Portuguese Carnaval: Where to Party, Parade, and Burn Stuff in 2024

You think Brazil is the only place to Carnival in Portuguese? Think again. Portugal's got a lot going on that's worth checking out.

Are you ready? The 2024 edition of Carnival is set for February 10th to 13th and Portugal is gearing up. Whether you see it as a lead-up to Lent or an ancient pagan fertility ritual, you can expect mischief-making masked celebrants, cross-dressers, barhoppers, flaming effigies, and of course, paper-mâché politicians.

How you decide to indulge in the celebration depends on where you plan to be for the long weekend. Wherever it is, chances are you’ll run into some kind of party, so it’s important to know what’s what before you call the cops on a dude wearing a suit made of wooly blankets who is trying to spank you with a belt full of cowbells. 

Source: Xinhua

Lisbon Carnival

Sure, Lisbon is the capital, but Carnival hasn’t gripped the city the same way it has done in other regions. However, there are a few events that you shouldn’t miss if you do decide to celebrate here. Here are a few of our picks.

February 9 at 14h30 | FREE: Clown around in costume with our friends at Chapitô for their annual parade starting on the Chapitô doorstep, going up through Alfama, through the Castelo do São Jorge, and ending at Largo do Caldas for more dancing, drinking, and making merry. They set the bar pretty high with costumes, so leave your hoodie at home and come up with something fancy. Here are a few tips on where you can find a costume.

February 10 from 16h – 21h | FREE: Lisbon is primed to celebrate Carnivale, or Carnaval in Portuguese, alongside the 50th anniversary of the 25th of April, so the Museu de Lisboa is hosting a Revolutionary Carnival in the courtyard of the Palácio Pimenta filled with family-friendly games, workshops, and live music to get the party started. At 19h30, Farra Fanfarra — who plays a dance-friendly mix of traditional Portuguese music, Balkan brass, Dixieland, blues, jazz, funk, and soul— will take the stage. Check out the full agenda here to see what other mask and hat-making workshops will be going on around town to mark the occasion.

February 11 from 19h – 24h | 7€: Boogie down at one of the best post-Carnival parties in town with the Bloco de Carnaval Baque Virado at Casa Independente. The well-known percussion group Baque do Tejo will be there to dance and celebrate carnival culture Recife, Brazil style, so expect the unexpected…and loads of feathers and sequins!

February 11 1t 11h or 17h | From 21€: If you’re looking for more of a Carnival cool-down, check out the Carnival Concert at the CCB in which the Lisbon Metropolitan Orchestra will perform works by Beethoven, Ravel, Rossini, and more…in costume. Last year the first violin was a fireman and Super Mario was on the bassoon. Just letting you know.

Not feeling any of it? Check out the event pages of Baile do Viva o Samba Lisboa BlockCarnival Bue ToloCarnival of the LU.CA (Teatro Luís de Camões), and Colombina Clandestina for other parades and activities going on.

Torres Vedras

Torres Vedras is best known for its over-the-top Carnival celebrations (from the 9th to the 14th) and has become famous for its particular style of satire and humor that inspires its elaborate floats, costumes, and performances. Of particular note are the Matrafonas and the Cabeçudos costumes in which people wear giant heads, usually of politicians or sports stars. There’s also quite a bit of crossdressing that goes on there, so prepare yourself to see more than one bearded lady.

Podence

This tiny 200-inhabitant village in Trás-os-Montes has Carnival-ing down to a science, but not in the way that most cities celebrate. Develish masked caretos flood the town to rattle the ladies in the famous Entrudo Chocalheiro ceremony, which has been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Caretos de Podence must be seen to be believed, but beware: they scream, jump, and run amok in between beers and snacks. And they like the ladies. A lot. If you value your behind, it’s best to keep your distance. Find out more about that here.

Check it out from the 10th to the 13th of February, and watch as they burn a giant wooden careto to symbolize the end of the madness.

Lazarim

In Lazarim, the caretos are short and silently creepy. They take over the tiny village of Lazarim each day from the 10th to the 14th of February, appearing on the square one by one until there are dozens. They wear intricately carved wooden masks paired with burlap, straw, and raw fabric suits. On the last day, the caretos lead a parade of drummers and dancers through the village and back to the town square where a celebrant reads poetry and rings the official bell to end the festivities. You can find more information about this celebration here.

Loulé

Loulé claims to host the oldest parade in the country, which is debatable, but it probably draws one of the larger crowds. Expect floats, parades, live samba, bejeweled dancers, and satirical paper-mâché figures (think Putin, Zelensky, and Biden) that make quite a stir along Avenida José da Costa Mealha. According to the municipal website, 14 floats and more than 600 extras will embody the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and that’s just the beginning.

Ovar

Ovar’s “Vitamina da Alegria” Carnival has a fairly long history and has amassed over 20 Carnival groups and four Samba schools to lead festivities that celebrate the King and Queen. The royals are local residents who have been selected based on their contributions to the local community. As is the case with most, Ovar’s carnival often incorporates satire and social commentary through floats, costumes, and performances.

Alcobaça

The Alcobaça Carnival is running from the 8th to the 14th of February in front of the Alcobaça Monastery, home of badass monks and killer confections. This year’s theme is the Olympics and thousands of people are expected to boogie down to samba concerts and a few famous DJs.

Funchal

If you go to Funchal, you can expect almost two weeks of Carnival celebrations from the 7th to the 18th of February. The big events include the Grande Cortejo Alegórico (The Big Parade), the Cortejo Trapalhão (Clumsy Parade), and the Enterro do Osso (Bury the Bone) parade. Think sparkly costumes, loads of samba, colorful floats, and Madeiran dance moves shaking the streets of Funchal.

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