Carnival or Mardi Gras is a rowdy festival leading up to Ash Wednesday. It’s one last orgy of celebration before the rigors of Lent, when Catholics should abstain from eating meat. In Portugal, some of the wildest parties take place in Ovar and Torres Vedras. The Portuguese colonists exported Carnival to Brazil, but ironically, the Brazilians brought their style of celebrations back to Portugal.
While Carnival is observed in Porto, the city’s craziest festival is São João in June. For an authentic Carnival experience, head down to Ovar, south of Porto, for some vibrant parades. Samba schools flaunt their moves on Carnival Saturday and the city bans cars in the centre on Carnival Monday. Partygoers can don their masks and run through the streets. Ermesinde, to the northeast, is also known for their Carnival celebrations.
The weather tends to be on the rainy side during Carnival, so bring your raingear. Carnival usually coincides with the Fantasporto International Film Festival. This festival screens imaginative and quirky films, with quite a bit of horror added to the mix.