While Portugal is often associated with what seems like an infinite number of days of sunshine, its traditions are also equally as remarkable. As one of the oldest countries in Europe with origins dating back some 400,000 years ago, Portugal is filled with a myriad of special traditions that have stood the test of time. A truly spectacular country, join us to uncover these fascinating traditions from Portugal.
There is no singular traditional costume in Portugal. Each region has their own unique style that reflects their customs and climate. Take the Alentejo region for example (where Evora is found): men wear dark trousers with a loose shirt, and a vest or jacket; or the Algarve region (the famous coastal area) where women don brightly coloured skirts that have incredible patterns and embellishments and wear a shawl or scarf.
As you can imagine, a longstanding history means Portugal has had influences from the Moors, Romans and Celts. This, in turn, has developed some unique jewellery designs. One such iconic Portuguese tradition is filigree, where jewellers shape thin metal wires to create an intricate design. The art of filigree is associated with love in Portugal, so is a popular choice for any kind of significant piece of jewellery.
There is nothing quite like fado, an evocative genre that first originated in the streets and taverns of Lisbon in the early 19th century. Soul-stirring singing accompanied by the strumming of a Portuguese guitar tells the story of joy and sorrow through life. Fado music is so world-renowned that it sits on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
When exploring the cobblestone streets, you may come across public buildings and monuments adorned with eye-catching ceramic tiles. Azulejos were introduced by Flemish and Spanish workshops in the 16th century, and the Portuguese have turned them into a beautiful way of telling their country’s history. These make a wonderful souvenir to take home.
We guarantee you’ll fall in love with the mouth-watering cuisine in Portugal. Portugal is well-regarded for its fine alcoholic beverages, from ginjinha (a cherry liqueur) to port wine (from the Douro region), and food is no different! Proteins are delicious and varied thanks to seafood caught fresh along the Atlantic Ocean coastline, and plentiful beef, pork and lamb is found inland and often slow cooked or roasted. And for dessert? You can’t look past the iconic pastel de nata, said to have been created by monks and nuns who had an excess of sugar and egg yolks.
No matter if you’re in a big city or a small town, there are festivals and celebrations a-plenty in Portugal. One such special one is the Burning of the Ribbons, an annual university student festival held in Coimbra – one of the oldest university cities in Europe. Students gather to celebrate the end of the academic year for one week, complete with parades, concerts and the symbolic burning of ribbons (with different colours to mark the different faculties).
If you’re interested in travelling to Portugal this year, don’t miss our brand new Avalon Waterways ‘Vida Portugal: Vineyards & Villages along the Douro’ river cruise, or a Globus or Cosmos tour through this spectacular destination.