#CONy16 – 10 Typical Portuguese Things You Should Know

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by Marta Ribeiro |

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Portugal is a country full of charm, surrounded by sea, full of golden beaches, sun, and warm-natured people. All Portuguese cities are amazing in their own way, but let’s talk about the capital, Lisbon!

For those who have never visited this fantastic city before, you’ll be amazed.  For returning visitors, you’ll already know all about its magic. Lisbon has a golden light that each day, whether summer or winter, sprays its hues over the white city buildings, or plunges into the dark blue of the Tagus river (Rio Tejo).

Also famous in Lisbon are the seven hills. Seven hills full of narrow and beautiful streets, where you can stroll to discover the secrets of this ancient town lying along the waters.

But aside from the colors and the hills, there are many other incredible things you should be aware of about Lisbon and Portugal in general. Here are some facts about Portuguese culture we want to share with you:

1. Calçada Portuguesa (Portuguese Pavement)


Traditional Portuguese pavements (cobblestone) are a historical heritage of the Roman culture, which was imposed in Portugal in the fourteenth century during the reign of D. João II. Most of the streets in downtown Lisbon are paved with basalt, where beautiful sidewalks are integrated with stunning pavement designs, making Lisbon a reference for this kind of pavement art.

The Portuguese pavement as we know it, was originated in 1842 at S. Jorge Castle in Lisbon by the vision of its governor, Lieutenant General Cândido Pinheiro Eusébio Furtado.

Source: Roc2c

2. Fado (Traditional Portuguese Music Style)


Fado is a world-renowned musical symbol of Portugal, being represented for many years in foreign countries by Amália Rodrigues, and more recently by Dulce Pontes, Mariza and Katia Guerreiro, among others. Although taking many forms (as it is sung differently in Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon) the Fado is, by self-earned right, the very expression of the Portuguese soul.

Fado means “fate”. It’s a sad kind of music, sung from the soul and full of meaningful words and feelings. It’s a beautiful type of music to listen to because even if you don’t understand a word – you can certainly feel the sentiment.


Source: Lisbon Guide

3. Gastronomia (Food)


(In the image, the dish is called Carne de Porco à Alentejana, which is basically pork meat with clams).

If you’re visiting Portugal, you’d better not leave until you taste some of the most traditional and typical Portuguese dishes. The food is so good and diverse that you can eat amazing pastry for breakfast, a fantastic meat dish for lunch, a good bread as an afternoon snack, and lightly grilled fish for dinner without missing dessert. Portugal is mostly well-known for its love of fish as it’s a country surrounded by the coast. Portuguese cuisine comprises a lot of fish dishes – sardines, cod, salmon, and many other types of fish are some of the Portuguese’s favorite food. But we shouldn’t forget the cheeses, sausages, and last but not least, the traditional desserts like arroz doce (sticky rice with cinnamon), ovos moles (typically from Aveiro, it’s made with egg yolk and lots of sugar) and many, many others.

4. Pastéis De Belém


Portuguese egg tart pastries are very common in Portugal. Although a lot of other Lusosphere countries also serve similar desserts, they are mostly known as Pasteis de Belém and made in Lisbon. They were created by the monks at the Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) as, at the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg whites for starching clothes, such as nuns’ habits, so they needed to use up the excess yolks.

When the monastery closed, the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. Up until this day, no-one knows the original recipe apart from the descendents who own the business, and there is only one shop that makes Pastéis de Belém to the original recipe – the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. All over Portugal, you can find variations of these desserts but they are usually called Pastéis de Nata.

Source: Wikipedia

5. Vinho do Porto (Porto Wine)


Port is a fortified wine and the most famous export of Portugal. Fortified wines are made by adding a proportion of grape spirit (or brandy) to the wine at some point during the production process. Port wine is also known as Vinho do Porto, and is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, though it also comes in dry or semi-dry, and also in red or white varieties.

Source: Aston Jones

6. Azulejos (Tiles)


Colorful, beautiful and superbly crafted tiles. You can see these wonderful tiles everywhere in Portugal, wherever you go you’ll catch sight of a building with a wall adorned with ceramic tiles as they form an integral part of the Portuguese architecture. Although they are not a Portuguese invention, they have been used more imaginatively and consistently in Portugal than in any other nation.

Source: Go Lisbon

7. “Saudade” (A feeling)


“Saudade” is a feeling. The reason we’ve decided to include this word in the list is because Portuguese is the only language that has a specific word to describe this feeling. Portugal is a country who really loves its culture, its past and history, and likes to reminisce about it a lot, so the Portuguese people will often think about the past and miss those bygone times. ‘Saudade’ means that you miss something or someone. Locals usually say that saudade is a thing that only exists in Portuguese – and they’re certainly right. 

8. Fernando Pessoa (Portuguese poet and writer)


Fernando Pessoa was a Portuguese poet and writer, described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language. He also wrote in and translated from English and French.

Later in life, Pessoa created the “semi-heteronym” Bernardo Soares, under which name he wrote a fictional journal over a period of 20 years which became The Book of Disquietude. He also created the philosopher and sociologist António Mora, critic Caeiro, scholar Thomas Crosse and his brother/collaborator I.I. Crosse, poet Coelho Pacheco, astrologer Raphael Baldaya, and many others for a total of at least 72 heteronyms. He did not call them pseudonyms because he felt they didn’t capture their true independent intellectual life, so instead called them heteronyms.


Source: The Poetry Foundation

9. Danças Tradicionais (Typical dances)


Each region of Portugal has its own style of dance. For most of these dances, people dress up in different ways ranging from working clothes to colorful costumes. Some of the best examples of the regional dances are the vira, chula, corridinho, tirana and fandango, where couples perform a lively dance usually to a fast beat of hand-clapping, guitars and accordions.


Source: Portugal-Live.net

10. Douro Vinhateiro (Vineyards in the Douro Valley)


Douro is a Portuguese wine region centered on the Douro River in the Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro region. It is sometimes referred to as the Alto Douro (upper Douro), as it is located some distance upstream from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influence.  While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine.

Source: Kysela.com

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