The Feast of São João is the most important festival in the city of Porto, as it celebrates the feast of Saint John, the patron saint of the city.
For this reason, São João is the most venerated saint in Porto and the whole city is decked out with music, dance and fireworks to welcome the summer solstice.
When are the Festas de São João celebrated?
The Festas de São João in Porto last several days. For example, São João 2023 is celebrated from 16 June to 2 July, with the most important days of the celebration being 23 and 24 June.
Above all, the night of the eve of St. John’s Day, around midnight, is the highlight of the Festas, when the sky fills with light and colour to celebrate the definitive entry into the summer season.
What are the traditions of the Festas of São João?
Over time, characteristic events have been consolidated that make these festivities even more popular and original, especially for the tourist or traveller who visits Porto during the month of June. If you are wondering what these special St. John’s traditions are, here is a list of the most important ones:
- The martelinhos. This is undoubtedly the most fun tradition and the one that attracts the most attention at first. During the most important days, especially on the night of St. John, everyone carries a coloured plastic hammer in their hands, called a martelinho, which you can buy in the streets, and it is normal to bang it on the heads of acquaintances and relatives, so it is easy to hear the characteristic sound made by these toy hammers in every corner of the city.
- Balões de ar quente. Another of São João’s most popular traditions is the launching of paper balloons into the sky. These lit lanterns take advantage of the heat of the flame to ascend into the sky. Just like the tradition of fireworks and bonfires, it is inherited from the fire worship that was paid tribute to in ancient times to celebrate the abundance of agricultural harvests.
- Fireworks in the Ribeira. At midnight, at the changeover from the 23rd to the 24th of June, a great fireworks display is launched from the bridge of Dom Luís I and from the river itself, flooding the entire sky over Porto. It is also accompanied by music and is a visual and sonorous spectacle that attracts hundreds of people along the Ribeira de Porto promenade.
Ver esta publicación en Instagram
- Taste the typical dishes of the Festas de São João. Roast sardines, lamb, Caldo Verde (potato soup with sausage and cabbage), pepper salad or broa (corn bread) are the most traditional and popular. In addition, the streets are flooded with tables set for the occasion and these feasts and group meals are held on terraces and at the foot of pavements and streets.
- Skipping the bonfires of San Juan. Perhaps the most widespread Midsummer’s Eve tradition, not only in Porto and Portugal but in many other Mediterranean and European cities and countries. Lighting bonfires near the sea, jumping over them and burning little pieces of paper with wishes written inside are some of the most common and expected traditions also in Porto.
- Flor de alho porro. Although this tradition has been somewhat replaced by the fashion of wearing martelinhos, you can also find many people wearing this garlic flower with a long, thick stalk, which is very much associated with extolling fertility and love and warding off the evil eye. Something similar with the wearing of the so-called manjerico, a plant very similar to basil, which is usually given as a gift to couples in love.
- Festivals, dances and concerts. Above all, on the night of San Juan, all the streets are full of live performances, orchestras, open-air dances and the party lasts until the early hours of the morning.
As you can see, the Festas de São João are the ideal excuse to visit Porto for the first time, or to visit it again, and with martelinho in hand enjoy the city and the beginning of summer in such a lively and fun way. Do you feel like it?