Feast of St Anthony: a Festival of Sardines in Lisbon

Come and celebrate St Anthony, patron saint of Lisbon, and of marriages

The narrow cobblestone streets of Alfama, Castelo, Bica, Bairro Alto and Madragoa, Lisbon’s oldest neighbouhoods, fill with music, dance, grilled sardines and free fun for everyone on several street parties locally known as arraiais.

There’s also a parade along Avenida da Liberdade. Use the map below to locate the major party areas.

Afternoon of 12 June. Everywhere, the smell of grilled sardine and basil is intense. Traditionally, men offer a potted basil plant to their loved ones on St Anthony’s day. With the basil plant comes a paper carnation carrying a love message.

Street food stalls appear on every corner. Stages have been set in the small squares of Lisbon’s oldest quarters, and paper garlands that hung between buildings create a Carnival-style atmosphere. Lisbon is ready for its most important annual festivity, the Feast of St Anthony.

Feast of St Anthony’s decorations

Night of 12 June. As night falls, people begin to get out. From 9pm, Avenida da Liberdade fills with dancers and traditional music. The parade is a competition between Lisbon’s traditional neighbourhoods that during a whole year have prepared their unique choreographies.

At the same time, people also head to Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhoods, where they’ll ramble, dance, eat grilled sardines and caldo verde (Portuguese cabbage soup), and drink wine, sangria and beer, until the sun rises. Jumping bonfires is also part of the tradition. The following day will be a public holiday in Lisbon.

Alfama and Castelo are the most popular neighbourhoods for Lisbon’s festivities. With narrow streets, small squares and a tavern on every corner, this area offers the perfect conditions for the arraiais. The Bica neighbourhood, with Bairro Alto and Madragoa nearby, are also popular party areas.

The Feast of St Anthony can be a bit of a chaotic experience, as narrow streets and squares get packed with partygoers on the night of 12 June. Walking, let alone dancing, can become incredibly difficult. Expect to wait in a long queue for the overpriced sardines and wine. Still, it’s a fun night, but if you want to be fully prepared check out our tips on how to survive Lisbon’s Feast of St Anthony.

When: 12 June
Where: Avenida da Liberdade (parade); Alfama, Castelo, Bica, Bairro Alto & Madragoa (street parties)