Porto is a city that will fascinate and surprise you, also with regards to events, there is a little of everything for everyone's taste. Porto offers cultural events, festivals, art, sport and gastronomy, among others, events that take place over several months throughout the year.
Below is a list of some of the most important events that cannot be missed!
Dia de Reis
Dia de Reis brings the Christmas season to a close. Bolo Rei, or King Cake is the traditional food. A variety of knickknacks are hidden inside. There’s also a single broad bean concealed in the dough. The person finding the bean is crowned king, responsible for providing the cake the following year.
Fantasporto (Porto International Film Festival)
This ‘Cinema Fantástico no Porto’ takes place in late February and runs into March. It’s an international film festival highlighting the experimental, fantasy and horror genres. Filmmakers submit their work and compete for different prizes. Fantasporto got its start in 1981 and it’s been going strong ever since. Films from renowned directors like the Cohen Brothers, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, Luc Besson and Pedro Almodóvar have taken part in festivals past.
Essência do Vinho – Porto February/March
This event, which takes place in Porto’s Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange) has already made a name for itself in its field, gathering Portuguese and foreign wine producers. In this event, the top ten Portuguese wines are elected by a renowned international jury.
Porto Interceltic Festival
This festival gets started toward the end of March. Performers from across Europe come to sing and strum Celtic music. The event, which began in 1986, lasts ten days and takes place all over town.
Easter - March/April
Although falling on an unfixed date, anywhere between March and April, if you should happen to visit Porto during Easter, you will see that the city changes colour and the religious tradition will captivate you. In addition to the religious celebrations, at this time there are many concerts, plays, dance shows and even the gastronomy re-invents itself with the typical Easter desserts, such as the Easter sponge cake.
Porto Burning of the Ribbons (Queima das Fitas do Porto)
The Burning of the Ribbons is an event in which the main protagonists are the university students. For a week in May, Porto hosts concerts, serenades and an academic parade, all events that end up by involving the entire population of the city. So much so that it is already held to be the second most important festival in the city after the popular St. John’s festival.
International Iberaian Language Theatre Festival (Festival Internacional de Teatro de Expressão Ibérica)
The FITEI (International Iberian Language Theatre Festival) aims to promote theatre and the performing arts. This annual festival, that takes place in the last days of May and beginning of June and that has been held since 1978 also aims to promote artistic creativity by searching for new audiences and discovering new arts projects.
Festival of our Lord of Matosinhos (Festa do Senhor de Matosinhos)
This festival is considered to be one of the high points of religious pilgrimages of not only the district but also the whole country. The Festival of our Lord of Matosinhos is a recommended event for those wishing to experience Porto’s, and more specifically, Matosinhos’ religious tradition. For three weeks the city hosts recreational, cultural and sports events and thousands of light bulbs decorate the church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, architect Nasoni’s work of art.
Serralves em Festa (Serralves Festival)
The Fundação Serralves (Serralves Foundation) organises 40 hours of non-stop dance, music and theatrical shows and exhibitions in its property. Portuguese and international performers take part in this event, the largest contemporary arts festival in Portugal and one of the largest in Europe. The event attracts thousands of visitors of all ages.
Porto Book Fair
The Porto Book Fair is held in June. It’s a massive book event brimming over with literature connoisseurs as well as authors, editors and publishers from the writing world. In the past, it was held in the Rosa Mota Pavilion at the Palácio De Cristal, but it has also been held downtown, for a more central location.
Festa de São João (St John Festival)
This is it! This is what you’ve been waiting for! It’s the only reason you’re even reading this guide. Porto defines itself by São João, a wild night of crazy fun. Wander the streets with a beer in one hand and a plastic hammer in the other. Get hammered in more ways the one (not the first time that joke has been used). São João is the patron saint of Porto and his festival is a time of barbecues and street music. The tradition of whacking people on the head with plastic hammers knows no bounds. You can even thwack a cop, if you’re so inclined. Watch how the locals do it before giving it a try. The head banging takes place on June 23rd, culminating in a magnificent fireworks display.
Regata dos Rabelos (Rabelo Boat Races)
Rabelos (wooden sail boats) once ferried Port wine down the Douro River. Every year, in late June, they fly their sails again. Various producers of Port wine sponsor the competitions, with their label names scrawled across the square sails. The races coincide with the Festa de São João.
Rhythms of the World Festival (Festival Ritmos do Mundo)
This festival is a demonstration of world music that takes place in June. Held in Gaia, it pays tribute to Portuguese and Brazilian culture through music, workshops, exhibitions, gastronomy and circus acts, amongst other events. Let the beat and rhythm bring solace to your soul.
NOS Primavera Sound
The NOS Primavera Sound is a music festival, held in June in the Parque da Cidade do Porto, its 83 hectares making it the largest urban park in the country. Various international performers, such as Caetano Veloso, Pixies, Interpol, Charles Bradley and The National have participated in this 3-day festival.
Porto Cartoon World Festival
This competition is staged by the Museu Nacional da Imprensa (National Press Museum), welcoming participants from all over the world. Since its inception in 1999, this competition has attracted cartoonists depicting humorous imagery on a world scale. There is a theme every year. The best cartoons are elected internationally and the first edition was published in 2006.
São Pedro da Afurada
This festivity takes place on 29 June in honour or Saint Peter, the patron Saint of fishermen. There is intense partying in Afurada, Vila Nova de Gaia, with fireworks, street parades, processions and other forms of entertainment specific to this festival.
Grande Prémio do Porto
This formula one street race is a grand time to see cars zooming around, out by the Castelo do Queijo (Cheese Castle) and the City Park. The drivers run the historic Boavista circuit in vintage sports cars (circa 1960). The vehicles are entered into competition in different classes. The event is semi-annual, with races taking places in 1960, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2013.
Festival MEO Marés Vivas
The Festival MEO Marés Vivas is an annual music festival that is held in Vila Nova de Gaia in July. It was first held in 1999.Formerly called the Festival Marés Vivas, its name was changed to MEO Marés Vivas in 2013, as a tribute to its official sponsor, MEO, the Portuguese mobile communications service provider.
The City of Porto’s International Folklore Festival (Festival Internacional de Folclore Cidade do Porto)
This festival, in July, brings together musicians from Portugal and abroad to play for an enthusiastic audience. It includes a very varied programme that includes not only music but also discussion groups and the staging of international games, amongst other activities.
Porto Wine Fest
This festival is considered the largest port wine festival of the Gaia river bank. Here, you will find be o find the main port wine brand names and be able to participate in various activities, such as commented wine tastings and gastronomic events.
Ritual Rock Nights (Noites Ritual Rock)
The Ritual Rock Nights “Noites Ritual Rock” are a series of rock concerts by local rock bands rising to fame. The shows are held in the gardens of the Palácio de Cristal and attract a relatively young audience. In addition to the concerts there are other activities, such as photography exhibitions and workshops. In existence for over twenty years, the purpose of this event remains the same: to promote Portuguese music and signal the end of the rock festival season in the city.
Festival Internacional De Marionetas Do Porto
This International Puppet Festival is usually held in September, with a variety of puppets on hand to captivate your attention. The marionettes stage different performances during the length of festival. Wait, what are we saying, of course the marionettes don’t stage performances. That would be creepy and completely crazy. The puppets get a little help from their handlers. At least we hope they do.
Vinho Verde Wine Fest
This wine festival is held in Porto’s Customs House where you will find and be able to take part in exhibitions, wine tastings, gastronomy, wine tourism, commented wine tastings, showcooking and even pastimes and music.
Red Bull Air Races
Daring pilots race their planes around obstacles with gravity defying ease, showing off their talents and the precision with which they fly their crafts. The narrow corridor of the Douro makes for fantastic viewing. The aerial acrobats hit the skies in September.
Porto Blue Jazz
This jazz festival gets the music started in September. Some of the biggest names in jazz come to play. The most important concerts usually take place in the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.
Porto Half Marathon - 22
The marathons are held in October, with a host of national and international runners taking part. If you think you can handle 42 km (26 miles) in six hours, then lace up your running shoes for an exhausting tour of the city.
Porto Photo Festival - 11-14
Francesinha festival (Festival da Francesinha)
The Francesinha Festival was created in order to pay tribute to one of the gastronomic icons of the city. The event brings together various restaurants to show how they re-invent and present this Porto delicacy.
Maratona do Porto (Porto marathon)
The Porto Marathon takes place in November, starting and finishing in the Parque da Cidade do Porto. Well-known in Portugal and internationally, this sporting event attracts participants from all over the world.
Feira do Artesanato do Porto
This winter crafts fair displays works from all over Portugal and some items from abroad. The artwork arrives in mid-December, with over a hundred different designers showing off their wares.
If you visit Porto over Christmas you will see how the city is transformed, becoming more colourful and illuminated (with Christmas lights) and with more street animation, thanks to the traditional Christmas fairs and markets. At this time of year, there are monuments in Porto’s historic centre that are decorated specially for Christmas, such as the Torre dos Clérigos and Porto’s City Council building.
Saint Silvester race (Corrida de São Silvestre)
The Saint Silvester race takes place every year eat the end of December just before the end of year, and attracts thousands of participants. It starts and finishes on the Avenida dos Aliados, next to Porto’s city council.
New Year’s Eve
A very different night awaits you if you spend New Year’s Eve in Porto. The celebrations culminate with the advent of the New Year, when you can watch the traditional firework display in Porto’s downtown area, along with thousands of other people.