The Festa de São João do Porto is an annual festival in Porto that dates back centuries. Originally, it was a celebration to honor St. John the Baptist, but today it is really just a massive party. The fun starts during the afternoon on June 23 and ends in the early hours of the following morning. It's said to be one of the liveliest festivals in all of Europe, so definitely add it to your list if you're looking for a fun filled weekend!
Hammer on the Head
A funny tradition at the festival is purchasing a plastic hammer and whacking people on the head with it -- don't worry, it doesn't hurt! The hammer lets our a little peep sound. We read it's supposed to mean you find the person attractive, but in reality everyone is bumping everyone on the head.
When the streets get really busy, especially before the fireworks show, the thousands of peeping hammers sound like a bunch of crickets or spring frogs.
Food and Drink
Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, street vendors start to setup all around the banks of the river. They serve traditional food items like sardinas assada (grilled sardines), fresh churros, and offer plenty of inexpensive beer to quench your thirst.
Tips: it's going to be a late night, so plan to have a really late lunch. The restaurants on the river bank get very busy, so try and get there early to grab a seat. Most don't serve food between 2-5pm, so just grab a drink and relax.
The fireworks display is one of the most incredible we've ever seen. A few hundred thousand people descend to the river to watch at midnight. They place speakers all around the river and play music throughout the show. It's really mesmerizing!
As the show continues, the music (and the growd) get a bit louder...
Tips: Get to the river at least an hour to 90 minutes early to get a good viewing spot. If you have any aversions to large crowds, we recommend staying away from the busy watch area near the river. After the show is over, everyone begins to leave the riverside (a few hundred thousand people), and it turns into a slightly scary wall of people. You literally will be unable to move, and just flow with the crowd for up to an hour if you try to leave right away. Alternatively, plan to stick around for an hour or two while the crowds disperse.
After the fireworks finish up, you can find street parties throughout the city. Some are sponsored and have DJs, and some are just people in the neighborhood that put large speakers in their windows. Everyone dances, eats, and drinks all the way until the sun comes up the following morning. If you plan on getting some sleep... you might be out of luck.
Tips: Either stay up late and write the next day off, or bring some ear plugs!
Staying in Porto
You can read all about our entire trip to Porto here, and our time out in the Douro Valley here. We have tips and recommendations for sights to see, places to eat, and where to stay. Visiting the city during the Festa de São João do Porto makes for an excellent long weekend!