The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The Republic of Portugal (República Portuguesa), or Portugal, is a democratic republic located on the west and southwest parts of the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe; it is the westernmost country in continental Europe. Portugal is bordered by Spain to the north and east and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. In addition, Portugal contains several island territories in the Atlantic, including the Azores (Açores) and Madeira (including the Savage Islands).

A citizen of Portugal is usually identified in English by the noun and adjective Portuguese, but someone born in Portugal can also be referred to as Luso or Lusitano (English "Lusitanian").1

Portugal during the past 3000 years has witnessed a constant flow of different civilizations. Phoenician, Celtic, Carthaginian, Roman, Barbarian (Germanic) and Arabic cultures have all made an imprint in Portugal. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was a major economic, political, and cultural power. The overseas empire was pervasive across the world.

Portugal's name derives from the Roman name Portus Cale, a mixed Greek and Roman name meaning "Beautiful Port".

República Portuguesa
Flag of Portugal Portugal: Coat of Arms
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Location of Portugal
Official language Portuguese
Capital Lisbon
Largest City Lisbon
President: Jorge Sampaio
Prime Minister: José Sócrates
1128, 1143
 - Total
 - % water
92,391 km² (109th)
 - Total (2005)
 - Density
10,566,212 (76th)
114/km² (91st)
 - Total (2005)
 - Per capita
$203,947 million (41st)
$19,949 (36th)
Currency Euro (€)1
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem A Portuguesa
Internet TLD .pt
Calling Code +351

1 Prior to 1999: Portuguese escudo.
2 Azores: UTC-1; UTC in summer



Main article: History of Portugal

In the early first millennium BC, several waves of Celts invaded Portugal from Central Europe and intermarried with local peoples, the Iberians, forming the Celt-Iberians. Early Greek explorers named the region "Ophiussa" (Greek for "land of serpents") because the natives worshipped serpents.

In 238 BC, The Carthaginians occupied the Iberian coasts. During this period, Portugal had several tribes, the main were the Lusitanians, who lived between the Douro and Tagus rivers, and the Calaicians who, lived north of the Douro river with several other tribes. A Phoenician colony was established in southern Portugal, the Conii. The Celtics, a later wave of Celts, settled in Alentejo.

In 219 BC, the first Roman troops invaded the Iberian Peninsula. Within 200 years, Roman armies dominated most of the peninsula, driving the Carthaginians out of their colonies in the Punic Wars.

The Roman conquest of Portugal started from the south, where the Romans found friendly natives, the Conii. Over decades, the Romans increased their sphere of control. But in 194 BC a rebellion began in the north. The Lusitanians and other native tribes successfully held off the Romans, took back land, and ransacked Conistorgis, the Conii capital, because of their alliance with Rome. Viriathus, lived in the mountains of the center of Portugal, drove the Roman forces out of all of Portugal. Rome sent numerous legions and its best generals to reinforce the Roman positions. At first, Rome installed a colonial regime. But during this period, Lusitania grew in prosperity and many Portuguese cities and towns were founded. In 27 BC, Lusitania gained the status of Roman Province.

In the 5th century, Germanic tribes, known as Barbarians, invaded the peninsula. One of these, the Suevi, stopped fighting and founded a kingdom whose domains were, approximately, coincident with today's Portugal. They fixed their capital in Bracara Augusta (nowadays called Braga). Later, the Visigoths conquered this kingdom, unifying the Peninsula.

An Islamic invasion took place in 711, destroying the Visigoth Kingdom. Many of the ousted nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands. From there they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors. They were eventually successful.

In 868, Count Vímara Peres reconquers and governs the region between the Minho and Douro Rivers (including the city that became its first capital, Portucale - today's city of Porto). Thus, the county became known as Portucale (i.e. Portugal). Occasionally, Portugal gained factual independence during weak Leonese reigns. In fact, the struggle for independence has started as early as the 9th century.

After the Moors were, for the most part, driven out of power, most of the Northern Iberian peninsula was briefly united under Christian rule. However, it quickly split apart after the death of Ferdinand the Great of Leon and Castile, whose domains were divided by his children. Therefore, in 1065 the Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal became independent, shortly after a war among brothers, made all the domains of Ferdinand back in one.

At the end of the 11th century a knight from Burgundy named Henry became count of Portugal. Henry was a strong supporter of independence. Under his leadership, the County of Portucale and the County of Coimbra merged. Henry declared independence 2 for Portugal while a civil war raged between Leon and Castile.

, prime symbol of Nationality. The took place nearby in .
Castle of Guimarães , prime symbol of Nationality. The Battle of São Mamede took place nearby in 1128.

Henry died without reaching his aims. His son, Afonso Henriques, took control of the county. The city of Braga, the Catholic centre of the Iberian peninsula, faced new competition from other regions. The lords of the cities of Coimbra and Porto with the Braga's clergy demanded the independence of the renewed county.

Portugal traces its national origin to 24 June 1128 with the Battle of São Mamede . Afonso proclaimed himself first as Prince of Portugal and in 1139 as the first King of Portugal. On October 5 1143, with the assistance of a representative of the Holy See at the conference of Zamora, Portugal was formally recognized as independent 2. Afonso, aided by the Templar Knights, continue to conquer southern lands to the moors. In 1250, the Portuguese Reconquista came to an end, as the Algarve was finally reconquered from the Moors. Since then, the border with the kingdoms that would be Spain has remained almost unchanged.

July 25 1415, marked the beginning of the Portuguese Empire, when the Portuguese Armada along with King John I and his sons Prince Duarte (future king), Prince Pedro, Prince Henry the Navigator and Prince Afonso, also with the mythical Portuguese hero Nuno Álvares Pereira departed to Ceuta in North Africa, a rich Islamic trade centre. On August 21, the city was conquered, and the Portuguese Empire was founded. Further steps were taken which expanded the Empire even more. Henry the Navigator's interest in exploration together with some technological developments in navigation made Portugal's expansion possible and led to great advances in geographic knowledge. The discoveries were financed by the wealth of the Order of Christ. Order founded by king Diniz for Templar Knights, who found refuge in Portugal after being pursued all over Europe.

In 1418 two of the captains of Prince Henry the Navigator, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira , were driven by a storm to an island which they called Porto Santo, or Holy Port, in gratitude for their rescue from the shipwreck. In 1419, Zarco disembarked on Madeira Island. Between 1427 and 1431 most of the Azorean islands were discovered.

In 1434, Gil Eanes rounded the Cape Bojador, South of Morocco. The trip marked the beginning of the Portuguese exploration of Africa. Before this voyage very little information was known in Europe about what lay beyond it. At the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries, those who tried to venture there became lost, giving birth to legends of sea monsters.

Bartolomeu Dias turning the Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms), afterwards renamed Cabo da Boa Esperança (Cape of Good Hope), representing Portugal's hope of becoming a powerful and rich empire by reaching India.
Bartolomeu Dias turning the Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms), afterwards renamed Cabo da Boa Esperança (Cape of Good Hope), representing Portugal's hope of becoming a powerful and rich empire by reaching India.

In 1448, on a small island known as Arguim off the coast of Mauritania a castle was built, working as a feitoria (a trading post) for commerce with inland Africa thus circumventing the Arabic caravans that crossed the Sahara. Some time later, the caravels explored the Gulf of Guinea leading to the discovery of several uninhabited islands and reaching the Congo River.

A remarkable achievement was the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope by Bartholomew Dias in 1487. By then the spices of India were nearby, hence the name of the cape. In 1489, the King of Bemobi gave his realms to the Portuguese King and converted to Christianity. Between 1491 and 1494, Pêro de Barcelos and João Fernandes Lavrador explored North America. At the same time, Pêro da Covilhã reached Ethiopia, searching for the mythical and lost Christian kingdom of Prestes João. Vasco da Gama sailed to India, and arrived at Calicut on May 20 1498, returning in triumph to Portugal the next year. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral landed on the Brazilian coast. Ten years later, Alfonso d'Albuquerque conquered Goa, in India.

In 1578, a very young King Sebastian died in battle, leaving no heir, which lead to a dynastic crisis. Because Philip II of Spain was the son of a Portuguese princess, the Spanish ruler became Philip I of Portugal in 1580. Some men claimed to be King Sebastian in 1584, 1585, 1595 and 1598. Sebastianism, a myth that the young king would return on a foggy day has prevailed until modern times.

Portugal maintained an independent law, currency and government, and the two first Spanish kings were popular. The third Spanish king, Philip III tried to make Portugal a Spanish province. Because of this, in December 1 1640, the Duke of Bragança, of the Portuguese Royal Family, John IV, was acclaimed, and a Restoration War against Spain was fought. New empires had emerged and started to assault all the Portuguese Empire; Portugal regained some, but some were lost, especially in Asia.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami, which killed more than a third of the capital's population and devastated the Algarve as well, had a profound effect on domestic politics and on European philosophical thought. From 1801, the country was occupied during the Napoleonic Wars, and lost Olivença (part of the national territory) to Spain (ally of France). Shortly after, Brazil proclaimed its independence, under the rule of Emperor Pedro I, later the Brazilian emperor will also be Pedro IV of Portugal.

A 1910 revolution deposed the Portuguese monarchy starting the First Republic. It was marked by chaos, and came to an end in 1926 when a nationalist military coup d'état gave birth to the Second Republic, a period of almost fifty years of non democratic rule. Although a stable period financially and economically, it saw the beginning of the end of the Portuguese Empire. India annexed Portuguese India, including Goa, in 1961. Independence movements also became active in Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea, and an increasingly costly series of colonial wars failed to defeat the guerrillas. Discontent about the war was one of the factors leading to the 1974 coup d'état.

The Carnation Revolution of 1974, an effectively bloodless left-wing military coup, installed the Third Republic. Broad democratic reforms were implemented. In 1975, Portugal granted independence to its Overseas Provinces (Províncias Ultramarinas in Portuguese) in Africa. In December 1975, Indonesia invaded and annexed the Portuguese province of Portuguese Timor (East Timor) in Asia one week after independence was declared (but before legal recognition of this by Portugal and other countries had been given). The Asian dependency of Macau, was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999. Portugal applied international pressure to secure East Timor's independence from Indonesia, as East Timor was still legally a Portuguese dependency, and recognized as such by the United Nations. After a referendum in 1999, East Timor voted for independence and Portugal recognized its independence in 2002.

With the 1975 independence of its colonies, the 560 year old Portuguese Empire had already effectively ended. With it, 15 years of war effort also came to an end. Also many Portuguese returned from the colonies, coming to comprise a sizeable sector of the population and starting an economic recovery, thus opening new paths for the country's future just as others closed. In 1986, Portugal entered the EEC, today's European Union.


The four main organs of Portuguese politics are the President of the Republic, the Parliament, the Council of Ministers (Government), and the Judiciary.

The President of the Republic, elected to a 5-year term by universal suffrage is also commander in chief of the armed forces. Presidential powers include appointing the Prime Minister, as advised by the Parliament which elects the Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers, named by the Prime Minister. Some other major powers include dismissing the Government, dissolving the Parliament, and declaring war or peace. These have several constitutional restrictions, namely the need to previously consult the presidential advisory body. This is the Council of State, composed of six senior civilian officers, all former presidents elected since 1976, and ten citizens, five chosen by the President and other five by the Parliament. The most commonly used power is that of approving or vetoing any legislation.

The Parliament, or Assembly of the Republic (Assembleia da República in Portuguese) is a unicameral body composed of 230 deputies. It is elected by universal suffrage according to a system of proportional representation to multi-member constituencies. Deputies serve terms of office of 4 years. The Assembly of the Republic is the main legislative body. The President of Parliament substitutes the President of the Republic in the event of his absence.

The Government is headed by the Prime Minister, who names the Council of Ministers.

The Courts have several categories, including judicial, administrative and fiscal. The national Supreme Court is the court of last appeal. A nine-member Constitutional Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation.

The national and regional governments are dominated by two political parties, the PSD (Partido Social Democrata) - Conservative and the PS (Partido Socialista) – Social Democratic. Within the Portuguese political culture, the PSD is described as center-right and the PS is described as center-left. Other parties with seat in the parliament are the PCP (Partido Comunista Português – Communists), PP (Partido Popular – Popular Party), BE (Bloco de Esquerda – Left Block) and PEV (Partido Ecologista Os Verdes – Ecologists). PCP, BE, and Os Verdes are left wing and the PP right wing. As of 2005, José Sócrates is the prime minister for the Socialists, the party also has the absolute majority in the parliament (121 MPs).

Portuguese public opinion and media tend to be Europhile, in the EuroBarometer's 2004 Spring survey, 60% of the Portuguese trusted the European Union.

Portugal has a territorial dispute with Spain. By the Vienna Treaty of 1815, Spain agreed to return Olivença (Olivenza in Spanish) to Portugal, but this agreement was never met. Portugal has periodically reasserted its claim to the territory. This issue has been discussed at the Portuguese Parliament as recently as 2004. In accordance with international law, Olivença is still considered to be Portuguese territory, despite being under Spanish administration since 1801.


Portugal has a complicated administractive structure. The base is composed by 308 municipalities (concelho - singular, concelhos - plural), and these are divided into more than 4,000 parishes (freguesias, singular - freguesia). All these are grouped into several superior divisions, some purely administractive, some specify a given activity (i.e. tourist regions or judicial areas), others have a more technical feature, while other have historical or cultural backgrounds: Alentejo, Algarve, Beira, Douro Litoral , Estremadura, Minho, Ribatejo , and Trás-os-Montes.

The most important division, is from 1976, dividing the continental territory (continente) and the two island groups, the Azores and Madeira Islands - the Autonomous regions (regiões autónomas, singular - região autónoma).

The districts (distritos, singular - distrito), are being dismantled, but they keep as the most relevant sub-division of the mainland, serving several propouses: electoral areas or regional football championships. The districts were in 1976 dismantled in the island territories.

There was made a referendum in Portugal to create administractive autonomies in continental Portugal, but the population refused it. The need for a better organisation lead to a newer and urbanized administractive division, in direction to the Portuguese local cultural characteristics. Thus they are continous territorial units made by groups of municipalities.

There are three types of Urban areas:

  • Grandes Áreas Metropolitanas - Greater Metropolitan Areas (more than 350,000 inhabitants)
    • There are 7 Metropolitan Areas in Portugal, their population in 2001 census follows with their name, and the name of the city in the cases where it diverges the name of the metropolitan area:
    • Lisbon 2,547,665
    • Porto 1,509,958
    • Minho (Braga) 754,830
    • Aveiro 460,157
    • Coimbra 430,845
    • Algarve (Faro) 391,819
    • Viseu 354,162
  • Comunidades Urbanas - Urban Communities (more than 150,000 inhabitants)
  • Comunidades Intermunicipais - Intermunicipal Communities (less than 150,000 inhabitants)
    • Pinhal , and Vale do Minho .


Main article: Geography of Portugal

Continental Portugal is split in two by its main river, the Tagus (Tejo). To the north the landscape is mountainous in the interior areas with plateaus, cut by four breakings lines that allow the development of relevant agricultural areas. Portugal's highest point, however, is Mount Pico (2351m) in the Azores.

The south down as far as the Algarve features mostly rolling plains with a climate somewhat warmer and drier than the cooler and rainier north. Other major rivers include the Douro, the Minho and the Guadiana, similar to the Tagus in that all originate in Spain. Another important river, the Mondego, originates in the Serra da Estrela (the highest mountains in mainland Portugal - 1,991 m).

The islands of the Azores and Madeira are volcanic in origin, and in the Azores, one to nine volcanoes are possibly active.


In mainland Portugal, average temperatures are 13ºC in the North and 18ºC in the South. Madeira and Azores, due to their location in the Atlantic, are rainy and wet, and have a narrower range of temperatures.

Portugal is one of the warmest European countries. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and the temperatures very high during July and August, with highs in the centre of the country between 30°C and 35°C, reaching sometimes highs of 45°C in the southern interior. Autumn and Winter are typically rainy and windy, yet sunny days are not rare either, the temperatures rarely fall below 5°C, usually staying at an average of 10°C. Snow is common in the mountainous areas of the north. Portugal's climate is classified as Atlantic-Mediterranean.

Portugal is considered for having one of the best climates in Europe. As of 2005, the country is facing serious problems due to lack of rain in the winter. A winter with very blue skies with some days of unusual low temperatures and other days with unusual high temperatures.


Main article: Economy of Portugal

Portugal has developed an increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Union in 1986, a development that began with the boom of the 1960s. Over the past decade, successive governments have privatised many state-controlled firms and liberalised key areas of the economy, including the financial and telecommunications sectors. Today, Portugal is a developed nation. It joined the Economic and Monetary Union in 1998 and began circulating its new currency, the euro, on January 1, 2002 along with 11 other EU members.

As of 2004, economic growth has been above the EU average for much of the past decade, but GDP per capita stands at just 75% of that of the leading EU economies. Portuguese GDP grew 1.5% in real terms in the second quarter of 2004 compared with the same period in 2003, by virtue of favourable domestic conditions. It benefited from investment and private consumer spending. Exports increased, but not in comparison with the strong growth of imports. In the same quarter the unemployment rate was 6.3%. In 2003, GDP per capita shrank 1%, due to the stringent austerity measures imposed by the government, low rates of investment and an internationally weak economic climate.

The country still has a 6.7 percent illiteracy rate, almost exclusively among the elderly. Portugal has been increasingly overshadowed by lower-cost producers in Central Europe as a target for foreign direct investment.

In the technology area, Portugal has one of the higher rates in the World when possessing a mobile phone (over 100%). Third generation mobile phones, UMTS, are being largely commercialized by operators since early 2004. Considering that 41% of the homes in Portugal had a computer in the first quarter of 2004, only 26% of the population had Internet at home; an additional 4% also used it. It is considered that in the near future most of the population will have access to the Internet via mobile phone.


Main article: Demographics of Portugal

As of 2004 Portugal has 10.5 million inhabitants.

Portugal is a fairly homogeneous country linguistically and religiously. Ethnically, Portuguese are a combination of several ethnicities, primarily native Iberians, Romans, Celts, and Visigoths. Other elements are Moors, Suevi and Phoenician. Even so, Portuguese people are ethnically homogenous. The country is characterized by city, town or village cultural differentiation and there is virtually no regional affiliation, unlike other European countries. Portuguese is spoken throughout the country, with only the villages of Miranda de Douro's Leonese dialect recognised as a locally co-official language. It is known as Mirandese. The closely related Asturian dialect in Spain is another Leonese dialect but not officially recognized by Spain.

Almost ten percent of Portugal's citizens are immigrants, half of them being legal. Since the decolonization period, Portugal has received immigrants from the former African colonies, and from Europe (especially the United Kingdom, Germany and France - the climate, culture, and relatively low cost of living are the main attractions). Today, many Eastern Europeans (especially Ukrainians, Moldavans, Romanians and Russians), as well as Brazilians, are making Portugal their home in search of a better life. There is a rapidly growing community of Chinese. Portugal, long a country of emigration, has now become a country of immigration. Most of Eastern Europe immigrants came between 1999 and 2002, through Germany, after this country opened the Euroland's borders. After the initial shock with a so massive number, immigrants are well accepted in the Portuguese society when comparing to other European countries. After 2002, most of the migrational pressure comes from Angola and Brazil. The biggest community is the Cape Verdean, part of it is considered as Portuguese, and do not count as immigrants. Althought being rapidly surpassed by Brazilians, who number 1% of the population in Portugal.

The great majority of the Portuguese population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Religious observance remains very strong in northern areas, with the population of Lisbon and southern areas generally less devout. Religious minorities include a little over 300,000 Protestants. There are also about 50,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus. Most of them came from Goa, a former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. There are also about 1,000 Jews, but a large number of people have some Jewish heritage.


Main article: Culture of Portugal

Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe, thus it has a strong and unique culture. The country is known for its traditional architecture, its wines, its food, and its literature.


Main article: Portuguese literature

Portugal is sometimes known as "a country of poets". As a matter of fact, Portuguese poetry has a larger influence in the country's literature than prose. In the dawn of nationhood, poetry in Portuguese-Galician was widely popular in most Christian Iberian Peninsula. There are excellent works of both lyrical and epic poetry. The best-known Portuguese poets internationally are Luís de Camões and Fernando Pessoa. Modern Portuguese poetry, since the 19th century, has its roots in a handful of relevant poets, from neo-classicism to contemporary.

Prose developed later than verse and first appeared in the 14th century. The line of the chroniclers, which is one of the boasts of Portuguese literature, began with Fernão Lopes . Gil Vicente and the priest António Vieira are some pre-modern Portuguese writers. It is the modern Portuguese literature that is more internationally known, mostly 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 winner, José Saramago.


Main article: Music of Portugal

Fado (from fate or destiny in Portuguese) is a form of melancholic music. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade (a word with no accurate equivalent in English; being a type of longing, it conveys a complex mixture of sadness, pain, nostalgia, happiness and love), and its origins are probably from a mixture of African slave rhythms with traditional music of Portuguese sailors, with Arabic influence.

There are two varieties of Fado: Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is the popular, while the Coimbra's is the refined style; both are seen as ethnic music for sophisticated audience. 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. There are also some successful experiences with fado, namely mixing it with electronic music. Mariza and Mísia brought with them a new look to the traditional song, occasionally reviving 19th century fado. While Dulce Pontes mixed it with popular and traditional Portuguese music. Madredeus and Cristina Branco added with new instruments and themes - all that they kept from the original Fado is its looks and the concept of "saudade". All varieties of Fado are sorrowful; although some can also be joyful songs. António Chaínho and Carlos Paredes are the most notable masters on the Portuguese guitar.

During the Fascist Regime music was used by the left-wing resistance as a way to say what could not be said, singing about freedom, equality and democracy. Many composers and singers became famous and persecuted by the political police. Zeca Afonso's Grândola, Vila Morena was used has call sign to break out the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

Portuguese pop-rock has grown particularly after the 1974 revolution. Other genres include a local version of hip hop, the Hip Hop Tuga, mostly performed by the African-Portuguese (descendants of immigrants from former Portuguese colonies in Africa). Hip Hop Tuga is very popular among the younger and urban population in Portugal, while Pimba, the Portuguese soft-pop music, is popular in the rural areas and among Portuguese immigrants.

Samples of Portuguese music
Fado: Mariza - Ó Gente da Minha Terra
Portuguese Guitar: António Chainho - A Zanga das Comadres
Political Intervention: Zeca Afonso - Grândola, Vila Morena

As for dancing, Portugal has the traditional folklore (Ranchos Folclóricos), with many varieties from each region: Fandango, Corridinho and O Vira are some of them. Portugal shares with Angola a shared rhythm known as "Kuduro ", a sort of 'hard hass' with fast movements and extreme sensuality and strong African rhythm.


European football is the most popular and practiced sport in Portugal. As of August 2004, the country is ranked 8th in 205 countries by FIFA. Luís Figo is one of the world's top players, but the legendary Eusébio, Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo are also noteworthy. FC Porto crowned its international success by winning the UEFA Cup in 2003 and UEFA Champions League in 2004 as well as local cups. The team also won the Intercontinental Cup in Japan last December, by defeating Colombian champions Once Caldas in the penalty shootouts. Portugal is also very well represented in other sports, such has Rink hockey, being the country with most world titles. Golf is also worth mentioning, since its greatest players play in the sunny region of the Algarve during the "Algarve Open".

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 over a young women. Having its origin in the middle ages, Jogo do Pau uses wooden sticks as a combat weapon. Other sports are the "Jogos Populares", a wide variety of traditional sports used for fun.


Main article: wines of Portugal

Eating in Portugal is often a visitor's most remembered characteristic of the country. Each region of Portugal has its own traditional dishes, including various kinds of meat, sea-food, diverse and fresh fish. Portuguese have a reputation for loving cod dishes (bacalhau in Portuguese). For that there are 365 ways of making cod dishes. Also very appreciated are the traditional desert sweets. The Romans associated Portugal with Bacchus, their God of Winery and Feast. Today the country is known by wine lovers, and its wines had won several international prizes. Many famous Portuguese wines are known as some of the world's best: Vinho Verde, Vinho Alvarinho , Vinho do Douro , Vinho do Alentejo , Vinho do Dão , Vinho da Bairrada and the sweet: Port Wine, Madeira wine and the Moscatels of Setúbal and Favaios (Douro). Port Wine is largely exported, now followed by Vinho Verde. Exports of Vinho Verde are largely increasing, in response to the growing international demand.


Festivals play a major role in Portugal's summers. Even thought they have religious conotations, most of these celebrations are, in fact, everything but religious. Every city and town has its own or several festivals. The June Festivities are extremely popular, these festivities are dedicated to three saints known as Santos Populares (En., Popular saints) and take place all over Portugal. Why the populace associated the saints with these pagan festivities is not known. The practice is possibly related to Roman or local deities before Christianity 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 (a watered kind of wine), traditional bread along with sardines, marriages, traditional street dances, fire, fireworks and joy.

Saint Anthony is celebrated on the nights of the 12th and 13th, especially in Lisbon (where that saint was born and lived most of his life), with Marchas Populares (a sort of street carnival) and festivities. In the meantime, several marriages known as Casamentos de Santo António (En., Marriages of Saint Anthony) are celebrated at the same time. But the most popular saint is Saint John. He is celebrated in many cities and towns throughout the country on the nights of the 23rd and 24th, especially in Porto and Braga, where the sardines, Caldo Verde (traditional soup) and plastic hammers to hammer on other peoples' heads for luck are indispensable. The final Saint is Saint Peter, celebrated on the nights of the 28th and 29th, especially in Póvoa de Varzim and Barcelos, festivities are similar to the others, but mostly 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.

Carnival is also widely celebrated in Portugal, some traditional carnivals dates back several centuries. In January 6, Epiphany is celebrated in some families, especially in the North, where the family gatters to eat "Bolo-Rei" (King Cake); this is also the time for the traditional street songs - "As Janeiras" (The January ones). Monday after Easter, Pascolea (also known has Dia do Anjo, Angel Day), is used in some areas, usualy in the North of the country, to do a pic-nic, some people work on the Good Friday holiday to have this day off. Saint Martin Day, is celebrated in some countries in Europe, Portugal included, it is in November 11. This day is the peak of three days, often with very good weather, it is known has Verão de São Martinho ("saint Martin summer" or "Short Summer "), the Portuguese celebrate it with gerupiga (an alcoholic drink) and roasted Portuguese chestnuts (castanhas assadas). and it is called Magusto.


Date Name Remarks
January 1 Ano Novo New Year's Day. Beginning of the year, marks the traditional end of "holiday season."
Tuesday, date varies Carnaval Carnival. Not an "official" holiday, but usually declared by the government as a non-working day. Very ancient festivity celebrating the end of the winter. It gained Christian connotations, and now marks the first day of a period of 40 days before Easter Week (Semana Santa, Holy Week), thus also known has Entrudo.
Friday, date varies Sexta-Feira Santa Good Friday.
Sunday, date varies Páscoa Easter. Used for family gathering to eat Pão-de-Ló (an Easter cake) and easter eggs. In the North, a sort of church members processions (compasso) visits and blesses every home with an open door, thus meaning they are catholics. Traditionally, this is the second visit of children and non-married youngersters to their godparents, receiving an Easter gift. The first visit is on Palm Sunday, 7 days before, where children give flowers and palms to their godparents.
April 25 Dia da Liberdade Literally, "Freedom Day". Celebrates the Carnation Revolution, marking the end of the dictatorial regime. Event of 1974.
May 1 Dia do Trabalhador Labour Day.
June 10 Dia de Portugal Portugal Day. Marks the date of Camões death. Camões wrote The Lusiad, Portugal's national epic. Event of 1580
Thursday, date varies Corpo de Deus Ascension Day. 40 days after Easter.
August 15 Assunção Assumption of Mary.
October 5 Implantação da República Implantation of the Republic. Event of 1910.
November 1 Todos os Santos All Saints Day. Day used for visiting deceased relatives.
December 1 Restauração da Independência Restoration of Independence. Event of 1640.
December 8 Imaculada Conceição Immaculate Conception. Patron Saint of Portugal.
December 25 Natal Christmas Day. Celebrated in the 24th to the 25th in a family gather to eat codfish with potatoes; seasonal sweets and dry fruits; drink Port wine; and share gifts.
Popular Saints Festivities (main local holidays)
Date Name Remarks
June 13 Dia de Santo António Saint Anthony Day. Celebrated in Lisbon among others.
June 24 Dia de São João Saint John Day. This is the most popular festivity in Portugal. It is celebrated in Porto, Braga, Angra do Heroísmo, Horta, and Vila do Conde among others
June 29 Dia de São Pedro Saint Peter Day. Celebrated in Évora, Setúbal, Póvoa de Varzim, and Barcelos among others.

See also


  • [1] The use of the words Lusitânia or Nação Lusa to mean Portugal, and of Lusitano to mean a Portuguese citizen, is due to ancient tribes who lived in most of today’s territory of Portugal. When the Romans conquered the land, they called it the Province of Lusitania.
  • [2] The concept of a declaration of independence did not exist at the time. Portugal was recognized as a kingdom with its own king by Leon in 1143 and by the Pope in 1179.
  • [3] Portuguese has been the official language of Portugal since 1296, replacing Classical Latin, the official language since independence. Portuguese does not descend from Classical Latin but rather from Vulgar Latin. In Portugal, the local Vulgar Latin was known as Vulgar Language before it was renamed Portuguese. Mirandese, a related Romance language, is officially recognized in the municipality of Miranda do Douro, and spoken in the villages of the municipality.


  • Ribeiro, Ângelo & Saraiva, José Hermano História de Portugal I - A Formação do Território QuidNovi, 2004 (ISBN 9895541066).
  • Ribeiro, Ângelo & Saraiva, José Hermano História de Portugal II - A Afirmação do País QuidNovi, 2004 (ISBN 9895541074).
  • de Macedo, Newton & Saraiva, José Hermano História de Portugal III - A Epopeia dos Descobrimentos QuidNovi, 2004 (ISBN 9895541082).
  • de Macedo, Newton & Saraiva, José Hermano História de Portugal IV - Glória e Declínio do Império QuidNovi, 2004 (ISBN 9895541090).
  • Ribeiro, Ãngelo & Saraiva, José Hermano História de Portugal V - A Restauração da Indepêndencia QuidNovi, 2004 (ISBN 9895541104).
  • Loução, Paulo Alexandre: Portugal, Terra de Mistérios Ésquilo, 2000 (third edition; ISBN 9728605048).
  • Muñoz, Mauricio Pasto: Viriato, A Luta pela Liberdade Ésquilo, 2003 (third edition; ISBN 9728605234).
  • Grande Enciclopédia Universal Durclub, 2004.

External links

Last updated: 10-11-2005 10:46:08
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