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How to Celebrate Santo António in Lisbon

Maria Almeida

This post is also available in: French

If you’re doing your Erasmus in Lisbon, there is one thing you need to know: June is the best month to be here. Why? Because it’s time for the craziest and most random parties of your student life. Here’s how to celebrate the Santos Populares parties in style.

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Santos Populares is one of Portugal’s best traditions. During the month of June, three saints are honoured in different parts of the country: São João in Porto and Braga, São Pedro in Sintra and Évora, and Santo António in Lisbon.

During the entire month of June, Lisbon gets together to honour its patron saint, Saint Anthony, well-known for his matchmaking powers.

Despite their religious background, the Santos Populares involves much more than just religion. There are the so-called bailaricos, where people gather in the historical neighbourhoods of Lisbon and dance to pimba, a Portuguese music genre filled with innuendos; have epic sardinhadas (sardine barbecues — but order a bifana if you want a deliciously greasy pork sandwich); and drink one-too many beers. You can also wear a sardine on your head, as shown below.

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Even though the Festas de Lisboa (Lisbon Parties) go on for the entire month of June, the biggest night by far is the 12th to 13th to celebrate Saint Anthony’s Day.

The narrow streets of Alfama, Sé, Graça, Bica, Bairro Alto, and many others get packed and decorated with colourful ribbons, lightbulbs, and manjericos to liven up the city even more. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about your hangover, because the 13th is a local holiday!

Start your Santos Populares evening around 8pm by walking down the wide Avenida da Liberdade and get to watch part of the marchas populares, where each neighbourhood in the city has their own dance, colourful outfits, and cheer. Practice yours with almost every year’s winner: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Alfama é que é (Alfama is the one)!

When you reach the bottom of the avenue, drink a shot of ginjinha at the famous “A Ginjinha” in Largo de São Domingos. Then make your up to Rua da Madalena and to the top of the São Jorge Castle and let the crowd lead you.

Santos Populares is a hell of a party you shouldn’t miss! Forget everything else you need to do, this party is tailor-made for any Erasmus in Lisbon. Just watch out for Santo António’s divine matchmaking powers or you’ll end up married by the end of the night.


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What are your plans for this year’s Santo António? 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 Lisbon!

This post is also available in: French

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