With the weather heating up, Portugal comes alive with a multitude of vibrant festivals and festivities. During the summer, immerse yourself in Portuguese culture and create lasting memories. Find all you need to know in this guide!
- Santos Populares, Lisbon
Calling this just an event is an understatement: Santos Populares are an entire month of celebration.
Every year, during June, the oldest neighbourhoods of Lisbon are filled with colourful flags and decorations, music plays loudly at every square, especially the Portuguese “pimba” music, and concerts happen very often. While each neighbourhood has its own timeline for celebrations, the smell of roasted sardines, caldo verde, and bifanas is in the air wherever you go: they are the traditional meals sold at every corner.
Santos peak on June 12th: the Santo Antonio Eve, the patron of the town. On this night, the whole city is out for celebration. Starting on Marques de Pombal Square in the direction of Rossio, the popular marches of each neighbourhood parade fill Avenida da Liberdade with colour, music, dancers and people, a lot of people. If you’re interested in the true heart of the festivity, it lies in the narrow streets of older neighbourhoods like Alfama, Graça, Bica, Madragoa and Mouraria.
- São João, Porto
Celebrate on the night of June 23rd, São João honours the patron of Porto throughout the district and brings the city alive.
Colourful pennants and air balloons decorate the streets, and celebrations take place in various neighbourhoods. It is customary to see people wielding plastic hammers, which are part of the festive spirit and an opportunity for playful interaction. Other popular traditions include releasing air balloons, dancing throughout the night at bailaricos, watching spectacular fireworks by the river, and savouring local delicacies such as roasted sardines, peppers, bifanas, and caldo verde.
- Romaria da Senhoria d'Agonia, Viana do Castelo
Since 1744, Viana do Castelo has been honouring the Virgin of Agony, invoked by fishermen for safe sea journeys. Today, the Romaria da Senhora da Agonia has become one of Portugal's most beautiful and colourful popular festivals.
Taking place annually from August 18th to 20th, the festival features several parades accompanied by music, showcasing the stunning traditional costumes from the Minho region. Notable parades include the stewardship parade, the Gigantones parade with giant figures, the ethnographic parade displaying the customs of Minho, and the historical parade that narrates Viana do Castelo's stories. These larger-than-life figures, originating from Santiago de Compostela over a century ago, add a touch of wonder to the Pilgrimage d'Agonia.
Its peak is when the image of Senhora d´Agonia with her purple and blue robes is loaded onto a trawler, amid rockets and bells ringing, and placed on a vessel, that sails through a procession of hundreds of boats with flag masts. The last night of festivities ends with a firework show in the Lima River.
- Festa dos Tabuleiros - Tomar
Held every four years in Tomar, the Festival of Trays is an ancient tradition in Tomar – lucky you, it is taking place in 2023, from the 1st to the 10th of July.
In festival mode, Tomar is covered by decorations, music, parades and food. The city centre is decorated with colourful blankets on the balconies and handmade paper flowers. Participants can get involved in making the decorations and cheer for the marching women.
The centrepiece of the Festa dos Tabuleiros is the magnificent Cortejo dos Tabuleiros. This grand procession is heralded by the melodic sounds of bagpipers and the bursts of firecrackers. The Pendão do Espírito Santo (Banner of the Holy Spirit) and the three Crowns of Emperors and Kings are leading the procession. Following them are banners and crowns representing all the parishes, accompanied by the girls who carry the trays. The procession concludes with carts laden with bread, meat, and wine, symbolically pulled by oxen adorned with golden horns and flowing ribbons.
- Medival Fairs, multiple locations
Have you ever imagined what summer feasts would be like in medieval times? No need to imagine! Head to one of our many cities holding medieval feasts during the summer. The most popular ones are in Santa Maria da Feira, Guimarães and Óbidos.
Surrounded by walls, the small town is the perfect scenario for the Medieval Market, bringing you back in time as the city is filled with hundreds of actors who, in full costume, liven up the streets, giving life to nobles, beggars, muleteers, jugglers, musicians, minstrels and dancers.
The main entertainment space is located next to the castle and is the stage for tournaments on horseback or on foot, medieval suppers and the market, where everything is sold, from period costumes to traditional remedies. This year will take place from 20th to 30th of July.
- Santa Maria da Feira
A bit more North, you can catch the Viagem Medieval of Santa Maria da Feira in August. The town really makes a journey back in time and becomes an open-air museum, alive with great family-friendly experiences. Across fittingly dressed streets, you can find taverns, historical re-enactments, markets, medieval workshops and many other surprises. If you want to check out the festival, you must be around between the 2nd and 13th of August.
In the birthplace of Portugal, you cannot miss the Feira Afonsina in June when this special fair tells the history of the foundation of Portugal.
From June 22nd to 25th, the city will go back to 1128, when Infante Afonso Henriques prepared to take over the small Portucalense County, which then became Portugal. The fair will tell the story of the Battle of São Mamede with staged recreations and props placed by the “villas” to show that time travel is possible. In 2023, it will cover almost the entire intramural area of the town.
Portugal is a country full of history, so check out more of our hidden gems!