Christmas Traditions in Gothenburg, Berlin and Lisbon

Some of us prefer to spend every Christmas at home with our loved ones. Some of us enjoy going places to see what happens around the world during the festive season. Regardless of your preference, peep through the keyhole and catch a glimpse of Christmas in Gothenburg, Berlin and Lisbon.


At Christmastime, Gothenburg invites you to step into a Christmas fairytale at Liseberg amusement park, sing along with a Christmas tree and sample the traditional seafood.
The Swedish port city Gothenburg is one of the most popular Christmas destinations in Scandinavia, largely due to Liseberg amusement park that turns into an absolute Christmas fairytale in early December. You can go on carousel rides, watch ice ballet performances, visit a medieval village and hug the inhabitants of the rabbit village. Of course, there’s a Christmas market too, and Santa Claus himself is making the rounds and offering its visitors to whisper their deepest desires in his ear. If you’re into singing mood, you can go to Kungsportsplatsen and sing in unison with the Christmas tree. Yes, there is a singing tree in Gothenburg, and the locals often join it as choir traditions are still going strong in Sweden.

During the holidays, seafood in all its glory is served – the traditional gravad lax or salmon cured in sugar, salt and dill, pickled herring, prawns and crayfish. Many restaurants put julbord on their menus – it is essentially a buffet that serves the traditional Gothenburg Christmas dishes in various combinations. On a lazy holiday afternoon at a cosy cafe, order fika – coffee and a biscuit with a ginger, cinnamon or other Christmas flavour. If you’re here with your little ones, head to NK Östra Hamngatan to look at the store’s window displays. This year’s theme – what happens at the store once the employees and shoppers are gone, and all the toys, clothes, furniture and other objects can finally have some fun. Gothenburg is great because everything seems to be located within a walking distance, and there are loads of lovely boutiques selling unique things. Those who enjoy feeling regal, plan a visit to one of Gothenburg’s castles – Gunnebo, Tjolöholm or Nääs Slott – where you can stay the night and meet the Christmas ghosts.

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In Berlin, visit unusual Christmas markets, get stunned by the glowing plants at the Botanical garden and try to pass face control in the hottest clubs.
Berlin could certainly compete for the title of the European capital of Christmas markets if it existed. Those interested in a less traditional assortment of goods, try the little Bröhan museum Christmas market where locals sell their art, knitted items and many other things. Unusual design and art pieces, with electronic music playing in the background and scrumptious street food to munch on, can be found at the Weihnachtsrodeo market in Kühlhaus. Don’t skip Berlin’s department stores, as a large selection of exclusive sweets is available there at this time, which can usually only be found in specialty stores.

The Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden offers an absolutely mesmerizing experience around Christmas: its permanent residents – plants – are illuminated in a million colours, and gigantic Christmas-themed sculptures are placed all over the territory. And there’s an ice skating rink, too. If you’re crazy for Christmas lights now and crave some more, go for a romantic walk under the colourful tree branches on the boulevard Unter den Linden: 60 kilometres of Christmas lights were used to light it up. There are lots of buildings you can climb in Berlin, like the Reichstag, the TV tower or the Klunkerkranich bar in Neukölln, and take a look at the city from the top. A cosy holiday atmosphere will embrace you in Alexanderplatz, where in addition to the traditional mulled wine and duck or goose with sauerkraut you can ride the Ferris wheel or other carousels, and let yourself get scared in the haunted house. The Friedrichstadt-Palast show „The One” provides a very special experience in the winter season – more than 100 artists performing at the same time on the stage of the world’s largest theatre. Christmas is the perfect moment to get into the best clubs without having to queue forever, as most youngsters have left for their parents’ houses outside the city. The only things to do: dress as a Berliner (meaning, wear all black) and pass face control.

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The smell of roasted chestnuts, a soothing melancholy and a coin baked in the king’s cake for good luck are the key things that characterize Christmas in Lisbon.
If you don’t really want to spend Christmas wrapped in a scarf, hiding your frozen nose in it too, Lisbon is the place to go. You can enjoy all the Christmas traditions without layering up and risking overindulging in mulled wine while on a mission to warm up. Lisbon is the birthplace of nostalgia and melancholy, and these are the essential Christmas feelings. During the holiday season, the smell of roasted chestnuts lingers in the air, while in the city centre the largest Christmas tree in Europe stands tall and proud – it can reach the height of 80 metres. Do attend one of the Christmas concerts, for instance, at São Roque church that’s not far from Brasileira, the first store in Portugal that started selling Brazilian coffee. Around Christmas, the Portuguese like to feast on bacalhau or salted cod with cabbage or potatoes on the side. The traditional Portuguese Christmas dessert is bolo-rei or the king’s cake, made of dried fruit, nuts and port wine, named after the three wise men who visited Jesus just after his birth.

A whole broad bean and a coin are baked in the cake. Whoever finds the coin gets lucky, but the lucky finder of the broad bean gets to bake the cake the following year. They also like to nibble on tiny sweet balls or sonhos, which means a dream in Portuguese, and rabanadas with ovos moles (egg yolk with sugar) and ginjinha – a sweet and sour cherry liquor. For those travelling with children, we recommend Aldeia Natal at the Eduardo VII Park – a special holiday village where one can meet elves and other magical creatures, as well as Santa himself, called Pai Natal in Portugal.

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