– a celebration for every occasion
On the Silver Coast there is a festival for every occasion. The major ones draw thousands of visitors from all over the country but there are literally dozens of smaller ones throughout the year, with even the smallest villages staging their own.
The medieval town of Óbidos makes full use of its historic lanes and dramatic setting by staging three big festivals and several smaller ones during the year. One of the most spectacular is the Medieval Market in July, when the town is transformed with horse displays, medieval shows and actors in costume mingling with the crowds and acting out the parts of medieval citizens.
In the month before Christmas Óbidos is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with snow machines, ski slope and skating rink, for Vila Natal (Christmas town). And then in March it takes on a particular sweetness for the International Chocolate Festival, which attracted over 200,000 visitors in 2010.
At carnival time the whole Silver Coast region becomes one giant festival, with parades and parties in ever city and town. The biggest – and best known – are the Peniche and Torres Vedras carnivals, but all are spectacular and great fun to watch.
At other times of the year there are food and wine festivals throughout the Silver Coast region in places such as Bombarral, Caldas da Rainha, Peniche, Alenquer and Sobral. The are also many religious festivals. The biggest of these take place during important religious celebrations like Easter and Christmas, but each village and town also has a saint day of their own which is celebrated with festivities that can last as long as a week.
Just outside of the Silver Coast region there are two other festivals worth mentioning. Lisbon’s Festas dos Santos Populares is a two-week long festival that celebrates three saints, one after the other. During the fortnight the city becomes party capital with music and dancing in the streets. At the final party, held on St Anthony’s day in Avenida da Liberdade, the crowds dance until dawn to the music of the samba bands.
Of great curiosity value is the National Horse Fair in Golegã, inland from Santarém, which coincides with the celebrations of St. Martin’s Day. The fair draws horse enthusiasts from all over the world and is a spectacle in itself, with a bull-run complete with grooms in red waistcoat and a full programme of equestrian events, exhibitions and parades.