Lisbon Travel Guide


Catholic Portugal celebrates festas (festivals), feiras (fairs) and romarias (religious pilgrimages) like they're going out of style. When you add in an almost-religious love of soccer and a vibrant arts calendar, Lisbon is abuzz almost all year round.

Carnaval - Mardi Gras with rosary beads - sees normally reserved Lisboêtas indulge in some revelry before they start fasting for Lent. Come May (and October) hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make their way to Fàtima to celebrate the apparitions of the Virgin Mary witnessed by three shepherd children in 1917. Hot on its heels is the June Festas dos Santos Populares (Festivals of the Popular Saints) - a riot of parades, music, dancing, fireworks, all-night partying and, of course, church services.

A celebration of Portugal's proud seafaring history, the Festival dos Oceanos (Oceans Festival) in August encompasses music, tours, food, regattas and parades. Wine lovers in town in November can have their thirsts sated at the Festival do Vinho. Other highlights include the 18 concerts of the poetically rhyming Super Bock Super Rock festival in March, the Festival de Cinema Gay e Lésbico in late September and an international marathon every November.

Fado aficionados should visit in February, when the Festival das Músicas e dos Portos (Harbour and Music Festival) showcases the country's melancholic folksinging tradition.

Along with the usual Christmas, New Year and Easter public holidays, Lisbon celebrates a range of other religious days: Carnaval Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday), Corpus Christi in May/June, Feast of the Assumption (15 August), All Saints' Day (1 November) and Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December).

Historical and political holidays are Labour Day (1 May), Liberty Day (celebrating the 1974 Revolution of the Carnations) on 25 April, Portugal Day, or Camões & the Communities Day (10 June), Republic Day (commemorating the declaration of the Portuguese Republic in 1910) on 5 October, and Independence Day (commemorating the restoration of independence from Spain in 1640) on 1 December.

Public Holidays
Mar/Apr - Good Friday
Feb/Mar - Carnaval Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday)
1 Jan - New Year's Day
May/Jun - Corpus Christi
1 Dec - Independence Day
10 Jun - Portugal Day or Camões & the Communities Day
1 Nov - All Saints' Day
5 Oct - Republic Day
15 Aug - Feast of the Assumption
25 Apr - Liberty Day
1 May - Labour Day
25 Dec - Christmas Day
8 Dec - Feast of the Immaculate Conception

When to Go

If you've come for the skiing then February is your month. If you've come to lie on the beach any month will do, but keep in mind a bit of heat is good to complement the brisk Atlantic Ocean beaches. Carnaval around Easter is a draw card but most places know it and prices rise accordingly, until it's much like the later mid-June to August peak season. Unless you're a football fan or a 'when in Rome' kind of person it's best to check when EFC games are held, as hordes of boisterous supporters descend on the city for various matches.

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