Lisbon in June – Sun, Saints and Sardines

It's Lisbon in June. Crowds gathered to celebrate Santos Populares.

By Kieran Ford

…and Sagres and Super Bock

It’s Lisbon in June. It’s Portuguese culture and tourism baked in the early summer sun. It’s Festas dos Santos Populares (Popular Saints Festival). It’s St. Patrick’s Day but Portuguese style, or so I’ve been told.

The main event is a parade on the night of the 12th in celebration of St. António, but the festivities thrive throughout June around the different districts of the city.


A Citywide Party

Everyone’s involved. They make full use of the winding side streets, crooked alleys and crevices that branch throughout Lisbon.

You’re met by varying levels of buzz around each and every corner. There’s compact stages hosting local bands, BBQ kings dishing out fresh off the grill sardines and bifanas, residents selling beer in plastic cups, and large speakers pumping out live music that’s often happening elsewhere in the city but sounds as if it’s right there.

That was interesting in more ways than one. As one, you hear noise and see a crowd and think you’re arriving at the performance… only to find a speaker on the wall.

Two, as people surround a speaker now as if it is a live performance! Crowds singing along and chanting towards it… a speaker. Pushing to the front to hear it the loudest… a speaker!

“So, we all end up crammed, sardine like, into these intimate residential streets…” 

A Santos Populares Street Party.
Excuse me mate, who's playing down there? ...A big speaker!

Nothing Against it, it Worked!

It made for crazy atmospheres even in the streets where a band simply wouldn’t have fit. But is this a sign of things to come? Spotify DJs? Audiences worshipping some bartender’s playlist… Maybe.

Or maybe the energy of Lisbon in June is just so forth-flowing that local music from any source is reason for a festa!


The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

So, you end up searching for the live music, and when you finally find it you’re surprised that it is actually happening! The live recording has come to life now you’ve found the secret source.

Anyway, this whole intimate, yet spread out set up, links back to things I said in the Bons Sons Festival article. You can check that out HERE.

The Portuguese make full use of their beautiful, unique landscapes and fit all the attractions within the often tight spaces available.

I suppose there’s not much choice. But I think the comparison I’m drawing is to that of the UK. Where you normally have to head to one colossal, strictly governed space, that’s mayhem getting in and out of and often inside too.

In Portugal the festivities tend to be scattered around smaller, unique spots for people from all over the city to enjoy. Don’t like one area? Bustle your way down to the next neighbourhood.

I headed from Bairro Alto to Chiado onto Baixa then along the river to Alfama. It was great. From the tourist-local mix of the central spots, then out to the much more community driven Alfama (The oldest district in Lisbon).

The crowded streets. in Lisbon city center.
An alley in the centre of town. Gotta get through this...
Alfama Lisbon - live music party.
...To get to one of the real live music sources over in Alfama!
Santo Antonio Statue Lisbon
All in the name of this man - Santo António of Lisboa.

How’s Your Agility?

So, we all end up crammed, sardine like, into these intimate residential streets. All moulded together into a Portuguese putty, ready to be spread out with a lump of butter and made into a Pastel de Nata!

You need to be pretty nimble on your feet if you plan on moving around. Luckily I’ve had my training across various music festivals and urban landscapes like London and NYC.

It’s an art, using my experience (and height) to revive broken down crowd snakes and help those left behind to soldier on through to be reunited with their friends. What a hero!


Everything’s a Euro!

…Or a fraction more here and there. It’s brilliant for Portuguese culture. It attracts people. Locals don’t like the atmospheres in tourist traps, but the tourists like the atmospheres around the locals! …Ah, those buzzing streets of Lisbon in June.

They’re not completely controlled by big companies just yet. No huge sponsored trucks rocking up and providing for the masses for double the price. No, often it’s local people opening up the fronts of their houses and selling their BBQs to the crowds.

So, everyone eats, drinks and parties cheap, and the residents profit too, not greedily. It’s win win!

A large Sagres promotional stand.
They still have the big company sponsors and promotions...
Sagres is also sold by locals from out of their windows, sometimes.
...It's just sometimes sold out of living room windows!

(♫) “Às Armas! Às Armas! Pela Pátria Lutar!” (♫) (PT National Anthem – To Arms! To Arms! To Fight for our Fatherland)

I can’t see tourists ever completely taking over Lisbon, thankfully. The Portuguese are just TOO proud.

I admire their close-knit communities and admiration for their country. This was summed up nicely once again, when I found myself in the midst of a crammed alley of people roaring the Portuguese national anthem following the finale of a local street band’s show at 3am.


What more can I say? …It’s Lisbon in June

So, there you have it, the thoughts that ran through my head while wandering Lisbon in June… I’ve told you about speakers on walls, side streets, beer and sardines… Fascinating.

Well there’s plenty more to come! As Porto and Setúbal celebrate their patron Saints by the end of the month too… So make sure to stay tuned for those!

Thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks / Obrigado!


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