Ten Tips for Surviving the Festas de Lisboa

The city is busy preparing for the upcoming festival of Santo António on June 12, but the party is starting now and will stretch the entire month. Each neighborhood is setting up its own arraial (party area) and restaurant owners are dragging trash cans out to serve as grills and begging their neighbors to lend them as many extension cords as possible for the lights and speakers they dig out of storage once every year.

Pick a day this month and party with your neighbors and get in good with the restaurant on the corner. Make like the Portuguese and get the party started early. Here’s a little guide for how to handle the next couple of weeks, and what to avoid. Not sure what we’re celebrating? Read more here.

Party with the locals all month long in most every neighborhood in the city. The squares have been transformed into venues all their own, decorated with streamers, balloons, and lights to celebrate the “Popular Saints.” Stuff your face full of grilled sardines, chouriço, and caldo verde between cups of beer (or wine, or gin and tonics…)

TIP 1: These festas get packed, so keep your eyes peeled for a bathroom and use it when you see an opening. Even if you don’t think you have to go. Trust me.

TIP 2: If you’ll be walking around Alfama — and you should, the locals here take these things more seriously than anyone else — it’s best to get your group together first and then go. Most nights, the streets will be pretty packed so it can be hard to find your friend. On June 12, don’t even try meeting up inside Alfama: it’s shoulder-to-shoulder mosh-pit navigating and you WILL NOT find them.

TIP 3: Wear comfortable shoes. There are not many empty chairs or benches to sit. And due to the foot traffic and the lack of bathrooms, sitting on the floor is just NOT an option.

TIP 4: Bring napkins and wet wipes because your hands will get sticky from eating grilled sardines. You’ll already smell like fish because of the grills, so do a little damage control where you can.

TIP 5: Music festivals like the traditional Fado nights at the Castle are occasionally less crowded that parties on the streets, so if you bring a picnic blanket or just an oversized scarf, you’ll be able to take a load off now and then.

TIP 6: If you’re heading out before 18h, wear sunscreen. Or a hat and long sleeves. It’s getting hot out there and there are often no places to hide from the sun.

TIP 7: You’ll be sick to death of pimba music (it sounds a lot like polka but…Portuguese) as every arraial will play their pimba picks on a loop, so when you get an opportunity to hear something a little different, take it!

TIP 8: Bring a bottle of water because it’s outdoors and it’s hot and you need to hydrate on things other than draught beers. Change it up and order a lemonade here and there, no one will judge you.

TIP 9: It may seem like there are a lot of free concerts in the summer, but people can’t get enough of them — they fill up almost every time. Get there early to grab a good seat, or send a friend who’s done drinking to hold one for you. But don’t, for the love of Santo Antonio, hold more than one extra seat, though. You may think you’re an innovator but everyone else will treat you like the a%*hole that you are.

TIP 10: BYOB (beer, wine, whatever) if you need a break from your month-long Super Bock and Sagres binge. Support local artisans and stock up on some craft beer.

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