With PDV, make the most of Porto’s São João festival, the city’s main event of the year.
The biggest street festival in Porto is about to begin: on 23 June, thousands will take to the streets to celebrate the northern city’s patron on 23 June in an all-inclusive street party catering to all ages and tastes.
On 23 June – on the eve of the big day – the people of Porto invade the streets to commemorate the birth of St. John the Baptist. And just like any other religious celebration in June, there are grilled sardines, ‘manjericos‘ – small potted basil plants with a short popular poem of four verses (quadra) – and, of course, beer and wine.
But São João celebrations in Porto feature traditions specific to the city: plastic hammers with a small whistle – a tradition from the 60s – and garlic flowers are used gleefully on the heads of other people in the crowd. Colourful paper hot-air balloons are released all over the city at regular intervals from the many popular dances held in traditional neigbourhoods.
Like every saint celebration, many superstitions surround the event. Jumping over fire gives good luck to all those who dare do it, while bathing in the Douro before sunrise is reported to be good for health.
These traditions are interwined with a more contemporary approach. During the afternoon of 23 June, several marches with folk music will converge on the main avenue in Porto, Avenida dos Aliados. As the night begins, from 10.30pm, the Avenida transforms into two different parties: one with Portuguese popular music, and the other one with rock, pop and electro sounds played by Portuguese DJs on separate sound systems, according to the organisers. At midnight, the much-awaited traditional fireworks will light up the sky from both sides of the Douro.
The next day, the 29th edition of the Rabelo boats regatta – wooden, almost flat boats that have been used for centuries to transport barrels of Port wine on the river – takes place from 5pm onwards on the Douro and the São João concert by Banda Sinfónica Portuguesa in the gardens of the Palácio de Cristal at 4pm. Admission is free.
(Photographs: Lachlan Heasman)