Best food festivals in Portugal
For those who agree with us in thinking that food festivals are a great excuse to travel to places you might have not thought of going to otherwise, today we have plenty of appetizing suggestions.
For a fairly small country, Portugal has a range of food options that tend to make locals proud. It’s not just about dishes or cooking techniques, but also about our regional products, ancestral ways of doing things, and traditions that live on thanks to individual but also collective efforts to showcase and promote all the good things that are done in our country.
Food fairs and gastronomic events are relevant not only because they give folks the opportunity to taste delicious food and wines, but also as a way to preserve our culinary heritage.
These are some of the best food events worth traveling to Portugal for:
Festival Nacional de Gastronomia | National Gastronomic Festival
This national gastronomic fair has as its main goal to represent Portugal on top of the table. Quite ambitious, but the truth is that Festival Nacional de Gastronomia, held in the city of Santarém every year, it’s in its 42nd edition, and does an amazing job at showcasing the very best of Portuguese food.
If you know little about Portugal’s culinary heritage, this would be a great place to learn. Food from all over Portugal is represented here – from north to south, including the islands of Azores and Madeira. They focus on regional products as well as restaurants and contemporary approaches, yet not forgetting to contextualize the food and giving credit to its origins. With a clear ethnographic focus, what’s done at this fair is about food as much as it is about the people behind it.
At Festival Nacional de Gastronomia you’ll find many stalls for food tasting, including small businesses as well as those by renowned chefs. There are also themed wine tastings as well as cooking demonstrations. A very well rounded event that will be a delight for anyone who, very much like us, loves to celebrate food and the power it has to bring people closer together.
📅 October / November
Chefs On Fire
Food, fire and music – these are the elements which will warm up those who visit Chefs On Fire, a decidedly non traditional gastronomic event. This is a fairly recent festival – so far only four editions have taken place – but we could easily predict that this is a concept that is here to stay.
Chefs On Fire celebrates food cooked with fire and smoke, prepared by the skilled hands of many of Portugal’s most renowned chefs. On the last edition, chefs like Michelin starred Alexandre Silva (Loco) or João Rodrigues (former Feitoria, now Monda) were present. Alongside other chefs, they showcased smoked meats and fish dishes. But even vegetarians and vegans could enjoy the creations of chef David Jesus, of Porto’s plant-based restaurant Seiva. To take things even more out of the box, brothers Darchite and Jimite from the popularly acclaimed vegan donut brand Scoop n Dough presented their take on a smoked donut.
This is an original event which is lots of fun because of the food in itself, to see chefs you may know from other projects do something different for a few days, and to enjoy hanging out with friends in a great outdoor setting while all of this happens. It doesn’t hurt that the concerts tend to also be top notch, stretching the fun into the night. You can buy your daily tickets including some food tastings, drinks and access to the live music events but, of course, you can always purchase some additional food on location – trust us, this will most likely happen as it’s difficult to resist when you’re seeing all the appetizing things being cooked right in front of you as the air is filled with such enticing smells all around.
Feira de Gastronomia de Vila do Conde | Gastronomic Fair of Vila do Conde
During summer, you’ll find a lot of food events taking place a little all over Portugal. In August, the northern city of Vila do Conde aims to “showcase the best of Portugal at the table”.
This is an event at a similar scale of the gastronomic fair in Santarém, which forsakes its own region to instead focus on showcasing goods and food culture from all over the country. As such, you’ll see here represented products and restaurants from different corners of Portugal, following the principles of both Mediterranean and Atlantic cuisines, which are the main prevalent diets of the Portuguese population.
Live entertainment, workshops and an entire library of exclusively food books complete Feira de Gastronomia de Vila do Conde, which is no more no less than one of the very best food events taking place in Portugal today.
📍Vila do Conde
Festival Internacional de Chocolate de Óbidos | Óbidos’ International Chocolate Festival
Who doesn’t like chocolate? Óbidos, known as the birthplace of the popular sour cherry liqueur ginjinha, knows that a festival focusing on sweet cacao treats has such great potential to attract visitors to this medieval town.
Festival Internacional de Chocolate de Óbidos is an extremely popular food festival, both adults and kids look forward to before the spring. The very best chocolatiers of Portugal showcase their work during these days, which also include cooking demonstrations, talks and live music. The biggest draw to this festival is the competition of chocolate sculptures, which usually features large scale intricate works, which one craves but simultaneously feels would be a shame to bite on and destroy!
If you are planning to visit Óbidos during this festival, try to make it there during the week, as weekends tend to get really busy with families coming from all over.
📅February / March
Feira do Fumeiro de Vinhais | Smoked Meats Fair of Vinhais
Vinhais is the self declared “capital of smoked meats” of Portugal. We have a feeling some other towns, particularly in the region of the Alentejo, would want to contest that but, one thing can’t be argued and it is that Vinhais does incredible enchidos and is good at promoting them.
Enchidos are Portugal’s range of cured and smoked meats, which include charcuterie and cold cuts ready to eat, as well as smoked cuts better suited to add depth of flavor to some of Portugal’s most traditional recipes. Vinhais organizes a fair of smoked meats, also known in portuguese as fumeiro, which literally translates as smoke house, that is, the place where the meats are left to cure and smoke.
This event represents a good opportunity to try a lot of artisanal regional specialities, namely those produced from the meat of Bísaro pigs, one of the very few autochthonous pig breeds from Portugal.
Festival do Marisco de Olhão | Seafood Festival of Olhão
The seafood festival of Olhão has been going on for over thirty years. During this event held every summer in this city of the southern Algarve province, all things seafood are celebrated but, honestly, the food itself works more like an excuse for a much wider party which includes paid live concerts.
Being very near Ria Formosa, an area of the Algarve known for its quality seafood, Olhão sure knows how to make seafood and those attending this festival won’t be disappointed. Most recipes you’ll get to taste here are prepared following traditional methods, such as the cataplana way of cooking (pictured here) which we Portuguese have inherited from the Moors.
Fresh seafood, regional sweets, handicrafts and live entertainment make the Festival do Marisco de Olhão a must-attend event during summer in the Algarve.
Festival da Sardinha | Sardine Festival
Portuguese people are crazy about sardines! As this is a seasonal speciality common during the warmer months, folks eagerly await the times when they can set up their outdoor barbecues to grill some fish simply sprinkled with coarse salt. If you visit the cities of Lisbon and Porto in June, during the St. Anthony and St. John festivals respectively, you’ll definitely notice the smell of fresh fish and smoke which fills the air all around.
Down in Portimão, in the Algarve, sardines are celebrated during the Festival da Sardinha held in August. Besides food and high quality live entertainment featuring famous musicians, one of the particularities of this festival is that they reenact the “sardine offload”, that is, how sardines used to be brought to the shore and offloaded from the boats in Portimão’s dock, about forty years ago.
If you add Portimão to your Portuguese trip itinerary, you could literally travel from north to south of Portugal with the theme of celebrating sardines all over the place.
Festival do Polvo | Octopus Festival
Ericeira is a well-known fishing village less than an hour from Lisbon, and a place we often recommend going to for the sake of enjoying an authentic seafood feast, if possible with views towards the ocean. Once a year, Ericeira celebrates octopus and all of its culinary potential during the Festival do Polvo.
Octopus is, quite possibly, one of the most iconic ingredients of Portuguese cuisine, and one we enjoy in many of our traditional dishes. During this event, don’t expect to find all of these specialties under one roof. Instead, Ericeira’s octopus festival is all about promoting this ingredient and the many local businesses which work with seafood. During Festival do Polvo, joining restaurants will offer a special themed menu, drawing inspiration from regional cuisine.
Participating restaurants include very well-known and acclaimed ones such as Cabana do Zé, Casa Portuguesa or Estrela do Mar, with flawless cooking which will make any seafood lover happy.
Festival do Caldo de Peixe | Fish Soup Festival
The locality of Rabo de Peixe in the island of São Miguel, in the Portuguese Atlantic archipelago of the Azores, is known for its long history connected with the sea. This is a fishing town where a big part of the population has for many years made a living catching and selling fish, which the locals prepare as the typical dish of caldo de peixe.
Caldo de peixe is a rich fish broth served with chunks of fish and bread slices. More than a regular soup, it’s a complete meal in itself, and one of the most representative recipes of Azorean cuisine. Every year, this dish and the entire lifestyle of fishermen and fishmongers is celebrated during the Festival do Caldo de Peixe. Festival goers have the chance to taste fish soup prepared with ancient recipes, but also contemporary versions, such as those prepared by the culinary students of the local hospitality and tourism school.
Even though the programme of this festival includes some activities besides the cuisine aspect of it, namely exhibitions, dances and handicrafts selling, year after year these activities are perceived more and more as secondary, as the celebration of caldo de peixe and all it has to do with the local identity, is enough of a selling point for this festival which, in its essence, celebrates Azorean culture.
📍São Miguel Island, Azores
Semana da Ostra de Setúbal | Oyster Week in Setúbal
Similarly to the octopus festival in Ericeira, this week in Setúbal dedicated to oysters is a way to promote local restaurants. During the event, of course you’ll find special dishes other than the regular menu items served during the rest of the year.
Oysters production in Portugal happens mostly in three different places: near Aveiro, in Ria Formosa in the Algarve, and in the Sado river, by Setúbal. This explains the creation of this event to promote this locally grown product of excellence.
But oysters aren’t the only seafood specialty deserving praise around here. In fact, Setúbal is such a fishing related place that, since 2015, it has an organization called Setúbal Terra de Peixe (which translates as Setúbal fish land), which organizes several other food fests during the year. In June you can attend Festival do Choco (dedicated to cuttlefish); in July celebrate one of the local’s favorites, sardines, during the Festival da Sardinha; in August it’s time to highlight horse mackerel during the Festival do Carapau; in October all hail mackerel during the Festival da Cavala; and finally November is dedicated to salmonete, the seasonal striped red mullet fish caught in the waters around Setúbal during this time of the year.
Lagos Food Fest
The city of Lagos in the southern region of the Algarve has for some years now been celebrating street food, a concept which in Portugal isn’t all that widely spread. With a much more contemporary and even pop vibe than most gastronomic events we have featured here today, Lagos Food Fest is exciting, tasty and fun.
This open air event attracts visitors to try food by some of the country’s most original food trucks, as well as to enjoy live music. Previous editions have showcased international treats such as waffles or piadina, but also Portuguese classics adapted to the street food context. Think of prego steak sandwiches, oysters from the Algarve itself and, more surprisingly, deconstructed Francesinha sandwich in a box.
This is the kind of food festival the masses love – with easygoing food, lots of sweet options, relaxed family friendly vibes and no entrance ticket. You only pay what you eat.
Essência do Vinho | Wine Essence
Unlike all the other events we have explored above, Essência do Vinho is a wine fair and not a gastronomic event per se, but considering its dimensions and relevance, we thought we’d also mention it here.
Over twenty successful editions of Essência do Vinho have already taken place, in Porto, Madeira and, in more recent years, in Lisbon. The organizers market this event as “the main wine experience” taking place in Portugal. During several days, wine lovers and connoisseurs can enjoy wine tastings from a wide range of national and foreign producers, including some commented tastings. There are exclusive launches and competitions in which brands of wine do a “face off” which the audience gets to vote on. All sorts of wines end up being on the lips of Essência do Vinho goers, including minimal intervention natural options.
If there is one wine event you should attend while in Portugal, Essência do Vinho is definitely it!
📍Porto, Lisbon, Madeira
📅Check website for dates:
Are you hungry now? We certainly hope to have opened your appetite to travel to Portugal and enjoy the best food and drinks our country has to offer. When you land here in Lisbon, we’ll be ready to welcome you and give you a proper introduction along our Lisbon Roots, Food & Cultural Walk, which will certainly help you to make the most of your food trip in our country. Keep in touch with us via Instagram, by messaging or taging us @tasteoflisboa or #tasteoflisboa.
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