The city of Ovar hosts every year one of the most important Carnival celebrations of the country, where the most important event for the folklore of Portugal takes place every year.
Carnival of Ovar, a celebration that provides 3 weeks of parades, music and lots of dancing every year in this city. In the following sections we will learn all about this important event, which has been held for more than 50 years, supported by more than 2,000 people and enjoyed by thousands of visitors.
When is the Carnival of Ovar?
As we know, the dates of the carnival change annually. For 2021, the Carnival of Ovar will be held from January 23 to February 16 respectively, a total of 3 weeks of festivities.
What is the Carnival of Ovar?
This event takes place in the city of Ovar, Portugal, and it’s organized by the town hall of Ovar. It is considered the most unique carnival in the entire country, standing out for the passion, preparation and effort put into it, as well as for being one of the most important symbols of Portuguese culture and tradition. The Carnival of Ovar is also known as Ovar’s largest-scale event, welcoming thousands of visitors each year from many countries all over the world.
The Carnival of Ovar is famous for its colorful parade, costumes, floats and dances, which are prepared for an entire year by hundreds of participants, who bring different skills and give the Carnival of Ovar its distinctive touch.
In fact, Ovar is quite famous for this holiday. During the event, the entire city is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, showing how much the celebration is respected and admired by the people of Ovar. The love that the citizens show for their carnival is something rarely seen.
How is Carnival celebrated in Ovar?
The Carnival of Ovar is made up of a series of parades that are held during the days of celebration. Each parade represents different elements – mostly with some form of social commentary-. Likewise, each parade is represented by the different neighborhoods in the area (classified by groups), which compete during the carnival.
Every year, the carnival grows in size and diversity, and the organizers are well aware of this, so each year they expand the events within this carnival. An example of this is the creation of new parades such as the Senior Carnival, which brings together older people from across the region; the implementation of the TentZone for a younger audience; and other events like street shows, exhibitions and open-air concerts.
The Carnival of Ovar is also known as La Grande Festa da Cidade (“The Big City Party”), so this should give you an idea of what to expect.
Where is the Carnival of Ovar?
The carnival takes place in Ovar, located in the Aveiro District, precisely in the Central Region. This city has an approximate population of 56,000 inhabitants, with a population density per square kilometer of 384 inhabitants.
Ovar is known for experiencing a Mediterranean climate and has limits to the south with Murtosa and Estarreja, in the extreme north with Espinho, to the east with Oliveira de Azeméis, and to the west with the Atlantic Ocean. The city has an elevation of 12 meters with an approximate area of 147 km.
Origins of the Carnival of Ovar
Historically, there is no exact date of the beginning of the celebrations in Ovar. Records say that the first celebrations took place at the end of the 19th century, as well as at the beginning of the 20th century, by having theatrical performances and public celebrations using elements such as parade streamers.
What is known is that the Carnival of Ovar has been celebrated for at least a century. But as the 20th century advanced, many carnivals had to be held indoors following the beginning of World War II.
For this reason, it was not until after the mid-1940s (after World War II ended) when many carnivals returned to the streets, establishing themselves as a part of the modern culture and tradition.
At the beginning of the 1950s, this large event was known as the “Dirty Carnival”. In it, the neighborhoods of Ovar took to the streets to engage in a large food battle using flour, eggs, grains and the like as projectiles. It wasn’t until 1952 when the celebration would evolve into something else, when a large number of neighborhoods came together to design a new carnival concept. The citizens organized meetings to propose a more orderly and creative way to celebrate it. Although not everyone agreed at first, eventually all neighborhoods ended up joining this new way of celebrating the Carnival of Ovar.
It was at this point where masks and costumes were introduced in the Carnival of Ovar, turning the food battle into a creative and innovative contest between the neighborhoods of the city.
The 1960s would be the golden decade of the Carnival of Ovar, when the parades began to attract people from all over the country. After the end of the National Dictatorship and the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, democracy in Portugal made room for new ideas and the arrival of new cultures, especially from Brazil, which of course brought samba to Ovar. Since the 80s, after the opening of Costa de Prata (the first samba school in Ovar), this Brazilian rhythm and dance has been an essential part of the Carnival.
In less than a decade, Ovar would open six samba schools following the boom of the Carnival. The carnival groups, typical of each neighborhood, formed a new rivalry, betting more and more on the preparation and creativity behind the shows and slowly taking the Carnival of Ovar to the next level. These groups were called “carnival groups”, in contrast to the “catwalk groups”, which was the name for the dance groups that performed on the streets.
At that time, the Carnival was known as Vitamina de la alegria (“Vitamin of Joy”), which ended up surviving hard times, such as World War II, until it turned into one of the most important events in Portugal. The celebration managed to grow over the years and now is recognized as one of the most important folk festivals of the country.
Associations and Carnival Groups
- Bailarinos de Válega
- Levados do Diabo
- Joanas do Arco da Velha
- Escola do Samba Kan-Kans
- Escola do Samba Costa de Prata
- Nao Precisa
- Junventude Vareira
Aldeia do Carnaval
The Aldeia do Carnaval (“Carnival Village”) is a precinct for all the associations and carnival groups of Ovar. Opened on September 14, 2014, the Aldeia do Carnaval was established to act as a much-needed workspace for the 20 carnival groups and 4 samba schools. This way, all carnival activities could be located in a single area, which involves the design of costumes and allegorical decorations, development of mechanical structures to support the parade, testing of new technologies, music, dance and street performances.
The Aldeia do Carnival has:
- 24 buildings for the carnival groups and samba schools.
- 3 storages.
- 2 workshops.
- Infirmary and restrooms.
- Shopping center (1,200 m2).
- Central plaza (1,050 m2).
- Stage for concerts and various events.
Carnival of Ovar Schedule 2021
DUE TO THE ONGOING PANDEMIC, THE SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND/OR CANCELLATION.
For the Carnival of Ovar, different activities have been organized in a schedule arranged each year. Over 3 weeks, the schedule of these festivities is as follows:
- Date: fourth Saturday before Carnival.
- Official Opening of the Carnival of Ovar: the official opening of the carnival takes place. A parade is held where all teams, accompanied by the samba schools, wear their first costumes and masks, announcing to the audience that the carnival is coming to town.
- Date: third Sunday before Carnival.
- The King’s Arrival: In this parade, the King of the Carnival of Ovar is presented. Again, the audience gets to see the competing groups as well as the samba schools. This time, the costumes and floats are inspired by the ‘Piada Colectiva’ (“Collective joke”) theme, where all teams make a social commentary on a current issue.
- Date: second Sunday before Carnival.
- Children’s carnival: Kids get to have their very own carnival parade. Children from schools and training centers of Ovar parade throughout the town.
- Date: Thursday before Carnival.
- Quim Barreiros concert: Renowned artist Quim Barreiros, known for his double meaning lyrics, hosts a free concert to the public in one of the most traditional events of this carnival.
- Date: Friday before Carnival.
- Noche de Farrapada: The “Rags Night” is a night parade that takes place in the streets of Ovar, where all citizens gather and celebrate spontaneously, either by dancing, singing or simply joining the crowd.
- Date: Saturday before Carnival.
- Samba schools parade: Another night parade where all the samba schools take the streets of Ovar.
- Date: Sunday before Carnival.
- Corso Carnavalesco: This is the main event where we all the carnival groups and samba schools gather together in another large parade.
- Date: Monday before Carnival.
- Magic night: The magic night brings together hundreds of troupes to perform in the center of Ovar in a celebration that lasts until dawn the next day.
- Date: First day of Carnival.
- Main parade (repeat): A second run of the main parade is held. With the exception of the first one, this parade reveals the scores and positions obtained by the samba schools and carnival groups. The event ends with a ceremony to award the winners.
How to get to Ovar?
Once in Portugal, there are different alternatives to get to Ovar. Some of the ways are:
- By plane: There are many options to get to the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, which is the closest one to Ovar. Travelers can take a look at flights with airlines such as Air Nostrum and Air Europa Express.
- By train: When traveling by train, many choose to board a train from Aveiro to Ovar. It is also possible to take one from Porto, precisely from the General Torres Station at the General Torres St., which takes approximately 40 minutes.
Where to stay in Ovar?
Since the Carnival of Ovar attracts a great number of tourists to the city, one can find various options for accommodation in a wide range of hotels, including 3-star hotels for couples and families with the highest quality levels for all guests.
Among the best options are AquaMotel, Hotel Maeia Lua, Furadouro Hostel, and others. Many of these lodgings are located near the coast, offering guests a unique experience not only on visiting days, but also on nights of rest and relaxation.
What to do and see in Carnival of Ovar?
Visiting Ovar doesn’t mean you should only join the carnival parades; the city also has many tourist activities to discover. Here are some of the options you can explore while attending the largest carnival of Portugal:
Visiting the Town Market
One of the most interesting ways to get to know Ovar is by visiting its market. Here you can find a range of local products while discovering one of the most important areas of the city.
Checking out the nightlife
The nightlife in Ovar is certainly one of the best, especially in carnival days. Here you’ll find concerts, night parties and a great cuisine to try during the night.
Going to the beach
Ovar also boasts beautiful beaches, such as Praira do Furadouro, where despite not being able to take a dip in its waters due to the cold weather, you can still have a unique experience.
Is Ovar safe?
Ovar is a safe city in which one can enjoy walking on the streets at any time of the day without major concerns.
What to eat in Ovar?
Ovar has a great and varied cuisine for all types of diners. On the one hand, visitors will find many restaurants to try the local food. On the other, enjoying a more global cuisine is also possible for those who just can’t do without their favorite options.
- Grill restaurants: Here you’ll find local as well as international dishes, resulting from the combination of different culinary traditions and cultures.
- Francesinha: A sandwich filled with different fillings, accompanied by French fries, and covered with a special and traditional sauce from Ovar.
- Wines: One of the most common ingredients in Ovar cuisine, where the essence of the grape allows you to taste one of the main flavors enjoyed by the locals.