When summer comes around, Lisbon pulls on its most colourful party clothes. From the religious Festas de Lisboa and their quirky customs to the electrified atmosphere at NOS Alive and Jazz Em Agosto, the festivities will keep the most dedicated of partygoers occupied until well after dawn. Take a look at our guide to the best summer festivals in Lisbon, from sardines to soul music and Fado to fireworks.
A month-long series of street parties and parades, the Festas de Lisboa signal the start of the summer festivals in Lisbon. Quiet, historic neighbourhoods across the capital shed their sleepy façade for an energetic, upbeat vibe, with live music, dancing and celebrations stretching well into the early hours. The festivities reach their pinnacle on the eve of St. Anthony’s Day, which takes place on 13th June. Every corner of the city comes to life with colourful decorations and celebrations that spill out onto the streets, but the best parties can be found in Alfama and Mouraria – the special sunset parade along the Avenida da Liberdade is one of the highlights of the Festas de Lisboa. On St. Anthony’s Day itself, many roads are closed and the city fills with the aromas of grilled sardines – which are traditionally eaten as part of the festivities – and the sound of Fado music drifts from almost every doorway. Lisbon’s patron saint also presides over matchmaking, so many of the city’s young hopefuls take the opportunity to pray for a partner – a practice which must work, given the mass marriages (dubbed “St Anthony’s Weddings) which take place in the wake of the festivities.
One of the most popular summer festivals in Lisbon for fans of classical music, the Estoril Music Festival (otherwise known as Semanas de Música do Estoril) traditionally takes place in July and is the product of three separate music festivals, brought together to form one all-encompassing classical music extravaganza. With all manner of musical ensembles taking part (from chamber choirs to symphony orchestras), and a long list of international and local performers gracing the stage in various venues across the city, this is a must-see for visiting music enthusiasts.
A far cry from the muddy festivals of England, Lisbon’s NOS Alive (formerly Optimus Alive), offers three days of top musical talent, just 10 minutes from Lisbon city centre. Taking place in July, festivalgoers will trade their wellies for sandals and speed over to Portugal for one of the most exciting contemporary music festivals Europe has to offer. From electro and house to rock and soul music, NOS Alive has hosted everyone from Blondie to Bob Dylan.
Taking over the gardens of the Gulbenkian for ten days (1st – 11th August 2019), Jazz Em Agosto has played host to internationally renowned jazz musicians since 1984. Widely regarded as one of the best outdoor music festivals in Lisbon, both established and up-and-coming new talent is represented, with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson a particular focus of this year’s programming. Jazz Em Agosto is an essential highlight of the Lisbon summer season.