Atlas of road types in Portugal, a guide

Partially inspired/remembered by the philosophical discussion of what “Run Every Street” really means in another thread, I had been intending to share this post at various points over the past few years and will finally write it today :slight_smile:

Growing up in the United States, I never really contemplated the differences between a road, a street, a lane, a boulevard, etc. Having done CityStrides in Portugal for a few years now, I’ve begun paying more attention to what information the road type might convey for planning my route. Many terms have fairly direct cognates in English, but others are unique. So I’ve assembled a list here with examples from my completed streets.

I think this could be a useful resource for any Strider traveling to and planning to run in a lusophone country, and would love to see if anyone wants to take a shot at doing it in another language so we can see the diversity of road terms and what they might say or indicate about the culture and terrain! After doing this, I am struck by the diversity of terms for steep roads in this extremely hilly country.

I am writing this from my own accumulated knowledge and experience, but crossreferencing with Wiktionary for clear translations when they exist. The order is somewhat arbitrary, but rather than go alphabetically I tried to keep similar terms together. Finally, I’d love if any native Portuguese speakers share their thoughts, corrections, or additions to my assembled list! Without further ado:

Rua = road, the most common type of way. Example: Rua Áurea - CityStrides

Estrada = street. Example: Estrada da Luz - CityStrides

Avenida = avenue/boulevard. Example: Avenida Vergílio Ferreira - CityStrides

Alameda = avenue/boulevard. An Iberian term defined as “A tree-lined avenue” but doesn’t always have many trees in my experience… Example: Alameda da Universidade - CityStrides

Rotunda = rotunda/roundabout. Hey, that one was easy, English stole the Latin term! Example: Rotunda Pupilos do Exército - CityStrides

Travessa = lane or way, typically a smaller and shorter road in a dense urban area. Example: Travessa da Pereira - CityStrides

Azinhaga = alley, but not quite the same as the English term. Derived from the Arabic الزنقة (az-zinaiqâ), as are so many words and place names in Portuguese, defined as “narrow path between ditches, ridges, or walls”. Fairly common in more rural areas, they are often so narrow as to exclude all but foot traffic - but not always! Example: Azinhaga da Bruxa - CityStrides

Beco = alley/court. Usually small, residential dead end. Example: Beco da Caridade - CityStrides

Impasse = alley. A dead end small street usually giving access to a building offset from the main road of the same name. Example: Impasse à Rua Alfredo Soares - CityStrides

Viela = terrace. Example: Viela da Bugalhinha - CityStrides

Pátio = terrace. Example: Patio da Baptista - CityStrides

Vila = terrace. Both pátios and vilas are sometimes gated and private, but many can be accessed and most are wide enough for cars. Example: Vila Amaral - CityStrides

Cantinho = translates to “little corner” or “nook”. Example: Cantinho do Chico Pardal - CityStrides

Largo = square. Usually a broad pedestrian area which might include part of the road passing alongside. Example: Largo das Gralhas - CityStrides

Praça = plaza. Flexibly used term, sometimes it’s used when travessa or or rua would work, and sometimes a broad pedestrian area. Also sometimes used for a residential road arriving at an apartment building (i.e., court or cul-de-sac). Example: Praça da Figueira - CityStrides

Praceta = like a plaza, but in theory smaller. Sometimes used when there are multiple small branches off a road to differentiate one another (i.e., Rua da Igreja may have 3 small residential branches named Beco da Igreja, Praça da Igreja, and Praceta da Igreja!) Example: Praceta Professor António José Saraiva - CityStrides

Alto = translates to “high”, generally a road passing through the highest part of a small area. Example: Alto dos Moinhos - CityStrides

Arco = translates to “arc” or “arch”, a road passing under a building arch in a city. Example: Arco das Portas do Mar - CityStrides

Adro = a public space alongside a church. Example: Adro de São Vicente - CityStrides

Cais = pier/quay. Example: Cais do Olival - CityStrides

Calçada = one of my original inspirations for doing this little project because “calçada” is the name for the cobbled sidewalks Portugal is famous for, but with experience I was noticing when used in a road name the way was often quite steep and hilly (& usually paved), and when planning a route including a calçada I would prepare for it to be not flat! Example: Calçada da Picheleira - CityStrides

Rampa = uncommon, basically the same as calçada, but not as mysterious as it translates to “ramp”. Example: Rampa do Mercado - CityStrides

Ladeira = see calçada/rampa. Example: Ladeira dos Quinchosos - CityStrides

Pista = path, translates to “track”. Usually a hiking or walking path, so many named pistas are excluded from CityStrides unless marked as track roads. Example: Pista Caminho da Água - CityStrides

Caminho = path, but as with azinhaga it’s a bit different. Defined as “terrestrial route mainly intended for rural traffic” these are usually gravel, dirt, or grass paths in rural, wooded, or agricultural areas. Example: Caminho das Pedreiras - CityStrides

Passeio = walking path, usually paved. Translates to “sidewalk”, many named passeios are excluded from CityStrides when they are defined in OSM as foot paths. Example: Passeio Carlos do Carmo - CityStrides

Escadas/Escadinhas = staircase. There are a lot of named staircases in Portugal, and a way might be called this even if part of it is an alley leading up to the stairs. Unfortunately most escadinhas are excluded from CityStrides. Example: Escadinhas das Olarias - CityStrides

Autoestrada = the highway. Don’t run here!

Bonus that I only saw once:
Labirinto = labyrinth, was not that confusing though. Only example I know: Labirinto Habitacional de Vale de Rãs - CityStrides


Omg. I love this post. Its such a great example of how much history and depth is behind language. The nuance between the different types is so rich, and it makes me want to visit a lusophone country!

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