The Feast of St Anthony gathers thousands of people on the night of 12 June, eating grilled sardines, drinking wine and beer, and dancing.
Alfama, Castelo, Bica, Bairro Alto and Madragoa are by far the most popular areas for the arraiais (street parties) in Lisbon. There’s also a colourful parade along Avenida da Liberdade.
But the Feast of St Anthony can also be a bit of a crowded and chaotic experience. So, you’d better come prepared. Here are some tips to help you survive the most important festivity in Lisbon.1
By early, we mean the afternoon. Come around 5pm, before everyone else, see Alfama’s decorations, grab a beer and head to a Fado restaurant early if you want to get a table.
And wander through Alfama’s narrow streets
You won’t be able to do it later as streets get incredibly packed with partygoers. The afternoon will be the time to visit the neighbourhood without jostling your way through the pack.3
Take only what you need
Keep documents and cash on you rather than in a bag or purse. Do the same with mobile phones and keys. With all the confusion and drinking, St Anthony’s night usually ends with a few unpleasant episodes. Just walk away if you notice an uncomfortable atmosphere.4
But carry enough cash
Be sure to carry enough cash to pay for sardines and drinks as there are few ATMs in Alfama and Bica. From Alfama, you can go down to Santa Apolónia, and from Bica you can go to Rua de São Paulo, if you need to withdraw money from an ATM. However, there’s a good chance ATMs in these areas run out of cash quickly.5
Do not wear expensive clothes
Do not wear clothes or shoes that are particularly valuable, as you could have beer or wine spilled on them by clumsy partygoers. By the end of the night, your clothes will almost certainly smell of beer and grilled sardine.6
And do not wear sandals
Wearing closed-toed shoes is the best protection against someone who accidentally steps on your foot. Closed-toed shoes will also be a good option if there’s broken glass on the street, or a drink is accidentally spilled on you.
Be prepared to walk
After wandering for hours the steep and narrow cobbled streets of Alfama, there’s a chance you may have to walk back to your hotel as it can be nearly impossible to find a taxi on St Anthony’s night in Lisbon. Your best option will probably be the metro, which usually has extended opening hours on this special night.