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Carnaval em Portugal

Carnaval Portugal 2023; Dazzling outfits, parades, and dates

Are you ready for some samba music, dancing, and dressing up? Carnaval in Portugal is an event not to be missed!

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In this blog

The origin of Carnaval

The origin of Carnaval in Portugal is like many other countries in the world. It first started in Italy but spread quickly to other countries such as Spain and Portugal. Carnaval has Catholic roots, and it’s a time of celebration and indulgence. It’s the last opportunity to go wild before Lent, a time of fasting and sacrifice. During Lent, Catholics would abstain from eating meat. This is where the word Carnevale comes from, which means as much as putting away the meat. Carnaval was a time for renewal and awakening. The Portuguese name at the time was Entrudo, which means to enter. You’ll still see this word used today.

Carnaval Portugal

By now, Carnaval is a century-old tradition celebrated in many countries. The Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Santa Cruz, Tenerife (Spain) hold some of the world’s most famous celebrations. And although things have changed over the years, we can still enjoy a colourful festival with masks, music, and allegorical floats (the cars or trucks with a platform used during the parade). After the wild party, the 40-day-long fast (the period of Lent) will start.

Dates to remember for Carnaval in Portugal 2023

Tuesday, February 21st 2023: Shrove Tuesday or Carnaval Tuesday is the last day before the fasting period of Lent. It’s also known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Pancake Day.

Wednesday, February 22nd 2023: Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.

Thursday, April 6th 2023: End of Lent after 40 days.

Tip: book your hotel well in advance as it gets busy! → Check availability

Carnaval Portugal
LOULE, PORTUGAL - FEBRUARY 2020: Colorful Carnival (Carnaval) Parade festival participants on Loule city, Portugal.

Carnaval in Lisbon

The Lisbon Carnaval is one of the biggest celebrations in the Portuguese capital. Head over de the Príncipe Real Garden, where you can follow the parade towards Cais do Sodré. Avenida da Liberdade and the streets of Bairro Alto will be filled with music, dazzling costumes, and colour. Don’t forget to dress up and move along with upbeat samba music.

Hot tip: Enjoy the magic of Elrow Art in Lisbon during Carnaval 2023! The Spanish producer is known for its colourful parties, and this event takes place in FIL – Pavilhão 2 this year (close to Oriente station). This event is on February 18th from 10 PM until 8 AM, and tickets are available from €25.00 per adult.

Check availability for hotels in Lisbon during Carnaval:

Booking.com

Carnaval in Torres Vedras - February 17th until 23rd, 2023

The town of Torres Vedras is located less than 1 hour away from Lisbon. It’s known as the most Portuguese carnival in the whole country! So if you’re close to Lisbon, it’s worth checking out. Carnaval in Torres Vedras knows a few traditions. The allegorical floats represent current affairs in a satiric manner, and you’ll see matrafonas (cross-dressing men in a ridiculous fashion) and cabeçudos. These are dolls with massive heads up to 4 meters tall! They’re accompanied by Zés-Pereiras (drumming groups) and bagpipes.

Carnaval Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal: 18 May 2019: Jarramplas at Iberian Mask Festival Parade in Lisbon

This year marks 100 years of Torres Vedras Carnaval, which is also the theme of this year’s festivities. The Torres Vedras Carnaval will take place from the 17th to the 23rd of February. Please note you’ll need a day pass to enter. These cost € 8,00 per person for one day or € 16,00 per person for all four days. Click here for more information about the tickets.

Stay the night and book your hotel: 

Booking.com

Carnaval in Ovar - January 28th until February 21st 2023

If you’re in central Portugal, Ovar is the place to be. You’ll be enjoying parades, music and lots of dancing! Ovar is located in the Aveiro District, just south of Porto. The Carnaval in Ovar attracts thousands of visitors annually, and it’s the largest festival in the area. And they know how to stretch it as the festivities take place over three weeks! Ovar Carnival starts on the 28th of January and runs until the 21st of February. The most memorable days are:

Children’s Carnaval – the second Sunday before Carnaval
Carnaval Thursday with a Quim Barreiros concert
✓ Carnaval Friday, known as Noche de Farrapada, or rags night
Carnaval Saturday with Samba schools parade
✓ Carnaval Sunday with Corso Carnavalesco
✓ Carnaval Monday with a Magic night
Shrove Tuesday with the main parade

Book your accommodation ahead of time:

Booking.com

Carnaval on Madeira - February 15th until 26th 2023

In the city of Funchal, they also know how to throw a party! For two weeks, you can discover Madeira during the Carnaval season. Several towns on the island will have small parades, but the big party is in the capital Funchal. The main festivities start on the Wednesday before Shrove Tuesday. Carnaval ends at Enterro do Osso, which is on the Saturday after Carnival Tuesday. On Saturday during Carnival Weekend, you can visit the parade on the streets of Funchal. It’s a show full of light, colour, and sparkling outfits. Cortejo Trapalhão is the parade in the afternoon where comedy and satire are a central part of the outfits.

Carnaval Portugal carnival Portugal

Check hotels in Funchal:

Booking.com

Carnaval in Loulé

The Carnival of Loulé is one of the most popular and symbolic events in the Municipality, and Avenida José da Costa Mealha is the decor for the well-loved parade. The Carnaval in Loulé is said to be the oldest in the country! For those close to the Algarve, the Carnaval in Loulé is well worth your time. Carnaval celebrations in Loulé are February 19, 20 and 21 at Avenida José da Costa Mealha.

Hotels nearby Loulé:

Booking.com

Should I visit Portugal during Carnaval?

The answer is an absolute yes! It’s a time to celebrate with the locals, dress up, and dance to the music. It’s a busy time, though and hotels fill up quickly. It’s a good idea to make your reservations in time. Also, if you want to enjoy a good night’s sleep, avoid sleeping in the areas of parades and festivities. It’s an experience you will remember, and it’s a beautiful time of year to visit Portugal.

All images used in this blog post are sourced and licenced from Adobe Stock.

Written by Marga

Written by Marga

Content creator, travel writer and photographer

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I’m Marga, the blogger and photographer behind this site! I live in Lisbon, and I’m a cat-mum to 13-year-old Savage. I love coffee, cheese, a good book and exploring this beautiful country. I write about Lisbon and the rest of Portugal, and I hope this website will help as an inspiration for your holiday.

8 Responses

  1. I had no idea that there was a Carnaval in Portugal!!! I have always wanted to go to one of these festivals. Thank you for the amazing guide!

  2. Seems like the Carnaval season is the time to be in Portugal. I can imagine the fun experience the Carnavals would be.

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