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Interesting Facts about Portugal That are Sure to Amaze You

Interesting Facts about Portugal
Portugal is a European country, located on the Iberian Peninsula. It is surrounded by the Atlantic ocean in the west and south and by Spain in the north and east. It is one of the most serene and globalized countries in the world.
Ashmeet Bagga
Last Updated: Dec 09, 2017
Most Visited Country!
Portugal is one of the 20 most visited countries in the world, with 13 million tourists visiting every year.
Portugal, officially known as the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwest Europe. It is the westernmost country of mainland Europe and holds sovereignty over Azores and Madeira, which are autonomous areas of Portugal. Apart from Cristiano Ronaldo being the captain of Portugal football team, what is so interesting and appealing about Portugal? Let's find it in the following sections of this Vacayholics article.
Fast Facts
Capital: Lisbon
Largest City: Lisbon
Area: 35,603 sq mi
Population: 10,427,301
Official languages: Portuguese and Mirandese
✦The name Portugal first appeared in 868, during the Reconquista over the Muslims. A nation was settled around the city of Porto, from which Portugal is derived.

✦The kingdom of Portugal survived for almost 800 years, from 1139 to 1910. Since the year 1910, the country has been a republic. The modern-day republic was established in the year 1976.

✦An Anglo-Portuguese alliance was signed in 1373, which is still the oldest alliance in the world and is still implemented.

✦Portuguese buccaneer Bartolomeu Português had discovered the first pirate code in the 17th century.

✦Portugal was one of the earliest colonizing countries of Europe. It started with Ceuta (1410), Madeira (1419), the Azores (1439), and finally established trading posts on the coast of Africa in the late 15th century. In the year 1498, Vasco da Gama arrived in India. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral while traveling to India came across Brazil and took it for Portugal.

✦The Portuguese emperor ruled over Brazil, Goa, Daman, Diu, Kochi, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, Mozambique, Angola, Macau, and Malacca. In the year 1975, most of the colonies in Africa were released and in 1999, Macau which was the largest Portuguese colony was given to China.

✦The history of the Portuguese national flag can be traced to 1095. It has evolved from a shield used by Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal back then, to the rectangular bicolor that it is today.

✦In the year 1709, Jesuit priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão manufactured one of the world's first airships, and he asked for a huge favor from king John V. Portugal was on the verge of changing history, had it not been for the interrogation that forbade Bartolomeu to go ahead with his research. In fact, he was persecuted because of it.

✦On November 1, 1755 (All Saints' Day), Lisbon was struck with one of the most powerful earthquakes in the European history. The earthquake's estimated magnitude was 9 on the Richter scale. The whole country was destroyed by the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent fires. Up to 85% of the buildings were demolished which included famous palaces and churches. No less than 90,000 inhabitants died. Additionally, the 70,000-volume royal library with detailed accounts of navigators like Vasco da Gama were destroyed.

✦In the year 1761, Portugal was the first colonial power to get rid of slavery, it was half a century before Spain, France, USA, or Britain.

✦On 12th March 1488, explorer Bartolomeu Dias discovered a mass of land and named it Cabo das Tormentas which means Cape of Storms. It was John II of Portugal who renamed it to Cape of Good Hope because of the great optimism it generated by opening a sea route to India and the East.
✦Portugal occupies the western part of the Iberian Peninsula and is smaller than Indiana. Portugal is crossed by three huge rivers that start in Spain, flow into the Atlantic and part the country into three areas.

✦The Minho river, which is a part of the northern boundary, cuts through the mountainous area which stretches south to the vicinity of the Douro river.

✦To the southern section of Douro, the mountains slope to the plains around the Tejo river. The remaining portion is the southern part of Altenjo.

✦Azores extends over 340 mi in the Atlantic and has nine islands with a total area of 902 sq mi. Madeira which has two inhabited islands Madeira and Porto Santo, also consists of two groups of uninhabited islands that lie in the Atlantic around 535 mi southwest of Lisbon.
People, Language, and Culture
Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries and is spoken by around 230 million people around the world. Galician, a language spoken in northwestern Spain is related to the Portuguese language. Galician is regarded as a dialect of Portuguese (and vice versa).
✦ 3% people in France and 12% people in Luxembourg are of Portuguese descent. Paris is regarded as the second largest city because it has the largest Portuguese community.

✦ Every nine out of ten Portuguese people are Roman Catholic, thus it is one of the most socially conservative countries in the world.

✦ Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, Portugal, Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique, and Sao Tome. It is also spoken in Goa (India), East Timor, and Macau.

✦ Portuguese appreciate and take part in many cultural activities such as art, drama, music, and dance. Many cities have museums and many ancient monuments and buildings.

✦ In smaller towns and villages, cultural activity revolves around local folklore which consists of musical groups performing traditional songs and dance.

✦ Cafe culture is also considered important and people can be seen sitting in coffee shops and slurping delicious coffee.

✦ Portugal has a lot to offer when it comes to architecture, it has several castles, and old buildings' ruins from the period of Celtic and Roman occupation.

✦ The University of Coimbra was created in 1290 and is one of the oldest universities in the European continent.

✦ Folk dances of Portugal include Circle dance and Fandango (of the Ribatejo region).

✦ Director Manoel de Oliveira was the oldest director who directed films even at the age of 103.

✦ Every region of Portugal has its own customary dishes which include meat, sea food, dried and salted cod, fresh fish and delicious Cozido à Portuguesa.

✦ Since the Roman empire era, it is a country of wine lovers and wine-makers. Romans used to associate Portugal with their god of wine Bacchus.

✦ Vinho do Douro, Vinho do Alentejo, Vinho do Dão, Vinho Verde, Rosé and the sweet Port wine (Vinho do Porto, literally Porto's wine), Madeira wine, Moscatel de Setúbal, and Moscatel de Favaios are some of the best Portuguese wines in the world.

✦ Beer is also an all-time favorite among the Portuguese. Sagres and Super Bock are some prominent beer brands in Portugal.
portugese guitar
✦ Fatalism is an essential characteristic of the Portuguese culture. Fado derived from Arabic Inshallah means 'hopefully'. Fado is also a music genre which depicts a feeling of melancholy and resignation. It has also been recognized by UNESCO on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2011.

✦ Almost half of the world's cork is produced in Portugal. The Festa do Colete Encanado which happens in Vila Franca de Xira has running of the bulls. But they don't kill bulls at the end of the show.
Festivals and Sports

✦ In the month of June, festivities dedicated to three saints, also known as Santos Populares are celebrated all over Portugal. The three saints are Saint Anthony, Saint Peter, and Saint John.

✦ The most popular is Saint John, he is celebrated on the night of 23rd-24th June in Porto and Braga. Plastic hammer is hit on the head of people for luck.

✦ Football is the most popular game of Portugal. Other than that swimming, basketball, athletics, gymnasium, and volleyball are some sports played in the country.

✦ S.L. Benfica which is Lisbon-based is the most supported football club.

✦ In October 2011, Garrett McNamara surfed the biggest wave at Praia do Norte in Central Portugal.

✦ Portugal has a coastline which spreads 497 miles and is known to have 364 days of surf. This makes it one of the most famous destinations for surfing.
Other Facts
✦ At 10.5 miles long, the Vasco da Gama bridge in Lisbon, Portugal is the longest bridge in Europe.

✦ One of the oldest universities of Portugal, which is still functioning, is the University of Coimbra. It was founded in the year 1290 in Lisbon and later shifted to Coimbra in 1537. Also, it is one of the largest, higher education and research centers.

✦ Modern Portuguese legal system has been highly influenced by the German law.
bom jesus
Bom Jesus do Monte
✦ Bom Jesus do Monte is a Portuguese sanctuary in Tenões. Its name means Good Jesus of the Mount. It is a pilgrimage site with a Baroque stairway which is 116 meters high from the ground. It is one of the important tourist attractions of Braga.
Convent of Christ
✦ Convent of Christ, which is located in Tomar is a combination of a castle and a convent used by the Knights. It is one of the artistic monuments and has been retained in the list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO since 1983.

✦ Life imprisonment has been banned in Portugal.
sintra palace
Sintra National palace
✦ Present-day historic house museum, Sintra National palace is situated in Sintra; again a UNESCO world heritage site and a major tourist attraction.

✦ In the year 2006, Portugal set up the world's first commercial wave farm to create electricity.
Jerónimos Monastery
✦ The Jerónimos Monastery is situated near the shore of the parish of Belém in the Lisbon municipality of Portugal. It is one of the most spectacular examples of Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. In 1983, it was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

✦ Portugal is named after its second largest city Porto. Its city center is a UNESCO world heritage site and the city is also famous for Port Wine.
torre de belem
Torre de Belém

✦ Torre de Belém, also known as Belém Tower was constructed in the start of the 16th century. Although it is an important example of Manueline style, it also has hints of other architectural styles. It is also included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Portugal is a fascinating country with a rich history lurking around in each and every corner of the country. If you are planning to visit the country soon or if you have Portuguese roots and want to learn more about your ancestors, then the aforementioned facts will surely help you.