Portugal Culture and People


The culture of Portugal is rooted in the Latin culture of Ancient Rome, with a Celtiberian background (a mixture of pre-Roman Celts and Iberians).

Portugal, as a country with a long history full of influences from external peoples, is home to magnificent architectural structures (from prehistory onwards), as well as superb art, furniture and literary collections mirroring and chronicling the events that shaped the country and its peoples. The Portuguese have a large number of cultural landmarks ranging from museums to ancient church buildings to medieval castles, which testify the national cultural heritage.

There are many diverse cultural activities in which the Portuguese participate, indulging their appreciation of art, music, drama and dance. Portugal has a rich traditional folklore (Ranchos Folclóricos), with great regional variety. Many towns have a museum and a collection of ancient monuments and buildings. Many places have at least a cinema, some venues to listen to music and locations to see arts and crafts. In the larger cities visits to the theatre, concerts or galleries of modern exhibitions are popular, and Portugal can boast not only international-scale venues in Lisbon and Porto, but also many acclaimed artists from various disciplines. The importance of the arts is illustrated by the fact that on the death of Amália Rodrigues, the “Queen of Fado” (fado is Portugal’s national music) in October 1999, three days of national mourning was declared. In 1998, José Saramago, one of Portugal’s well-known writers, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In 2001, Porto was European Capital of Culture, contributing to a current renaissance in artistic creation, and in 2004 Portugal hosted the European football finals in specially constructed stadia.

In smaller towns and villages, cultural activity may revolve around local folklore, with musical groups performing traditional dance and song. Local festivities are very popular during the summer season in all sort of localities ranging from villages to cities, as well as beach holidays from June to September. Portuguese people in the major towns and almost all cities like to go shopping in malls which are generally well equipped with modern facilities and offer a wide variety of attractions ranging from shops and stores of the most renowned brands to cinemas, restaurants and hypermarkets. Café culture is also regarded as an important cultural feature of the Portuguese. As the most popular sport, football events involving major Portuguese teams are always widely followed with great enthusiasm. There are still some bullrings in Portugal, although the passion for bullfighting is not as widespread as in neighbouring Spain.


Since the 2nd millennium BC, there has been important construction in the area where Portugal is situated today. Portugal boasts several scores of medieval castles, as well as the ruins of several villas and forts from the period of Roman occupation. Modern Portuguese architecture follow the most advanced trends seen in European mainstream architecture with no constraints, though preserving some of its singular characteristics. The azulejo and the Portuguese pavement are two typical elements of Portuguese-style architecture.


Portuguese literature has developed since the 12th century from the lyrical works of João Soares de Paiva and Paio Soares de Taveirós. They wrote mostly from Portuguese oral traditions known as “cantigas de amor e amigo” and “cantigas de escárnio e maldizer” which were sung by troubadours.

Following chroniclers such as Fernão Lopes after the 14th century, fiction has its roots in chronicles and histories with theatre following Gil Vicente, whose works were critical of the society of his time.

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