Festivities and Sardines: a match made in heaven
That’s the generic Portuguese word for the collection of improvised and often rickety stalls, bars, trestle tables and benches decked out under flags and lights, stages for endless live and recorded music, and all the rest. There are dozens of them around the city in June. The most popular night is June 12, but there are arraiais happening almost every night, all month long.
Draught lager is the most popular drink on summer nights in Lisbon (the festival is invariably sponsored by a brewer). The only problem is that there are rarely enough places to relieve yourself after drinking it all, due to the crowds. You've been warned.
Sweet basil (manjerico) is the official plant of the season and it’s sold in a small pot with a little paper flag with a corny love poem written on it. It is delicately scented, but you should never sniff it directly - popular legend says that smelling it will result in the plant dying. Instead, gently ruffle it with your hand and then smell your palm.
On the evening of June 12, Avenida da Liberdade closes to traffic and stands are set up for spectators to watch the “people’s marches”. Costumed groups from each of the city’s neighbourhoods showcase their performances – songs and dance routines are written and choreographed especially for this event. They perform for the audience and, of course, for the members of the jury who decide which neighbourhood is the ultimate winner.
This boom-bang cheesy local pop is the kind of music you will hear the most – along with a few Portuguese classics – at this time of year. Even people who refuse to listen to it at other times will tolerate it in June. It’s good enough for dancing, clapping your hands, doing the conga, etc.
The fish that is only eaten in months without an ‘r’ in their name is the official dish of the Santos Populares. These sardines are grilled, sprinkled with salt, and served with boiled potatoes and grilled bell peppers.
Even though St. Anthony of Padua is not the city’s official patron (that’s St. Vincent), the festival is held in his honour. June 13, the Saint’s official day, is a municipal holiday, ensuring that the night of June 12 is the year’s biggest bash. Locals party all through the night in arraiais across town.
Forget them. They are almost impossible to find on June 12. Some people cross the entire city on foot to get home – or to get to another arraial.
It’s never okay to pee on the street but peeing (xixi, in Portuguese), as mentioned, is both necessary and a bit of a problem during the festivities. Most bars are set up on the street, and restaurants will rarely let you in to use their toilet, so the only option is often to be creative and find a place where no one can see you.
Have fun, while you're in town
Lisbon is all about good food, nice weather, warm people and, last but not least, a lot of things to do. If you're planning a trip over the summer make sure to add these events in Lisbon to your things to do list. From June till November, get ready for an eventful year.
Whether you're a rump shaker, a motormouth or a wannabe sommelier, you can't fail to find something to suit your tastes in Lisbon's rich and diverse nightlife.