It’s complicated enough getting to grips with learning the Portuguese language, which is certainly not one of southern Europe’s easiest to pick up, so to help you on that sense here it is Our property dictionary and architectural guide for buying real estate in Portugal.
When buying your home from a reputable real estate agent you will certainly have the advantage of a translator because most will speak English, but it can be useful to understand some of the commonly used words associated with property in Portugal.
“Casa” can mean anything that is a house, villas, apartments, etc.
“Moradia” and “Moradia germinada ou em banda” are two more specific terms to describe a property.
Villas/Detached homes are called a ‘moradia’ and will usually sit within their own plot and boundary, often with a gated entrance. When a house is attached to another dwelling it is semi-detached and referred to as a ‘moradia geminada’.
“Apartamento com condomínio” (Portuguese don’t use the word “condos”)
There are many apartments in Portugal that offer shared amenities – perhaps a wellness spa, swimming pool, sports courts, especially in popular coastline locations along the Algarve. These are known as ‘condos’ or ‘condominios’. These are usually more expensive because of the service charge and level of security with gated residences.
Traditional homes and even farmhouses usually in the more rural parts of Portugal are called ‘quintas’ or ‘casa de campo’.
When buying a plot of the land, which is something overseas buyers do like to do in order to build a new residence from scratch, the word ‘terreno’ will be used to describe ‘land’.
A word of advice when considering acquiring a piece of land – always contact the Camara Municipal to make sure that the land has been formally registered for habitation and has no restricted use, such as purely for agricultural purposes.
Portugal’s take on ‘bricks and mortar’ actually dates back centuries even to before the country was founded in the 12 th Century. It has an architectural style that has evolved and been influenced by all the different nationalities who have lived in the Portuguese Empire.
Therefore, it’s unsurprising that the country showcases a variety of buildings from castles, fortresses, ports, town squares, ornate houses, rustic farmhouses and many more.
Lime has always been easy to source across the country and continues to be a favourite choice when creating stunning white building facades. Traditionally, local stone, clay and wood have always featured in Portuguese architecture, and this continues to be true in current building.
Coming from the Moorish style, Portugal is renowned for its decorative and practical tiles called, ‘azulejos’. Distinctive features are their thinness than other tiles, with glittering, impermeable designs in ceramic, which mean they are found outside not only for decoration.
It was the Dutch who introduced the classic blue and white colour palette, which is widely seen throughout the country.
Walk along a Portuguese pavement and it’s likely you will be walking on cobblestone, or ‘calçadas’. Made up of small irregular stone blocks, and sometimes used indoor with epoxy varnish, the colours are traditionally laid out in a mosaic pattern using tones of black and white, and sometimes brown. The abundance of raw materials that Portugal has, makes this way of hard-landscaping a natural choice.
The Moorish community introduced many architectural features that remain today. Among these are ‘cantarias’ very visible in Portugal. Historically, local stones were used by craftsmen across the regions to create ornate stone frames. Particularly in the Algarve region and in Andalusia, residential, commercial and small farm architecture continue to rely on cantarias.
Traditionally seen in the Algarve, the ‘platibanda’ is an upper decorative edging to give the façade of a building character and grandeur with the roof positioned behind it. The more rich in colour and lavish in detail the parapet, the more it symbolised the wealth and power of the home owner.
When you wander around a typical street in the Algarve, you can’t miss the striking chimneys. Similar to parapets, the bigger and more decorative the chimney, the more it denoted the owner’s importance, power and wealth within the community.
In Portuguese a terrace is named ‘açoteias’ (more typically is terraço on lower levels açoteias is normally a higher floor). Back in the days of the Moors, they were built to provide a good vantage point for looking out to sea and watching sailing vessels arrive. Nowadays, they tend to be a relaxing place used for hot summer evenings and social gatherings, but are still used by residents for practical purposes to dry fish and fruit outside.