Lisbon, Portugal

There’s a festival of some sort almost every month in Lisbon, and this month is no exception. In June, there are celebrations almost every day, with the high point of Festas de Lisboa,  The Marchas Populares, on the 12 June. It is the 86th year of the Marchas and this year celebrates the 120th anniversary of the birth of actor Vasco Santana and the film Canção de Lisboa.

Twenty three groups, from neighbourhoods across the city, comprising of a total of 1600 people, sang and danced their way along the Avenida da Liberdade, starting late in the evening on the 12 June and finishing around three in the morning of the 13 June, which, fortunately, is a public holiday.  Each group has its own band, and props, which are used to set the stage for the performance.  The costumes were very detailed, lots of colour and even more glitter.  I liked that the participants were all ages, a good representation of the community.

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Each of the groups performed their song and dance several times during the march, it is serious stuff as they are competing to win.  They are assessed on, costume, music, original composition, choreography, stage, and avenue parade. This year, Alfama was first, (for the third consecutive year), Bairro Alto was second and Madrago was third.  The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sausa, was amongst the VIPs at the Marchas and greeted all the groups when they got to the main performance area.

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Bairro Alto


The Marchas were televised live, and could also be viewed on big screens erected around the city centre. Thousand of people came to the Avenida Liberdade to watch the Marches turning the centre into a big party.  Many of the side streets were dressed in bunting and party ready, with basil and fish scented smoke, signalling that the barbeques were fired up, and sardines, traditional festival food, were being grilled,  The street parties carried on into the early hours of the morning.

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There is a lot of waiting around in between the performances, so there’s time for a smile for the camera, a hug and a chat.


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The Madrago marchas were barefoot, it is thought to be a tradition that comes from the fishermen and women living and working without shoes.



This was the last group to march,  and although some of the people watching had gone home, it was around 2 in the morning, there was still a wave for those who stayed till the end.

Saint Anthony is celebrated on the 13 June, the day he died, he is Lisbon’s most beloved saint. The Igreja de Santo António, is built on the site of the house where he was born, in 1195, and in June as part of the Festas Lisboa, the area outside the church is decorated with flowers.


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