June is a very special month in Lisbon, ask anyone in the city and they’ll tell you why: Its the Santos Populares Celebrations! Lisbon’s greatest festivities that cover almost every part of the city and occur during the whole month!
The celebrations focus on the saint Santo António, but regardless of religious belief, every citizen celebrates! It's really huge in Lisbon and manifests in many forms, from special shows, concerts and other spectacles, but the main attraction is the block parties. In these parties you’ll be overwhelmed by festive, and corny music, the smell of food being grilled outdoors, specially sardines and pork beef and the colorful decorations, mainly the official plant of the festivities: basil, used for its soothing smell and, traditionally, it was given the ladies by their partners, that’s why many of them contain a flirty saying.
During Santos you can basically go anywhere! But of course there are some more known block parties, like Alvalade, Alfama, Bica and Graça. All of these are very populated, but if you don’t mind the crowds they are the places to be! Alvalade has the most open space of the others and a big tradition on bringing local bands to play during the month; Alfama is the one with the most history, that’s why a lot of people, and I do mean a lot, still go there for the celebrations, but, in more recent years, Graça, which isn’t far from Alfama, has also taken a lot the attention with parties and parades organized by the local school Voz do Operário, but even more than Graça, Bica has almost dethroned Alfama as the biggest spot to party in Santos, since it’s near Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré, these celebrations are where most of the bars in Lisbon are, so you can understand the appeal! For me personally, I would also suggest celebrating Santos in... Santos! It’s located also near Cais do Sodré and it has a lot of bars and movement but it also has more open space, the streets of Bica are appealing for it’s “lisboness” but when it overcrowds, it really overcrowds! I would specifically suggest you go see the Rua da Esperança in Santos, I used to live there and loved the decoration all along the street and it’s great to eat and rarely overcrowds!
So, even though Santos lasts all month, the two main days are on the 12th and the 13th of June. Besides being the days with the biggest celebrations, on the 12th if you go to Avenida da Liberdade, you see the huge parade called Marchas Populares, a parade rooted deep in tradition. And on the 13th, on a more religious tone, there’s the procession for Santo António around the Sé, or the Cathedral. Whether you should attend or not the procession should depend on your beliefs and/or interests but I really advise the Marchas Populares for any of those interested in a bit of portuguese culture.
I most admit that my suggestions on this article are very few compared to the vastness of this celebrations, like I said before, you can basically go anywhere, so feel free to explore, if you want to go to where the biggest parties are, I think my suggestions will do! But you should be free to search for what best suits your tastes! Just remember to grab a sardine or a beef, smell your basil and dance a lot! Enjoy the festivities!
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