The Portuguese love a party, and Lisbon is party central when it comes to events, festivals and cultural activities. The year is packed full of reasons to celebrate, from New Year and Kings day in January right through to Christmas in the depths of December.
Whenever you visit Lisbon, the chances of you coinciding with a major event in the cultural calendar are high. So what exactly can you expect?
The year begins with a bang, when the New Year celebrations are marked by fireworks and partying in the street. Head to the Comercio Square and Vasco da Gama Tower for the best views of the fireworks, and enjoy the sounds of live music on the temporary stage which is erected right in the heart of Comercio Square.
Hot on the heels of New Year comes Kings Day, which is celebrated on January 6th. Kings Day is more important than Christmas day in Portugal, as this is the day the kings are said to bring their gifts to the children.
Things quieten down in February, though not for long as carnival fever takes hold. Carnival is one of the more important events in Portugal’s calendar and is celebrated with spectacular costumes, parades and floats, reminiscent of the world-acclaimed colourful carnival which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil.
March also sees the Lisbon Half Marathon and Lisbon Fashion Week. Also known as Moda Lisboa, Lisbon Fashion week is a meeting place for the country’s top fashion designers and an opportunity for them to showcase their latest collections.
April is greeted with the arrival of the film crowd, for IndieLisboa. An independent film festival, Indie Lisboa provides screening opportunities for hundreds of international independent films, and has grown to become one of the biggest festivals in the city.
Rock in Rio – Lisboa takes the city by storm in May. Explored from its Brazilian namesake city, where the event has a long and distinguished history, Rock in Rio – Lisboa is now in its fifth year and is a major event in Lisbon’s burgeoning music scene.
This five-day event showcases world-famous acts for a whopping 12 hours every day. Families, couples and music buffs come together to enjoy a range of genres from house and dance to serious thumping rock.
For those of a quieter disposition, Lisbon Book Fair may prove to be the perfect alternative. The Lisbon Book Fair takes place in Edward VII Park throughout May, with a series of open-air stalls selling discounted books, rare editions and a variety of English-language tomes.
June sees a whole series of celebrations and concerts to coincide with the popular Santo Antonio Festival. Gay Pride, Super Bock Super Rock, the Alive Rock Music Festival and the Alkantara Festival draw major names from all over the world.
The Santo Antonio Festival itself takes place on 12th and 13th June and culminates in a public holiday to give the exhausted residents of Lisbon a much-needed chance to recover.
In July Lisbon plays host to the Almada Theatre Festival. The most important in the country, the Almada Theatre Festival welcomes a number of national and international theatre companies to the Lisbon stage.
Classical music fans may wish to head away from the capital to the tranquil heights of nearby Sintra in July to enjoy the Sintra Music Festival. The Sintra Music Festival is a major event in the Portuguese calendar. Established more than 40 years ago it plays host to a series of shows at Olga Cadaval Cultural Centre as well as in several of the city’s beautiful palaces, estates, gardens and parks.
Jazz em Agosto is the lead event off the summer months. As its name would suggest, Jazz em Agosto is a major coming together of world-leading names in Jazz, located in the gardens of the Gulbenkian Centre in the city centre.
The autumn heralds a series of Lisbon events including ExperimentaDesign, DocLisboa and Lisbon Fashion Week. ExperimentaDesign is a showcase which takes place every two years and is dedicated to design, architecture and contemporary culture. Doclisboa is a documentary film festival, designed to complement the earlier IndieLisboa festival which takes place in April.
And of course Lisbon Fashion Week is the second chance in the calendar for the great and the good of the fashion world to congregate, party and show their collections.
With the New Year fast approaching, there is little time to fit in any more celebrations, though of course Christmas has its special place in the diaries and the hearts of the Lisbon residents. Christmas is a family time in Portugal – a time to come together, ruminate on the year gone by, and of course prepare for yet another year of Lisbon festivals, parties and mind-blowing celebrations.