Everywhere in Lisbon, the smell of fish and basil sets the atmosphere of anticipation in June. The long-awaited Sardine Festival is here.
Makeshift fireplaces, half-cut oil drums and beer pouring stations are set up outside restaurants and informal eateries. Cats lurk around the alleyways hoping for some scraps to match the pungent aroma.
The festival is Lisbon's most important cultural tradition, celebrating the city's beloved patron St Anthony .
The narrow cobblestone streets of the historic neighbourhoods of Alfama, Madragoa, Castelo, Bica and Bairro Alto fills with music, dancing, wine, beer, sangria and grilled sardines. Tons of the oily sardines will have been consumed before sunrise by local Lisboetas and travellers from around the globe.
Traditionally, men offer a potted basil plant to their lovers on St Anthony’s day. With the basil plant comes a paper flower carrying a love note. Street food stalls appear on every corner and small squares of Lisbon’s oldest quarters.
Colourful paper garlands that hang between buildings create a carnival atmosphere. The scent of fish will hang over the city for days.
As city festivals go, the Sardine Festival in Lisbon is one of Europe's most charming festivals to experience. And one of my favourites.
African News Agency (ANA)