16 Jun 2016 2121

Santo António: sardines and dancing

It smells of manjerico (bush basil) and grilled sardines. The streets are decorated and the music flows, calling people to join in and dance. The Popular Saints are without a doubt one of the high points of the summer months in Lisbon !!

Santo António, Lisbon’s patron saint, is honoured during this festive season. Although Santo António is celebrated on the night of the 12th to 13th of June, these celebrations last several weeks, during the entire month of June.

Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue) is Lisbon’s most iconic avenue, connecting Marquês do Pombal to Rossio square, right in the heart of the city. With abundant commerce and entertainment, the summer is when this avenue is at its peak. From terraces where you can have a snack or drink, to concerts and fairs, the choice is yours to make !!

The parades and Avenida da Liberdade

One of the highlights of these popular festivities are the Marchas de Santo António. Many of the city’s neighbourhoods participate in this event, where children and adults of all ages parade down the avenue with songs, choreographies and traditional costumes, especially prepared for this moment, representing their neighbourhoods with pride. The parade goes down Avenida da Liberdade and ends at Restauradores square.

Sardines, bifanas and caldo verde

The popular saints are all about music, dancing, joy, colour and food. Traditional dishes are a must in these festivities, and these are definitely mouthwatering !! Grilled sardines, on the barbecue of course, with bell peppers, is one of the most characteristic dishes, as this is the time of the year when sardines are at their prime. The bifana (pork sandwich) with or without mustard, or pork belly, are the ideal snacks to grab and eat either sitting or standing, or who knows, even dancing !! And, of course, caldo verde, a traditional kale soup that will warm up your stomach and soul, even in the hottest nights.

The lovely manjerico

One of the most well-known symbols of the popular saints is the manjerico (bush basil). Traditionally, these potted plants with a small paper flag and a verse are gifted by young men to their girlfriends. From the same family as the widely used herb basil, this plant of Indian origin fills the city’s streets with green. Known for its fresh and pleasant aroma, many people say that you should not smell the manjerico directly, but instead touch it with your hand and smell your hand instead, or else it might die. Is this true, or maybe just a myth ??

Alfama, Graça and Mouraria

Why not go for a walk and visit some of the most typical neighbourhoods of Lisbon, and go to some of the many festivities and dances that invade the city during these days ?? With a pleasant 10 or 20 minute walk from Avenida da Liberdade, you can quickly get to Alfama, Graça and Mouraria, some of the most sought-after spots during these days.


Lisbon is definitely an ideal destination for anyone looking to explore a city full of light and energy, which becomes even more lively during these festive summer months.


Start planning your next visit to Lisbon, and be a part of this typical and festive season full of music, colour and entertainment, in a city of culture and joy. PortoBay Marquês and PortoBay Liberdade are at the heart of the city, right in the centre of the celebrations !!

Photos: José Frade (EGEAC)

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