São João Festival – Porto, Portugal

São João colourful decorations

São João’s festival takes place every year on the night of 23 June and is one of the biggest events in Porto’s cultural calendar. This festival has been rooted in Porto’s traditions since the 19th century. Its roots are in an ancient pagan courtship ritual, granting it the nickname of the festival of lovers. True to its origins, it retains various courtship rituals today, including the practice of hitting each other with a plastic or inflatable hammer or a garland of garlic flowers!

 Porto's downtown ready to celebrate São João

Each of Porto’s neighbourhoods is decorated with colourful displays, competing against each other to win the prize that is awarded for the best decorated street.

Porto Streets with bunting decorations - São João celebrations

From the afternoon onwards, the streets are filled with people, dancing to live music, eating freshly grilled sardines and meat treats from the barbecue and sipping ice cool bottles of local beer, wine and delicious port wine of course.

Walking around Foz do Douro - São João celebrations

At midnight there is a huge firework display over the Douro River after which partygoers will continue to party until the early hours of the morning. It is know as the longest night in Porto. I remember lighting bonfires at the beach with my friends to keep warm and in the morning going for breakfast at the local bakery before heading home for some sleep. That’s when I was a lot younger and childless of course.

São João colourful decorations

BBQ Sardines - São João Celebrations

We didn’t go to the Porto’s downtown for the evening celebrations this year but I though you might like to have a little sneak preview of what happens there so I’m sharing this video from Visit Portugal YouTube channel.

Love, P

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Porto - São João Festival

24 comments

  1. It looks (and sounds) beautiful! I love the quiet of a town early in the morning when there’s been a big event the night before. Portugal is a place I would love to visit. #StayClassyMama

  2. Oh I LOVE things like this! We have been lucky enough to be abroad when similar festivals have been held and I just love everything about it! Although we have celebrations over here, when the sun is shining and the skies are blue, that wins hands down! #stayclassymama

  3. It looks amazing, I love all the colours. I might look into holidaying here this tie next year, we never go away and I’d love to come to this!

    #stayclassymama

  4. Beautiful photos, I can almost feel the festive atmosphere and smell grilled sardines in the air! It’s funny how St. John’s Eve is (or used to be) celebrated in most countries, in one way or another. In Denmark, where we lived for three years, people light up bonfires all along the coast.
    #PointShoot

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