For those who want to know how Carnival is experienced in Portugal, the popular Portuguese expression "life lasts two days, and Carnival four" reflects the intensity with which the Portuguese embrace this season. For several days, the streets are filled with people dressed in extravagant costumes and original masks, creating a festive and fun landscape, where imagination is the limit. From north to south of the country, music and parades take center stage and, in many regions, celebrations incorporate elements of folklore and ancestral customs, reminding us that, although tradition is no longer what it used to be, cultural heritage is still venerated and celebrated.
Whether you are an unconditional fan of Carnival in Portugal or prefer to escape the Carnival hustle and bustle, All About Portugal leaves you with some suggestions for a short and invigorating holiday break.
Vila Nova de Cerveira
Known as “Vila das Artes” (Arts Town), it is a good destination for a “creative” break during the Carnival holidays, with visits to art galleries and the Fundação Bienal de Arte de Cerveira, whose collection includes one of the most relevant art collections of the artistic production after April 25, 1974 (Portuguese Revolution). But during Carnival, the atmosphere in the village gains another creative dynamic with lots of local festivities, parades and cultural events. If you enjoy eating, indulge in the riverside restaurants and savor the delicious local cuisine. For nature lovers, the trails in Serra d’Arga provide stunning views. Vila Nova de Cerveira is the perfect destination for an authentic Carnival, in a mix of tradition, art and natural beauty.
For many, Carnival in Portugal means a visit to the snow, which is why Covilhã – known as the "Snow City" – is a popular destination at this time of revelry, where the granite streets take on a different tone with colorful parades, music and crazy masquerades. But the bucolic setting of Serra da Estrela, which surrounds the city, makes it a versatile choice, also attracting those who prefer a quieter Carnival in the middle of Nature. Land of tradition and history, be sure to explore the secrets of textile production, on a visit to the Wool Museum, or delve into the delights of local delicacies, where Queijo da Serra (cheese) and sausages have a special place.
It is impossible to think about Carnival in Portugal without including Torres Vedras, one of the most famous in the country and known for its traditional festivities and colorful parades. On the streets, the costumes are extravagant, and you will find the famous "matrafonas" and traditional "corsos", the soul of the Torriense Carnival. Make the most of your visit to the city and go to Torres Vedras Castle, which offers stunning views of the region. Stroll through Parque Verde da Várzea and try typical dishes such as Sopa de Pedra and Pastéis de Feijão. Be sure to explore the vineyards in the area known for its full-bodied wines
In this lovely Trás-os-Montes village, tradition is still what it was, especially during Carnival, where mysterious and noisy figures – the “caretos” – wearing colorful costumes and wild masks, roam the streets, spreading excitement. Ancestral rituals, such as "chocalhadas" and folkloric dances, transform Podence into a unique Carnival stage in Portugal, enchanting visitors with a unique experience rooted in the region's rich history, which dates back to pagan rituals that celebrated fertility and ward off evil spirits.
Carnival in Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage city, becomes an event with a special charm for History lovers. Have you ever imagined its medieval streets and the imposing Cathedral or the fascinating Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel), as a backdrop for colorful parades? Furthermore, the proximity to Elvas, a neighboring city about 80 kilometers away, offers visitors intense carnival celebrations with their own traditions and festive atmosphere, attracting thousands of people every year and bringing together Portuguese and Spanish people.
Albufeira, known for its mild temperatures, offers a cozy refuge even during winter, and you will be able to enjoy its natural beauty quietly and with fewer people, giving you the possibility to appreciate the authenticity of local life. But if you are a fan of Carnival in Portugal, even in the silence of its golden beaches and dizzying cliffs, you will be able to feel the proximity of Carnival in Loulé, known for its grandeur and authenticity. This neighboring city, with a rich cultural heritage, is an irresistible invitation for party lovers.
Carnival in Santana, on Madeira Island, is a unique experience that reflects the cultural richness of this region. While Funchal's Carnival draws crowds, Santana offers a more intimate celebration, with local parades and unique traditions. The typical thatched houses become the stage for lively festivities, where masquerades and revelers celebrate Madeira's diversity and the community comes together to celebrate Carnival in a unique and memorable way. And, unlike many carnival destinations in the country, Santana benefits from the mild temperatures already common on Madeira Island.