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Saint Anthony’s (or “Santo Antonio’s”) festival in Lisbon may just be Europe’s best-kept summer secret… it’s the day when Portugal’s capital city literally turns into one gigantic public party! Imagine a day filled with cheap sangria on tap, pop-up restaurants and bars everywhere you turn, Portueguese music blasting in your ear, plus a bunch of drunk and happy locals, and now you now what this day is like in Lisbon. I say “day” but what I really mean is: this is what the first 2 weeks of June looks like. Yep, 2 weeks of non-stop parties in the cute, old, and charming little district of Alfama, with festivities peaking from the 12th to the 14th. I was lucky enough to be living in Alfama for the duration of this festival and can truly say it was one of the most amazing 2 weeks of my life!!

Right outside my door I could find: CHEAP and delicious grilled sardines ✔️ sangria and beer for just 1.50 euro a pop ✔️ festive decorations and even more festive music with dancing locals ✔️ and one of the most authentic Portueguse experiences I’ve had in my whole month of living in Portugal✔️. The latter is true because it appeared as if NO ONE knows about this crazy day, except for the citizens of Portugal! That being said, if you’re looking for a good time to visit Lisbon, June is your month!! I know I said the first 2 weeks are crazy, but the fun continues into the entire month with even more holidays and festivals!

To paint a better picture of what it’s like to experience St. Anthony’s day festival, this is what you should expect…


TONS of food (mainly grilled sardines!)

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To be frank, sardines RUN St. Anthony’s festival. You have not properly honered Santo Antonio unless you’ve consumed at least 5 grilled sardines! They’re smoky, salty, charred and SO delicious, as well as incredibly cheap so go sardine crazy when you’re here!!

Other classic festival eats include bifanas (grilled pork sandwiches), whole-grilled chourizo sausages, fried croquettes, pastel de nata (egg custard pastries- so yummy ????), and a plethora of different fattening and delicious desserts like nutella-filled churros and waffles smothered in chocolate.

Come very hungry!!!


Pop-up bars and cocktail trucks serving cheap alcohol

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You can pretty much grab a drink ANYWHERE you please during the festival since almost a hunred locals construct pop-up bars where you can purchase the local classics: sangria, beer, and ginja (fermented morello cherry alcohol- a popular one among the locals!). For a little extra, you can purchase the hard stuff at some cocktail trucks, although these are more scarce.

The drink prices range anywhere from 1-4 euros depending on the type of alcohol and the size. If you rather not spend all your money on drinks, feel free to pick up a 2.50 euro bottle of wine at one of the many nearby convienient stores, which you can drink along with everybody in the open! There’s really no rules when it comes to alcohol at this event.

Don’t forget to pace yourself!!


An overwhelming smell of smoke, frying oil, and sweet, fruity sangria!

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Once you smell the smoke, you know you’re about to enter the festival!! The heat, smell, and clouds from the grill can be overwhelming when walking in the narrow and steep streets of Alfama, so find a spot in the one of the flat, open sqaures when you just want to sip on sangria and relax!


Crowds and costumes

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Another indicator that you’ve entered the festival? Jam-packed streets of people wearing sardine hats and St. Anthony’s halos! It’s not necessary to dress up- about a third of the crowd does- but it certainly adds to the fun of the festival! If you want to purchase a festive hat or costume, don’t go looking for them before since you can easily find vendors selling these things at the festival for cheap.

Something to keep in mind if you don’t like crowds- the streets are very narrow in Alfama, so again, find a spot in one of the open squares, where a lot of the partying and people-watching takes place, in order to get a breather!


Loud traditional music and lots of dancing!

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The music you should expect to hear at St. Anthony’s festival is traditional Fado music, as well as more upbeat Portuegese music. It blares through the streets of Alfama until the wee hours of the morning, so if you’re staying in this district, also expect a late night’s sleep!

If you really want to blend in with the locals, join in on their dance trains and continuous clapping and singing as they parade around the party-squares!


Bright, colorful decorations and make-shift vendor stands

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These decorations aren’t just something that the pop-up restuarants and bars do, the whole town of Alfama joins in on the fun! As you walk through the district’s cobblestone streets and colorful appartments, you’ll notice plenty of houses with streamers adorning their windows and doors, as well as other traditional decorations like potted flowers and offerings for Santo Antonio.


Last, but not least- A cultural celebration of old traditions, rather than just plain debauchery!

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Amongst all the chaos and entertainment [and drinks????], it’s easy to forget why St. Anthony’s festival is even celebrated in the first place! If you’d like to learn more about why Santo Antonio is celebrated in Lisbon, do as I did, and read up a little here.

It may be just one big Lisbon party to tourists and perhaps the younger Portueguese generations, but there is a lot of tradition, culture, and history that gave birth to this incredible festival! Make sure you do your research before attending as it really does add to your overall experience!


Need help planning your next visit to the next St. Anthony’s festival? Let me know any questions you may have in the comments below!

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Comments:

  • Peter Jackson

    January 10, 2017

    Hi there,

    really enjoyed the article! Just a few questions on the festival, is it best to be there for both the 12th and 13th, is the night of the 13th a big night of partying as well? Also is it best to stay in the Alfama district?

    Cheers,

    Peter Jackson.

    reply...
  • Kurt Taylor

    March 31, 2017

    Hi,

    My girlfriend and I are heading to Lisbon from the 11th to the 14th of June. We are staying in an AirBnB as well for the 4 days. Reading through your article about it, I am getting pretty excited! We love sangria, and are super keen for the festival.
    Just wondering if you have any specific places that were particularly great. I’m sure that all of it was awesome!

    Thanks in advance.

    Kurt.

    reply...
    • CJ Grant

      April 23, 2017

      I’ll be there during this time too so I’m very interested in hearing Carly’s response.

      reply...
  • May 26, 2017

    Aww looks so fun! The 12th is actually my birthday! Would you recommend making a reservation at an outdoor restaurant in Alfama, or would you just wing it and wander around the streets eating as you go?

    reply...
  • Christopher Jones

    May 29, 2017

    Howdy, I stumbled on the June Festival in Lisboa in 2015. Loved it. The music playing everywhere was swinging and festive, but it wasn’t fado, unless it was jazzed up fado. Anyway to know the music being played in general? Are there other names of Portuguese music?

    reply...
    • Rafa

      June 1, 2017

      The most festive music is called “Pimba”, it’s used for this type of ocasions.
      Search it on youtube, just type something like “pimba português”.

      Hope it helps.

      A portuguese guy that loves Santo António.

      reply...
  • Jesse

    June 1, 2017

    Greetings Everyone,
    We have been to the Festa Major de Gracia in Barcelona and the Sagra del Pesce in Camogli. We are excite to go this sardine festival of St. Anthony. We leave the 12th of June and arrive the 13th. I’m sure the festivities will still be going on. Rested or not we will check into our AirBnb and walk to the Alfama district. We will be wearing our Angels cap with a Trout sticking out of it. Not quite a sardine but its the spirit that counts. lol

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  • Raj J

    June 25, 2017

    Hi Carly.

    Firstly, I have to say you have a great post of St.Anthony’s Festival in Lisbon. Your post is very informative and the pictures capture the spirit and tangible energy of celebration during that day. It inspired me and my friends to visit this June. It was a fantastic experience and the Alfama district is beautiful. My friends and I loved the street party atmosphere and the easy access to sangria ha! So thank you for this post!

    Based on your travels, can you recommend any other festivals in Europe like this one, which you would recommend. Can you suggest any others in Europe?

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  • Annette Dixon

    January 22, 2018

    Love this article and your pictures are amazing! Arriving in Lisbon on the morning of June 11th and leaving on the afternoon of the 13th. We will be heading to Spain. I am travelling with my 2 older sons, ages 18 and 17. Didn’t realize when I made travel plans that it would be during this festival. I am so excited that we will get to experience this! Here are my questions, though. We still want to see some of the museums and historical sights while there. We arrive on a Monday, when some things are closed. My plan was to see as much as possible on Monday that is open around Alfama – the Se, the castle, etc., then head to Belem on Tuesday, the 12th. I figured we’d be back in the afternoon on the 12th and could then enjoy the festival. Are the festivities all day? Is it really hard to see the parade on the Avenida da Liberdade? We are staying near the Rossio stations so you have an idea of our location. Hoping to still possibly see a few things on Wed. morning as our flight isn’t until 4;00 pm. I know some places will be closed as it’s a holiday. Thanks in advance for your thoughts and help!

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  • Christine

    January 24, 2018

    Hi Carly!

    I’ll be in Lisbon the first weekend in June – will there be any festivities happening at that time, leading up to the 12th? After reading this post, I hope so!

    Thanks!
    Christine

    reply...

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