Portugal is a favored travel destination amongst families thanks to the excellent coastal resort towns, vibrant cities, and outdoor-minded activities. But this Southern European nation also hosts numerous events, many of which date back centuries ago and are deeply rooted in Portuguese society. Some of the celebrations are a tribute to religious figures, while others welcome the change of seasons.
Most annual events have been canceled in 2020 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but organizers of Portugal’s most legendary events plan to welcome back visitors in either 2021 or 2022. Below, you’ll find 8 festivals and events in Portugal, making it worth traveling here with the kids.
The 8 Best Family Events in Portugal
1. International Sand Sculpture Festival, Algarve (June to November 2021)
While the kids may enjoy their sandcastle building on the beach, the International Sand Sculpture Festival in the Algarve region takes fine sand art to a whole new level. Actually, it’s the largest event of its kind in the world, boasting 15,000 square meters of sand exhibits. Over 60 artists work hard to create sand sculptures based on a theme, depicting animals, natural beauty, famous people, cartoons, and well-known landmarks from around the globe. Join a guided tour with explanations of the artists and sculptures, or roam around yourself at day- or night time, when the festival terrain is lit wonderfully. You’ll also get to see workshops where you can learn more about the art of sculpting. This is both an incredibly fun and educational annual event in the fantastic Algarve region.
Where to stay during the International Sand Sculpture Festival?
Close to the festival terrain in Lagoa sits this neat hotel with a bar, kid-friendly swimming pools, and a complimentary breakfast.
2. São João Festival, Porto (23 June 2021)
This feast, officially called Festa de São João do Porto, is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Because the festival started as a pagan festivity before it was Christianized to honor Saint John, the festival has a wide range of utterances, including fireworks, dance, bonfires, and table feasts. The fireworks and bonfires were initially performed to worship the sun, a reference to the pagan roots of the fest.
Festa de São João do Porto is always held in the middle of summer when the time is right to gather with friends and family in the alfresco restaurants. The sense of community is vital during this festival, and you expect encounters with jolly locals who are encouraged by Portuguese wine or simply driven by amazing hospitality.
Where to stay during São João Festival in Porto?
Spot Family Apartments is a neat home during your family trip with conveniences like a full-size kitchen with a coffee machine and an ample lounge space. Easy bus and metro access make this apartment complex a compelling choice if you want to move around Porto a lot.
3. Festas Gualterianas, Guimarães (August 2021)
Festas Gualterianas is a traditional event that started in 1906 and always takes place in the city of Guimarães. During the celebration, some of the focus points include stunningly decorated floats and the decorative lighting of the entire town, with LED light shows all over the historic center. Bands are playing Portuguese folk music and march through the cobbled streets of old Guimarães to honor the saint Guálter. Don’t miss out on the dance ceremonies performed by dancers in traditional dresses and costumes.
Where to stay during the Festas Gualterianas in Guimarães?
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a hotel closer to the festivities, as Hotel del Oliveira lies in the town’s heart. The spacious family rooms come with a flat-screen TV and board games for evening fun, along with a separate lounge area and bathroom with a tub.
4. Cascais Festas Do Mar (August 2021)
The coastal town Cascais hosts ‘the festival of the sea‘ each year, during which dance, music, parades, fishing demonstrations, and fireworks. Make sure to attend the procession dedicated to the Our Lady of the Navigators or the Holy Mary, who protects the seafarers. ‘Music’ is the keyword, as bands, singers, and choirs take over Cascais’ streets and stages. All of the amusement goes hand in hand with Portuguese dishes, served from a collection of food trucks. At the end of the festival, a spectacular firework show is shot from a platform in the sea.
Where to stay during the Festas Do Mar in Cascais?
While you can prepare your meals in the communal kitchen or at the barbecue, the children can hang out in the pool or on the nearby beach. Even though this is a hostel, it hosts family rooms with ensuite bathrooms.
5. Almond Blossom Festival (February – March 2022)
While Japan attracts visitors who come to see the magical pink cherry blossoms, Portugal has its own humble equivalent, starring almond trees. The Douro Valley is the prime destination to see the stunning blossoms pop out by the start of spring. The tiny community Torre de Moncorvo hosts several festivities to welcome the vibrant flowers, including cycling and horse riding tours through the almond yards. Visitors can also witness the traditional process of roasting almonds in a cauldron over a fire and taste goodies like chocolate- and cinnamon-coated almonds, and other regional products. Similar events take place in the nearby village Vila Nova de Foz Côa, which also comes alive with blossoms and the scent of nuts.
Where to stay during the Almond Blossom Festival?
For an incredible farm stay experience, look no further. Footsteps away from the festival’s activities, you can reside in an elegant estate with a swimming pool, sweeping views, and a comfortable three-bedroom house. The residence itself is fitted with a full kitchen, a fireplace, a dining area, and a patio in the shade.
6. Carnaval (March 2022)
Portugal naturally dedicates time and attention to Carnaval (Carnival), which originates as a Roman Catholic celebration. It is often considered the largest annual event in the country, and it’s celebrated from humming cities along the coast to quiet communities in the countryside.
Although there are regional differences in how Carnaval is celebrated, the common elements are always exciting parades and people dressed up in exotic attire. One of the most dramatic expressions of Carnaval can be found in Torres Vedras, where drum bands, float parades, and masked participants make for a tremendous atmosphere and photo opportunities. Prepare for giant paper mache figures during the parades and huge fireworks to top it all off.
Where to stay during the Carnaval in Lisbon?
Fitted with an outdoor and indoor swimming pool plus spa facilities, this resort makes for an excellent retreat to calm down after a day of celebrating in Torres Vedras. If you travel with a larger group, the villas with a private pool and fully-equipped kitchen are a compelling option.
7. Semana Santa in Braga (March – April 2022)
Semana Santa also referred to as Holy Week, is the time of preparation before Easter, widely celebrated in predominantly Roman Catholic Portugal. But the most spectacular manifestations of Semana Santa are found in Braga, a city in Portugal’s far northwest. Although Semana Santa isn’t the most interactive celebration for tourists, there’s plenty to see. Head to Braga’s streets to see the dramatic processions with priests carrying carriages and statues of Jesus Christ and Holy Mary, hear Gregorian chants, and attend the blessing given from Braga Cathedral. One of the highlights is Saturday night when the church goes from complete darkness to light when all lamps on the exterior are turned on suddenly.
Where to stay during the Semana Santa in Braga?
Family rooms, a superb location in the center, an indoor pool, and fitness facilities are just some of the draws of this 4-star property.
8. Flower Festival Madeira (April – May 2022)
Thanks to its mild subtropical climate, the island Madeira is known for its ever-blooming flora. This abundance of nature is illustrated during the annual Flower Festival, mainly celebrated in the island’s largest town Funchal. Kids will love the stunning parade floats covered in vivid flowers, the floral suits and head-covering made out of blossoms, and the flower carpets laid out in the streets. Another highlight is the Allegorical Flower Parade procession that features dancers with costumes popping with color and floral designs, all guided by boisterous music. Most buildings in town are decorated with blossoms, while there are flower markets as well.
Where to stay during the Flower Festival in Madeira?
The apartments at this hotel in the center of Funchal sleep up to 6 guests, making it an ideal getaway for a family trip. A full kitchen and living room with a TV are just some of the perks here.