In Lisbon the parliament building became the focus of Portuguese anti-austerity anger.
Ranks of police in riot gear held back a crowd that prised cobble stones from the pavement to use as missiles.
Unions claimed the day had seen one of the biggest strikes ever in the country.
The marchers had carried banners vehemently opposed to the government’s policy of cutbacks.
One read: “They’ve privatised water, and nationalised hunger.”
The main effects of the strike were on transport and public services.
One protester, a docker for 17 years, claimed that the rocketing cost of living was equivalent to cutting his pay in half.
Last year, Portugal went cap-in-hand to the EU and the IMF for a 78-billion euro bailout to avoid bankruptcy.
Many protesters say the price the country had to pay in austerity was, and still is, too high.