Portugal is an ancient nation and for more than 1000 years it has maintained its specific culture through a self-governing venture while being influenced by the various civilizations that crossed the Mediterranean world. Thus, Portugal has always absorbed habits and traditions from such early civilizations and from the regions that it discovered and conquered throughout the world during the Portuguese empire.

An explicit instance of this absorption and adaptation of previous culture can be seen in the countless festivals to pagan local and Roman deities which were transformed into festivals to Christian saints over 2,000 years, due the religious passion of the Middle Ages and the inquisition.

Portuguese music is represented by a wide variety of forms. The most renowned Portuguese music is Fado, a form of melancholic music. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese guitar and the Portuguese word saudade. Although without an accurate equivalent in English, saudade is described as a common human feeling; it occurs when one is in love with someone or something yet apart from him, her, or it. The style conveys a distinct mixture of sadness, pain, nostalgia, happiness and love. Fado probably originates from a mixture of African slave rhythms with traditional music of Portuguese sailors and Arabic influence. There are two varieties of Fado; from Lisbon and Coimbra. Lisbon Fado is often performed by women, while Coimbra's is often performed by men; both are nowadays seen as ethnic music appreciated abroad. Some of its most internationally notable performers are Amália Rodrigues, Mariza, Ana Moura, Mísia, Dulce Pontes, Madredeus, and Cristina Branco.

Currently, mainstream music in Portugal is in a rural and urban duality where the Portuguese pop-rock and hip hop tuga (a mixture of hip-hop, African music and Reggae, primarily performed by African-Portuguese) are popular with the younger and urban population, while pimba (a simple and cheery variety of folk music) and folklore are more popular in the rural areas.
Portuguese literature is one of the earliest western literatures, and it developed as the 13th century arrived, through texts and songs. And until 1350, the Portuguese-Galician troubadours spread their literary influence to most of the Iberian Peninsula.

The adventurer and poet Luís de Camões (c.1524 - 1580) wrote the epic Os Lusíadas, a work that he developed in his journeys in Africa and Asia. However, he was shipwrecked in Vietnam, and he saved himself and his work by floating on a board. Modern Portuguese poetry, since the 19th century, is essentially rooted in a handful of relevant poets, ranging from neo-classicism to contemporary styles. One such famous poet is Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935), who wrote poetry in the voice, style and manner of many fictional poets under a large number of heteronyms. Modern literature also became internationally known, mostly through the works of Almeida Garrett, Alexandre Herculano, Camilo Castelo Branco, Eça de Queirós, Ferreira de Castro, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, Herberto Helder, António Lobo Antunes and the 1998 Nobel Prize for literature winner, José Saramago.

Portuguese traditional architecture is distinct precisely due to the variety of influences it features, with several examples throughout the world, some of which are classified as world heritage sites. Modern Portugal has one of the best architecture schools in the world, known as "Escola do Porto" or School of Porto, renowned by the names of Souto Moura and Alvaro Siza.