If you happen to be in the Algarve is June, you might notice that there's a special mood in the air. And what is that mood? The mood to party to the many Santos Populares parties and gatherings. And if you're wondering what we're talking about, here's a quick guide:  

What is it?

It's mainly a celebration of Portugal's two biggest cities, Lisbon and Oporto, but, because no one wants to be left out, it kind of spread all over the country. The Popular Saints Festival is celebrated on the 12th and 13th of June, in memory of Santo António (Saint Anthony), São João (Saint John) is celebrated on the 23rd and 24th of June and São Pedro (Saint Peter) on the 28th and 29th of June. 

How do we celebrate?

In Lisbon, celebrations take place all over the city but mainly downtown and in typical neighbourhoods like Alfama, Mouraria, Bica and Graça. Colourful decorations and plenty of beer and sardines. Yes, beer and sardines are the king and queen of Popular Saints. They're everywhere, you just need to follow the aroma of the food stalls and the sound of music spread around town.

Besides the grilled sardines and the cold beer, there's another tradition that makes these celebrations unique: impress your boyfriend or girlfriend with a small bushel of Basil, which we call Manjerico, that comes with a cute and thoughtful love poem. They can be found in every corner. 

And then there's the Marchas Populares. Much like a parade, every neighbourhood in Lisbon is represented by a group of people (marchantes) wearing colourful clothes who sing and dance to a song made about the place where they live. Because it´s a competition (and it’s a fierce competition!), the best neighbourhood wins in the end the Marchas Populares

Who are these saints?

In the Festas Santos Populares, the celebrated people's saints are António, João and Pedro. 

Santo António 

He's one of the Lisbon's patrons and also the patron of all of those who look for a significant other to get married. According to popular belief, if you light a candle in front of his church (in Alfama) and ask for a partner, he will help you find it. Santo António's day is celebrated on June 13th, also the day when Lisbon is celebrated.

The day before, the 12th, Lisbon is the scenery of Casamentos de Santo António, where 13 couples get married, all expenses paid by the city hall (Câmara Municipal). 

São João

São João (Saint John) is Oporto´s saint of devotion. It is celebrated on June 23rd and streets also fill up with people dancing, eating and drinking. Much like in Lisbon, except they have a tradition of hitting people's heads with giant plastic hammers. 

São Pedro 

São Pedro (Saint Peter) is celebrated in Sintra, Évora and Póvoa de Varzim on June 28th (Saint Peter’s night) and on June 29th. Like what happens during Saint Anthony and Saint John’ celebrations, streets are filled with colorful decorations and gatherings, among sardines and dancing through the night. 

What about the Algarve?

If you´re on holidays or living in the Algarve, you can also have fun during Santos Populares, even if there´s no saint of reference belonging to the region's tradition or history. So, here's a guide of many parties where you can choose from. 

Marchas Populares parade

When: June 23rd
Where: Zona Ribeirinha de Alvor
Time: 22h00

When: June 29th
Where: Praia da Rocha
Time: 22h00

Marchas Populares parade and popular parties on the streets (arraiais)

When: June 23rd and 28th
Where: São Clemente
Time: Between 20h00 and 01h00

Marchas Populares parade and popular parties on the streets (arraiais)

When: June 19th
Where: Largo Eng.º Duarte Pacheco
Time: 21h30

June is a month to eat, drink and be merry, Santos Populares Style. If you´ve never been to one of these parties, bring confy shoes, some anti-acids and lots of energy. The smell of grilled sardines is inebriating and will guide you through food stalls, music bands and dancing crowds. A whole month of fun, right before summertime.