Location Portugal is located at the south west point of Europe and it includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean.
Language Portuguese is the native tongue of about 200 million people. The Portuguese speaking countries are scattered all over the world. Portuguese is spoken in Africa, in South America and Asia.
History and Monuments Portugal has been independent since 1143 and its borders have remained unchanged for centuries. But its the sea that has played a large part in its history.
Situated in the far west corner of Europe and with a long coastline, Portugal has always felt an urge to venture across the seas.We were the first Europeans to arrive in India, Brazil and Japan.
Portugals relationship with the sea is recorded in the Manueline style of some of Portugals most distinctive monuments. The monasteries of Batalha, Tomar, Jerónimos and Torre de Belém are some examples.
That relationship still continues today and the Parque das Nações, the site of the last World Exhibition of the 20th century, is dedicated to that very theme. There are some fine examples of contemporary Portuguese architecture to be found here.
Another distinctive feature of our architecture is the famous decorative tile known as the azulejo, which can be seen covering walls all over the country. If you travel on the underground in Lisbon, take a good look around you to see how some of our finest contemporary artists have used the tile to decorate the stations.
Fado But the sea has also left its mark on our national psyche. We sometimes allow ourselves to be overcome by a sense of melancholy that we cant explain. This is the nostalgic sadness that we call saudade and is a distinctive feature of the Portuguese. We sing about it in a Fado, just as we sing about joy when were feeling happy.
The musics fame was gradually built up in the Fado houses, restaurants where you can listen to Fado while you have a traditional meal.
Amália was the most charismatic of these early Fado singers and the first to take the music overseas. Amália left us with the classical image of the traditional Fado singer in a black dress and shawl. Contemporary Fado singers such as Mariza are getting widely known.
Lisbons Old Quarters Alfama is one of the oldest quarters in Lisbon. It has maintained its Arab structure, with its labyrinthine streets, courtyards and lanes.
The Sé (Cathedral) is wonderful, and the Feira da Ladra (flea market) also takes place here.
Next to Alfama are the quarters of Castelo and of Mouraria. Throughout the month of June, during the Santos Populares (Saints days) celebrations, these quarters are packed with music, dancing and food.
Bairro Alto dates back to the 16th century but is today one of the citys most animated quarters, with trendy bars, restaurants and shops.
Chiado is one of the citys most attractive quarters. It has long been a cultural hot spot, easily illustrated by its theatres, literary cafés (like A Brasileira ) and antique bookstores.
The Baixa (downtown), rebuilt by the Marquis of Pombal following the 1755 earthquake, is a commercial and financial district characterised by the geometrical layout of its streets. It is in the busy Baixa that we can find the typical hustle and bustle of city life and Lisbons oldest and most traditional shops and cafés.
There is another side to these old parts of town: trendy and versatile shops where you can buy vintage and new designers clothes and accessories, vinyl records, designer objects, browse the net, have an herbal tea and have your hair cut by stylists, all in the same place. Tattoos and piercing shops also coexist in these flourishing cool places.
Popular Festivities In June we celebrate Saints days in Portugal. Saints days are full of fun.The streets are decorated with balloons and arches made out of brightly-coloured paper; people dance in the citys small squares, and altars, dedicated to the saints, are put up as a way of asking for good fortune.
Lisbon celebrates the day of St. Anthony the matchmaker from 12th to 13th June. "Santo António, Santo Antoninho, Arranja-me lá um maridinho..." (St. Anthony, my dear St. Anthony. Find me a husband...) is one of the oldest and most popular chants in the city. In Avenida da Liberdade, there are the Marchas, a parade of the inhabitants from the citys different traditional quarters. There are hundreds of singers and dancers and a vast audience applauds their favourite participants.
Meanwhile if you are attracted to someone, declare yourself to them in the heat of the festivities and offer them a manjerico (a flower-pot with a basil plant) and a love poem.
St. John is celebrated in Porto, from 23rd to 24th June. It is a festival that is lived to the full in the streets, where anything is permitted. People carry a leek with them, which they use to hit their neighbours over the head, all in a healthy spirit of fun. There is also dancing, while the highlight of the night is the firework display over the River Douro.
And when youve worked up an appetite choose something to eat from the traditional menu for these festivities: Caldo Verde, Sardinha Assada, bread and red wine or Sangria. Delicious!
Gastronomy With a vast coastline, seafood plays a major part in Portuguese cuisine and the quality of our seafood and freshly caught grilled fish is beyond compare. Our traditional cuisine includes the famous bacalhau, dried and salted cod (it is said that we can cook it in 365 different ways, as many as the days of the year). Our desserts, made according to the ancient recipes of monks and nuns are delicious. In Lisbon theres an old café known for the Pasteis de Belém delicious pastries filled with custard and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Having only one is never enough. For those who have a sweet tooth this is a delicacy not to be missed. Our wines are of exceptional quality too. Our Port and Madeira wines are appreciated worldwide.
North of Portugal It was in the north that Portugal came into being as a country, which is why the region has such a rich and fascinating heritage. Trás-os-Montes region is located in the far east part of Portugal and its full of hidden natural and historic treasures.
Miranda do Douro is a land packed with individuality. The Celtic bagpipes, the Pauliteiro stick dancers and "Mirandês, a dialect unique to this region of Portugal, are all part of very old traditions
Guimarães is a very special town. UNESCO declared it World Heritage. It was in its medieval castle that Afonso Henriques, would become the first king of Portugal in 1143.
Minho is famous for Parque Natural Peneda Gerês. Unfortunately, a big part of our forest is devastated every summer by fires.
Another World Heritage site, PORTO is an historic city with rare architectural value. The medieval town tumbles down to the river Douro, with narrow, twisting streets leading into Renaissance squares, and Baroque monuments.
BEIRAS Built from granite and schist, our villages have witnessed over 900 years of Portuguese history. In the past these villages, played a crucial role in protecting the surrounding lands. One such example is the village of Almeida, whose formidable fortress capitulated to the French in the 19th century after heroically resisting for 17 days. Piodão is beautiful with its amphitheatre-like layout.
Belmonte was the birthplace of the navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral, who discovered Brazil in 1500. A significant Jewish community settled in Belmonte, mainly in the fifteenth century, when Jews fleeing persecution in Castile took refuge here. Symbols of their professions, such as the tailors scissors, can still be seen engraved on the doorposts.
Buçaco Buçaco Forest is a magical place - a 16th century monastic retreat isolated from the rest of the world. The Serra do Buçaco is a botanical garden, containing around 700 native and exotic species of plants. It is protected by a 17th century papal decree that threatens to ex- communicate anyone who damages it.
Centre of Portugal Coimbra With its university students, black capes, its loves stories and its fado, Coimbra is also a modern, cosmopolitan place. There are many good restaurants offering mouth- watering regional delicacies, in addition to bars and cafés with large esplanades, bookstores, galleries and nightclubs.
Óbidos This medieval walled town is stunning, full of well- preserved white houses with Manueline pórticos and flower-laden window boxes; sinuous streets with romantic recesses; arcades; small squares and churches. Numerous bars offer you a taste of ginjinha, a traditional liqueur.
Sintra which is in the Lisbon region, is definitely a romantic must-see, not only for its historical buildings but also for its exuberant nature.
South of Portugal Golden plains that disappear out of sight combine with the sun and the heat to impose their own slow, steady rhythm. This is the Alentejo.
St. Jorge cheese. Very spicy! Peters Café Sport is quite simply the most famous bar in the North Atlantic, having first opened its doors on the island of Faial over eighty years ago to seafarers from all over the world.
Madeira Madeiras archipelago is another important touristic destination.
In Madeira, springtime is honoured with the Flower Festival, held every year after Easter.
The Carnival festival in Madeira is one of the regions liveliest festivals. New years Eve in Madeira is very famous.
Nightlife In Portugal, we love to live, play and party in the outdoors. Portuguese nightlife starts late at around 11.00 p.m. and it may not finish until late the next morning. Bairro Alto The best nights out in Lisbon start in the Bairro Alto. Just as soon as the sun sets, these narrow streets begin filling with entertainment seekers. Often, and particularly on friday and saturday nights, the young clientele gather by the doors of bars, spilling out into the streets, listening to music, talking and laughing.
Docas Where there were once warehouses, now there are some of the best bars and restaurants in Lisbon. And certainly among the most popular. Parque das Nações Discover the new side to Lisbon nightlife that emerged in the East. Parque das Nações which was the 1998 World Exposition now includes entire rows of bars and discos well worth a visit.
Meals As a rule the Portuguese have three meals a day. Between 7.30 and 10 am they have a light breakfast consisting of a drink- white or black coffee or fruit juice- and toast or a sandwich often in their local café. The main meals are lunch, between 12.00 and 2.30 pm which is often eaten at a restaurant near work, and dinner between 7.30 and 10.30 pm.
Most people eat a full meal including soup, a main dish and dessert or fruit. They may also have a snack consisting of a drink and a cake between these two meals, around 5.pm Eating out is common practice in Portugal. Having lunch or dinner out, especially at the weekend is always a good excuse for meeting friends or going for a drive
Likes and Dislikes Its this preference for the outdoor life that makes us so fond of sporting activities: surfing, windsurfing, bodyboarding are among our favourite water sports.
We are passionate about football. The euro 2004, held in Portugal, was really important to us. It made us really proud of our country.
We also love driving. Most people take their cars to work creating major traffic jams in the rush hours. We are dangerous drivers. Portugal has a very high percentage of car accidents.
The coastline has many beautiful sandy beaches and we use them a lot. Sitting in a esplanada enjoying petiscos (snacks such as chouriço, snails, tremoços, clams and a cold beer ).
Portugal is one of the countries with the highest number of mobile phone users. There are more phones than people in Portugal. We tend to postpone things we have to do.
Complaining about everything: work, the public transport system, waiting. Were never happy. We dont usually meet our deadlines/timetables. We are big spenders (more than we can afford sometimes). We love shopping. We are quite loud and engage lively in discussions and arguments. We are quite hospitable and helpful towards tourists. We are always willing to try communicating in their native tongue too.