Portugal is a trendy country these days, attracting big international events like a magnet. The world’s largest tech conference, Web Summit, moved in 2016 to the Portuguese capital. The country also won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2017, making it the host of the largest music competition worldwide in 2018.
Portugal has its own major events that attract thousands throughout the year. Here’s 7 of the most impressive and charismatic that happen all across the country: north, center, south and even the islands. The bottom line is: wherever and whenever you go, you won’t get bored in Portugal!
7 Events and Festivals and Portugal not to be missed:
- New Year’s Eve in Madeira
- Santo Cristo dos Milagres in São Miguel, Azores
- Festas de Lisboa in Lisbon
- São João in Porto
- Medieval Market in Óbidos
- MEO Sudoeste in Zambujeira do Mar
- FIESA Sand Festival in Algarve
1 – New Year’s Eve in Madeira
The end of December is one of the best times of the year to fly to Madeira. And not just because the rest of Europe is freezing whilst the islanders are enjoying its mild Atlantic climate. The main streets of Funchal are lit up by the thousands of lights and charming Christmas traditions and events.
The main highlight during this time of the year is the night of December 31st. Each new year is celebrated with a spectacular firework show along Funchal bay, which was considered the greatest in the world by the Guinness World Records.
When: 31st December
2 – Santo Cristo dos Milagres in São Miguel, Azores
From one archipelago to another, the stunning scenery of the island of São Miguel in the Azores is home to one of the largest religious festivals in the country.
Every 5th Sunday after Easter, thousands of locals and emigrants gather in honor of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres. The massive religious procession is the highlight, but Ponta Delgada truly comes alive with all the flowers, festivals, fairs and music shows which take place over the course of the week.
When: Every 5th Sunday after Easter. Festivities last for an entire week.
3 – Festas de Lisboa in Lisbon
The largest festivities in the country take place during the entire month of June. There is always something happening everywhere across Lisbon, however, the real tradition is to head to the most typical neighborhoods of Graça, Bica, Alfama and Mouraria to have dinner in an open-air restaurant and later dance to the sound of traditional portuguese music.
The party is at its loudest and largest during the night of St. Anthony on June 12-13th. The locals open up their houses to everyone in order to have fun and sell traditional portuguese street food. Expect bifanas (pork steak sandwich), grilled sardines and, of course, lots of beer and wine. This is the best time of the year to visit the Portuguese capital.
When: The highlight of Festas de Lisboa happens on the night of 12-13th June, but there are events spread across the entire month of June.
4 – 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.
When: São João night takes place in the night of 23-24 June, but festivities start at least a week before.
5 – 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.
When: The 2017 Mercado Medieval in Óbidos is held from the 13th July to the 6th August.
6 – 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, getinto 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 and is a perfect excuse to explore the underrated and wild Alentejo coast.
When: MEO Sudoeste happens around the beginning of August. 2017 dates are 1-5 August.
7 – 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!
When: FIESA Sand Festival happens every year from April to October.
Extra: Local Events You Don’t Want To Miss
Apart from these big events and festivities, every little village or town has its own celebrations, with an incredible variety of traditions and rituals. They can range from a quick and low-profile religious procession to days of street partying.
These local fiestas are usually held in honor of the local saint during the summer months, but make sure you check what is going on in the towns you might pass by. You don’t want to miss the local fun!
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About the Author
Bruno Barroso// Geeky Explorer
Bruno is a digital geek and travel blogger who has a serious condition called wanderlust since he can remember. He shares detailed travel guides, tips and itineraries on his blog, Geeky Explorer, to help everyone travel smarter and more often.