The Ultimate Guide to the Biggest Party in Lisbon – Santos Populares and Santo Antonio – 2024 Edition!

Written By Mihaela Gutu

In Portugal, specifically in Lisbon, the first two weeks of June are nothing but parties and events all over the city! That’s because the country celebrates the Festas dos Santos Populares, namely the Popular Saints Festival (sometimes referred to as the Portuguese Midsummer), which honors Saint Peter, Saint John, and Saint Anthony.

Obviously, this is an important event for the entire country, as Saint Anthony is not only the patron saint of Lisbon but of Portugal itself. This is the main reason why you should be on the lookout for parties and events at the end of May and during the first two weeks of June.

Keep reading if you want to discover most of the things you’ll be able to do if you happen to be in Lisbon during this wonderful time of the year! Make sure to check out our daily Lisbon schedule at the bottom of this article.

Photo by Hannah Dalke

What Is the Festas dos Santos Populares and Santo Antonio?

Traditionally, Festas dos Santos Populares e Santo Antonio are feast days celebrated on the 12th and 13th of June (St. Anthony), on the 24th of June (St. John), and on the 29th of June (St. Peter). Clearly, the most important day during these two weeks is the 12th. Even though the official celebration of St. Anthony is on the 13th, almost all festivities are held on the 12th – so that the 13th, a public holiday, can be spent resting and recovering from the great party!

Photo by Hannah Dalke

In short, the Festas celebrate the three saints and what they represent. For instance, Santo Antonio is also the patron saint of lovers, which is why you’ll probably see plenty of couples attending the parties and events.

In fact, one of the main events of Santos Populares that takes place on the 12th is the Casamentos de Santo Antonio, 16 weddings held on the 12th, the big day, at the Se Cathedral.

Let’s now see exactly what you’re embarking on if you decide to step foot in Lisbon from the 1st of June!

Parties and Events During the Festas dos Santos Populares

It is worth mentioning that the most important events linked to this holiday will take place in Lisbon. However, Santos Populares is celebrated throughout the whole country, and you’ll most likely come across parties and cheerful people wherever you go!

For example, while Lisbon is the big player when it comes to the celebration of St. Anthony on June 12th and 13th, Porto is the main attraction of the celebration of St. John on the evening of June 23rd. As such, if you want to plan a longer trip throughout the country, you can plant yourself in both cities when they are holding parties.

The Week Before June 12th – The Street Parties Begin to Ramp Up

In the week before the official celebration of St. Anthony, Lisbon’s streets will most likely be riddled with party people. They will be attending the known street parties that seem to be held quite randomly in the city streets.

Santos Populares
Santos Populares, Lisbon, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Not random, however, is the appearance of the Pimba bands. Pimba refers to the music genre they play, characterized by an uptempo style and sometimes folk-ish features. Naturally, the lyrics – for those of you who speak Portuguese – make a lasting impression. They’re known as romantic, even corny yet filled with innuendos, at times also vulgar, but within the limits of common sense, obviously (the word pimba officially refers to a quick, unexpected event but can have a sexual connotation if used as a slang code word).

Quim Barreiros
Quim Barreiros, one of the earliest Pimba music artists, Marques Maia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Morning of June 12th – The 16 Casamentos (Weddings) de Santo Antonio

Sometime in the morning, the Sé Cathedral, as well as the city Town Hall, will officiate the 16 weddings of St. Anthony. This particular event is more touching than you think!

Specifically, 16 couples that couldn’t get married until now – usually due to financial struggles or the like – have the opportunity to officially become husband and wife on this very special day, the day of Santo Antonio. The Lisboa City Hall will take care of everything and make every single one of the 16 weddings a reality for each couple.

Preparing for the Casamentos de Santo António, Amelia Monteiro – Lisbon street photographer, Flickr

This tradition started way back in 1958. It was stopped almost 20 years later, in 1974, but brought back by Lisbon’s officials. After all, why wouldn’t they? It is, simply said, characteristic of the holiday itself, for the name of Santo Antonio – the patron saint of lovers!

Preparing for the Casamentos de Santo António, Amelia Monteiro – Lisbon street photographer, Flickr

June 12th, from 8 to 11 pm – Marchas Populares, the Carnival Parade

Without a single shred of doubt, you have to be in or at least around Avenida da Liberdade between 8 and 11 pm on June 12th. This is when the Popular Marches will take place, a tradition that started in 1932. It’s an impressive carnival parade featuring thematic competitions between multiple teams that dress up in carnival attire and march on the Avenida da Liberdade.

Marchas Populares, Lisbon, Photo by Becky Gillespie

Who said you have to be in Brazil to attend a carnival? If you like Portugal and discover its many events, especially those held in the middle of summer, you’ll discover that Portuguese carnivals can be as impressive as Brazilian ones! However, Marchas Populares specifically doesn’t showcase floats or structures – instead, it focuses on impressive costumes and dance routines you won’t be able to take your eyes off!

Once again, Marchas Populares is an event held throughout the country. You don’t have to be in Lisbon to attend a carnival, but it’s the place to be if you want to see the biggest one. Moreover, what is exciting about Marchas Populares de Lisboa is the fact that each city district enters the competition and, at the end, a podium is set up at the awards ceremony. Alfama is known for being the most popular district, with 18 total wins. In short, the competitors will surely impress you too!

Marchas Populares, Lisbon, Photo by Becky Gillespie

June 12th, from 10 pm to 5 am – Street Parties Everywhere

It will be a wild night, as they say! After the Marchas Populares, every Lisbon district will enter a party frenzy, celebrating all night long! Of course, some will end their party earlier, while others will probably go on until noon the next day (it’s not a common practice, though).

This is, in fact, the charm of Festas dos Santos Populares. There’s no actual party or event that you need to attend, get invited to, or pay for entry. Lisbon IS the party, and all you have to do is attend it – it doesn’t matter if you’re just passing by!

Santos Populares
Santos Populares, Lisbon, Photo by Becky Gillespie

One important hot tip from people living in Lisbon on the night of June 12: when you are done partying, it is best to take a taxi home from the Martim Moniz area or along the Terreiro do Paço area. Electric scooters and bikes will likely be turned off or unavailable that evening to get home. Many of the roads in the Alfama, Graça, and Bairro Alto neighborhoods will have roads closed off for the parties, and cars will be unable to access those areas. 

June 13th – the Celebration of St. Anthony

On June 13th, Portugal officially celebrates St. Anthony. This day marks the end of the festivities that take place on June 12th and, before that, but not the end of Festas dos Santos Populares.

The city will vibrate until the end of the month – Pimba music, parties, cheerful people, and many more. In other words, the city will be as alive as it gets for the entire second half of the month.

Santos Populares
Santos Populares, Lisbon, Photo by Becky Gillespie

However, keep in mind that people do work and/or need a break. This is why during those two weeks, the major street parties and Pimba bands will travel the city mainly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

What else can you do during these two weeks? Well, to get the full authentic experience, you have to buy some traditional food and explore the taste of Portuguese cuisine. Popular during Santos Populares are grilled sardines served on bread – you simply have to try them!

The classic meal at the Santos Populares, Photo by Becky Gillespie

June 24th – the Celebration of St. John in Porto

Lisbon will continue to have parties on Fridays and during the weekends, but no other major events will take place there. Instead, the celebration moves north to another great Portuguese city – Porto.

Festa de São João do Porto will be held on the night of June 23rd. Locals and connoisseurs recommend the city’s more traditional neighborhoods for a truly authentic experience – Massarelos, Ribeira, and Miragaia, among others.

There are a couple of traditions you must prepare for if you plan to celebrate the Day of St. John alongside Portuguese people in Porto. For one thing, there will be a fireworks display at midnight, so prepare for it accordingly – for example, make sure your kids are used to fireworks and won’t get scared. Then, people may also release hot air balloons in the sky, something that’s often considered even more beautiful than the fireworks. This tradition is called Balão de São João.

However, one peculiar tradition might end up in conflict if you’re not informed. Specifically, on the streets of Porto, during the celebration of St. John, you risk being smacked in the head with a hammer – a plastic one, obviously. This is an old tradition, although its roots aren’t well-established, as several stories go around it. Either way, if you happen to stumble upon a cheerful person, you might experience an authentic Stop! Hammertime! Moment in Portugal.

Hammertime, São João Festival
Hammertime, São João Festival, Porto, Porto Convention & Visitors Bureau, Flickr

June 29th – the Celebration of St. Peter in Póvoa de Varzim

From Lisbon’s St. Anthony, you head north to Porto’s St. John. From there, where? It’s simple – you travel further up north to Póvoa de Varzim to celebrate St. Peter the proper way. The distance from Porto to Póvoa de Varzim is much shorter than from Lisbon to Porto, so you can plan your trip around the latter since the Northern part of Portugal is incredibly beautiful – all year round!

Even if Povoa de Varzim is known as the place to be for the celebration of St. Peter, other parts of the country can be a viable destination as well. Tourists often prefer Sintra, as it offers them the opportunity to visit the famous castles and their surroundings. You could also try Evora, which is a bit deeper within the country but features sights just as impressive, especially the ancient Roman Temple of Evora that can be found in the city’s historic center.

Festival of St. Peter, Fábio Gabriel, Flickr

The night of St. Peter – namely, the time when people celebrate and party – is held on June 28th. After all, who wouldn’t want to rest properly on the 29th, right?

What Are the Best Parties and Events to Attend in Lisbon for Santos Populares?

In short, you must attend the following if you happen to be in Lisbon in June:

  • The 16 weddings, better known as Casamentos de Santo Antonio, that are held at the Se Cathedral. It is one of the central events of the entire holiday;
  • The Marchas Populares carnival parade, regardless of district. As a tourist, however, you’ll want to be where the crowds are – central Lisbon or Alfama;
  • Last but not least, the best parties in Lisbon are on the night between June 12 and June 13. No entry, no tickets, no pressure – just walk around the city, buy some traditional food, enjoy the delicious Portuguese beer (in moderation, of course), and simply have fun!

Santos Populares Traditions to Be Aware of

Besides the plastic hammer beatings happening in Porto that we mentioned above, there are a couple of other interesting traditions happening during the Festas dos Santos Populares. Namely:

  • If in Porto, you will most likely see people jump the bonfire. A significant tradition during the celebration of St. John involves lighting bonfires. People then jump over them, preferably holding hands with their lovers. This is said to bring health and good luck. For couples, it symbolizes a blessing for the future family;
  • The Manjerico is a symbol linked to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lovers. It implies offering your partner a basil bush, but not only – it must also be joined by a romantic poem written on a piece of paper and attached to the bush. You can find basil bushes being sold throughout Lisbon by street vendors. In the past, a sweet basil offering made by a man was joined by a marriage proposition.
Traditionally, on Santo António, the manjericos are sold with love poems to give to your loved one, Grumbler %-|, Flickr

June’s Santos Populares Schedule in Lisbon – Day by Day!

Keep in mind that June 10 and June 13 are holidays in Lisbon. June 12th is the biggest party night!


This is everything you need to know about the Festas dos Santos Populares – almost an entire month of celebration honoring three important saints in Portugal, riddled with feasts and traditions!

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