It’s that magical time of the year again! No, we’re not talking about Christmas – it’s the time Lisbon comes to life with parties, music and laughter.
What is it?
The Popular Saints Festival is celebrated throughout June in Portugal. The festival in Lisbon is celebrated primarily on the 12th and 13th of June, in memory of Saint Anthony. Saint Peter and Saint John are also celebrated during the month, but to a lesser extent.
In Porto in the north of Portugal, the primary celebrations take place on 23rd and 24th of June and are in the name of Saint John.
However, in both cities you will find the streets animated for many weeks prior and following the parties. In Alfama, some of the decorations never seem to be taken down!
How do we celebrate?
In Lisbon, celebrations mainly take place in the older parts of the city – Alfama, Mouraria, Bica, and Graca. All across these parts of Lisbon you will see colourful decorations and sparkly arches adorning every corner and cobweb. Food stalls and places to drink are plentiful, and live stages to listen to music spring up all over the city.
Barbecued sardines are one of the main traditional foods that are eaten during the festival. If you’re looking to impress, another tradition is to give your lover a small bushel of basil and include a note declaring your love – you’ll find these bushels of basil all over the city.
The main parade takes place in Avenida da Liberdade on the 12th of June. It’s free of charge and there’s an excellent atmosphere of fun and cheer. It’s family-friendly, begins at around 8pm and lasts well into the early hours.
What’s the music?
Across the festival season you’ll hear all sorts during your celebrations, including Fado and pimba – two Portuguese but very different types of music!
Pimba is popular Portuguese music – the lyrics can be quite…provocative… and there may be dancing to match!
Fado is a traditional and very old and emotive style of music. If you eat at any of the restaurants in Alfama and Graca, you may encounter Fado singers keen to serenade you while you eat.
Make sure you bring comfy trainers to walk around in – those Lisbon hills are not something to be tackled in heels!