and light it with a piece of the previous year’s log. This ritual signifies the passing of light, warmth, and hope from one year to the next.

Traditional Cuisine

Christmas in Barcelos is when family and friends share hearty and delicious meals. Portuguese cuisine is known for its rich flavours and use of seasonal ingredients, and the holiday season is no exception. Some of the traditional Christmas dishes you must try include:

Bacalhau com Todos

Bacalhau, or salted codfish, is a staple of Portuguese cuisine. Bacalhau com Todos is a festive dish served on Christmas Day. It consists of codfish served with various boiled vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, all drizzled with olive oil and accompanied by hard-boiled eggs.


Rabanadas are a Portuguese version of French toast but with a delightful twist. Slices of bread are soaked in milk, sugar, and eggs, then fried until golden brown. They are often dusted with cinnamon and sugar, making them a sweet and satisfying Christmas treat.

Bolo Rei

Bolo Rei, or “King Cake,” is a traditional Christmas dessert in Portugal. This ring-shaped fruitcake is studded with candied fruits and nuts, representing the jewels in a crown. It’s often served as a centrepiece at holiday gatherings and is best enjoyed with a warm cup of tea or coffee.

Vinho do Porto

Portuguese Christmas celebration is only complete with a glass of Vinho do Porto, or Port wine. This sweet fortified wine pairs perfectly with the rich flavours of Christmas dishes and is often enjoyed as an aperitif or dessert wine.

Unique Traditions

The town boasts unique Christmas traditions that set it apart from other holiday destinations.

The Rooster of Barcelos

The Rooster of Barcelos, or “Galo de Barcelos,” symbolises good luck and is intricately tied to the town’s identity. During Christmas, decorations and ornaments feature this iconic rooster, believed to bring prosperity and protection from evil spirits.

Epiphany Celebrations

The Epiphany, known as “Dia de Reis,” is celebrated enthusiastically in Portugal. On 6 January, it’s customary for children to go door-to-door singing carols and collecting sweets and coins. Many families also host “Reis” parties, where the Bolo Rei is traditionally served, marking the end of the Christmas season.

The Legend of the Cockerel

The Rooster of Barcelos is not just a symbol but also the subject of a fascinating legend. It tells the story of a Galician pilgrim who was wrongly accused of theft and faced execution. He pleaded for a meeting with the judge and was granted one. Before leaving for the judge’s house, he saw a cockerel on the judge’s dinner table and promised to return to the town to save the judge from eating the tainted bird. The pilgrim eventually returned to the town and held the judge, and the rooster became a symbol of honesty, justice, and good fortune.

Top Attractions in Visit in Barcelos

Barcelos is known for its rich cultural heritage, traditional crafts, and beautiful landscapes. If you’re planning a visit to the town, you should take advantage of several attractions and points of interest. Here are some of the top attractions to visit in Barcelos:

  • Praça da República (Republic Square)

Start your exploration of Barcelos in the heart of the town at Praça da República. Charming cafes, historic buildings, and the Town Hall surround this central square. It’s a great place to soak up the local atmosphere and enjoy a coffee or a meal.

  • Igreja Matriz de Barcelos

This impressive church, also known as the Church of Santa Maria Maior, is a significant religious and architectural landmark in the town. Its Gothic and Baroque elements make it a must-visit for history and architecture enthusiasts.

  • Museu de Olaria (Pottery Museum)

Barcelos is renowned for its pottery and ceramic artistry. The Museu de Olaria is dedicated to showcasing the town’s pottery traditions and houses an impressive collection of ceramics, including beautifully crafted azulejos (ceramic tiles).

  • Feira de Barcelos (Barcelos Market)

The weekly Thursday market in the town is one of the most famous in Portugal. You can find many goods here, from local crafts and traditional Portuguese products to fresh produce. It’s a lively and colourful market that provides insight into local life and culture.

  • Ponte Medieval de Barcelos (Medieval Bridge of Barcelos)

This charming medieval bridge spans the Cávado River and is one of the town’s iconic landmarks. It offers picturesque views of the river and surrounding countryside, making it an excellent spot for a leisurely walk and photos.

  • Torre do Cimo de Vila (Cimo de Vila Tower)

This historic tower, the Castle Tower, is a remnant of Barcelos’ medieval defensive fortifications. While the castle no longer stands, the tower has been preserved, giving visitors a glimpse into the town’s medieval past.

  • Museu Arqueológico de Barcelos (Barcelos Archaeological Museum)

For those interested in archaeology and history, this museum offers a fascinating collection of artefacts from the region’s past, including Roman and medieval relics.

  • Parque da Cidade (City Park)

Barcelos’ City Park is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a relaxing outdoor space. It features green lawns, walking paths, and a small lake, making it ideal for a leisurely stroll or picnic.

  • Palácio dos Condes de Barcelos (Palace of the Counts of Barcelos)

While not open to the public, the exterior of this Renaissance-style palace is worth admiring. It’s an impressive architectural gem that adds to the town’s historic charm.

  • Hiking and Nature

Beautiful natural landscapes, including hills, rivers, and forests surround the town. There are numerous hiking trails and outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts to enjoy. Consider exploring the nearby Peneda-Gerês National Park for more adventurous outings.

These attractions offer a taste of the rich history, culture, and natural beauty of the town. Whether you’re interested in history or art or simply want to enjoy the relaxed pace of a charming Portuguese town has something to offer every traveller.


Christmas in Barcelos is a delightful blend of tradition and festivity, creating an enchanting atmosphere that captivates visitors worldwide. From the stunning decorations and unique traditions to the mouthwatering cuisine, the town offers a truly magical holiday experience. Whether you’re seeking a religious pilgrimage, a culinary adventure, or simply a charming destination to celebrate Christmas with loved ones, the town is a place where the spirit of the season comes alive in an extraordinary way. Make this Christmas season memorable by experiencing the warmth and wonder of Barcelos, Portugal.


How can I get to Barcelos from Porto?

Barcelos is conveniently located about 40 kilometres northwest of Porto. You can reach Barcelos by train or bus from Porto, making it an easy day trip or a short journey.

Are there any special events or festivals in Barcelos that I should be aware of?

Yes, the town hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, including the Feira de Barcelos (Barcelos Market) on Thursdays and the lively Carnival celebrations in February. The town also has religious processions and traditional festivities during Easter and Christmas.

Are there any guided tours or tourist information centers in Barcelos?

Yes, there are guided tours available in Barcelos, and you can find helpful information at the local tourist information centre, often located in the town centre. These resources can assist you in planning your visit and learning more about the town’s attractions.