Starting tonight, June 23rd, at 9:45 pm and lasting until 1 am tomorrow, lighting paper hot air balloons will be allowed over Porto. And, trust me, they will fly in herds. The white dots in the image below from 2019 are not stars. Each one of them is a balloon that someone lit on the streets of the city.

A nighttime cityscape with illuminated buildings and a river reflecting the lights under a partially cloudy sky.

This unique permission reflects the scale of the famed São João street festival, as even the airport airspace will be closed during this period. But balloons are only one attraction at this incredible party. As you can see in the image below from last year’s Porto downtown, the entire city takes to the streets until the wee hours of the morning.

A bustling crowd gathers at night in a lively urban setting with Porto historic buildings illuminated by warm lights in the background.

If Porto is on your wishlist for future trips, I suggest keeping June 23rd in mind. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

The only thing powerful enough to disrupt the tradition for two years in a row was the COVID-19 lockdown. And this year, it will once again interrupt it, as COVID-19 has finally caught up with me. I began feeling sick on Tuesday, and although I’m much better now, there is no way I’ll risk making other people sick. So sadly, it means there will be no festivity for me this year.

I hope everyone has a great São João and I look forward to next year’s celebrations.