Festival of St John of Oporto 2019: Festa de São João do Porto

Festival of St John of Oporto 2019
Celebrate "São João" during a magic night in Oporto
20 June 2019, Marilia Poiares

São João do Porto

The Festival of St John of Oporto (Festival de São João do Porto) is a great celebration you must experience. Every year, on the night of the 23rd of June, the city of Oporto celebrates “São João”, paying tribute to Saint John the Baptist. This party attracts Catholics and non-Catholics alike, with numerous sacred and profane traditions that fill the night with food, culture and fireworks.

On the night of the 23rd June, the most traditional neighbourhoods of the city (Miragaia, Fontainhas, Ribeira, Massarelos, etc.) are transformed, filled with people and joy, and the streets are decorated with balloons and colourful ribbons. In the Avenida dos Aliados you can also watch the opening parade that honours São João.

What to do during the Festival of St John in Portugal 2019

  • Eat a Traditional Meal: The festival begins with dinner, either with family or friends, in a restaurant or right on the street in one of the numerous stands you can find. The typical meal of choice is grilled sardines, grilled peppers and fresh salads, paired with red wine or local beer, making for the perfect dining experience. Restaurants will fill up very quickly so make sure you make a reservation. If you don’t have one, you can grab a hot sardine straight from the grill on one of the street food stands and eat it on top of a thick slice of bread – the most authentically Portuguese way to eat it!
  • Sing “São João dá cá um balão”: In order to become a true “folião” (the name given to the people partying during the festival), you must know and sing this song. Search the lyrics and music and warm up your voice to sing the most famous song of the festival, known by children and adults alike.
  • Watch the Fireworks: After dinner, walk to the city’s stunning riverside and watch the fabulous fireworks display from the Dom Luís I Bridge. Go early if you want to get the perfect spot to watch them.
  • Hammer or Get Hammered! One of the most beloved traditions of the São João do Porto Festival is to carry a plastic hammer and walk around hitting people in the head. According to history, many years ago, people would hit each other in the head with leeks but they were then substituted by these colourful hammers. There are lots of people selling them on the streets and the city becomes filled with funny noises (made by the hammers) during the entire night.
  • Jump a bonfire: This is one of the most memorable, and potentially dangerous, traditions of the festival. Bonfires are lit all over the city and people must jump them as a symbol of courage.
  • Take a dip! If you want to follow the tradition in full, be prepared to party until morning. At sunrise, people head over to the beach and dive in the ocean to help them “wake up” and face the day.

Things to do in Oporto

Once the party is over you can take the time to visit some of Oporto’s best attractions. The iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, the Teleférico de Gaia (a cable car that connects the two sides of the river), its Cathedral, the Clérigos Church and the famous wine cellars are just a few of the points to check off your bucket list.

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