A Guide to Portugal’s National Events

Tue, Jan 21, 2014


Portugal is a fantastic destination all year round, but what could be better than to time your visit with one of its impressive world-class events? The Portuguese certainly know how to put on a show and there are festivals and celebrations held during every month of the year.

Many of them are free, making your holiday money go further, but they are all great fun. Read on to find out what you could be up to on your next trip and when to plan it for to coincide with a brilliant event.


Nothing beats a carnival and the Portuguese version, known as Carnaval, is no exception. Held annually in the run up to Lent it is a great opportunity for locals and visitors to let their hair down. If you are thinking of booking your holiday for February or March be sure to make sure you don’t miss out on this period of partying.

One of the great things about Carnaval in Portugal is that it is a truly national affair with parades staged everywhere from Lisbon to Loule and Nazare to Ovar. If you are in town for the event you will not be able to miss it, as the costumes are as loud as the entertainment.

Hot Air Balloon Race

At the beginning of April the skies across Portugal are filled with hot air balloons as teams from all over the world compete to win this epic race. They start off from Vila Pouca de Aguiar in the north and head to Loule in the Algarve over the course of several days.

The teams set off at 7am each day and have usually reached the next town by 5pm, making these times the perfect opportunity to see large numbers of balloons taking off or landing. But the real party not to miss is the final day when everyone celebrates the achievement of completing the journey.

São João Festival

This festival is best celebrated in Porto, where the streets come alive on June 23rdand 24th, with music, dancing and flying vegetables. It is unclear why many of the traditions associated with the São João Festival, but one thing is clear – they are still very much alive to this day.

Throwing vegetables at each other is just one such custom, with others including jumping over bonfires while making a wish and hitting the table with a plastic hammer. Less bizarre activities include eating delicious fresh grilled sardines and drinking.

Moorish Nights

July sees the Moorish influence in the region celebrated with plenty of traditional Arabic food, a souk, music and dancing. It is best experienced at Cacela Velha in the Algarve, which has had a Moorish presence since the tenth century.

As with many festivals the cuisine plays an important role and visitors should be sure to try specialities associated with the occasion. These include harina – a traditional soup and pastilha de frango com amêndoas – a chicken and almond pasty. Afterwards fruit is consumed, along with plenty of green tea.

Lisbon Half Marathon

If all of the events detailed so far sound indulgent then why not set yourself the challenge of completing the Lisbon Half Marathon? It is a great way to see the city as you jog past and is staged twice a year, giving you twice the opportunity to enter. Pick between getting involved in March or September.

CC Beyker_C

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