There is much in Sintra to entertain the masses every week of the year, from regular cultural events to major spectaculars that take place in its streets, palace grounds and nationally acclaimed conference and events centre that has taken its place at the forefront of the Portuguese cultural scene.
New Year bonanza
Portugal is renowned for its New Year celebrations and Sintra is no exception. Shortly before midnight the town’s streets flood with people to ring in the New Year in the company of their fellow town’s residents and visitors. Fireworks are a popular addition to the proceedings and Sintra’s elevated position overlooking the rolling hills of the national park and the Atlantic coastline in the distance makes it the perfect sport for admiring the many displays taking place in the villages and coastal towns.
Carnival – or Mardi Gras – is next on the agenda, taking place between late February and early March. This is marked by a huge celebration throughout many countries in the world and Sintra has a strong Mardi Gras tradition. The celebrations involve a week of colourful street parties aimed at the young and the old alike with colourful floats, fancy dress parades and musical concerts. Expect to encounter fire crackers, fireworks and a whole host of colourful decorations throughout the town.
One of the favourite celebrations is the ballroom masquerade competition that is held every year in the Pena Palace, for which children and adults turn up in themed costume, masquerading as Portuguese royalty from a bygone age.
The recently renovated Olga Cadaval Cultural Centre plays host to a series of interior celebrations for which the town is renowned all over Portugal including dramatic performances, musicals and artistic workshops for all age groups.
Holy Week falls during the week before Easter and is celebrated all over Portugal. Colourful processions and fill the streets of Sintra making Holy Week a lively and interesting time to visit.
June marks the beginning of the busy summer season in Sintra, which is also the busiest time in the town’s cultural calendar. The Sintra Festival forms the centerpiece of the town’s celebrations, beginning in June and continuing right the way through the summer until the end of August. The Festival takes the form of a string of musical events at a range of locations, including many of the magical manicured parks that surround the town’s exotic palaces and historic buildings.
Full information can be obtained from the tourist information office in the centre of town or the Olga Cadaval Cultural Centre, or simply look out for the myriad leaflets that are produced to promote the town’s activities.
The Sintra Festival usually sees one major event per week plus a range of smaller workshops in between, plus a ballet festival during the final weeks of August. Look out too for the Feira Grande celebration on the 31st of July which takes place in nearby Sao Pedro.
Summer’s no exception
The summer season also sees a number of fairs and festivals down on the Estoril coast at nearby Cascais, including the Festas dos Santos Populares from 12th to 29th of June, the international jazz festival in July and a hugely popular handicraft fair in Estoril, the oldest of its kind in Portugal, between July and August. For more details on the Festas dos Santos Populares, the jazz festival and the handicraft fair contact the Cascais tourist board.
The cultural calendar nears its end with All Souls’ Day on 1st November. All Souls’ Day is celebrated all over Portugal and indeed in many parts of the world, to remember those who have passed away. And finally Christmas in Sintra is a colourful occasion and a popular time for family get-togethers and public celebrations.
Christmas is usually marked on the evening of 24th December, leaving 25th for contemplation, relaxation and perhaps sleeping off the excesses of the day before.