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Portuguese Culture and Art

Portuguese culture is varied but equally unique in terms of its history, traditions, food and the people’s love for performing arts. If you intend to visit or settle in Portugal in the future, learning about the special features of the culture of this nation is always a wise idea.


Portugal gained their independence in 1143 and is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Portuguese history has many important landmarks including major discoveries of geography, gaining independence from Spain, the Great Earthquake in 1755, the birth of the Republic, Carnation revolution ending Fascism and starting the current democratization, joining the European Economic Community (EEC) and using the new currency- Euro.


Since the 15th century, Portuguese art has flourished. Some typical works of this period are now on display at the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon.

National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon in Lisbon
National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon in Lisbon

Museums and art galleries can be found throughout the country and Lisbon is the home to the most of them. One of the most famous art galleries in Lisbon capital city is Jose de Azeredo Perdigao Modern Art Center. This center owns a large collection of works by Portuguese artists. In addition, the National Museum of Ancient Art displays a very interesting collection of paintings, sketches, pottery as well as artifacts from the past.


Portuguese literature is very rich and varied. In the 15th and 16th centuries, this national literature has spread to the rest of the world along with the sea voyages and discoveries of the Portuguese. These expeditions also led to rich literature and expanded the use of Portuguese to other countries. Portuguese literature is full of genres from poetry, drama from the renaissance and novel to historical records of rulers and Portuguese conquests.

Portuguese literature in modern times is characterized by a large number of female writers and the revival of poetry and novels. In 1998, one of Portugal’s most famous authors, José Saramago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Portugal has a very varied cuisine. Especially, because it is located by the sea, Portugal has great seafood and fish dishes. The traditional dish of this country is dried salted cod called ‘Bacalhau’. There are also many variations – in fact there are 365 different ways to process, each for a day of the year. Sardines, tuna and seafood are also popular.

Cozido a Portuguesa - a traditional Portuguese food
Cozido a Portuguesa – a traditional Portuguese food

Another traditional dish is ‘Cozido a Portuguesa’, a vegetable stew made with a variety of meats. The most popular desserts are flan cake, caramel egg rolls or cinnamon pudding.

Portugal also makes a great variety of breads and cakes. ‘Pastel de Nata’ is a small cracker with cinnamon that is very popular in the country.

In addition, Portugal has a long tradition of wine production, most notably the Port wine. Today,  high quality wines are produced throughout the country.

Etiquette and rules of conduct

The Portuguese are generally quite traditional and conservative. However, they are also very pleasant, kind and very polite. When meeting someone for the first time you should greet politely. When you are closer, you can greet in a more intimate way, from one handshake to cheek kisses – Kissing each cheek twice starting from the right.

If you are invited to a Portuguese house for dinner, you should bring flowers, candies or chocolates (but not wine). Be careful with the color of the flower you choose. Red is a symbol of revolution, so red flowers should not be given. Lilies and chrysanthemums are used for funerals so these flowers are not the best choice.

Music and Dance

The Portuguese are music lovers and the country has a great and varied music. Portugal is mostly known for Fado music dating from the 18th century. It’s a sad music that tells the story of life.

Folk music is still very popular in Portugal and it has been modernized to suit the times. Other popular styles in Portugal include rock, hip hop and metal.

Fandango traditional Portuguese dance
Fandango traditional Portuguese dance

Traditional dances are also popular in Portugal. During many summer holidays, you can enjoy folk dances such as Circle, Fandango or Corridinho ones.

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