Why Lisbon in June is just special – 5 Things to do during Santos Populares
Every June, Lisbon comes alive with vibrant colors, lively music, and a contagious festive spirit during the Santos Populares (Popular Saints) festival. Santo António is the official saint of Lisbon and it’s after him that we name our holiday on June 13th.
The streets are adorned with colorful decorations, and the air is filled with the aroma of sardines being grilled. If you’re planning to visit Lisbon during this festive time, here are five things you must experience to immerse yourself in the Santos Populares spirit:
Join and party the night away at the Arraiais
Lisbon’s neighborhoods come alive with street parties, known as arraiais, during the Santos Populares. Head to neighborhoods like Alfama, Bairro Alto, or Mouraria (and so many others), and follow the sounds of music and laughter. Eat and drink your heart out, dance to traditional Portuguese music, enjoy live performances, and witness the parades featuring locals dressed in colorful costumes. There are arraiais almost the entire month of June, just ask around to find out where the closest arraial is. If you can’t hear it, that is.
Experience the Marchas Populares
Don’t miss the Marchas Populares, a highlight of the Santos Populares festival. These processions showcase the unique cultural heritage of each neighborhood through song, dance, and elaborate costumes. Each marcha tells its own story and competes for the title of the best performance. The residents of Lisbon’s neighbourhoods can be very competitive so watch out if you ever make fun of the tradition! Make sure to catch the main procession along Avenida da Liberdade and witness the joyous spectacle.
Enjoy grilled sardines and other delicacies
Indulge in the traditional gastronomic delights of the Santos Populares. Savor grilled sardines, the iconic dish of the festival (yes, sardines on bread is the way to go!), paired with a glass of refreshing vinho verde. Explore the food stalls and street vendors offering mouthwatering treats like bifanas (pork sandwiches), caldo verde (kale soup), and other traditional Portuguese pastries such as pastéis de nata.
Witness the brides of Santo António
As São Pedro (Saint Peter) is the saint of weather, who guards the gates of heaven (and it’s to him we pray for good weather), it falls on Santo António to be the matchmaker Saint, of the Saint of weddings.
Attend the Santo António procession
Every year on June 13th, at 5pm, there is a traditional procession to this universally beloved saint. It starts from the Saint Anthony church in Alfama, next to the Lisbon cathedral where Saint Anthony was born. It lasts around 2 hours through the Alfama neighbourhood. Besides the religious procession, the church of Saint Anthony celebrates special masses during this day.
In conclusion, the Santos Populares festival is a time when Lisbon bursts with joy, tradition, and a true sense of community. By joining the street parties, experiencing the Marchas Populares, savoring delicious traditional food, seeking blessings and just having a wonderful time, you’ll immerse yourself in the vibrant spirit of this beloved festival. Embrace the lively atmosphere, make new friends, and create unforgettable memories during your visit to Lisbon during the Santos Populares.