The Portuguese love a good party – everything from carnival parades to intimate village festivals celebrating their favourite local food. Whatever time of year you visit the Algarve, you’re bound to find the region in a festive mood. But among the dozens of festivals held throughout the year, there are several that shouldn’t be missed. Make a date for some of these highlights of the Algarve’s calendar.
For more than a century, this attractive market town has been holding one of the Algarve’s biggest pre-Lent carnivals. Over three days until Shrove Tuesday, the streets are taken over by spectacular parades and fabulously costumed dancers. Get there early before the procession starts at 3pm to get the best view of the colourful floats. There’s a nominal charge to watch the parade, but it’s certainly worth it. Afterwards, the fun carries on well into the night at masked balls, themed parties and the hotly contested fancy-dress competition.
Portimão Sardine Festival
Feast on plump sardines straight off the boat during August’s Portimão Sardine Festival. Over five days, the riverfront in Portimão becomes a giant outdoor kitchen as grill after grill is set up to cook this delicious fish. Catch the daily procession from Portimão’s museum as it makes its way to the Arade River. Live bands add to the jovial atmosphere, and if you need more sustenance, check out the other food stalls selling Portuguese treats. Pick up tips from local chefs as they put on cooking demonstrations, and don’t miss the final evening’s mesmerising fireworks. The 2017 festival runs from 2-7 August.
Medieval Days in Castro Marim
Step back in time to the Middle Ages during Castro Marim’s exuberant celebration of all things medieval. Watch knights in shining armour, kings, queens and court jesters parade in their finery during the festivities that take place every August against the dramatic backdrop of the medieval Castle of Castro Marim. Jousting tournaments, street performances and market stalls add to the general merriment. The 2017 edition takes place from 23-27 August.
Fatacil Festival, Lagoa
The Algarve’s heritage is celebrated in spirited style in the Fatacil Festival held in the Lagoa Fair and Exhibition Park. Over 10 days in August, Portuguese musical stars perform on a giant stage and food producers from all over the region set up their stalls of superb local produce. Pick up traditional handicrafts from artisans, many of whom put on demonstrations of their craft. Catch the festival in 2017 from 18-27 August.
Festival Med, Loulé
Now in its 14th year, Festival Med has become one of Europe’s foremost world music events. Embracing cultures of the Mediterranean as well as Portugal, the four-day festival held in late June brings together some of the stars of world music to Loulé. The town’s historic centre is transformed into a massive Mediterranean bazaar of food stalls, street theatre, dancers and craftspeople. Pop-up restaurants offer the chance to taste the cuisines of all of the countries involved in the festival. In 2017, the event runs from 29 June to 2 July.
Article written by Mary Novakovich. In partnership with the Algarve Tourism Bureau.