Lisbon is strongly connected to traditions but at the same time it is also a young and vibrant city. No wonders about the quantity and variety of events taking place around the city; from national festivals to trendy and contemporary nights out, from small neighborhood festivals to international festivals attracting artists and people from all over the world.
In order to choose when to go to Lisbon you can combine your visit to the capital city with some festival or special event happening in town.
Here comes a list of some of the main events taking place every year in the Portuguese capital city. It is just an idea of what you can do in Lisbon!
January 6th is the Three Kings Day to celebrate the arrival of the magi kings. It is a very religious festivity and it is mostly celebrated with the family while eating some typical sweets like the bolo dos reis.
Also in Portugal February is the month of Carnival, or Entrudo. Concerts, exhibitions, masks, and parades pump up the city. There some strong Brazilian influences, however it is still worth to mention that Carnival was exported to Brazil by Portuguese, and not the other way round. The most famous and traditional Carnival festival in Portugal takes place at Torre Vedras, about 30 minutes drive from Lisbon.
During Eastern time one of the most important religious celebrations takes place in Lisbon. For about 15 hours a procession takes places around the city, starting from Church of São Roque and ending at Church of Graça. The service ends when the statue of Jesus holding a crux on his shoulder meets the statue of Holy Mary. It is a very moving moment.
For an active holiday you should visit Lisbon in March and attend the Lisbon Marathon. The full itinerary starts in Cascais, while in the capital an half marathon and a mini non competitive marathon take place. The half marathon starts at Vasco da Gama bridge and it passes through the 25 of Abril bridge.
March is also about fashion and design; this is the month of the first of the two fashion weeks happening in Lisbon (the second fashion week happens in Autumn). An unmissable moment for whomever works in the industry.
April 25th is Liberation Day in Portugal; on this day the country celebrates the Carnation Revolution that in 1974 ended the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar.
An International Independent Film Festival that has been taking place between the end of April and the beginning of May for the last ten years. There are hundreds of Portuguese and international movies (fiction, animation, documentaries, experimental movies, short movies), produced independently and which could hardly be seen otherwise.
Workshops and debates facilitate the meeting between the artist and the audience, while parties and DJ-set will keep you up until late at night.
Ten days dedicated to a gourmet extravaganza: welcome to Peixe em Lisboa, a food festival that celebrates the king of Portuguese cuisine – that is to say fish – with modern and traditional recipes. The program includes cooking shows of famous Portuguese and foreign chefs, cooking classes, food tasting…
Lisbon Book Fair is an unmissable event also for those who can’t read Portuguese! Between the end of May and the beginning June, some colorful book stalls will jazz up the Eduardo VII Park for two weeks.
Free admission and enjoy strolling around the stalls; last but not least, you can also grab a snack outdoor. Organized by the association of editors and booksellers, this fair has already celebrated 80 editions!
It starts in May and it lasts until September; the Out Jazz Festival will keep you busy all summer long. Every Saturday and Sunday free jazz concerts are organised. The location changes all the time, and all of them are all very suggestive.
In June the Portuguese capital is full of festival and events. The festas de Lisboa schedules a series of events scattered all over the city; music, theater, dance, artistic installation combined with ancient religious celebrations. The alleys are decorated with colorful festoons, while in the suggestive frame of Saint George Castle one can attend touching fado concerts.
The peak of the celebration happens on the night between June 12th and 13th, during the celebration of Saint Anthony Day, the Saint of Lisbon. People celebrate on the street, moving around different districts, eating grilled sardines, and listening to folkloristic music. Tradition also includes collective bridal ceremonies: brides are given the name of “St. Anthony’s Spouses.” Do not miss it.
Lisbon Gay Pride: just like any other country, this day is all about celebrating and commemorating the struggle for achieving equality and equal rights for the LBGT community. Freedom, diversity and equality are the keywords of this cheerful and colourful manifestation featuring music, food, and entertainment. Everyone is invited to join.
An unmissable musical event in Lisbon; the NOS Alive music and arts festival is a three days of rock, pop, and indie concerts taking place at the Passeio Marítimo de Algés.
This festival, awarded with the UK Festival Award for the “Best Foreign Festival” category of 2009, attracts thousand of visitors from all over Europe every year.
If three days are not enough you can keep singing and jumping by attending the second most important music festival happening in July, that is to say the Super Bock Super Rock. The festival was inaugurated in the Nineties and it features rock, alternative, indie, and electronic music.
If July is all about rock, August is all about jazz. The most important jazz festival during summer time in Lisbon includes two weeks of concerts at the Calouste Gulbenkian Fondation. The program proposes several and somehow unusual jazz performers.
Bringing some erudite art to the streets; this is the winning challenge proposed by Festival ao Largo that offers open air high level performances (symphonic music, theater, dance) in the suggestive location of Largo São Carlos.
Queen Lisbon is the only Portuguese Gay, Lesbo, Bisexual, Transgender, and Transexual Movie Festival, as well as one of the most appreciated European and world’s queer movie festival. It is also the oldest movie festival of Lisbon; the first edition dates back to 1977.
DocLisboa is another important event for movie lovers visiting Lisbon; this is the only document festival taking place in Portugal. Besides the two main competitive sections – Portuguese and International – the festival includes some specific sections dedicated to young people and cinema students, and some other important topics that are usually ignored by mass media.
On November 11th Portugal celebrates Saint Matin’s Day. The day is connected to the celebration of wine, and according to the tradition November 11th was the first day when you could taste the new wine. Today it is still celebrated by drinking wine around the fire, accompanied by steaming chestnuts.
The old year is about to end and a new one is about to start, and the city of Lisbon celebrates with a super party in the main squares. A huge stage is set up at Praça do Comércio, in front of the Tagus river. Concerts and fireworks will keep you busy. São Jorge Castle opens its doors at midnight and it is a great place to see the fireworks. Other points where performances and events are usually organized are Parque das Nações or the Belém Tower area. Young travelers will easily find a good party at one of the several bars and clubs of the city.
Here comes the calendar of holidays in Portugal:
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.