“Largest nativity scene in Portugal” to be unveiled in VRSA

Nativity scene in VRSA is said to be largest in the country

It’s almost time for the unveiling of “Portugal’s largest nativity scene,” which every year attracts thousands of visitors to the Eastern Algarve town of Vila Real de Santo António.

Another record-breaking nativity scene has been put together this year, with an unprecedented 5,800 figures made from scratch decorating the local attraction.

Due to be unveiled on December 1, the 240sqm nativity scene will occupy the entire interior area of the António Aleixo Cultural Centre. 



All kinds of materials are used to put together the nativity scene, including over 20 tons of sand, four tons of stone dust, and 3,000 kilograms of cork.

Creating the nativity scene required 40 days and 2,500 hours of work, although preparations began several months ago. What sets this nativity scene apart from the crowd, aside from its size, are the animated and motorised pieces, lakes and lights which make it feel truly alive.

The 2023 nativity scene had a local twist, featuring local landmarks such as the Marquês de Pombal Square, the old beach huts of Monte Gordo, the salt pans, traditional Algarve water wheels and more.

But of course, the main focus is the reenactment of many Christian and pagan events and traditions associated with the Christmas season.



The novelty this year is the recreation of a Roman road, which will be highlighted throughout the structure.

Most of the materials used in the nativity scene are natural or have been reused, such as cork and moss. LED lighting systems have also been installed, and the water used in ornamental lakes is reused.

The VRSA nativity scene is created by Augusto Rosa, Teresa Marques, Joaquim Soares, and António Bartolomeu, employees of the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António.

It can be visited at the António Aleixo Cultural Centre from December 1, 2023, to January 7, 2024, from 10am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 7pm, with a few exceptions: December 24 and 21 (closes at 6pm); and January 1 (opens at 3pm).

Admission is €1 (50 cents for children aged under 10).

By Michael Bruxo

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