Who would've thought that the humble sardine would have its very own festival! The Algarve's calendar is chock-full of spectacular celebrations, and the Sardine Festival in Portim ão is certainly worth planning your trip around. Although most villages along the Algarve coast celebrate with their own sardine festival, the best and most famous is in Portim ão. Held around the second week in August, this popular festival isn't just about tasty fish either, there's everything from fireworks to live music to enjoy too.
Sardine seasonRecognised as the sardine capital of the Algarve, Portim ão celebrates July and August's sardine season with an annual festival which draws thousands to the small fishing town. Visit the sardine festival and enjoy the abundance of these freshly caught and super tasty fish. And we're not talking the canned variety drowning in tomato sauce here, either! The aroma of sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines) fills the air as you wander along the seafront where local fishermen and beachfront restaurants offer up a variety of different sardine dishes. You can have them grilled, over-roasted, raw (sardine sushi!), or poached, the choice is yours.
Eat sardines the Portuguese wayWhile you're at the festival, why not eat sardines as the locals do; grilled and with bread! In the Algarve, eating grilled sardines the traditional way is quite the skill. The grilled sardine is placed on a slice of bread and then, without using your hands, the meat is chewed off one side of the sardine. It's then flipped over and the meat is eaten on the other side, leaving just the skeleton of the fish. The skeleton is replaced with another fresh sardine, and only when you've had enough fish can you tuck into the delicious oil-soaked bread. Once you've mastered eating sardines, there's also a wide selection of other fish to try while you're at the festival too. Taste traditional dishes like cataplana de marisco, which is a Portuguese seafood dish that's cooked using a unique copper cooking device and mixes prawns, clams, and chorizo sausage.
Party atmosphereOnce you're full from all those sardines and seafood, you can enjoy the festival's party atmosphere. Live bands will have you dancing in no time, while cooking demonstrations by well-known chefs will leave you able to create some local dishes when you're back home. Cold beers and wine from local vineyards are served and there are lots of craft stalls to wander around as you sip them. Kids will love the special play area, as well as the colourful fireworks which illuminate the sky on the festival's closing night.
Essential informationAim to arrive at the festival at around 7pm and take a stroll along the long line of restaurants selling fish dishes. With so much delicious food on offer, it's no surprise the festival does get busy and parking spaces can be hard to find. It's best to stay in Portim ão and walk to the festival, or travel to the fishing town by public transport.
Things to do nearPortim ão Sardine FestivalYou'll find there's more to Portim ão than just its sardine festival, and it's worth making time to explore more of the area while you're here. Head to the sun-drenched Praia da Rocha beach to relax, explore the Museu de Portim ão to learn more about its sardine fishing heritage, or watch the race circuit at the thrilling Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.