The São João Night in Porto
Saint John, or São João in portuguese, were originated in the 14th century and was initially a pagan feast, where the God of the Sun was worshipped, but soon afterwards the Christian Church celebrated this pagan feast and the birth of Saint John the Baptist on 24 June, making it the official patron saint of the feast.
Nowadays, the feast of São João in Porto drags thousands of people from their homes to the cheerful streets of Porto where they eat the traditional grilled sardines, they beat other people with small toy hammers, Hot air balloons are launched if you see concerts and fireworks shows. Definitely an impossible night to forget.
Here are five things you can’t help but do on St. John’s Night.
Eat grilled sardines
Apart from the plastic hammers, the hot air balloons and the basil there is nothing more emblematic of the parties of Saint John in Porto than the grilled sardines. On the night of 23 to 24 June the streets fill with roasters and the pleasant smell of grilled sardines. But did you know that this tradition did not begin in Porto? In fact, this delicious fashion came from Lisbon in the 1940s, when the first Feira Popular was held at the Palácio de Cristal. Until that date, the Portuenses practiced a somewhat unusual custom, at midnight they ate toast and had coffee with milk.
But although this tradition was adopted and not invented in Porto, it remains a fundamental part of the feast of Saint John in Porto for both Portuguese and foreign visitors.
Use the famous hammers of Saint John
There is nothing that refers more to the feast of Saint John than the sound of the whistle of a plastic hammer hitting the head of a friend, family member or even a stranger.
These hammers were invented in 1963 in a toy factory based in Rio Tinto, a parish belonging to Porto. That year, college students wanted a noisy toy to celebrate the Burning of the Tapes, the biggest academic party of the year, and the hammer had been proposed that had just been created. Due to the enormous success of the toy in the Burning of the Ribbons, the merchants began to sell the hammer at the parties of Saint John in Porto, from there being adopted en masse by the people as object that symbolizes the feast, replacing the leek that was used until then.
So, when you go out on the night of Saint John in Porto, remember to take a plastic hammer with you! (If you forget to buy one, don’t worry, there are always many for sale on the streets).
Watch the Fireworks
On the next night of Saint John in Porto, from 23 to 24 June, after two years of interruption due to the covid-19 pandemic, there will be the traditional fireworks thrown over the Douro River. This show of lights in the sky is one of the most beautiful in the whole country and is undoubtedly a unique experience that cannot be missed!
There are several places more suitable to watch the fireworks, such as the stairs of the Guindais, the Serra do Pilar, the neighborhood of Fontainhas or Ribeira. Fireworks can also be enjoyed from a balcony with a good view of the city or even from a boat on the Douro River!
Dancing in Miragaia or Fontainhas
Portuenses are a dancing people. And that aspect of their personality comes even more to the fore with the festivities.
Some neighborhoods in Porto follow the traditions of Saint John o more than others, which means more joy, more ornaments of Saint John, more food and drink, more music and more dance!
Within these neighborhoods, the ones that stand out the most are Miragaia and Fontainhas. In these neighborhoods you will find stages with pimba music and lots of joy.
Walk from Ribeira to Foz
After the fireworks and dances, tradition says that people follow like a procession in celebration, walking, eating and drinking Riverside to Foz do Rio Douro.
Despite being about an hour’s drive, the walk along the Douro River and watching the sunset on the beach make the tiredness worthwhile! Therefore, if after watching the fireworks and dancing around Porto you still have the energy to spend, it is always a good idea to follow the crowd that starts walking towards Foz.
If you follow all these tips and have a good mood, you will surely have an unforgettable night of Saint John in Porto.
But if you want to have an even more unforgettable Sain John party, Sailing 360º is providing a unique experience for this mythical evening, with a boat trip along the Douro River with dinner on board, where you can watch the sunsetfrom the sun, followed by fireworks from a completely unique point of view, directly from the Douro River!
Interested? Find out more on: Boat Cruises in Porto & Tours | Sailing 360 (sailing-360.com)
Good Saint John!