people surrounding a baloon



São João in Porto: the best tips for a great celebration

Porto, also known as ‘the Invicta City’, stands tall alongside the stunning Douro river, it is the second largest city in Portugal and is recognized by UNESCO as one of its World Heritage Sites. Close to the Atlantic Ocean, with steep cobbled streets and filled with history, tradition, buzzing nightlife, welcoming people and beautiful architecture, Porto is a place that you should not miss. And the city comes even more alive during its annual holiday: São João do Porto! During the night of the 24 June 2023, the city will turn into complete celebration mode.

Curious about what is there to do in the city, and how the festivities of São João are celebrated?

Keep On Reading!

How It Began

There’s no official record of when the celebrations of São João exactly started. However, it is known that it commenced as a pagan tradition to celebrate the summer solstice, and to thank the Sun god for good harvest and abundance. After Christianity set foot in Porto, the church appointed S.João Batista (John the Baptist) as the patron saint of this celebration.

landscape of river and bridge

Fun Fact: There are records that show this celebration already took place in the 14th century in Porto!

Another Fun Fact: S.João is the patron saint of the celebration, but not the patron saint of the city of Porto, which is ​​Nossa Senhora da Vandoma.

Celebrations and Traditions

São João de Porto’s festivities are known for several traditions.

First of all, the hammers. It all started with a leek flower. The leek flower (alho-porro) was used (and still is used by some people!) to repel evil eyes and envy, hitting anyone passing by on the head with the flower. At the end of the night, if the leek is still in good shape, it is hung behind the entrance door of the house to protect it from bad spirits.

Over time, the leek has been replaced by colorful hammers (see photo below), that make noise and with which everyone harmlessly hits each other. These famous hammers are sold all over the city.

Another very characteristic element of this festivity is the release of hot air balloons, which represent the former cult of fire and the sun.
Nowadays, it is discouraged to do this, as the balloons can cause fires. But perhaps you will see a few of them rising into the sky, as some people still do it.

two plastic hammers

The Festivities

S. João do Porto is best celebrated in the streets, throughout the arraiais in all the parishes and the historical center. There is a unique, fun, warm, and inviting vibe all over the city! The festivities usually start in the neighbourhood of Boavista or in the historical center. People go from place to place, celebrating the whole night together.

And when you get a bit hungry from all the walking and dancing, not to worry, you will not be disappointed. You can find traditional food, such as sardines, Caldo-verde (cabbage soup with chorizo) , cabrito assado (roasted lamb), bread with chorizo, and bifanas, everywhere you go.


São João 2023 Porto - Agenda



22h00 / Largo do Amor de Perdição
Emanuel and Cláudia Martins & Minhotos Marotos

22h00 / Rossio Square from the Gardens of the Crystal Palace
Miguel Araújo and Fogo Fogo

22h00 / Praça da Casa da Música
David Bruno & Convidados and Moullinex (Concert and DJ Set)

00h00 / Ribeira do Porto and Gaia

00h15 / Ribeira do Porto and Massarelos
Parade of the Radical Batucada



18h00 / Acoustic Concha of the Gardens of the Crystal Palace
Portuguese Symphonic Band


17h00 / Praça do General Humberto Delgado

Click here to read more about the agendas!

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