Is going to the biggest Carnaval in the Algarve and the oldest in Portugal on your travel wish list? We went to the parade portion of Carnaval for the first time in our lives in Loulé, Portugal, and learned a few things that might help you out on your Carnaval adventure – especially if, like us, you’re an American (this will make sense later)! But first…
5 Fun Things to Know About Going to Carnaval in Loulé, Portugal:
- Adults have as much fun (maybe more fun) than the kids. Lively music, fun performances, colorful floats, and political jokes are abundant at the parade.
- Feel free to dress any which way you please at Carnaval! You can wear your Halloween costume, extra festive colors, wild patterns, or dress as you would any other day of the week. The majority of the crowd was dressed in everyday casual.
- Instead of candy, paper confetti and streamers are thrown. From their appearance and from the encouragement I saw to make sustainable choices during Carnaval and throughout the year, I believe they were made from a sustainable, environmentally responsible material. I’m not 100% sure though and I don’t want to make a false claim.
- While some floats might be sponsored, it is not a parade of billboards, which is so nice!
- All ages were dancing and taking part in the parade and nothing seemed strictly masculine, or feminine. Everyone in the parade seemed to be having a grand time!
5 Practical Things to Know When Going to Carnaval in Loulé, Portugal:
- You will need tickets. They can be purchased a couple of hours beforehand at a ticket booth about a block or so from the main entrance for the parade. We saw people lining up outside of the closed ticket booth as we made our way to Hamburgueria for lunch at around 12:30. Tickets cost 2 euros* per person and proceeds went to a charitable cause.
- The best way to get a good spot is to arrive early and get in line. We did not and missed our chance at a prime location, though we still managed to get a decent spot. Since tickets are required, unlike American parades, there is no way to stake your claim to a spot with a lawn chair or picnic blanket. After you purchase your tickets, you get in line. Once they start allowing people in the line moves pretty fast. Your tickets are checked and then you go through security. To help keep things moving along, it’s best to have your purse, bag, or backpack unzipped and ready.
- Wear comfortable shoes! Also unlike American parades, almost everybody stands for the whole parade. It’s scheduled to last for two hours, but the one we attended went a little over. The music throughout the parade has a wonderful beat and a little dancing on the sidelines can’t be helped. It’s such fun!
- You might want to bring earplugs! A woman standing in front of us had her hands pressed to her ears for most of the parade. She was still smiling and dancing, but the sound must have been a bit too much. I also noticed that a few of the folks driving the floats wore noise-canceling headphones.
- If you want to eat lunch at a restaurant near Carnaval, arrive early! Our meals at Hamburgueria were wonderful and the service was super kind and accommodating. We lucked out and managed to get one of the last tables available outside beneath an umbrella (it was sprinkling a little off and on). While we could tell the staff was working super hard, it did take longer than usual for us to get our drinks and meals. This part of our day did impact our ability to get a prime parade-watching location. I think our food was still absolutely worth the wait!
To see more of what Carnaval’s atmosphere is like, be sure to check out our We Attend our First Carnaval! [Loulé, Portugal].
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*This was the price Feb. 19th – 21st, 2023.