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Porto lets its hair down – and we mean unravelling its flowing locks, Rapunzel-style – during the exuberant celebration that is the Festa de São João, St John’s Eve (the night of June 23–24), in honour of John the Baptist, patron saint of the city. Be warned – for one night only it is considered fair game to bash total strangers over the head with squeaky plastic hammers, while Chinese lanterns drift off into the night sky. There are free concerts throughout the night and a massive firework display at midnight over the river at Praça da Ribeira. The bacchanalian party forms only part of the wider city festival, the Festas da Cidade, that runs throughout June and celebrates the start of the summer with concerts, dances, vintage car rallies, regattas, sardine grills and other wholesome entertainments – like the competitive cascata displays (dolls depicting Santo António, São João and São Pedro, complete with miniature houses, trains and cars).

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