It’s June and that means party all month for Lisbon! The whole city is in a (holy!) party fever because it’s the months of the saints, as we call it in Portugal. In the month where we celebrate Saint António’s (Lisbon’s city holiday on 13th of June) and Saint João (Porto’s city holiday on 24th of June), the weather is warm, and everybody is out on the colorfully decorated streets till late in the night! The traditional downtown part of the city, with its typical aroma of fresh basil and grilled sardines gets filled with people ready for the parades, popular dances and music, outdoor sardine grilling sessions, cold drinks and of course the traditional Portuguese “petiscos” that can’t be missing at any party: bread, snails and lupins! We just love them! And what else can´t be missing? That’s right, our unbreakable souvenir glass filled with Portuguese Wine With a View (because there are so many views and so much to see!), perfect to take with you out on the streets and party!
In Lisbon, the “alfacinhas” (as the locals in Lisbon are called) parade down Avenida da Liberdade, filling this major road with colorful characters in costume, folk music, and throngs of spectators. But the crowds and liveliness also fill the narrow back streets, particularly in Alfama, but also Graça, Bica, Mouraria and Madragoa. Another highlight is the procession of Santo António, which leaves on the 13th from the church of S. António in Alfama, near the Cathedral, where the Saint was born in around 1193.
The festivities are just as fun and lively in Porto, in the more traditional neighborhoods that include Miragaia, Fontainhas, Ribeira, and Massarelos. But Porto has other habits and customs: the old tradition was for revelers to beat each other on the head with a leek, but now they use plastic hammers; and besides the firework display at midnight on the River Douro in the center of Porto, people also release colorful hot air balloons into the sky, making one of the most beautiful spectacles in these popular celebrations. For many, the night ends on the beach, to see the sun rise, and some still follow the tradition of taking an early morning dip in the sea.
Saint Pedro is celebrated on 29th of June, also with popular festivals in various parts of the country, such as Sintra and Évora, both on the World Heritage list. Évora, incidentally, has the distinction of celebrating two popular saints, since it has held the St. John Fair since the 16th century, one of the largest in southern Portugal, as well as celebrating the feast of St. Peter as a municipal holiday.
In all these festivals, there is also the tradition of jumping the bonfire and offering your girlfriend or boyfriend pots of aromatic basil, containing four-line verses often speaking of love, especially because these feasts are linked to the summer solstice and ancient fertility rites.
As you can see, June is the perfect month to visit Portugal, have a glass of Wine With a View and discover all of our traditions, engage in the party and enjoy yourself! We are waiting for you! Cheers!