Carnivals in Portugal: the best places to celebrate in 2020

The best Carnival celebrations in Portugal in 2020 / Pixabay
The best Carnival celebrations in Portugal in 2020 / Pixabay
22 January 2020, Marilia Poiares

Everyone is getting ready to celebrate Carnival and so should you. Even though the weather is quite cold, the temperatures will rise thanks to the music, samba dancers, outrageous costumes and the famous caricatures, Cabeçudos and Matrafonas that fill the streets during these festive days. You don’t have to go to Rio de Janeiro, Venice or Tenerife to enjoy some of the best Carnivals in the world because Portugal has a lot to offer.

Stick around and find out more about these 5 Carnival destinations in Portugal and get ready to party in 2020!

Carnaval do Funchal, Madeira

The magic figurines in the Funchal Carnival / Wikimedia Commons
The magic figurines in the Funchal Carnival / Wikimedia Commons

If you are willing to hop on a plane, Funchal is an amazing destination to celebrate Carnival in the sun. The weather is warm, the city is full of life and everyone gets involved in the festivities.

The local government organises parades that serve as social and political satire, using giant figurines, the most famous ones being the Grande Cortejo Alegórico (The Big Parade) and the Cortejo Trapalhão (Clumsy Parade). For 4 days, the streets are filled with dancers, people in costumes and a lot of music.

Make sure you try the local wine, Vinho da Madeira, and the famous ponchas and the local espetadas (meat skewers). If you want to dance, you have to get your energy from somewhere!

Carnaval de Loulé, Faro

In the south of the country you can find one of the most important Carnivals in Portugal. Since Loulé is located in the Algarve region, the weather is usually a bit more party-friendly but, we do have to say that, no matter what the weather, people will always go outside to celebrate.

The Brazilian influence is everywhere, from the music to the political parodies, costumes and the samba schools that parade through the city’s streets.

If you are planning a visit to Loulé’s Carnival, make sure to save a few days for a quick trip to some of the other cities in the Algarve such as Vilamoura, Albufeira and Portimão.

Carnaval de Ovar, Aveiro

The samba dancers in the Ovar Carnival / Flickr
The samba dancers in the Ovar Carnival / Flickr

For 10 days, the city of Ovar in Aveiro celebrates Carnival like no other. People fill the streets and the venue, Aldeia do Carnaval, made up of more than 10 thousand square metres, to enjoy numerous concerts and contests, like the competition for best float.

If you are looking for authentic Carnival parades and costumes, a lot of energy and fun, Ovar is the place to be.

Carnaval de Alcobaça, Leiria

The Carnaval de Alcobaça is known has the “most Brazilian” Carnival in Portugal. For 5 days, the whole city is invaded by the Carnival spirit and the party is everywhere.

In a giant tent, set up in front of the Alcobaça Monastery, thousands of people gather to dance and enjoy the sound of samba concerts and famous DJs that attract loads of tourists.

If you are going to go to Alcobaça for Carnival, make time to visit Leiria, Óbidos and Caldas da Rainha, beautiful destinations not far from the city.

Carnaval de Torres Vedras, Lisbon

The amazing satiric floats in the Torres Vedras Carnival / Flickr
The amazing satiric floats in the Torres Vedras Carnival / Flickr

Only 40km away from Lisbon, this is known as the biggest and “most Portuguese” Carnival in Portugal. The Matrafonas or Maria Cachuchas – men dressed in drag – are the stars of this party that is unparalleled in the country.

From Saturday to Monday everyone is dressed in costumes and the bars in the city’s historic centre are filled with people who want to celebrate.

The celebrations date back to the 19th century and mix thousand-year-old satirical traditions with Christian costumes to put on the best show possible. Aside from the Matrafonas or Maria Cachuchas, you can also see the famous Cabeçudos, people dressed in costumes with giant heads.

Get ready to join the most authentic Carnival in Portugal for 6 amazing days!

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