When we arrived in Lisbon, I wasn’t a happy camper. It seems that the very small 20 seater plane, that took us from Spain, had forgotten to load our luggage, so we were without our suitcases. I was sulking, but that all changed on the cab ride to our apartment. It seems that, unknown to us, we had booked our stay to coincide with Lisbon’s annual Santo António Festival.
The Portuguese capital is ready to welcome you to one of Europe’s most colorful street parties. The festivities can be traced back to the 13th century, when St Anthony traveled to Rimini, Italy. The people failed to listen to his sermons, so he preached to the fish instead. To the amazement of everyone, row upon row of sea creatures bobbed their heads above the waves, eager to hear what he had to say.
Today, the people of Lisbon remember the story by hosting huge street parties and feasting on grilled sardines from June 12th-14th.
During these 3 days, the entire city is turned into a huge party venue. Charcoal grills are brought down from the homes, along with plastic tables and chairs. The streets are lined with makeshift restaurants serving grilled sardines and their famous ‘caldo verde’ (green soup).
The smell of smoke and delicious food permeates the entire area.
The Alfama neighborhood, is at heart of all the fun. As the smell of grilled sardines and the sound of Fado music fills the air, locals watch from balconies draped with multi-colored lights.
It’s like a Portuguese Mardi Gras!”. There are stalls serving alcohol, peri-peri-chicken, candy floss, caramel corn, deep-fried farturas (a big churro), and lots of grilled sardines. The narrow lanes are decorated with colorful streamers and paper chains.
The streets are so crammed the people are packed together likes sardines in a tin. And the atmosphere is vibrant and electric.
As a symbol of affection, people present each other with little pots of basil (manjerico) and paper carnations on which they write poems.
We didn’t get much sleep during our time here, but it was so worth it. If you plan a trip to Lisbon try make sure it’s over the time of the festival.