On the Calendar


Cantar as Janeiras. In many parts of Portugal it is still common to Cantar as Janeiras—sing January in. From January 1 to 6 groups of friends go door to door, proclaiming Jesus's birth and wishing their listeners a happy new year. This is often accompanied by traditional instruments. (Originally it was done in the hope householders might hand out Christmas leftovers.)

Feira do Fumeiro. The Feira do Fumeiro, a celebration of smoked and cured sausages and hams in the village of Montalegre in Trás-os-Montes, is a major gastronomic event in northern Portugal and draws thousands of visitors in January every year. A similar event in the same region takes place in February in Vinhais, the self-proclaimed capital do fumeiro.


Carnaval. The final festival before Lent, Carnaval is held throughout the country, with processions of masked participants, parades of decorated vehicles, and displays of flowers. Nowadays it is influenced by the wilder Brazilian celebrations; the most genuinely Portuguese events are held in Ovar, Nazaré, Loulé, and Portimão, though there's a big one near Lisbon at Torres Vedras.

Feira do Queijo do Alentejo. One of Portugal's most prized cheeses comes from Serpa, a charming walled city in Baixo Alentejo, which hosts the country's biggest cheese festival each February. There are cheese-making demonstrations, sheep shearing and milking, and street dances with choral performances.


Essência do Vinho. Portugal's biggest wine showcase is Essência do Vinho, with thousands flocking to the Palácio da Bolsa in Porto, the city's old stock exchange, to sample the products of vineyards around the country. Check the website for wine events throughout the country all year. www.essenciadovinho.com.


Semana Santa. Festivities for Semana Santa are held in Braga, Ovar, Póvoa de Varzim, and other cities and major towns, with the most important events taking place on Monday, Thursday, and Good Friday. Easter also marks the start of the bullfighting season and—outside Lisbon's Campo Pequeno arena at any rate—protests by animal rights groups.


Peixe em Lisboa. Lisbon's biggest gastronomic event, Peixe em Lisboa, or Lisbon Fish and Flavors as it's called in English, features top Portuguese and foreign chefs, who set up food stalls and do cooking demonstrations and talks. It's usually held in the second week of April; check the website for specific dates and venues. www.peixemlisboa.com.

25 de Abril. The anniversary of the 1974 Carnation Revolution (actually an almost-bloodless coup) that brought down a dictatorship of four decades in Portugal is known simply as 25 de Abril.


Festas das Cruzes. Legend has it that, in the early 16th century, a peasant who insisted on working on the Day of the Holy Cross saw a perfumed, luminous cross appear on the ground where he was digging. Ever since, in late April or early May, Barcelos has held the colorful Festas das Cruzes, with a large fair, concerts, an affecting procession, and a fireworks display on the Rio Cávado.

Peregrinação de Fátima. Every May, thousands make the pilgrimage to the town of Fátima from all over the world to commemorate the first apparition of the Virgin to the shepherd children on May 13, 1917. These are repeated monthly through October 13, the anniversary of the last vision. www.fatima.pt.

Estoril Open. Portugal's biggest and most famous tennis tournament, the Estoril Open—currently sponsored by the Millennium BCP bank— takes place on the clay court at the Clube de Ténis do Estoril. The tournament usually draws one or two top international players, and some up-and-coming Iberian stars. It usually falls in the last week of April, or first week in May. www.millenniumestorilopen.com.

Rock in Rio Lisboa. Late May sees the start of the music festival season: in even years Rock in Rio Lisboa (the events were initially held in Rio de Janeiro before crossing the Atlantic) is first off the blocks with its family-friendly layout and predominately mainstream fare. Portugal's growing number of rock fests are a great place to see your favorite bands—tickets are cheaper than for events in most of Europe and generally mud-free. rockinriolisboa.sapo.pt.


Festa de São Gonçalo. Amarante hosts the fertility-focused Festa de São Gonçalo, when St. Gonçalo (a locally born priest) is commemorated by the baking of phallus-shape cakes, which are then exchanged between unmarried men and women. Events also include a fair, folk dancing, and traditional singing.

Festa de Santo António. This festival is the first of June's Festas Populares, and the biggest party of the year in Lisbon (and a number of other towns around the country). On June 12, trestle tables are set up in the city's traditional neighborhoods (and some modern ones), colorful flags are strewn overhead, and grilled sardines and sangria are served. Throughout the month, there are free concerts and other events around town, and the streets of the Bairro Alto throng with revelers dancing to pimba (Portuguese pop music) through the night. www.festasdelisboa.com.

Festa de São João. This festival is especially colorful in Porto, where the whole city erupts with bonfires and barbecues and every neighborhood has its own baile (open-air dancing). Locals roam the streets, hitting passersby on the head with, among other things, plastic hammers.

Festival de Sintra. One of Portugal's longest-running annual cultural events, the Festival de Sintra includes classical music and ballet performances by international and Portuguese groups. festivaldesintra.pt.


Festival Estoril Lisboa. This music festival in June or July includes concerts by leading Portuguese and foreign artists in several towns along the Estoril Coast, with an emphasis on performers from Mediterranean countries. www.festorilisbon.com.

Festa dos Tabuleiros. Every four years, Tomar hosts the spectacular Festa dos Tabuleiros in which young women march through town with trays on their heads piled absurdly high with bread and flowers. That main parade is on the second Sunday of the month; there are plenty of lesser but still spectacular events in the week preceding it. www.tabuleiros.org.

NOS Alive. The biggest of Portugal's outdoor summer rock festivals, NOS Alive is held in Lisbon's riverside Algés district with a lineup that spans the musical spectrum, from indie rock to electronica. It's held over three days, and revelers can enjoy mud-free camping or buy day tickets and retreat to the comfort of a hotel bed at night. With impressive lineups each year, NOS Alive is often cited as one of Europe's best (and sunniest) music fests. nosalive.com.


Festas da Nossa Senhora da Agonia. In mid-August every year, the Festas da Nossa Senhora da Agonia, at Viana do Castelo, is just one of myriad summer events in the Minho Province that features processions, folk music and dancing, greasy pastries, and fireworks. Usually held a week later, the Festa da Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in Lamego is a similar party. www.vianafestas.com.

Festas da Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem. In the Festas da Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, at Peniche, locals organize processions on land and sea in honor of the patron saints they hope will keep fishermen safe. It's celebrated on the first Sunday of August.

Festival Sudoeste. Another of Portugal's major outdoor music events, Festival Sudoeste is held near the otherwise-sleepy town of Zambujeiro on the Alentejo coast in the first full week of August. Expect up to five days of rock concerts and dance music, with top national and international names. www.sudoeste.meo.pt.


Festa das Vindimas de Palmela. This festival in the historic town of Palmela, near Lisbon, has a symbolic treading of the grapes and a blessing of the harvest, accompanied by a parade of harvesters, wine tastings, the election of the Queen of the Wine, and fireworks. www.festadasvindimas.org.

Queer Lisboa. In Lisbon, an active film festival season kicks off after the summer holidays with Queer Lisboa, one of the leading gay and lesbian events of its kind in Europe, in late September. The months that follow see showcases and competitive events focusing on genres from documentaries to horror movies. queerlisboa.pt/en.


Festival Nacional de Gastronomia. This festival in Santarém—the largest of its kind in Portugal—consists of cooking contests, lectures, and the preparation (and consumption) of traditional regional dishes. It takes place from late October to early November. www.festivalnacionaldegastronomia.pt.


Festa de São Martinho. On November 11, the Festa de São Martinho is celebrated above all by magustos—tastings of the first barrels of the year's new wine, accompanied by roasted chestnuts. Celebrations, sometimes called the Festa da Castanha or Festa do Castanheiro (chestnut festival), are held in villages across the country. One of the most famous ones is in Marvão, in Alto Alentejo.

Feira Nacional do Cavalo. This festival in Golegã, in the Ribatejo region, combines parades of saddle and bullfighting horses with riding competitions, handicrafts exhibitions, and wine tastings in the first week and a half of November. fnc.cm-golega.pt.


Festa dos Rapazes. The remote Trás-os-Montes region unsurprisingly retains some of Portugal's most ancient pagan traditions. The Festa dos Rapazes in the villages around Bragança is one example; in the period between Christmas and the Noite dos Reis (the night of January 5) young people dress up in straw costumes to scare each other.

Previous Experience

Lisbon to Porto

Next Experience

Portugal If You Like

Find a Hotel


Fodor's Essential Portugal

View Details