There are countless fairs and festivals in Portugal, celebrating everything from obscure beans to Roman heritage. Finding out about them can sometimes be a challenge so my guide to some of the best Portugal festivals is designed to give you a starting point.
Note that smaller festival dates, and especially detailed programmes, are often announced relatively late in the game so double-check dates before planning your trip around a specific Portuguese festival. I’ll give you some tips in the practicalities section at the end of this post for tracking down important information.
This is quite a lengthy article so I’ve divided it up into seasons so you can click straight to the time of year you’re most interested in if you don’t have time to read it all:
Winter festivals in Portugal
Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations
Visiting Portugal around Christmas time can be a fun experience, especially if you have children. Yet another good reason to visit Portugal in winter!
Most cities and towns will have some event organised for that time of the year, so it pays to do a little research beforehand – see this article for more about Christmas and New Year in Portugal. Some places will have a simple Christmas market with local handicrafts and the usual food and drink stalls, selling mostly local products.
Other places have big events, like the Óbidos Vila Natal, which is a sort of amusement park with several attractions, including an ice rink and live shows with magicians and puppets, for example.
If you stay until New Year’s Eve, you can expect free live concerts in the major cities, along with fireworks at the stroke of midnight.
For those with time to venture off the beaten track in early January, ask around locally because in some towns and villages you can still witness the traditional janeiras, with groups of locals going from house to house playing and singing in jest about the passing year. These events usually go from early or mid-December to 6th January.
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.
Pork Fair in Boticas, Northern Portugal
January is a fairly quiet month for festivals – most people are still recovering from the Christmas and New Year festivities. That said, you will find pork products being celebrated in a small village in the north of Portugal at the annual Feira Gastronómica do Porco in Boticas.
During the weekend-long Pork Fair anything and everything pork-related is on display with stalls selling cured and smoked pork products as well as local crafts. There’s music, dance and decorated cows as entertainment.
Dates are usually the second weekend of January but check the local council website.
You could combine this event with time in the nearby town of Chaves or the beautiful Vidago Palace Hotel.
Festa do Fumeiro in Vinhais, Northern Portugal
Every year since 1981 the small town of Vinhais in Trás-os-Montes has welcomed the Festa do Fumeiro (Smoked Meats Festival) in early February.
This foodie event is dedicated to one of the most characteristic Portuguese breeds of pig, the bísaro. Although less well-known than the Iberian black pig it is considerably cheaper and its meat is less fatty than that of other kinds of pork.
The fair showcases 150 producers of sausages, cured and smoked pork with a total of 50 tons of products made from bísaro. As usual at this sort of event, expect concerts, stalls selling all kinds of handicrafts and food items from the region.
Al-Mutamid Music Festival in the Algarve
Running from late January until late February, this itinerant cultural festival is a sort of homage to the king and gifted poet Al-Mutamid, who lived in the 11th century and was appointed governor of Silves at the young age of 12.
The music and dances from the Middle East, Maghreb and the Eastern Mediterranean, which for centuries were a common presence in the bazaars, medinas and palaces of the Gharb al-Andalus (southern modern-day Portugal and part of West-central modern day Spain) make a comeback during the time of the festival.
Unlike other such festivals, where all the performances take place at the same venue, the Al-Mutamid Music Festival fun is spread across the Algarvian cities of Lagoa, Vila Real de Santo António, Loulé, Albufeira, Silves, Lagos and Olhão, providing for a wonderful opportunity to combine art and travel.
See my guide to where to stay in the Algarve for more on these Algarve cities.
Essência do Vinho wine festival in Porto
For 4 days in February hundreds of wine producers gather in the beautiful Palácio da Bolsa in Porto for what is considered the main wine-related event in Portugal.
Expect exquisite wine pairings with renowned chefs creating dishes with great wines in mind, wine tastings, talks around all things wine and food pairing related (including sommelier tips), commented tastings and an international jury selecting the 10 best Portuguese wines.
Some of these parallel events are free, others are paid. This wine fair also includes a pop up store, so you can take a few bottles of Portuguese wine home with you.
Some restaurants in Porto partner with the event to provide even more great opportunities of combining food and wine. Dates for 2020 are February 20th through 23rd.
Festivals in Portugal in Spring
Almond blossom festival in Vila Nova de Foz Côa (and other options)
I don’t know if almonds grow in the UK but in Portugal, there are certain regions where conditions are ideal for these trees. Around Vila Nova de Foz Côa, they have so many almond trees that when they’re in blossom, it calls for a festival.
And why not?
There will be a programme of events, usually including bike rides and walks as well as music. There are also stalls in the streets selling not just almonds but locally produced olive oil, cakes and other regional products.
As festivals go, this is fairly low-key but the puffs of pink and white almond blossoms that decorate the surrounding countryside are beautiful. It’s also a good time to visit the prehistoric rock engravings nearby.
See this article about Foz Côa for more details about Vila Nova de Foz Côa and the prehistoric rock art.
Or check out this hiking vacation in Douro International and the Côa Valley. If you do it at this time of year, you should catch some of the festivities.
Other places to see almond blossoms in Portugal
Almond trees are also prevalent in the Algarve, although they tend to blossom a bit earlier than up north.
The Douro Valley is also a good place to see the almond trees in blossom in late February or early March.
CP, the national train company, runs seasonal sightseeing trains to see the almond blossoms in different parts of the country.
Carnival in Portugal
Pre-Lenten festivities are nothing new in Portugal but they tend to vary between the gaudy, glittery showiness of Brazil-style carnivals (minus the warm weather) and traditions with more pagan roots.
For glitzy glam and irreverent costumes and carnival parades, the most well known places are Torres Vedras, Loulé, Ovar or Madeira, although smaller towns are in on the act too so look out for carnaval posters and information wherever you’re staying. Big cities don’t tend to bother, although you might see people wandering around in costume.
Of more interest to me are the more traditional carnival celebrations, known as Entrudos. These usually involve masks, bizarre costumes and roguish behaviour. They are a chance for the local population to call out misdemeanors in a lighthearted way and generally have fun.
Festa do Queijo da Serra da Estrela in Oliveira do Hospital in Central Portugal
My favourite Portuguese cheese originates in the Serra da Estrela Mountains in Central Portugal. Hand made from sheep’s milk, I like it best when it’s still runny so March or early April are good times to buy it like this.
Much like with other food fairs, there will be a variety of produce on offer – last time I went to the cheese festival in Oliveira do Hospital, I came home with some delicious olive oil and honey as well as my cheese.
You’ll be able to taste these before choosing your favourite but don’t go on a Sunday afternoon after lunch unless you enjoy crowds. That said, if you want to be on Portuguese television, SIC’s Portugal em Festa usually broadcasts at this time.
There are cheese festivals in other towns in central Portugal, such as Tabua, Penalva do Castelo and Seia, at this time of year if you can’t make it to Oliveira da Hospital.
Peixe em Lisboa / Lisbon Fish & Flavours
Fish lovers should consider heading to Lisbon in early April for Peixe em Lisboa (Lisbon Fish and Flavours). Since its beginnings in 2008, this seafood festival has brought together local, national and international chefs for debates, show cooking and more.
You’ll find a market space and plenty of opportunities to taste the fruits of the ocean. The venue shifts from year to year but the last one was at the recently refurbished Carlos Lopes Pavillion in Eduardo VII Park.
Easter in Portugal
Easter is a unique time in Portugal when religious people will celebrate the occasion in a very traditional way and those that are non-religious will, more often than not, go on a short vacation.
One thing unites both sides is Easter food! Traditional Portuguese Easter foods which you are likely to find in restaurants and good cafés are roast lamb, bôla (usually a meat-filled bread), pão de ló (sponge cake) and folar (a kind of aniseed-flavoured bread/cake with whole eggs baked into it), all of which have several variants, depending on the region.
As a rule, towns and villages will usually be more focused on religious traditions, which provides for an opportunity to see quaintly decorated streets and houses, although some cities, especially church-filled Braga, have processions as well. Most of these happen on Good Friday, which is a national holiday in Portugal.
Easter Sunday is also a public holiday, so most shops won’t be open. Although Easter Monday is not a public holiday in Portugal, many people will take the day off.
Despite these minor disruptions to normal services, Easter is one of my favourite times of year for travelling in Portugal as the tourist season is just waking up, so activities are running again, but most places are not crowded.
Flower Festival in Madeira
Madeira Island is known for its abundance of flowers, so it is only fair it should host a flower festival. Four weeks after Easter, be prepared for anything and everything flower related: floral carpets and decorations, a flower exhibition, a children’s parade, a float parade, a flower market and flower sculptures.
The Flower Festival, which has free entry, is a tribute to spring but it is also a cultural event with several concerts taking place. Probably the most famous and long-running part of the Flower Festival is the “Wall of Hope ceremony”. In this parade, over a thousand children gather at Praça do Município to place a flower in the Wall of Hope, symbolising a call for peace in the world.
Serralves em Festa – Porto
Between late May and early June, Serralves em Festa honors the Serralves Foundation, in Porto, as a unique space to combine contemporary art and culture, architecture and landscape.
I haven’t been yet but if you’re going to be in Porto at this time of year, it’s worth checking the agenda as this festival is considered the largest contemporary culture event in Portugal and one of the largest in Europe.
There are hundreds of activities taking place in the various spaces of Serralves, performed by hundreds of national and foreign artists from all over the world. Exhibitions and performances range from music and dance to contemporary circus, theatre and photography, among others.
The main Serralves website will have details of the agenda nearer the time. Even if you can’t make it to Serralves for the Festa, it’s worth seeing what’s on as exhibitions change regularly and there are additional activities throughout the year.
International Iberian Mask Festival
This is possibly the craziest and most colourful of Lisbon events and is probably my favourite Portuguese festival. In mid-May head over to Belém in Lisbon for a unique display of traditional Iberian masks (16th May in 2020). In 2020, the festival is also coming closer to its roots and spending 4 days (28-21 May 2020) in Vila Nova de Gaia near Porto.
The use of these masks has its origin in the folk celebrations that take place from December to February/March (usually until Carnival) and are connected to the end of a cycle, be it the old year or winter, and the beginning of a new one.
There are stalls selling food and drinks, mainly from the regions from which the masks originate, besides folk dances and handicrafts. The highlight of this free event is the parade that showcases traditional masks from both Portugal and Spain, but also from other countries: this year’s edition included Italy, Macao, Hungary and Colombia. This festival attracts a big crowd on the day of the parade, so plan accordingly if you’re taking a car as there aren’t many parking spots available in the area.
See the official FIMI website for updates and the agenda.
Use my Portugal accommodation guides to find the best place to stay.
Queima das Fitas – Coimbra, Central Portugal
Students parading on the streets with their black capes on, burning ribbons, partying like mad and singing a unique brand of Fado: it may not look like it at first sight but they’re celebrating their graduation from Coimbra University!
Being the oldest university in Portugal, and one of the oldest in Europe, Coimbra University has plenty of traditions, as one would expect. Lasting for eight days in May, Queima das Fitas (literally, “ribbon burning”) includes music concerts, sports events, a gala ball and the hugely popular student Fado serenade held at night on the stairs of the Coimbra cathedral.
The parade (cortejo) is one of the most famous parts of this celebration, with newly graduated students burning their ribbons (with colours according to their degree) and floats decorated in faculty colours. The concerts and most events are open to the general public but be aware that tickets sell out very quickly!
You’ll also notice black caped figures sleeping off their excesses on park benches during the day.
Dates for Queima das Fitas 2020 are 11-15 May.
Tip: If you plan to stay in Coimbra while this event is on, aim to book accommodation away from Praça da Canção (just across the bridge in santa Clara), which is where the music concerts take place until the early hours of the morning. The studenty part of Alta is probably not going to make for a peaceful night’s sleep, either.
See alternatives in this article: Where To Stay In Coimbra
Note: While Coimbra’s Queima das Fitas is the most famous, it’s by no means the only such graduation event in Portugal so don’t be surprised if you encounter such things in other cities in early May.
Festa das Cruzes – Barcelos, Northern Portugal
From late April to early May the Festa das Cruzes opens the season for a type of fair that mixes the religious and the profane.
This particular festival began in the early 16th century and until the 19th century was essentially religious in nature, welcoming hundreds of pilgrims, not only from Barcelos, but from all over the country and Galicia as well.
Later, in the 20th century, carousels, fireworks, folk processions, all now common to this sort of event, were added to the mix.
Highlights of this festival include live music, the traditional Zé Pereiras (drumming bands), pilgrimage arches, petal carpets and the procession. The battle of the flowers is probably the most famous part of the fair, with people in cars from 30 associations in the Barcelos region throwing flowers at the spectators.
When Dori and I started our Portuguese Camino de Santiago, the festivities had just begun so we were able to watch a couple of concerts and admire the decorated arches from the local parishes.
Braga Romana, 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.
The event also includes several talks and activities (like hikes in nearby Peneda-Gerês National Park) covering a multitude of themes, from Roman myths to the remains of Roman roads.
Dates for 2020 are 20-24 May – check the website for details nearer the time.
Imaginarius International Street Theatre – Santa Maria da Feira
Welcome to Portugal’s largest street arts event! Imaginarius is an international festival that happens every year in May and is currently part of the European Street Arts circuit. During the event, you’ll find hundreds of artists from around Europe reinventing the public spaces of Santa Maria da Feira, a small city just south of Porto.
Mike and I went a few years back and saw all manner of acts, including acrobats, clowns, puppetry, mime, dance and drama. Alongside this, Imaginarius Infantil runs series of workshops and experiences for children aged between 3 and 12.
Best of all, it’s free to enter. See the Imaginarius site for more details.
Cherry-related events in Portugal
Visiting Portugal between late May and mid-June has many perks – not only is the weather near perfect (not yet too hot), it is also cherry season!
Although the most famous cherries in Portugal come from Fundão, south of the Serra da Estrela region, you’ll find a few other locations known for producing this delicious fruit and several more hosting small events dedicated to it.
From Alfândega da Fé (in Trás-os-Montes), to Resende, Penajóia, Alcongosta, Ferreira do Zêzere (all in Central Portugal), to Benfica and Sintra (in and near Lisbon) you’ll have plenty to choose from.
If you’re visiting at the time ask around or do a little research and you’re bound to find a cherry-related event not far from you. These free events have plenty of fresh cherries and cherry-related products for sale, live music, sports activities and show cooking.
Islamic Festival – Mértola, Alentejo region
The Islamic Festival takes place every two years around mid-May and has a strong emphasis on the meeting of cultures as a way of celebrating the Islamic heritage of Mértola.
For four days the medieval cobbled streets of this quaint Alentejo town turn in to an open-air market filled with the aromas of spices, mint tea and music, plenty of it, from traditional Arab music to cante alentejano, flamenco and more contemporary sounds.
The market offers a wide range of handicrafts, food, fabrics and art, in a blend of Alentejo, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Spain. Don’t forget to haggle a bit to have a more authentic experience in a market like this! This festival also includes exhibits, conferences, theatre and children’s activities.
Summer festivals in Portugal
Santos Populares – Popular Saints
June in Portugal is all about paying homage to popular saints, which in turn means street parties, music, dance, wine, grilled sardines and people giving each other pots of basil (manjerico) with cute, sometimes cheeky, rhymes.
There are also religious celebrations, but most people are really only interested in the party. The biggest celebrations happen in Lisbon for Santo António (St Anthony) and in Porto for São João (St John).
The Lisbon festival comes first, with most events happening on June 12th and 13th, including parades (marchas populares), street parties in the oldest neighbourhoods and even weddings. There are many different events happening at that time in Lisbon, so it pays to plan in advance.
Tip: If you are not keen on crowds and noise, DO NOT stay in Alfama in June! Find an alternative base in my Lisbon accommodation guide
Next comes the Porto festival, complete with its own set of traditions which include hitting each other over the head with plastic hammers (yes, that’s right) and fireworks over the Douro River. In the most traditional parts of the city you may still find people jumping over bonfires.
Don’t expect to get much sleep on the 23rd of June if you’re staying in downtown Porto. The 24th is a public holiday and most locals will be sleeping off the celebrations.
When in Porto you don’t want to miss the Rabelo Boat Regatta on the 24th June starring the historic rabelo boats that used to transport Port from the vineyards all the way to the wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Near the end of the month, on June 29th, comes St Peter’s Day, celebrated mostly in Sintra. Typical celebrations include parades and boat blessings, although this is a much more low-key kind of festivity.
Festa do Vinho Verde – Ponte de Lima, Northern Portugal
If you’ve never heard of (or tasted) vinho verde, early June is your chance to change that. It’s also a perfect excuse, not that you need one, to visit one of my favourite towns in Portugal, Ponte de Lima.
Vinho verde is a type of wine produced exclusively in its own demarcated wine region in the northeast of Portugal, using only native grape varieties. It’s meant to be drank within a year of bottling and is often still slightly effervescent and always refreshing. Vinho verde was my gateway into white wines after too many horrid experiences with Lambrusco in my youth.
Every year the town of Ponte de Lima, in the north of the country, hosts a three-day festival dedicated to this unique wine and other regional products. Besides the opportunity of buying a few bottles there are workshops on food pairings with vinho verde, commented wine tastings and live music.
Festa dos Tabuleiros – Tomar, Central Portugal
Every four years around mid-July the old town of Tomar hosts the Festa dos Tabuleiros (Festival of the Trays), aka, Festa do Divino Espírito Santo (Feast of the Holy Spirit).
This festival dates back to the 14th century, originally part of the worship of the Holy Spirit, and attracts crowds of people from all over the world.
There are several concerts and mini parades but the highlight of this festival is the parade of women carrying trays of bread and flowers that are as tall as they are on their heads. In the July heat, under the weight of these ‘crowns’, I’m amazed that no one faints and that they still manage to plaster a smile on their faces!
The next Festa dos Tabuleiros will be in 2023 – plenty of time to plan your trip!
Medieval fairs in Portugal
With such a rich history and so many castles, Portugal has just the perfect background for medieval and renaissance fairs. They all include plenty of food, drink and live music, with most also incorporating some sort of historical reenactment.
Of all the events of this sort that can be found across the country there are three that have a bigger fan base. I’ve yet to make it to the one in Silves but had lots of fun at the other two.
Mercado Medieval de Óbidos takes place in one of the most picturesque Portuguese towns. From mid-July to early August, Óbidos hosts this medieval market with a strong emphasis on street performances. In this case the decorations and general merriment go beyond the castle walls, incorporating the whole town. You can even rent a costume and get fully involved.
From late July to mid-August, Santa Maria da Feira, less than a 1-hour drive south from Porto, welcomes the Viagem Medieval em Terras de Santa Maria, which every year focuses on a different Portuguese king.
This is probably the most famous event of its kind in the country, attracting thousands of people. There are many different activities for children and adults, including plays, workshops and even a simpler version of medieval thermal baths.
Silves does the honours from early to mid-August with the Feira Medieval de Silves. Here, the town’s historical background means there’s a special focus on the often turbulent relationship between Vikings and Muslims. One of the spotlights of this event are the war games and the reenactments of Viking rituals.
Agit’Águeda – the umbrella town in Central Portugal
You may never have heard of Águeda or of a festival called Agit’Águeda but there’s a good chance that if you’ve ever found yourself browsing photos of Portugal on the internet you came across colourful umbrellas hanging between rooftops.
Every July since 2006, Agit’Águeda has welcomed some 500 music groups and artists in a mix of concerts, urban art, street performances, handicrafts and workshops on different themes, from yoga to painting. You need to get hold of the current agenda to see if it’s worth trying to incorporate any of these into your itinerary.
The biggest draw for me is the installation of thousands of umbrellas over the city’s streets (the Umbrella Sky Project) as well as the urban street art project.
You may wish to combine this with time in Aveiro, which could also serve as your base.
Festival MED – Loulé, Algarve
This festival, which takes place in late June, is one of the greatest world music festivals in Europe.
The historical centre of Loulé turns into a hotspot not just for music (spread out over 3 stages), but also for visual arts, street performances, handicrafts, dance, workshops and world cuisine. Surprisingly enough for a world music festival, you can also enjoy a few classical music concerts inside of Loulé’s parish church.
Portuguese Fado has a place of its own in Med with several shows that you can attend.
Although this is a paid event you don’t want to miss their open day. If you take children with you, maybe you can leave them in the MED Kids space where they can take part in several activities.
Porto Wine Fest
Early September is when the largest festival dedicated to port wine takes place, in Cais de Gaia (across the river from Porto).
Expect thousands of visitors at this paid event where you can learn the basics of port wine tasting and also savour pairings of port with both traditional and contemporary dishes.
As usual in this sort of festival there are commented tastings and show cooking events with well-known chefs but make some time for the Sunset Happy Hour and photography contest.
Festival ao Largo Millennium – Lisbon
Picture yourself in Lisbon on a summer evening enjoying classical music al fresco for free. This may sound too good to be true but that’s what Festival ao Largo is all about.
For 21 days every July, the beautiful Largo de São Carlos, in the Chiado neighbourhood, hosts outdoor concerts of different musical genres that typically range from Polish and Italian opera to Brazilian songs, Fado and zarzuela. There are also dance performances by the Portuguese National Ballet Company, from contemporary dance to classical ballet.
Get there early if you want a seat!
Festival de Estoril – Lisbon area
For true lovers of classical music, Festival de Estoril Lisboa is a real treat. Every year, during the whole month of July, you can have a ball with both well known pieces and premières played by international musicians as well as by renowned Portuguese orchestras, like the Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa. The festival’s programme makes room for young musicians, too.
Another great thing about this event is the choice of venues, which include impressive spots like the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower, Lisbon Cathedral, Queluz National Palace and the Belém Cultural Centre.
Festival Músicas do Mundo (World Music Festival) – Sines, Alentejo region
Of the many summer music festivals in Portugal, this one, dedicated to world music, combines great tunes and the relaxed vibe of the Alentejo coast with a touch of summer heat from mid-July.
Festival Músicas do Mundo is held in two coastal towns not far from Lisbon, Sines and Porto Covo, in both historical and modern venues.
Offering more than just world music from a traditional point of view, this event is also open to other genres, like folk, jazz, alternative music, fusion and urban music. In addition to music from the four corners of the world you can also count on workshops for children and adults, movies and exhibitions, besides a book and record fair.
Festival Bons Sons – Tomar, Central Portugal
Every August, the village of Cem Soldos near Tomar is closed down for four days to welcome the Bons Sons festival. Organised by the local cultural association, this festival promotes Portuguese music, embracing both new projects and well known musicians.
Within the village perimetres there are 10 stages, each with its own programme. One of the unique traits of this festival is that it is actually the locals who serve the thousands of people attending it. You can expect dozens of (sometimes improvised) concerts, art exhibitions and a crafts market, besides several other initiatives that change every year.
Semana do Mar – Faial Island, Azores
Visiting any of the islands from the Azores is an amazing experience and if there’s a festival going on dedicated to nautical sports it should be even more special.
From early to mid-August, the island of Faial hosts one of the largest nautical sports event in the country, Semana do Mar (Sea Week). This festival is renowned for competitions in windsurf, open water swimming, canoeing, stand up paddle and sport fishing, among others. That’s all in addition to a tennis tournament, a regatta and a maritime procession.
If none of this floats your boat, there’s also live music (including local brass bands), several sea-themed talks, local handicrafts, the ever-present food stalls and after parties.
One of the most famous religious celebrations in Portugal, attending the festivities of Senhora da Agonia (Our Lady of Sorrows) is like diving head first into the real Portugal.
Around mid-August every year, over a period of five days, Viana do Castelo attracts thousands of people from both Portugal and Spain for this festival, which dates back to 1772.
Nossa Senhora da Agonia is the patron saint of fishermen and one of the main events is the Procession to the Sea with the women in the parade wearing traditional costumes and exquisite gold filigree for which the city is famous.
During the festival, the streets of Viana are adorned with floral carpets which are an attraction of their own. This festival also includes a parade of floats, local handicrafts, gigantones, local music and fireworks.
Tip: Accommodation books up way in advance so get yours sorted early. See my suggestions in this article about Viana do Castelo
Ruas Floridas – Redondo, Alentejo region
Every two years, from late July to early August, the medieval town of Redondo in the Alentejo gains new life with thousands of colourful paper flowers.
What started in the first half of the 19th century as part of a religious celebration has gained a life of its own. The wonderful decorated streets are the result of the efforts of some 400 to 500 local volunteers. Every street chooses a subject for its paper creations and that theme is kept secret until the day when the festival’s programme is revealed. There’s also time for plenty of live music, workshops, handicrafts and local gastronomy.
Madeira Wine Festival – Funchal
From late August to early September, downtown Funchal becomes filled with everything related to wine making. From decorations, to the treading of the grapes, to live reenactments with people dressed in traditional costumes, the idea is to recreate the old art of wine making.
As usual, there’s also plenty of live music, exhibitions of handicrafts and opportunities to sample local wines. For a truly unique experience, don’t miss out on the chance to join a grape harvest in Estreito de Câmara de Lobos.
Feiras Novas – Ponte de Lima, Northern Portugal
If you’re in the north of Portugal on the second weekend of September, consider visiting this traditonal Portuguese festival in the charming town of Ponte de Lima. The Feiras Novas started in 1826 and the event now attracts thousands of people every year.
Concertina players, impromptu singing, folk dancing and local dishes are some of the things you can expect from this fair. But if you’re looking into an even more authentic experience, stay for the local bass drums, the livestock judging contests and the fireworks as well as the gigantones, cabeçudos and Zé Pereiras (traditional figures made with a variety of materials and representing different local archetypes).
Tip: If you want to watch any of the parades, stake your claim on a spot early on – locals will have stools on the pavements!
Note: If you are walking the Central Portuguese Camino, I would try to avoid hitting Ponte de Lima during the week of Feiras Novas – accommodation is scarce and pricey and you will NOT get a good night’s sleep.
Vindouro, Festa Pombalina – São João da Pesqueira, Douro
UNESCO has classified the Douro Wine Region as a World Heritage site and much of this demarcated area is within the municipality of São João da Pesqueira, which makes it the ideal venue for this festival which celebrates both wine and the era in which the Douro wine region was established with period costumes and related activities.
With more than twenty producers of port and Douro wines, you can count on this event for wine contests, a fine wine auction, wine tastings and an 18th century street market. Other activities include a painting exhibition, concerts, a dinner prepared by a renowned Portuguese chef, an Equestrian Grand Prize and an eco trail.
Vindouro takes place from late August to early September and although attending the festival is free, some activities require a previous on the spot enrolment and others, like the dinner, are paid for.
Caramulo Motorfestival – Central Portugal
The largest motorsports festival in Portugal takes place in early September in the small town of Caramulo. With the scenic green Caramulo mountain range as a backdrop, this is an event for car and motorcycle addicts as well as the general public and families.
The programme combines competition with fun activities: the Michelin Historic Hill Climb, a 200-mile tour, a Classic Route tour, the car fair and gaming centre, club gatherings and the collection of cars, motorbikes, cycles and miniatures from the Caramulo museum.
There are also bars and chill-out zones with music and the usual food stalls. You can expect to meet famous racing drivers and/or well-known faces connected to the world of cars.
Autumn festivals in Portugal
Birdwatching festival – Sagres, Algarve
Although at first glance, Sagres may seem too dry, its biodiversity is immense and it is actually a fantastic place to observe bird migration.
This festival, which happens in mid-October, focuses on birdwatching but there are other activities, like dolphin watching, butterfly identification, talks and field excursions on amphibians, reptiles, lynx and marine biodiversity.
You might want to save some time for other things, from photography, yoga, meditation, stand up paddle, surf lessons and kayak tours to the possibility of touring a couple of local attractions.
Most activities are free and held in both Portuguese and English. There’s also a free festival bracelet that grants special discounts in accommodation, restaurants and in tourism related companies during the time of the festival.
Find a place to stay in Sagres or nearby using my Algarve accommodation guide
Festival Internacional de Marionetas do Porto (Porto Puppet Festival)
If you think puppets are just for kids, you might want to think again – all the while attending Porto’s International Puppet Festival, that is.
Around mid-October the city welcomes dozens of puppet shows (some of them are meant for children, yes) from different countries in eight different venues in the city. The festival features national and international premières with presentations centered around an unconventional approach to puppets and focusing on contemporary themes.
Information on workshops and shows can be found on the official website Fimp21.
Coruche International Ballooning Festival, Ribatejo region
From late October to early November you can expect 6 days of skies filled with hot air balloons from 30 teams representing several countries.
This one of a kind experience happens in Coruche, also known for its strong connection to cork production. No need to spend all the time looking to the skies, though, as the festival also includes local gastronomy, a book fair, a handicraft fair, street food, activities for kids, street performances and, as if this wasn’t enough, a mini and a half-marathon.
Information for the 2021 Festival can be found on this Facebook page.
Chestnut and mushroom related events
Autumn in Portugal is synonymous with falling leaves and sweater weather (at least by Portuguese standards) but it also means chestnuts and mushrooms galore.
Not only will there be roast chestnut vendors on the streets of most Portuguese cities, there’s a whole day traditionally dedicated to chestnuts. November 11th is St. Martin’s Day, when you’ll find friends and families gathering around the table, or a bonfire, to share roasted and/or boiled chestnuts, with sweet potatoes also making an appearance in many places.
Also traditional at this time is drinking jeropiga, which is sweeter than wine but also has a higher alcohol content. Trust me, it goes very well with chestnuts.
If you’re in the north of the country you might want to consider checking out the Rural Castanea fair in Vinhais: it’s a 3-day event at the end of October dedicated to all things chestnut-related, but where you’ll also be able to taste and buy other local products, from wines and liqueurs to cheese and olive oil.
Lousã in Central Portugal combines its celebration of chestnuts with honey in the Feira de Mel e Castanha, usually spanning the middle weekend of November.
If mushrooms are more your kind of thing, you might want to check one of two events happening in November. Feira do Cogumelo e do Medronho (Mushroom and Medronho Fair) takes place in Almodôvar in the Alentejo region and focuses not only on mushrooms but also on potent local spirit called medronho, so that’s actually a two-for-the price-of-one kind of event.
Míscaros – Festival do Cogumelo happens in the village of Alcaide, in Central Portugal, and is a two-day festival that includes mushroom walks in the beautiful hills of Serra da Gardunha. Both events include workshops, show cooking and street performances.
Horse Fair (Feira da Golegã) – Ribatejo
The town of Golegã in Central Portugal is home to one of the oldest and most famous annual festivals in Portugal. What started as a normal fair in 1571 has changed throughout the centuries and is now an event dedicated to horses, with a special emphasis on the Lusitanian breed, which is native to Portugal.Feira da Golegã horse fair takes place in early November, ending on St Martin’s Day (November 11th), and it attracts crowds of visitors from all over Europe and further afield. This festival includes equestrian competitions and shows, painting exhibitions, the Open Golegã tennis tournament and the Horseball Iberian Cup (yes, that’s a sport!).
The Horse Fair returns for 2021 and information can be found on this Facebook page.
It’s not far from Lisbon but if you want to stay overnight in Golegã during the horse fair, book ahead!
Practicalities for attending Portuguese festivals
As I mentioned at the beginning of this guide, it can be difficult to get information about festivals in Portugal ahead of time, especially for smaller, local events.
Major events are usually listed on the Visit Portugal website and similarly, if you visit the regional tourist board websites, they should have an agenda or events listing. If you can’t find a specific, official website for a particular event, the local council is probably the best place to look for information but most of these sites are only in Portuguese. Search for Camara Municipal and the name of the town.
If you’re happy to be spontaneous, ask at the local tourist information centre whenever you arrive in a new city to see if there’s anything on during your stay.
Sometimes online information doesn’t mention if an event is free or not, but as a rule all festivals and fairs with a religious base are free. Medieval, wine and chocolate festivals often involve a small fee, as do many music festivals.
To get a good viewing spot at Portuguese festivals that involve parades requires patience and a bit of forward planning. Locals bring their own stools and stake their claim on prime spots along the roadside at least a couple of hours in advance of the scheduled event.
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Portugal – best festival guide
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