4 June 2024

Imagine a place where the streets smell like a BBQ party at a friend's place, but instead of your friend, it's an entire country hosting, and you are on the guest list! Welcome to the month-long festa, where the Portuguese open their doors, hearts, and grills to celebrate the Santos Populares. It's a time when the sardines are so delicious they could have their own fan club, and the wine flows like the latest gossip.

From Lisbon's labyrinthine lanes to Porto's picturesque promenades, each city is like a stage – and let me tell you, the Portuguese sure know how to put on a show! Here, we will tell you how to enjoy the festivities to the fullest, with the do’s and don’ts!

Santo António, Lisbon

Santo António, Lisbon

On June 13th, Lisbon turns into the epicenter of festivity. The city's historic neighborhoods transform into a kaleidoscope of color, music, and the unmistakable aroma of sardines doing backflips on the grill. And Alfama is where Lisbon's soul comes out to play on Santo António's celebrations.

But who was this man, and how did his day become the riot of color, taste and sound? Born in Lisbon in 1195, the future saint Antonio was a nobleman who revoked wealth and status to join the Franciscan Order. His posthumous reputation as a matchmaker is the foundation of this celebration. At first, it began with small neighbourhood festivities, where locals would set up altars dedicated to Santo António to invoke his blessing for a good marriage.

Santo António, Lisbon PT 2

And what's a party without some quirky traditions? In Lisbon, during Santo António, the "Casamentos de Santo António", mass weddings, take centre stage. Think of it as the city playing Cupid, sponsoring the weddings of couples who might not otherwise afford it. It's a beautiful blend of community spirit and romance.

Then, there's the small matter of the Manjerico plants—potted basil that comes with little paper carnations and a flag with a popular rhyme. It's a tradition to gift these to your loved ones. Just don't forget: you're supposed to smell the plant by rubbing your finger on it and then sniffing your hand, not the plant directly. Why? Because tradition says so!

Santo António PT 3

Do: Plan to eat your body weight in grilled sardines! These are the unsung heroes of the party, and finding them is like following a breadcrumb trail. Consider mastering the art of navigating through crowds like a sardine—slippery and swift. It’s essential for blending in and making the most of the celebrations. And here’s a pro-tip: Kickstart your celebration on the 12th to enjoy the festa with more wiggle room.

Don't: Attempting to dodge the festive fervor in Lisbon on the 13th is like trying to avoid glitter at a carnival—it's futile, and honestly, why would you want to? Embrace the organized chaos; let it lead you on an unexpected adventure. Just when you think you have found a shortcut, you will likely end up in the middle of a dance-off or a parade. And really, isn't that the point?

São João, Porto

São João, Porto

Come June 24th, Porto throws a bash that makes New Year's Eve look like a quaint dinner party! The city bursts into life with fireworks, music, and an endless supply of balloon-decorated streets. Saint John the Baptist, or São João, is the reason behind this revelry. Historically, São João part of pagan rituals welcoming the summer solstice. With time, it intertwined with the Christian celebration of John the Baptist's birth, morphing into an event that bridges the gap between the sacred and the profane.

As the sun sets on São João's eve, the sky becomes a canvas painted with the soft glow of paper lanterns, floating up into the night. Below, the streets are alive with music and the aroma of grilled sardines. Basil plants, with their customarily attached love poems, are exchanged as tokens of affection, continuing the theme of love and goodwill that underpin Portugal's festivities.

São João, Porto PT2

Do: Arm yourself with the traditional plastic hammer and get ready to playfully bonk your way through the city. This isn’t just about whacking people on the head; it’s an initiation rite into the brotherhood and sisterhood of São João revelers. So, swing that hammer with the gentle grace of a Porto native, and watch as the city transforms into a playground.

Don't: Sitting on the sidelines is like going to a buffet and only eating salad—pointless and mildly disappointing. Dive headfirst into the shenanigans. If a local hands you a hammer, accept it like the sacred torch it is. Missing out on the camaraderie of São João is like refusing a free ticket to the funfair. Why would you do that to yourself?

São Pedro

São Pedro

When the calendar flips to the end of June, and the festivities of Santo António and São João start to wind down, Portugal isn't quite ready to call it quits. Enter São Pedro, rolling in on the 29th with a bash that proves the Portuguese really do save some of the best for last. Celebrated across various coastal towns, São Pedro, or Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, brings a different flavor of fun—think more sea breeze and salty air.

Saint Peter, the sturdy rock upon which the Christian church was said to be built, is also famously known as a fisherman. It’s this aspect of his identity that coastal communities across Portugal latch onto, celebrating São Pedro as a protector of those who brave the sea. While sardines are present here too, São Pedro's parties lean heavily into the maritime theme, so expect seafood to dominate the menus.

São Pedro PT 2


Do: Being by the sea for Saint Peter's Day is like having a VIP pass to the heart of Portuguese culture. The coastal towns come alive with a different kind of wave—ones made of music, dance, and, of course, fresh seafood. Participate in the celebrations with the zeal of a pirate finding treasure!

Don't: Opting out of the seaside festivities is like being offered a pearl and asking for a pebble instead. Who turns down an experience filled with joy, community, and perhaps a bit magical? The parties are a testament to the resilience and spirit of the fishing communities. To ignore them is to miss out on a piece of what makes Portugal, well, Portugal.

Signing off on Portugal's party season

And there you have it—your insider guide to navigating Portugal’s June jubilations with the finesse of a seasoned sardine sampler and the gusto of a hammer-wielding party pioneer. From the aromatic alleys of Lisbon during Santo António to the hammer-happy streets of Porto for São João, all the way to the sea-soaked celebrations of São Pedro, you are now fully equipped to dive headfirst into the festive fray.

The Final Dos and Don’ts:

Do: Pack your sense of humor alongside your party hat. The festivities are a rollercoaster ride of sights, sounds, and smells, where the ability to laugh at yourself (and with others) will endear you to locals faster than you can say “One more sardine, please!”

Don't: Forget to let loose. Yes, you are a respectful traveler, but these celebrations invite you to shed your inhibitions like a sardine shedding its scales. Dance like nobody’s watching, sing even if you don’t know the words, and let the joy of the festas infuse your being!


Topics: portugal, portuguese travel agency, Visit Portugal, festivities, parties, tourtailors, Santos Populares, popular saints, santo antónio

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