Due to its privileged location, in the heart of the Ribatejo’s Lezíria, a cultural landscape associated with the Tagus River valley, agriculture in Santarém has developed over the centuries, being globally known for its fertility. Thus, Santarém as an agricultural and commercial crossroad, associated with secular fairs and festivities, had an ancestral connection to food and to gastronomy.
In 1981, with the support of the Municipality of Santarém, a diverse group of cultural agents promoted the first National Festival of Gastronomy of Santarém, which sought to promote traditional regional Portuguese Gastronomy and foster a qualified touristic offer in the countryside. The best restaurants and taverns (tasquinhas) in each region flocked to Santarém, choosing traditional regional specialties from their menus, often in competitions and local and regional initiatives.
The success of Santarém's Festival was replicated, giving rise to different Festivals throughout Portugal, guaranteeing the event the epithet of “Father of Portuguese Gastronomic Festivals", maintaining it as the most representative gastronomic Portuguese event, seeking to associate the defence of tradition with the challenges of modern times.
Various types of national and international dynamics were developed, with this Festival ensuring the presence of all regions of the country over it's long decades, also from several Portuguese-speaking and European countries in a qualified and diversified gastronomic and cultural offer.
The Festival played a fundamental role in the preservation of the Portuguese Gastronomic Heritage, officially recognized as intangible cultural heritage, in the year 2000, in a ceremony at the 20th edition. This dynamic was correlated with academic and professional symposiums, with professional training and with the movement of Portuguese “enogastronomic confraternities" (Confrarias, gastronomes and enthusiasts’ associations, dedicated to promotion and studies).
Several times awarded, the National Festival of Gastronomy of Santarém is an established brand among specialists and lovers of good food, presenting diversified programs, celebrating and promoting Portuguese gastronomy as a factor of sustainable development. This event became a “sharing room" of excellence and experiences, a showcase of regional flavours.