Just like Santo António in Lisbon, São João is one of the biggest parties (if not the biggest!) in Porto. It has been held for centuries and happens every year on the night of June 23 to 24. Originally a pagan festival related with fertility and the happiness of harvesting, now it celebrates the birth of São João (Saint John), the city’s patron saint. So how to celebrate São João in Porto?
Besides the thousands of flame-propelled balloons that you’ll notice floating in the sky, São João is ideally celebrated on foot. Walk through the streets to be part of the joy and happiness of Porto, and don’t find it strange if you’re hit in the head by soft plastic hammers. Some people still use the old-fashioned alho-porro (“garlic flowers”), a symbol of fertility and luck, but it’s not as used today because, well, it smells. It’s a great way of interacting with people and celebrating!
Stop by the stands to eat the typical São João dishes: the well-known Caldo Verde soup and the grilled sardines with boiled potatoes, followed by a very good wine. Traditionally, people from Porto have dinner at home and walk all the way to Ribeira or Cais de Gaia, so you know where the crowds will be!
At midnight, you can’t miss the fireworks show from the D. Luís I bridge. It’s the crowning point of the party, when people sit near the river to behold the moment with friends and family. The party isn’t over after midnight, though — people celebrate until the wee hours of the night with more music, food, and a sunrise over the sea. It’s a night to remember!
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What other things do you like to do on São João? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation, you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces. We have rooms in Porto!