I love going home to Portugal and diving straight into all the things I don’t get in the US. This doesn’t just mean eating all the foods I’ve been craving. In fact, a lot of it has to do with the places and experiences I’m missing when I’m not there. One of these things is the typical Portuguese quiosque.
A quiosque (pronounced key-oshk) is a small, (usually) round building often found in a square or garden. They often have chairs and small tables around for people to sit down with their food and drink.
The first ones were built in Portugal in 1869 just as one of my favorite architectural styles, Art Nouveau, was starting to take off. You could buy food and drinks at a quiosque, or flowers or newspapers or tobacco. Initially, it was a place where regular folks would go to take a quick break from their lives and jobs – it was cheaper than going to a regular café, after all. The upper classes picked up the habit of going to the quiosque and drinking hot chocolate, wine, sodas and other usual drinks of the era (could I interest you in a drink made of aniseed, caramel and water?). Around 1900, the first sorbets were sold in quiosques… that’s when things really took off! In the early 20th century, quiosques became a location for political progressives to meet and discuss politics.
The quiosque was a place for everyone – and still is today. Surprisingly little has changed in the last 100 years. You can still grab a bica (Portuguese espresso), a glass of wine, a pastry or an ice cream at most quiosques. Some quiosques still sell flowers, others sell magazines, newspapers, scratch cards and tobacco.
Next time you’re in Portugal, don’t overlook these small, often ornate, structures. There’s about 150 years of history behind them and they’re a great way to immerse yourself in Portuguese culture so you can be just like one of the locals.