01 Oct 20

Lisbon’s Sardine Festival – a must-do when you visit Portugal

Sue Chater Camino

Every year from 12–14 June, Lisbon honours its most respected saint with a sardine festival. The first of several saints days celebrated in Portugal, it marks the beginning of the city’s many summer festivities.

The whole city celebrates the much-anticipated Saint Anthony Sardine Festival! The winding serpentine streets and plazas of some of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods of Alfama, Bica and Castelo are brimming with decorations and the smell of grilled sardines. If you are visiting Portugal at this time then you should definitely check it out.

St Anthony has been associated with many miracles and is renowned worldwide as the saint of missing objects. However, in Portugal he is known as the matchmaker; a patron saint for singles!

The build-up and preparation for the Lisbon sardine festival takes weeks. Normally you would expect that the peak of the festival would be on the last day. However, in this case the big celebration is on the night of the 12th (the first night of the festival). On this night, Lisbon’s streets and plazas come to life, mesmerizing locals and visitors alike. There are massive parties, parades with dancers and costumes, and the streets are filled with makeshift grilling stations and bars selling sardines, beer and sangria. The party goes through until sunrise!

During the festival you will smell the fragrant, charcoaled sardines all over the city. According to a national Portuguese newspaper the Portuguese consume about 13 sardines per second during the festival period. That’s a whole lot of sardines!

The reasons sardines are so important is because they are associated with the poor and St Anthony had taken a vow of poverty. It is also because in Italy during one of his sermons he was ignored by the people and so he decided to preach to the fish instead. They all came to the edge of the sea to listen to him. At this time there are also plenty of other events happening all over the city – concerts, performances, exhibitions and more.


Written By

Sue Chater

Sue is RAW Travel's Camino manager. She has walked the beautiful Le Puy Camino in rural France and Italy’s Via Francigena through Tuscany. Sue spent many years enjoying life as a tour leader in the Indochina region. Her most treasured travel memories come from the unscripted encounters that occur along the way.

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