The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Culture of Portugal

The culture of Portugal is a very rich country in terms of culture, its culture has been maturating for centuries. It is shaped in its roots firmely in Latin culture with Celt-Iberian background. Due to its longterm relation with its former colonies, these are important to one distinguishe the portuguese national culture from other Latin cultures in Southern Europe. There is African, Brazilian and Asian influences throughtout its culture in various fields, especially those related to food, music, dances and habits. Arabic, Jewish, and Germanic cultures are featherweighting when compared to others.



Since the 2nd millenium BC, there is important construction in the area that would be Portugal. Before the arrival of the Romans, Citânia de Briteiros in Guimarães is a good example of native architecture, influenced by the Celts. The houses were round, built with granite without bonds. They were built in settlements (castros) in the mountains, and were surrounded by protecting walls.

Portuguese architecture greatly developed with the arrival of the Romans (since 2nd Century BC), and Portuguese architecture evolved and became Mediterranean. The Romans built aqueducts, bridges and roads, along with theatres, temples, and circus, along with other public building.


As for dancing, Portugal has the traditional folklore (Ranchos Folclóricos), with many varieties from each region. Portugal with Angola has a shared rhythm known as "Kuduro" (popular in both countries), a sort of 'hard samba' with fast movements and extreme sensuality and strong African rhythm, performed mainly by Angolans or Angolan descents. This mixture of Portuguese and Angolan influence has also created the Brazilian Samba and the Angolan Kizomba, which have softer movements.


Films started to be shown in Portugal since 1896, namely in the city of Porto, one after films the first film was showned in Paris, with films such has "Saída do Pessoal Operário da Fábrica Confiança".



Portugal is sometimes known as "a country of poets". In fact, Portuguese poetry has a bigger influence in the country's literature than prose. In the dawn of nationality, poetry in Portuguese-Galician was widely popular in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. There are excellent works, in lyrical as in epic poetry. Without a doubt, the most worldwide known Portuguese poets are Luís de Camões and Fernando Pessoa, but we should also state the modern Portuguese poetry (since the 19th century) has its roots in a handful of relevant poets, from neo-classicism to these days.

Prose developed later than verse and first appeared in the 14th century in the shape of short chronicles, lives of saints, and genealogical treatises. The line of the chroniclers which is one of the boasts of Portuguese literature began with Fernão Lopes , who compiled the chronicles of the reigns of three kings of that time. He combined a passion for accurate statement with a especial talent for descriptive writing and portraiture. Eanes de Zurara , Gil Vicente and Priest António Vieira are some pre-modern Portuguese writers. But, it is the modern Portuguese literature that is more internationally known, especially the works of Almeida Garrett, Alexandre Herculano , Eça de Queirós, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, António Lobo Antunes and the 1998 Nobel Prize for literature, José Saramago.


Main article: Music of Portugal

Fado (destiny in Portuguese) is a form of melancholic music. The music is linked to the Portuguese word saudade (there is no translation into English; it's a word for the mix feeling of sadness, pain, miss and love) and other feelings, and its origins are probably with a mixture of African slave rhythms with traditional music of Portuguese sailors, it has also Arabic influence. There are two varieties of Fado: Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is the traditional (for the people), while the Coimbra's is the refined style (linked with universitary students); both are seen as ethnic music for sophisticated audience and as candidates for UNESCO World Heritage. The notable Amália Rodrigues introduced the most well-known variety of fado. After her disappearance, a new wave of performers added stylistic changes and brought more international popularity to the traditional Portuguese music. Mariza and Mísia , brought with them a new look to the traditional song, while Dulce Pontes mixed it with popular Portuguese music and Madredeus, made a complete revolution, with new instruments -- all that they kept from the original Fado is its looks and the concept of "saudade". The audience must allways keep silente until the song is completely over, because the music is transmiting pain or some feeling of the interpreter (the fadista), the fadista normally has his/her eyes closed, and singing has if he/she is crying. All varieties of Fado are sorrowful; some can be joyful songs. Morna (or Cape Verdian Fado), in which Cesária Évora sings, is a variety of Fado originated from the Portuguese Fado. It also keeps the concept of "saudade", but it is sung in Portuguese Creole.

Portuguese pop-rock has grown particularly after the 1974 revolution. The most notable bands and musicians are Sérgio Godinho , Xutos e Pontapés , GNR, Rui Veloso , António Variações , Heróis do Mar , Rádio Macau , Clã , Delfins , Santos e Pecadores , Pedro Abrunhosa, Silence Four , The Gift and more recently Toranja , O Projecto é Grave! and Fingertips .

Other genres include a local version of hip hop, influenced by the American style by descendants of immigrants from former Portuguese colonies in Africa. Hip hop tuga (Portuguese hip hop) is very popular among the younger population in Portugal. Cool Hipnoise , Da Weasel and Mind da Gap are some of the most popular and are becoming internationally known. In the genre metal there are also Moonspell, a well known band in Europe.

Other musicians include the globally recognized pianist Maria João Pires and guitarist Carlos Paredes.


Portuguese art was very restricted in the early years of nationality, during the reconquista, to a few paintings in churches, convents and palaces.

It is after the 15th century, with the national borders established and with the discoveries, that the Portuuguese art expanded. Some kings, like John I already had royal paintors. It is during this century that the Gothic art is replaced by a more humanistic and Italian-like art.

In the reing of King Alfonso V, an important Portuguese artist Nuno Gonçalves shaped the Portuguese art, leading it to gain local characteristics (Escola Nacional, National School). His influence on the Portuguese art mantained after his death. He was the royal paintor for the famous Retábulo do Altar das Relíquias de São Vicente in the Cathedral of Lisbon (Sé de Lisboa). The painting became alighted and it was substituted by a Barroque structure. Parts of his work still subsists and can be found in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga National (Museum of Ancient Art).

During the Golden Age of Portugal, late 15th century and early 16th century, the Portuguese art mad great contact with Flemish art. And during this period, Portuguese art became internationaly famous, mostly because of its very original and diverse characteristics, but most artists are unknown due to the midieval culture that considered paintors has artisans. It should be glossed that the Portuguese anonymous artists in the Portuguese "escolas" produced art not only for metropolitan Portugal but also for its colonies, namelly Malacca or Goa or even Africa, gratifying the desires of local aristrocat and religious clients.



Portugal did not developed greatly in Dramatic theatre due to national lack of interest. Portuguese were more passioned about lyric or humerous works rather than dramatic. Gil Vicente is often seen has the father of the Portuguese theatre, he was the leading Portuguese playwright in the 16th century.


Main article: Portuguese cuisine

Eating in Portugal, is one of the visitor's most remembered characteristics of the country. Each region of Portugal, has its traditional dishes, including various kinds of meat, cheap sea-food, diverse and fresh fish (including the 1001 ways of making cod dishes, the national dish).


Main article: Wines of Portugal

Portugal is the country for wine lovers, known since the Roman Empire; the Romans immediately associated Portugal with its God of Winery and Feast, Bacchus. Today, many famous Portuguese wines are known as some of the world's best: Vinho do Douro , Vinho do Alentejo , Vinho do Dão , Vinho Verde, and the sweet: Port Wine (Vinho do Porto, literally Oporto's wine), Madeira wine, Moscatel of Setúbal and Moscatel of Favaios.

Popular Festivities

During the summer, in the month of June, festivities dedicated to three saints known as Santos Populares (Eng. Popular saints) take place in all over Portugal. Why the populace associated the saints to these pagan festivities is not known. But it is possibly related to Roman or local deities before Christianity has spread in the region. The three saints are Saint Anthony, Saint John and Saint Peter. A common denominator in these festivities are the wine and água-pé (drink basically constituted by grape juice), traditional bread along with sardines, marriages, traditional street dances, fire, fireworks and joy.

Saint Anthony is celebrated in the night of 12 to 13th, especially in Lisbon (where that saint has born and lived most of his live), with Marchas Populares (sort of street carnival) and festivities. In the meantime, several marriages known as Casamentos de Santo António (En., Marriages of Saint Anthony) at the same time are made. But the most popular saint is Saint John, it is celebrated in many cities and towns troughout the country in the night of 23 to 24th, especially in Porto and Braga, where the sardines, Caldo Verde (traditional soup) and plastic hammers to hammer in other person's head for luck are indispensable. The final Saint is Saint Peter, celebrated in the night of 28 to 29th, especially in Póvoa de Varzim and Barcelos, festivities is similar to the others, but more dedicated to the sea and extensive use of fire (fogueiras). In Póvoa de Varzim, there is the Rusgas in the night, another sort of street carnival. Each festivity is a municipal holiday in the cities and towns where it occurs.

Portuguese popular song:

"Santo António já se acabou.
O São Pedro está-se a acabar.
São João, São João, São João,
Dá cá o balão para eu brincar."


"Saint Anthony has finished now.
Saint Peter is finishing.
Saint John, Saint John, Saint John,
Give me the balloon, for me to play."


Football (soccer) is the most known, loved and practiced sport in Portugal. Luís Figo is one of the world's top players, but the legendary Eusébio, Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo are also noteworthy. Between several other great names in the European scene, we can find Futre, Vitor Baia, and Paulo Sousa.

The Portuguese national team, or Selecção Nacional, has won two FIFA World Youth Championships and several other UEFA youth championships. Recently, they finished second in Euro 2004, becoming European Vice-Champions.

At club level, FC Porto, SL Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal are the main references. While Benfica has seven presences in the UEFA Champions League (then UEFA Champions Cup) final and two titles, FC Porto has two titles in two presences (1987 and 2004) in the final of that competition alongside two Intercontinental Cups, a UEFA Super Cup (1987), and is the single portuguese team to have won a UEFA Cup (2003). Although Benfica was the most popular Portuguese club in Europe in the past, FC Porto's recent success in the European Competitions has put them in the Top 10 World Clubs. By dominating the last 20 years of national competition, FC Porto is the only portuguese team to ever achieve 5 National League titles in a row (1995-1999). Sporting Clube de Portugal has won a Cup Winners' Cup.

However, soccer is not native to Portugal. The country has an ancient martial art known as "Jogo do Pau" (Eng., Stick Game), used for self-protection and for duels between young men in dispute for a young women. Having its origin in the middle ages, Jogo do Pau uses wooden sticks as a combat weapon. The modern variety uses smaller sticks of 0.60 to 0.80 m (2.0 to 2.6 foot).

Portuguese stereotypes

See Also

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13