Culture… it defines a place and people. And, for a relatively small nation Portugal’s culture is remarkable. To the visitor these, nine centuries of Portuguese culture are manifest in a thousand different ways that make Portugal unique. There are the white and black mosaic sidewalks that are only found in lands where Portuguese is spoken. There are building styles from the exuberance of the Manueline to the bombastic of Macado de Castro baroque. There are walled towns in the vast plains of the Alentejo, and granite towns in the foothills of the north that could be mistaken for no where but in Portugal. There are a hundred poets, one for each generation, and verses of love, loss, and shipwreck that still define the Portuguese. The are proud horse of the Alter breed, and the crafty Lusitano that carried the Portuguese into war and still carries them into bullfights. There is way of looking at the future, the present and the past all in the glance.
The Moors were influential in Portugal during the Middle Ages. Their influence is seen in the tiles or azulejosthat decorate streets, facades and buildings everywhere. Produced nationwide by the end of the 15th century, these tiles were the most common feature of Portuguese decoration by the 18th century. Modern versions now adorn the subway stations of Lisbon. The art form even has its own museum, the National Tile Museum, in the Madre de Deus Church Convent in Lisbon.
- In the convent of Santo António dos Olivais in Coimbra (Centro Region), you'll find one of the best collections of tiles.
- Some hotels, manor houses and Pousadas, where guests can stay, contain excellent tile examples, such as the Solar da Rede De Mesão Frio or the Santa Marinha in Guimarães (Porto e Norte region); the Convento de São Paulo (Alentejo region) dos Loios in Arraiolos features excellent 16th century tiles.
- In the city of Funchal, Madeira, visit the Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas for an extensive tile collection.
- Visit the National Palace in Sintra, with its collection of Portuguese tiles and furniture, or the Guimarães Castle in the North, where the first king of Portugal was born.
- Discover Portuguese mural painting and Alentejo culture on the newFresco Route of southern Portugal. The region‚s churches display richly colored murals which were a means of communication between parishes and brotherhoods from the 15th through 19th centuries.
See the World in Country
There are more than eight centuries of history to examine in Portugal's architecture. And, at the time of its birth, the nation had a few thousand years of Roman, Greek, Celt, Moorish and Visigoth influences on its building styles as well.
Within Portugal, the traveler will find plenty of examples of unique architecture. Indeed, the country's architectural influence is seen throughout the world, from Goa in India, to Cape Verde to Brazil.