Get ready for Lisbon to smell like sardines for the next month! Arraias (the plural of arraial), marked by colorful garlands, basil bushes, dangling cardboard fish, split barrel grills, and more will soon be popping up all over. As it’s the second proper party season since the pandemic, municipalities, residents, and shopkeepers are gearing up for this year’s city-wide annual celebration by planning out their own special parties while participating in unofficial decoration competitions with their neighbors that leave the city dressed to the nines for summer.
But what are these parties all about and what role does a saint have to play in it all?
The Festas de Lisboa celebrate both Lisbon and its patron saint: Saint Anthony through annual group weddings (yes, you read that right), parades, and lively festivals. This is every neighborhood’s opportunity to take to the streets in a block-after block-after block parties intended to get residents and visitors to mingle, drink, eat, and dance. And this year it seems things will be back to their former glory. If this is your first time at the festas, you may want to plan ahead.
The Empresa de Gestão de Equipamentos e Animação Cultural (EGEAC), the government entity in charge of organizing the finer points of the main parties and events, has already published its coveted party guide to the 2023 Festas de Lisboa complete with open-air concerts, marches, block parties, expositions, and more to start things off right.
Here are a few of the main events, with some newcomers to the scene that have us intrigued.
June 1, 22h: The opening party for the festas, called Canções de uma Noite de Verão (Songs of a Summer Night) will get things going at Terreiro do Paço with the musical stylings of Ana Bacalhau, António Zambujo, Áurea, Conan Osiris, and Marta Ren. The Orquestra Pop Portuguesa, conducted by Jan Wierzba and featuring original arrangements by Filipe Raposo, Pedro Moreira, and Lino Guerreiro, will set the tone for what’s to come in the next month, and the spectacle will be fun for the whole family — and free.
June 1 – 18: LU.CA at the Teátro Trindade is celebrating its fifth anniversary by hosting a variety of plays geared toward children beginning at five years of age and ranging in price from free to 7€ depending on the show.
June 3, 11h – 19h30: Let’s get colorful! Check out the music, dance, food, and yoga at the Bollywood Holi festival at the Comunidade Hindu de Portugal. This may not be a strictly traditional thing, but it looks like it’s going to be entertaining, to say the least!
June 2 – 4: Watch the Marchas Populares practice at Altice Arena one final time before taking to the streets! Get ready for some over-the-top harmonies, killer traditional moves, and lots of crate paper flowers as Lisbon’s neighborhoods go head to head for the chance to be crowned victorious.
June 12, 11h30: Watch 16 couples get married on the steps of the Sé! This mass wedding is one of the most cherished traditions of the festas. Keep your eyes peeled for some pretty amazing vintage cars that take each couple in a procession around the city and prepare yourself for an abnormal amount of honking.
June 12, 21h: Head to Avenida Liberdade where the Marchas Populares will parade together in an amazing display. They’ve been working toward this all year, and each neighborhood is primed to be crowned the best in show. Pssst: Marcha Madragoa won last year, so it’s more than likely they’ve got something to prove, as Alcântara and Alto do Pina would love to trade their silver and bronze (respectively) for the gold.
But don’t stop there- there’s lots more to discover! Boas festas, everyone.