Europe, Exclusive, Portugal

There’s a Festival for That: Portugal’s Best Festas

Ever changing technology means there’s now a well-known saying that there’s an app for everything. But, in Portugal, there’s a festival for everything.

In fact, there’s probably a festival going on somewhere every day in Portugal. Every town and village has its very own patron saint, whose saint’s day is usually celebrated with typical Portuguese verve. And, the Portuguese festivals calendar is not just about traditional or historic events. New ones are springing up all the time, with music and food festivals becoming increasingly popular.

Always vibrant and atmospheric, and sometimes quirky, attending a Portuguese festa is the perfect way to soak up some local culture. But, with so many to choose from, it’s difficult to opt for just one. Here are just some of my favourites:

The festival of the crosses

Dubbed, “the most Portuguese village in Portugal,” Monsanto is worth a visit any time of year, perching atop a steep hill and built around granite boulders. But, in May, the village truly comes alive with a festival to commemorate its resistance to a siege in 2nd century BC when Roman troops held the population in their own castle. The woman of the village now carry rag dolls known as marafonas and clay jars full off flowers to throw from the walls in a symbolic gesture which mirrors the action of villagers in days gone by when they tossed the last of their supplies away to fool the Romans into thinking they had plenty more food rations.

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Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/luistxo/457941043/

Portimão Sardine Festival

Sardines have long been part of the tradition and culture of the Algarve, and there’s no better time or place to sample them then at the Portimão Sardine Festival, which takes place at the beginning of August every year.

The air fills with barbecue smoke and the delectable smell of fresh seafood. But it’s not all about the food. You can enjoy this local delicacy while listening to live fado music, picking up souvenirs from the market stalls, and watching children at play at the small funfair. An impressive fireworks display marks the end of the festival. And, with regular flights and package holidays from operators such as Orbitz from the US or Jet2holidays from the UK, enjoying fresh sardines in the late evening sunshine on Portimão’s waterfront awaits you.

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Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27087959@N00/9314203935/

Festa da ria

If you’re heading to Portugal in the middle of July, the Festa da ria is a must. Given its vital role in the life of the city of Aveiro, the Festival of the Estuary, is dedicated to the river. The highlight is without doubt the regatta of traditional painted seaweed fishing boats, barcos moliceiros. Fisherman gather seaweed with large rakes before it is loaded onto carts and used as a natural fertiliser.

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Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hormigo/4973723090/

Sudoeste Festival

Held just above the Algarve in the southernmost part of the Alentejo in Zambujeira do Mar, the Sudoeste Festival is one of Portugal’s best kept secrets. When we visit, we’re lucky enough to catch many of the acts which had just played Glastonbury. But, because it has a capacity of only 30,000, we’re just a few rows from the stage when Janelle Monáe gives one of her signature quirky performances before headline act Snoop Dogg has the crowd hanging on his every lyric.

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Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/91961862@N00/210465338/

Whether your passion is music, food, history or culture, Portugal has a festival for you.

Katie is a UK based blogger with a sweet tooth and a serious case of wanderlust. She travels as often as she can and Portugal is one of her favourite destinations. Follow her adventures in cake and on foreign shores @delightsomeblog

Headline photo by fusca on Flickr

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