There are many, many festivals all around Portugal throughout the year. The Portuguese love to party and have fun! Here is a list of some of the most interesting ones of country’s celebrations.
Festa dos Rapazes – a very alternative Portuguese Christmas up north. If you’re in Portugal around Christmas time but holiday cheer is really not your thing you may want to give this festival a try. Festa dos Rapazes takes place in several villages in the district of Bragança every year from 24th to 26th December (in a few cases on 6th January). If you can’t make it for the celebrations, you can see the costumes at the mask museum in Bragança. Every house in the village is visited by a group of boys wearing masks and special costumes made from heavy woollen quilts. They remain anonymous the whole time, while playing pranks and trying to scare everyone (but mostly children and young women). Although these celebrations are associated today with St Stephen, they’re pre-Christian in origin and are linked to centuries-old coming of age rituals.
Carnaval. The Carnaval ranks among the world’s most unforgettable parties. Not as well-known as its Caribbean or Brazilian counterparts, the Carnaval in Portugal is still very famous. This festival is celebrated by different communities in different ways with the one in Lisbon’s Parque Nacoes in the beginning of May being the biggest. The street parades along with the theatrical performances fill the area; costumes, floats and masks are also a part of this festival. Carnaval in Algarve is a treat to the eyes, as they sail the minutely designed traditional Portuguese boats by the coastline to celebrate the festival.
São João Festival in Porto. Taking place just 11 days after the party in honor of the Lisbon’s Santo António, São João (St. John) is arguably one of the best and largest street parties in Europe. June 23rd is the favorite night of the year for locals and likely for you too! The entire historical center of Porto comes alive with music concerts, street food stalls, improvised grill restaurants, sardines, beers and unique traditions. One of the highlights of this tradition is to hit everyone over the head with plastic hammers and fresh leeks. For the ones who can last, the party ends with a massive beach party in Foz.
Medieval Market in Óbidos. One of the most well-preserved medieval villages in Portugal, surrounded by a millennium-old wall, Óbidos is a must-go destination by itself. However it’s during the Mercado Medieval (Medieval Market) that the small town can be experienced from an even more unique perspective. During several weeks in July and August, the town goes back in time. Hundreds of actors and extras wander the cobbled streets of Óbidos dressed up as medieval musicians, noblemen and jugglers. There are also medieval-themed dinners, jousting tournaments and a huge market selling everything from typical food to clothes and handicrafts.
MEO Sudoeste in Zambujeira do Mar. There is no shortage of great music festivals happening in the summer in Portugal. Top-notch bands and artists go every year to NOS Alive and Super Bock Super Rock in Lisbon or Primavera Sound in Porto. At the beginning of August, get into party mode in the quaint Atlantic village of Zambujeira do Mar. Only the biggest names in the electronic, pop and indie music scenes come here for 5 days of beach during the day and parties at night. MEO Sudoeste is more than just a festival – it's a perfect excuse to explore the underrated and wild Alentejo coast.
FIESA Sand Festival in Algarve. Occupying an area of 15,000 square meters, FIESA is the largest sand sculptures festival in the entire world. Skilful artists of many nationalities come to the town of Pêra in Algarve to showcase their massive and incredibly detailed works of art during a period of months. Apart from a varied cultural program featuring circus acts, dance performances and live music, FIESA also includes an area where everyone can try building their own sand sculptures. Definitely a unique experience for both kids and grown-ups that can enrich your beach vacations in sunny Algarve!
Braga Romana in Northern Portugal. Every year in May, the beautiful city of Braga is transformed for the Braga Romana festival, a special event that involves museums and archaeological sites as well as street entertainment. Puppet shows, historical reenactments, live music, street performances and plenty of food and handicrafts stalls are also some of the most common attractions. Braga Romana also attempts to recreate the many aspects of daily life in the Roman city of Bracara Augusta, which means you get to watch artisans at work and interact with them. Highlights include the famous Roman fish processing methods and the making of garum fish sauce, which Romans used to season virtually everything.
Iberian Mask Festival. This is definitely one of the best among Portugal festival and holidays. The Iberian Mask Festival is celebrated during the first week of May. In this unique festival, people dress up in funny costumes and masks and take on the Lisbon streets. The festival is celebrated as a mark of celebration between the cultural and ethnic ties between Spanish Portuguese region. The four day celebration lets the people enjoy and absorb the essence of Iberian culture. The masks that people wear are the key element in celebrating the festival. Though the actual traditional Pagan masks vary from region to region in Iberian Peninsula, the masks nonetheless remind people of the common roots between Spanish and Portuguese culture.
Lisboa Dance Festival. Lisboa dance festival is another electric celebration of the country’s culture. Though this festival is a relatively new one, launched in 2016, it has gained wide popularity in the present day. The appealing thing of this festival are the eclectic lineups that showcases the current scenery of electronic music. If you are looking for Portugal dance festivals, then you can visit this festival in March and dance away at the beats of electric rhythm.