We suggest that you verify the dates below with a tourist office because they can vary greatly from year to year. Sometimes last-minute adjustments are made because of scheduling problems.
For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
Festa de São Gonçalo e São Cristovão, Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto. These resemble fertility rites and are two of the most attended religious festivals in Portugal. An image of São Gonçalo is paraded through the narrow streets as merrymakers beat drums. Boatmen along the Douro ferry a figure of São Cristovão with a huge head down the river. Much port wine is drunk, and cakes baked into phallic shapes are consumed by all. Call tel. 22/374-24-00 for more information. Early January.
February to April
Carnaval (Mardi Gras), throughout the country, notably in Nazaré, Ovar, Loulé, and Funchal (Madeira). Each town has its unique way of celebrating this final festival before Lent. Masked marchers, flower-bedecked floats, and satirically decorated vehicles mark the occasion. Food and wine are consumed in abundance. For more details, check with the Portuguese National Tourist Office. February or March.
Easter, all over Portugal. Some of the most noteworthy festivities take place at Póvoa de Varzim, Ovar, and especially the town of Braga, where Holy Week processions feature masked marchers and bejeweled floats along with fireworks, folk dancing, and torch parades. For more details, check with the Portuguese National Tourist Office. March or April.
Festas das Cruzes, Barcelos, on the river Cávado, near Braga. Since 1504, this festival has been celebrated with a Miracle of the Cross procession centered on a carpet made of millions of flower petals. Women in colorful regional dress adorn themselves with large gold chains. A giant fireworks display on the river signals the festival's end. Call tel. 25/381-18-82 for more information. Early May.
First pilgrimage of the year to Fátima. In 1930, the bishop of Leiria authorized pilgrimages to this site. Today people from all over the world flock here to commemorate the first apparition of the Virgin to the little shepherd children in 1917. The year's last pilgrimage is in October . Make hotel reservations months in advance, or plan to stay in a neighboring town. For more information, call the Fátima tourist office (tel. 24/484-87-70; www.rt-leiriafatima.pt). Mid-May.
Feira Nacional da Agricultura (also known as the Feira do Ribatejo), Santarém, north of Lisbon on the river Tagus. This is the most important agricultural fair in Portugal. The best horses and cattle from all provinces are on display, and horse shows and bullfights enliven the festival. Food pavilions feature various regional cuisines. For more information, call tel. 24/330-03-00. Early June.
Feast of St. John, Porto, home of the famous port wine. Honoring São João (St. John), this colorful festival features bonfires, all-night singing and dancing, and processions of locals in colorful costumes. Call tel. 22/339-34-70 (www.portoturismo.pt) for more information. June 23 and 24.
Festas dos Santos Populares, throughout Lisbon. Celebrations begin on June 13 and 14 in the Alfama, with feasts honoring Saint Anthony. Parades commemorating the city's patron saint feature marchas (parading groups of singers and musicians) along Avenida da Liberdade, and there is plenty of singing, dancing, drinking of wine, and eating of grilled sardines. On June 23 and 24, for the Feast of St. John the Baptist, bonfires brighten the night and participants jump over them. The night of the final celebration is the Feast of St. Peter on June 29. The Lisbon tourist office (tel. 21/031-27-00; www.visitlisboa.com) supplies details about where some of the events are staged, although much of the action is spontaneous. Mid-June to June 30.
Festas do São Pedro, Montijo, near Lisbon. This festival honoring St. Peter has been held since medieval times. The final day features a blessing of the boats and a colorful procession. Grilled sardines are the main item on the menu. Bull breeders bring their beasts into town and release them through the streets to chase foolish young men, who are often permanently injured or killed. There are also bullfights. On the final night, participants observe the pagan rite of setting a skiff afire and offering it as a sacrifice to the river Tagus. Call tel. 21/031-27-00 for more information. Late June.
Colete Encarnado (Red Waistcoat), Vila Franca de Xira, north of Lisbon on the river Tagus. Like the more famous feria in Pamplona, Spain, this festival involves bulls running through narrow streets, followed by sensational bullfights in what aficionados consider the best bullring in Portugal. Fandango dancing and rodeo-style competition among the Ribatejo campinos (cowboys) mark the event. For more information, call tel. 26/328-56-00 (http://coleteencarnado.no.sapo.pt). First or second Sunday in July.
Estoril Festival. Outside Lisbon at the seaside resort of Estoril, this festival of classical music occupies two concert halls that were built for the 500th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage to the New World. For information, write Associação Internacional de Música da Costa do Estoril, Galerias Estoril, Rua de Lisboa, 5 Lj. 12, 2765-240 Estoril (tel. 21/468-51-99; fax 21/468-56-07; www.estorilfestival.net). Early July to first week in August (dates vary).
Feast of Our Lady of Monte, Madeira. On Assumption Eve and Day (Aug 14-15), the island's most important religious festival begins with devout worship and climaxes in an outburst of fun. Music, dancing, eating, and general drinking and carousing last until dawn. For more information, call tel. 29/121-19-00.
Festas da Senhora da Agonia, Viana do Castelo, at the mouth of the river Lima, north of Porto. The most spectacular festival in the north honors Our Lady of Suffering. A replica of the Virgin is carried through the streets over carpets of flowers. The bishop directs a procession of fishers to the sea to bless the boats. Float-filled parades mark the 5-day-and-night event as a time of revelry and celebration. A blaze of fireworks ends the festival. Call the tourist office (tel. 25/883-91-50) for exact dates, which vary from year to year. Reserve hotel rooms well in advance or be prepared to stay in a neighboring town. Mid-August.
Romaria da Nossa Senhora de Nazaré, Nazaré, Portugal's most famed fishing village. The event (Our Lady of Nazaré Festival) includes folk dancing, singing, and bullfights. The big attraction is the procession carrying the image of Nossa Senhora de Nazaré down to the sea. For more information, call tel. 26/255-00-10. Early to mid-September.
Last Pilgrimage of the Year to Fátima, brings thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, who descend on Fátima to mark the occasion of the last apparition of the Virgin, which is said to have occurred on October 12, 1917. Call tel. 24/484-87-70 for more information. October 13.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.