The Portuguese are one of the oldest nations in Europe. The Lusitans, one of the ancient Iberian tribes that later merged with the Celts, were the basis of the Portuguese ethnos. The Lusitania’s incorporation into the Roman Empire caused a cultural and linguistic Romanization of the population. The Arab domination in the eighth and thirteenth centuries had a significant influence on the formation of the Portuguese nation.
Portugal is a state in southwestern Europe.
Territory: occupies a smaller part of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the island of Madeira. Madeira and
Azores islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
Population: 10.3 million people.
Religion: Catholicism and Protestantism.
State language: Portuguese. English and Spanish are widely spoken.
Capital city: Lisbon.
Population, Language, and Religion
Portugal has a population of about 10 million people. Ethnically, it is very homogeneous. It is only in the last few decades that newcomers from former colonies (above all Africa) have entered the country and are concentrated mainly in the big cities.
The Portuguese are one of the oldest nations in Europe. The basis of the Portuguese ethnos was the Lusitans, one of the ancient Iberian tribes, who later merged with the Celts. The Lusitania’s incorporation into the Roman Empire caused a cultural and linguistic Romanization of the population. The formation of the Portuguese nation was greatly influenced by the Arab domination of the 8th and 13th centuries. Since the great geographical discoveries, the country has been home to people of mixed descent, and Portuguese were not unfamiliar with racial hatred.
Portuguese is the official language. Portuguese is similar to Spanish but is not the same thing. One can easily ascertain this by listening to Portuguese, which is characterized by a large number of hisses and a strong reduction of vowels. Portuguese is also spoken in Brazil and in former Portuguese colonies in Africa, totalling over 180 million people.
Despite the ethnic homogeneity of the Portuguese, there are certain differences between the populations of the north and the south of the country. This is evident both in speech and in certain customs and traditions. A certain contradiction between the north and the south stems also from the age-old rivalry between Porto and Lisbon. While the northerners used to be jealous of Lisbon as the capital, the situation has changed: southerners are jealous of the inhabitants of the North, now the most dynamic region.
Portugal is a Catholic country. Since the Reconquista, the religious orders, which served as a reliable pillar of royal power, were given land. The Order of Christ played a paramount role in the Age of Discovery. Although now separated from the state, the Church remains a very influential spiritual force. The Portuguese are ardent Catholics. Many make pilgrimages to shrines and participate in religious festivals. One of the main strongholds of Catholicism remains the northern diocese, centered in Braga.
The Portuguese are a pleasant, gentle and easy-going people. They have an innate sense of politeness, a quality they expect from others. They try to dress quite strictly, and in the provinces perhaps even a little conservatively. They use formal forms of address in their speeches, and only young people can afford to call their new acquaintances “you”, i.e. address them by their first names. At the same time they are very lively people, who like to eat and drink well, holidays, music and dancing.
Nature and Geography
Portugal is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and faces the Atlantic. It is a relatively small country, even by European standards. Its area – 92 thousand square kilometers (the mainland – 88,5 thousand square kilometers), and its maximum length from north to south – 560 kilometers and 218 – from west to east. Portugal occupies about one-sixth of the Iberian Peninsula and borders only Spain by land. Its land borders are 1,300 kilometers in the north and east and its sea coastline is 830 kilometers long. Portugal’s borders have remained almost unchanged for eight centuries. Portugal also includes Madeira and the Azores, which are autonomous regions on the Atlantic Ocean.
Portugal is a very comfortable, mainly green country with rolling plains, low mountain ranges and miles of ocean coastline, where beautiful sandy beaches rubs shoulders with high rocky cliffs. Despite its small size, the country in its landscapes is very diverse. This is the beauty of holidays in Portugal. These are the broad lowlands of the Tagus valley, and the granite mountains of the Serra da Estrela, reaching heights of 2,000 meters, and the hilly fertile plains of the Alentejo, and the deep valleys of the Douro, Minho and other rivers of the north. The south of the country is mostly flat, while the north is mountainous.
Portugal’s two largest rivers, the Tagus and Douro, originate in Spain and cross the country from east to west, flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The upper reaches of the second grow the grapes that are used to make Portugal’s most famous product, port wine. A trip to this country will not leave anyone indifferent.
Climate and nature
The Atlantic defines Portugal’s climate. Summers are warm and not hot, the bathing season begins in June. Winter is quite wet and humid. However, like the landscape, Portugal’s climate changes significantly from north to south. The north is wetter and cooler, and the Serra da Estrela Mountains even have snow in the winter and can be skied there. Low ridges of the Serra de Monchique, fence off the coast of the Algarve in the south of the country from the north winds, which provides a unique microclimate. The climate is entirely Mediterranean – there is not much precipitation, and summers are mild and steadily sunny, with truly sultry summers in August. The Costa do Estoril and the Serra de Sintra near Lisbon have a special microclimate, which has made them a favourite holiday destination.
Each region of Portugal also has its own flora. The Atlantic North and wind-sheltered Central Portugal have lush vegetation, with plants from both Northern and Southern Europe in close proximity. In central and northern Portugal in early spring the blossoming almond groves are a beautiful sight. The Tagus valley offers wide green flood meadows in the lowlands. In the Alentejo, cork oak plantations and olive groves are ubiquitous. Vineyards are found all over the country, but are particularly prominent in the Haut-Douro and Daoux regions in central Portugal. The most widespread tree is increasingly the eucalyptus, which has become quite well established in the country.
Protected areas and protected areas are mainly concentrated in the east of the country, in the least populated areas. The most famous reserve is the Peneda Jeres National Park in the north. However, there are also nature reserves in the estuaries of the Sado and Guadiana.
Portugal remains one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world, which attracts connoisseurs and connoisseurs of leisure all year round.
Portuguese cuisine is very varied, with each region having quite a few “specialties” of its own. The cult of food is a national trait, so we will talk about it separately in the chapters on each region.
Holidays in Portugal
Beach holidays in Portugal are most popular in the Algarve region. On the Lisbon Riviera (region of Portugal) you can successfully combine a beach holiday and sightseeing program. We offer you different options for holidays in Portugal: travel by car (fly & drive), combined tours, beach holidays, individual tours and sightseeing programs, etc.
Holidays and customs
The following days are considered holidays in Portugal:
- January 1 – New Year
- February – carnival
- March-April (rollover date) – Good Friday
- April 25th- Freedom Day, anniversary of the April Revolution of 1974.
- May 1 – Labor Day
- 10 June – Camões Day, or Portugal Day
- 15 August – Assumption
- 5 October – Republic Day
- 1 November – All Saints Day
- 1 December – Restoration of Independence Day
- 8 December – Immaculate Conception Day
- December 25 – Christmas
Portugal loves festivals and celebrates them with the passion of the south. The history of Porugali is rich in events and in addition to the official and national ones, there are many local celebrations related to saints, various events (e.g. harvesting, making young wine, fairs). Every town and even a small village has local festivals. It is often the case that old pagan cults, belief in spirits and fertility cults are hidden behind Christianity. The occasion for celebrations and festivities can be a pilgrimage (this is especially evident in the area of the shrines of Bon Jesús do Monte, Fatima, and Lamego).
Since 1 March 2002, the single European currency is the euro The euro (symbol: €; code: EUR) .
Office hours for institutions:
Banks are open Monday-Friday 08:30-15:00, some open until 18:00.
Stores: Monday-Friday 09:00-13:00/15:00-19:00, Saturday 09:00-13:00.
Supermarkets work without breaks. Large shopping malls open at 10:00 a.m. but close at 10:00 p.m. or even later and are open on weekends.
It is customary to tip 10% of the bill in restaurants, cafes, cabs and hairdressers. It is also customary to tip hotels for carrying your luggage.
Along with modern hotels in Portugal there are many hotels located in ancient castles, palaces and manor houses. Excellent service and comfort is combined with magnificent interiors and furnishings, as if transferred from the past. A special feature of Portugal are “posadas” – state hotels, housed in restored historical buildings – castles, monasteries and manor houses.
Electricity: 220 VAC, 50 Hz.
Actual and rent a car for a trip to Portugal.
Freeways (toll roads) connect Lisbon to Porto and the Algarve, as well as to the most important suburbs. The road network is constantly being developed and improved.
Modern express trains run between Lisbon and Porto, fast trains between Lisbon and the Algarve. The rest are local. There are convenient rail connections between Lisbon and the Riviera (Estoril, Cascais). A very scenic railroad through the Douro Valley – considered the most beautiful in the country. International connections: Lisbon-Madrid, Lisbon-Paris, Porto-Vigo.