SÃO JOÃO FESTIVITIES
The eve of São João’s Day is just around the corner (23rd of June), and everyone is planning the details for the big night. Have you made your plans?
São João is starting to feel a lot like Chrismas, as its first manifestations start appearing one month before the big day. From the very typical exhibition of the São João cascatas, to the festive street ornaments and manjericos, everything starts to take shape.
One of the most awaited events takes place on the 22nd of June: the Rusgas de São João. In this event, each parish parades downtown in a competition for the best costume and cultural representation, which includes a whole lot of singing and high spirits, leading the crowd into a collective folly.
For the night of 23rd of June there are those who prefer grilling their sardines and partying with the neighbors. But let’s not be fooled, the real amusement is right by the river in a night where the fireworks are just the beginning, sardines fly from the grill, and annoying plastic hammers bang heads until the day rises.
São João began as a series of communal celebrations, and thus was very dispersed through the city, but today the major events are concentrated downtown. In order for you to fully explore São João’s many faces through the city, we offer you three distinct routes so you can have exactly what you’re looking for.
From Aliados to Ribeira
A classic for those who want to save energy
From the several walking routes you can do on the night of São João, the trail between the Avenida dos Aliados and Ribeira is one of the most popular and also one of the most intense routes. Oh, that’s because it ends with a massive firework show.
As you begin to walk through the Avenida dos Aliados, you’ll feel a moderate flow of people, and you certainly won’t escape the first banging hammers. The Aliados act as a passage for those looking for the fireworks, but in truth, you don’t even need to go any further. A battalion of street vendors filled with ice-cold beverages, colorful candy, as well as fistfuls of restaurants and a series of large concerts are more than enough to keep you entertained.
Once you start the descent toward Ribeira, you’ll pass by the charming Rua das Flores, where each of the recent venues and eateries will try to appeal you to stop. Upon arriving at the Largo de São Domingos, you’ll begin to dive into the huge crowd that focuses on the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique. Then, take a small detour to Rua da Reboleira to make sure that you cross one of the most untouched medieval streets of Porto.
Finally, return to Ribeira and find the best place to watch the fireworks. This route is definitely for those who want to mingle with the crowd, and it’s also one of the most scenic walks, since you’ll stroll by several of the city’s most emblematic monuments and spots, starting at the Aliados square, the São Bento train station, Rua das Flores, the Mercado Ferreira Borges, the Palácio da Bolsa, and then the beautiful Ribeira.
After the fireworks, you can choose to go back from whence you came, but get ready for the tremendous tide of people who will follow in the same direction.
From Foz to Ribeira
The original São João marathon
Foz is one of the most beautiful areas of the city, and it’s still far from the commotion. Between the Rua do Paraíso da Foz and the Jardim do Passeio Alegre you’ll begin to hear the bailarico music, and envision paper decorations and the smell of sizzling barbecues. You can start your night in many places, starting, for instance, with the joyful celebrations hosted by Paraíso Sport Club (Rua do Paraíso da Foz, 60). But if you’re looking for more diversity, then walk just a few meters down toward the waterfront and head to the Jardim do Passeio Alegre. Here you’ll find some street vendors with quick snacks such as bread with chouriço baked in a wood stove and a great diversity of churros and farturas.
You will not have to walk too much until reaching the Jardim do Cálem where many other amusements are waiting for you.
Following your walk along the river, you’ll pass by Rua do Ouro, where after a hundred meters or so you’ll find a short climb that takes you to the Travessa da Boa Morte, which opens to a square named Calçada do Ouro. Here you’ll find some of the references of São João’s feeding grounds or were we not before Tasquinha D’Ouro, Adega Rio Douro, O Antigo Carteiro and Restaurante da Tia Aninhas.
Now that your energies are charged, you can follow the route towards Ribeira. On your way along the Douro, you can observe the tremendous range of Ponte da Arrábida up close. A little further on you’ll pass by the Museu do Carro Eléctrico, and then arrive at the Cais das Pedras, where there is a lively gathering around stage performances and restaurants boasting the classics, like grilled sardines. Join the party, but don’t be late for the fireworks, because there is one more stop at the Largo da Praia. To compensate for this long walk watch the fireworks from the boats that float around the Douro, thus ensuring an excellent view of the city and the show, and you can finally sit down!
From Fontaínhas to Gaia
For those who like different perspectives
This is the ideal route for those who want to be close to the epicenter of the fireworks since the start, without having to compromise on fun.
The Fontaínhas are well known for their of São João commemorations. You have everything you need here, starting with a huge supply of festive foods, such as sardines, pork belly (barriga), bifanas, grilled peppers, and caldo verde, provided by the various stalls that occupy the spot during this festive season.
Music will also sound high and clear, with the perfect scenario of Fontaínhas’ idyllic views over the Douro.
Once you have dined, it’s time to head to Ribeira. Head towards the upper deck of the Luís I bridge, but then descend the Escadas do Codeçal that will take you directly to the lower deck of the bridge. And if all Saints help going down, then São João will also give you a hand. As you descend the several flights of stairs, you’ll pass through the bowels of Sé’s São João celebrations, where houses sport open doors and use the outer staircases to grill sardines and bell peppers… you’ll probably be invited for a taste! At the end of the stairway, you’ll arrive at Avenida Gustavo Eiffel, and you’ll be facing the Ponte Luís I.
On festive days, it’s normal for the bridge to shake a little, but we’re used to the rhythm of the bridge, so in alternative, you can cross it to watch the fireworks from the Cais de Gaia. From here you’ll have one of the most beautiful views of the Douro and Porto.