The Portuguese are warm and friendly people who love a celebration, and as in the rest of Portugal, Aveiro has no shortage of events and festivals to celebrate.
The calendar begins with the arrival of the New Year, with huge festivities throughout the city and many people flocking out into the street to celebrate the chimes of midnight all together.
March sees the Feira de Março, or March Fair, which ironically should probably be called the April Fair as it takes place between the 25th of March and the 25th of April. This month-long show marks the end of winter and celebrates the arrival of spring in the city, and sees a wide variety of activities and attractions, happening on the city’s Exhibition Park, in the outskirts of the city centre, although easily reachable by car or by bus.
The Feira de Março is open seven days a week during the month in which it takes place and plays host to many musical events at the weekends, which draw large crowds of visitors from far and wide, and which is especially well attended by Aveiro’s student population. There are also large exhibition areas showcasing cars, home ware, decorations, and arts and crafts. There are plenty of attractions for children at the fairground attached, and food lovers will be in heaven with the many food stalls selling sweet and savoury treats.
Semana Santa is holy week, culminating with Easter Sunday, and is celebrated all over Portugal. The streets of Aveiro come alive during Semana Santa with processions, and there is a large focus on the cathedral, which plays a pivotal role amongst the city’s largely catholic population.
The book and music fair is next on the agenda, in June. The book and music fair takes place at various locations throughout the city, with poetry readings, story telling sessions, book signings, and music and dance performances all playing their role in this cultural event. The book and music fair also plays host to several exhibition marquees, which between them represent more than 200 different publishers.
The fair has a strong focus on providing cultural activities for children, especially as it is timed to coincide with international children’s day. Little ones will enjoy children’s story telling sessions, workshops and all manner of activities designed to awaken and broaden their interest in literature and the arts.
The World Music Festival, known as FESTIM, takes place in late June, to coincide with the festival of Sao Joao. Sao Joao is marked all over the Iberian Peninsula and in many parts of the new world, and is believed to have its roots in ancient pagan festivals. Here in Aveiro, it is marked by an exciting festival of music and a huge fireworks display on June 21, to mark the summer solstice.
The world music festival is a collaboration between five cities in Portugal – Aveiro, Agueda, Albergaria-a-Velha, Sever do Vouga, and Estarreja. Each of the cities plays host to leading names in the world music scene from diverse countries such as the Lebanon, Mozambique, India, Spain, the USA and Chad.
FESTIM has grown significantly every year since its inception and has earned itself a huge fan base from all over the country. It is the only Portuguese member of the European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals and plays a major role in promoting Portugal as a cultural centre to its European counterparts.
August sees the arrival of the Oito20e4 festival, in Espinho (easily reachable by car or by train), which involves three days of free cultural activities by a variety of different artists. The name Oito20e4 means eight and 24 hours, by which it refers to the hours between which its programme of cultural activities take place – from 8AM until midnight.
Twelve locations throughout the city play host to the concerts, exhibitions, movie screenings, circus acts, street performers and DJ acts.
A rather less “cultural” but deeply historical Aveiro festival is the Codfish Festival, which is dedicated to the mainstay of Portugal’s distinctive cuisine — salt cod. The Codfish Festival celebrates the “1000 ways to cook cod fish” that apparently exist in the country’s extensive gastronomic archives. As you would expect, there are numerous opportunities to taste diverse cod dishes, as well as plenty of exhibits and concerts to enjoy.
Autumn sees the return of the student population to Aveiro after the long summer break, and a series of parties to mark the beginning of the new academic year. And before you know it, Christmas and the New Year return once more, ready for celebration and remembrance, and the chance to look back on another year of Aveiro festivals.