Portugal History, Language and Culture

History of Portugal

Portugal has a rich and varied history and its territory has been fought over, invaded and settled ever since prehistoric times. Romans, Visigoths and the Germanic tribes followed the Celts, Phoenicians and Carthiginians before the Moors conquered the Iberian peninsula in AD 711.

For centuries afterwards the region was part of Muslim Spain until the Christian Reconquista that saw Portuguese independence declared in 1139 by King Afonso I. Along with the British, Dutch, French and Spanish, Portugal’s historic influence has due to its strong seafaring capabilities. Indeed, it was the first Western nation to establish a global empire. Its explorers led the Age of Discovery with Bartolomeu Dias reaching the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, Vasco da Gama founding a sea route to India in 1497 and Pedro Álvares Cabral discovering Brazil in 1500.

Its ascendancy wasn’t to last though. After the destruction of its capital Lisbon in the 1755 earthquake, the disastrous Battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco in 1578 saw the childless King Sebastian I killed and Portugal united with Spain. In the decades following Portugal lost significant portions of its overseas empire, principally to Dutch companies, although it fought and won the Restoration War with Spain, which ended in 1688.

In 1807 it was occupied by Napoleon and as it turned to its British allies to fight the invasion the court of Queen Maria I transferred to Brazil where it remained until 1821. A year later Brazil proclaimed its independence.

From the second half of the 19th century until the 1980s more then 2.6 million Portuguese emigrated – more than any Western European country other than Ireland – mostly for economic reasons.

Portugal’s monarchy ended after the 1910 revolution and the rest of the 20th century was defined by a series of uprising, coups and revolutions until the peaceful 1974 Carnation Revolution – so-called because barely a shot was fired and when the people took to the streets to celebrate flowers were put in the muzzles of the soldiers’ guns. To this day 25 April is a national holiday known as Freedom Day.

When Portugal handed over the territory of Macau to the China in 1999 it marked the end of Europe’s longest colonial empire.

Did you know?

• In 2001 Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalise the usage of all common drugs, although their sale and distribution remains illegal.

• Footballer Cristiano Ronald does not have any tattoos as it would prevent him from giving blood, which he does several times a year.

• The distinctive Manueline architecture of the early 16th century is characterised by tributes to the great discoveries of da Gama and Cabral.

Portugal Culture


Roman Catholics make up around 85% of the population, but only about 20% of these regularly attend mass and take the sacraments. The remaining 15% is a mixture of Agnostic, Anglican, Atheist, Jewish, Muslim and Protestant communities, together with other religions that have been brought in through immigration over the years.

Language in Portugal

European Portuguese is spoken in Portugal with different dialects throughout the country. Açoriano, Alentejano, Algarvio, Baixo-Beirão, Beirão, Estremenho and Madeirense are spoken in the central regions and south, with Alto-Minhoto, Nortenho and Transmontano in the northern parts. Barranquenho, Minderico and Mirandese are either spoken rarely or in a concentrated area like Barrancos and Miranda do Douro.

Brazilian Portuguese and languages native to Cape Verde, Ukraine, Angola, Guinea, the UK and Romania are also spoken widely due to the larger immigration of people from these particular places, along with other mostly European countries. Spanish can be understood and spoken in those areas nearer the Portuguese border.

Language phrases
  • Beer = Cerveja
  • Closed = Fechado / Fechada
  • Danger = Perigo
  • Do you speak English? = Você fala inglês?
  • Doctor = Medico
  • Eight = Oito
  • Eighty = Oitenta
  • Entrance = Entrada
  • Exit = Saída
  • Fifty = Cinquenta
  • Five = Cinco
  • Forty = Quarenta
  • Four = Quatro
  • Friday = Sexta-feira / Sexta
  • Goodbye = Adeus / Tchau
  • Hello = Olá
  • Hotel = Hotel
  • How are you? = Como está?
  • How much does it cost? = Quanto custa?
  • I'm very well = Estou bem
  • I don't understand = Não percebo
  • I feel ill = Sinto-me doente
  • Menu = Menú / Ementa
  • Monday = Segunda-feira / Segunda
  • My name is … = Chamo-me …
  • Nine = Nove
  • Ninety = Noventa
  • No = Não
  • One = Um / uma
  • One Hundred = Cem
  • One Thousand = Mil
  • Open = Aberto / Aberta
  • Please = Por favor
  • Restaurant = Restaurante
  • Saturday = Sábado
  • Seven = Sete
  • Seventy = Setenta
  • Six = Seis
  • Sixty = Sessenta
  • Sunday = Domingo
  • Ten = Dez
  • Thank you = Obrigado / Obrigada
  • Thirty = Trinta
  • Three = Três
  • Thursday = Quinta-feira / Quinta
  • Today = Hoje
  • Toilets = Casa-de-banho / WC / Toilette / Quarto de banho
  • Tomorrow = Amanhã
  • Tuesday = Terça-feira / Terça
  • Twenty = Vinte
  • Two = Dois / Duas
  • Wednesday = Quarta-feira / Quarta
  • Where is …? = Onde é …? / Onde está …?
  • Wine = Vinho
  • Yes = Sim
Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.