Lisbon Carnival

If you ever visit the Portuguese capital, there is one thing you should not miss: the Lisbon Carnival. But what is it, when does it take place, and what can you look forward to?

Well, I am here to help as I have visited Lisbon often, and you are in for a treat when it comes to carnival time.

Prepare for a constant explosion of rhythm, color, and delicious food. So, pack your bags to visit Lisbon in February.

What is the Lisbon Carnival?

Like most countries, the Carnival marks Lent’s beginning and winter’s end. For many, it spans over 40 days of fasting and prayer and starts on Ash Wednesday.

Cities have started to prepare carnival programs that include bright costumes, fun activities, and a carnival parade similar to Mardi Gras. You see shops with delicious delights and parties everywhere.

Still, the Lisbon Carnival is not religious or a public holiday. So, normal activities from work to school take place. It also means the main parades you find held over a weekend.

Furthermore, it is the largest Carnival in Portugal, not to be missed, making it the year’s biggest event.

Brief History of The Lisbon Carnival

Lisbon Festivals July

The Lisbon Carnival’s roots trace back centuries and are intertwined in Portuguese culture. You see the festive extravaganza celebrated on the Lisbon streets.

The origin of the Lisbon Carnival dates back to medieval times when people took part in masked balls to mark the pre-Lenten season. It evolved into what you see today when visiting the city.

Still, during the 17th century, the influence of the Venetian masquerade traditions was everywhere. People with elaborate costumes and intricate masks add glamour and mystery to most festivities.

Yet, during the 19th and 20th centuries, the Lisbon Carnival faced challenges due to economic and political upheaval. Still, people kept the spirit alive, holding community-based celebrations.

In the mid-20th century, the city became captivated and filled with colors and energy. Still, there is more to the Carnival in Lisbon than revelry, as it serves as a platform to become creative and showcase Portuguese traditions.

Hence, it fosters a sense of community and reflects the people’s resilience in overcoming historical challenges. Today, the Lisbon Carnival is a major cultural event that attracts people from near and far.

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When is The Lisbon Carnival

The famous Carnival Tuesday takes place in 2024 on February 13. Still, every year, it changes according to the calendar of the Catholic Church. But it always falls on the Tuesday that is a week before Lent.

Since it is not a public holiday, the festivities occur over weekends before Carnival Tuesday, but it depends on the city’s program. Hence, I recommend checking the details before heading to any specific city carnival.

The Carnival can last a few days to weeks with an entire agenda set up with music, parades, and activities daily. Nonetheless, people have already started preparing for the Lisbon Carnival way before the festivities in February.

Lisbon Carnival Events, Parades and Food

No matter what year you visit the Carnival in Lisbon, you will find a tapestry of festivity and tradition. The Portuguese Carnival brings the streets alive, filled with a kaleidoscope of culture.

You will see places like Avenida da Liberdade transformed into a display of costumes, majestic floats, and captivating rhythms. It will revitalize the day and nightlife to give you an electrifying atmosphere.

This year, the Lisbon Carnival will take place for half of the month, and this year’s parade promises loads of fun and a circus atmosphere. Usually, tickets are free to residents.

Portugal Carnival

Principe Real Garden is the starting carnival block as the parade follows through to Cais do Sodré. Then, at Quiosque da Ribeira das Naus, the group Carnaval Bué Tolo will samba through the streets with loads of parties and funk.

Some activities included in the Carnival Festival that change yearly is from:

  • The Carnival in the Middle Ages from the 10th to February 13 at 3 pm.
  • On February 10, from 4 pm to 10 pm, is the Revolutionary Carnival, loaded with games, workshops, and entertainment.
  • Then, on the same day, at 8 pm, you have the Humans of Carnival to see creative writing workshops, while on the 11th at 10 am, you have creative and imagination games.

Not only do you have the Carnival, but you can also visit different neighborhoods to find attractions from Bairro Alto to Alfama.

Food and Cuisine During Carnival

While you do not find specific foods associated with the Lisbon Carnival, traditional Portuguese food, from pastries to sweets, can be enjoyed during the festivities. It is the best time to explore the local street as food stalls and vendors offer from pork sandwiches and roasted chestnuts to sardines.

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The Best Places to Explore the Portuguese Carnival

Carnival in Portugal

While the Lisbon Carnival is the main attraction, you can find some places in Portugal to enjoy the experience.

Torres Vedras

The Carnival in Torres Vedras is a renowned festival that has been celebrated since 1923. It lasts six days and features traditional carnival elements such as floats, giant puppets, and musicians.

The Torres Vedras festival is famous for the presence of “matrafonas,” men dressed up in women’s clothing, providing hilarious and entertaining performances.

Additionally, there are “cabeçudos” and “gigantones,” which are giant puppets that parade through the streets, showcasing their unique and vibrant costumes.

The Carnival occurs mainly near the shore, making it an excellent opportunity to experience Portuguese culture and traditions.

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Ovar

Lisbon Carnival Samba Dancers

Visit Ovar’s huge carnival party in 2024 that lasts almost a month, from January 20 until February 13. Enjoy more than 20 unique floats and the grandiosity of the Carnival’s street party. Experience multiple concerts and samba dancers’ school parades, adding to the festive ambiance.

Funchal

The island of Madeira hosts a vibrant and exciting carnival that lasts two weeks, starting on February 7 and ending on February 18.

The city of Funchal is a must-visit during this time, and the highlight of the Carnival is the colorful and satirical Cortejo Trapalhão parade.

Madeira offers a range of activities and events, making the carnival experience unforgettable.

Loulé

The Loulé carnival will occur on Avenida José da Costa Mealha from the 9th to the 13th of February.

With three samba schools, nine animation groups, 14 incredible floats, cabeçudos and gigantones caricaturing politicians and celebrities, and over 600 entertainers, the Carnival promises to be an electrifying event.

Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the festivities and have an unforgettable experience.

Famalicão

The Carnival of Famalicão in Porto’s northern region offers a unique experience that locals and tourists often prefer due to its serene ambiance.

Although it may not be as grand as other carnivals, the scheduled parades and festivities still leave a lasting impression on visitors. The highlight of the Carnival is the night between the 12th and 13th of February when the streets are packed with people reveling and having the time of their lives.

If you’re looking for a distinct and tranquil carnival experience, mark your calendars for the 9th to 13th of February 2024 and head to Famalicão, just a short drive from Porto.

Mealhada

Carnival Parade

The Mealhada municipality between Lisbon and Porto is renowned for its carnival festivities and four local wonders – bread, wine, water, and piglets.

Unlike other locations, the Carnival in Mealhada has a relaxed atmosphere and celebrates the region’s local products.

The parade is an essential part of the Carnival, and visitors are guaranteed to witness a samba school showcasing their talents in the middle of the street.

Porto

In Porto, two significant carnival celebrations are scheduled for 2024. The first one, called Bloco Tá Fixe, is a Brazilian-style event that will take place on February 3 at 302 Antonio Carneiro Street.

To participate in this festivity, be there at 9 pm sharp. The second Carnival, Bloco Carnavrau Porto, is the more official and closer to the agreed carnival dates.

It will occur on February 11 at Restaurante Brasileirão, and the Carnival will commence at 5 pm. Don’t miss out on the fun.

Sesimbra

During the Sesimbra carnival, visitors can enjoy colorful parades on the 11th and 13th of February, showcasing samba schools, costumes, and medieval tournaments.

The Clown Parade is a must-see event with over 4,000 attendees and twice as many balloons. Nighttime activities on the shore, including concerts and a DJ, keep the party going until sunrise.

The best part is that if you miss the Portuguese Carnival every year, you at least know what to look forward to next year.

Tips for Tourists Attending Lisbon Carnival

When visiting the Lisbon Carnival, it helps to keep these tips in mind:

  1. Plan and book your accommodation early as it can get crowded during the Carnival.
  2. Bring comfortable shoes as you will be walking and dancing a lot.
  3. Wear colorful costumes or a mask to blend in with the locals.
  4. Be prepared for loud music and street parties that go on until the early hours of the morning.
  5. Keep your belongings safe and be aware of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas.
  6. Try the local food and drinks, such as the famous custard tarts and Ginjinha liquor.
  7. Get a good spot to watch the parades, which are the highlight of the Carnival.
  8. Respect the culture and traditions of the locals and have fun.

Hot Tip🔥: While visiting the Carnival, check out the other 40 things you can do in Lisbon on your trip to make it worthwhile.

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Wrap-Up: Attending the Lisbon Carnival

Attending the Lisbon Carnival can be an unforgettable experience for anyone who loves music, dance, and colorful parades.

The Carnival’s vibrant atmosphere, lively music, and stunning costumes can bring you joy and celebration. Whether you are a local or a tourist, you can enjoy the festive spirit of the Carnival that fills the streets of Lisbon every year.

From samba dancing to street performances, there is something for everyone at the Lisbon Carnival. So, if you can attend this fantastic event, don’t miss it.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Lisbon Carnival is an annual event in February or March, depending on the date of Easter.

The Lisbon Carnival features a variety of events, including parades, street performances, costume contests, and music concerts.

There is no specific dress code for the Lisbon Carnival, but wearing comfortable clothes and shoes is recommended, as you’ll be walking and dancing for hours.

Yes, the Lisbon Carnival is a family-friendly event, and there are plenty of activities for children, such as face painting, puppet shows, and workshops.

The Lisbon Carnival takes place in many different neighborhoods around the city, and you can get there by public transportation, such as buses, trams, and metro. It’s recommended to check the official website of the Lisbon Carnival for more information on the location of the events and the best transportation options.

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