Travel: Lisbon Carnival 2020

When you think of Mardi Gras {Fat Tuesday} you probably think of Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans, but the home of carnival is Portugal, where the traditions of carnival are still very much alive.  Carnival began several centuries ago as a celebration of the start of Lent, a period during which Catholics were not supposed to eat meat.  Carne vale literally means ‘put away the meat’, a sentiment which plugs in neatly to the zeitgeist of 2020.  This year carnival falls on the 25th February, but celebrations will begin up to a week or more before.  Towns and cities across the country throw themselves into a riot of celebrations but if you are planning to take part, using Lisbon as a base should enable you to enjoy some of the best celebrations around.  The Portuguese love a reason to party but there’s no doubt that Mardi Gras is one of the high spots of the calendar.

Built on seven hills, Portugal’s coastal capital is a great place to visit at any time of the year and if you tire of carnival, you’ll find plenty of distractions amid its picturesque winding streets and grand boulevards.  The Bairro Alto is famous for its nightlife and during carnival you can expect a supercharged experience.  Many of the city’s hotels will have special promotional packages for this period, including carnival-style entertainment, but you’ll need to move fast because they are likely to book up well in advance.  An alternative, which may prove cheaper and more convenient, is to rent self-catering accommodation.  

Finding advanced detailed information about the times and locations of carnival events can be a little tricky but that’s all part of the anarchic spirit of carnival.  Although there a many carnival events throughout Lisbon, particularly the carnival parade on the Avenue da Liberdade in the city centre, the big carnival activity is to be found elsewhere.  Although Portugal has a good public transport system, if you want to get out to the celebrations in nearby towns you are going to need to hire a car.

One of the country’s most famous carnivals takes place in Torres Vedras, which is about a 50-kilometre drive from Lisbon.  This week-long celebration, which this year will run between the 21st and the 26th is a cornucopia of parades, floats, street parties, music, dancing, street food and outlandish fancy dress. The mayor gives over full control to the city’s Carnival King and Queen, both of whom are men.  Crowds of up to half a million attend this event so research your parking beforehand.

Depending on your appetite for carnival you may wish to attend other celebrations, the most notable of which are to be found in Ovar, Sesimbra, Funchal and Loule.  Average temperatures for this time of year are between 9 and 16 degrees and the evenings can be cold but a glass of wine, some street food and a little dancing should soon warm you up.

Flush the Fashion

Editor of Flush the Fashion and Flush Magazine. I love music, art, film, travel, food, tech and cars. Basically, everything this site is about.