Whether you're planning a trip there or just want to know more about the country, here are 56 interesting Portugal facts covering culture, economy, history, and more.
56 Portugal facts
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This post is part of a series of fun facts posts I'm doing for every country I have articles about here on the blog. Given their nature, these posts are research-based and even though a lot of time has gone into them, it's still possible a mistake has snuck in. If you see something that looks incorrect, please let me know at sofie [at] wonderfulwanderings.com and I'll look into it. Thanks!
1. Porto is the second largest city of Portugal and the country is named after it.
2. Portugal has a population of around 10.29 million. If you were to divide the area of the country into square miles, you’d find around 111 people on average in each division.
3. Most of the country’s population, around 97%, is Roman Catholic.
4. Portugal holds the title for being the oldest European nation-state. It has had the same borders since the year 1139.
5. Portugal is the first country that made the inclusion of fingerprints on one’s identity card compulsory.
6. The Portuguese flag was designed by national artists. The colors represent significant messages; Green is for hope in the future and Red demonstrates the bloodshed during battles. The shield, however, represents the nation’s victories in battles with the Moors.
7. In Europe, Portugal is one of the hottest countries, with some parts having almost 300 sunny days a year.
8. Despite what you may believe, Portuguese is the official language of not only Portugal but also Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea.
9. Portuguese holds the 6th rank in the list of most spoken languages in the world.
10. The capital city of Portugal, Lisbon, is approximately 4 centuries older than Rome and is also known to be the second oldest European capital followed by Athens.
11. The Portuguese Empire is famous as the first global empire for colonizing the eastern half of the New World, including Brazil, Africa, and Asia.
12. While slavery is a prominent part of Portuguese history, Portugal is also known to be the first colonial country to abolish slavery, back in 1819.
13. Portuguese people are well known for their qualities of exploration. They helped in discovering parts of America, Africa, and Asia.
14. Vasco da Gama, a well-known Portuguese explorer, is considered to be the first European to travel to India by sea.
15. Speaking of Vasco da Gama, he has a bridge named after him in Lisbon which just happens to be the longest bridge in the whole of Europe for having a total length of around 17.2 kilometers.
16. Portugal has one of the oldest universities in the entire of Europe, named as the University of Coimbra.
17. Another one of those Portugal trivia is that Portugal is one of the founding members of NATO.
18. Portugal is also known to be a founding member of Eurozone.
19. A model of a hot air balloon was first invented in Portugal by Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão, and it was tested on 8th August 1709.
20. The largest cork oak tree forest is located in Portugal. The country has a law for the protection of the trees and exports its famous corks to Germany, the U.K, and the U.S.
21. The Ocean Revival Underwater Park, located in Algarve, is the largest man-made reef in Europe. The base of this structure is made of four Navy ships that can be explored by divers for free.
22. Portugal is known for some of the most efficient ATM systems in the world. From donating to charities to buying concert tickets, a lot is done via ATMs.
23. A fact fit for the Christmas time is that Porto broke the record for hosting the largest Santa Claus parade back in 2008, in which over 14,000 people dressed as Santa showed up to raise money for charity.
24. Portugal has 15 UNESCO world heritage sites at the time of writing.
25. Cod fish is very well known in Portuguese cuisine, with over a thousand recipes floating around the country for its preparation. It is so common that it is considered to be their national dish.
26. The Portuguese were the first ones to invent tempura, which was then introduced by Portuguese merchants to the Japanese.
27. The globally famous and beloved Piri Piri sauce is said to have roots in Portugal and Mozambique.
28. People living in Porto are nicknamed “Tripeiros” or “Tripe Eaters” due to the fact that they helped their national fleet by supplying them with meat during the 15th Century, leaving behind only tripe for the people themselves. This act became a source of pride later when the voyage gained victory over Ceuta in North Africa.
29. Wine is considered to be the national drink of Portugal and it is also one of their most famous exports.
30. A rather fun fact related to food is that Portugal holds the honor of having made the largest omelet in the world, which was prepared by 55 people over six hours, using 145,000 eggs. It weighed around 6,466 kg.
31. Football is the Portuguese’s favorite sport among all. Their strongly supported football club, S.L. Benfica, was mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006 for having over 160,389 paid up members.
32. Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most famous football icons today, is Portuguese. He was born in Santo António in 1985. The country has a small museum in Madeira that honors the infamous Ronaldo.
33. Portugal has the oldest bookstore in the world, Livraria Bertrand, in Lisbon. It was built in 1732 and is still operational.
34. Livraria Lello is another famous bookstore in Portugal. This is famous for its amazing interior that is based on the two popular movements of architecture: the Art Nouveau and Neo Gothic styles. Another, arguably more interesting, fact about this bookstore is that J.K Rowling used to visit this store frequently and is rumored to be inspired by its architecture for her Harry Potter series.
35. Ian Fleming was inspired for his book, Casino Royale, by a place called Estoril Casino in Cascais, Portugal.
36. Portugal and England are famous as old friends. They had a treaty signed in 1373 for “perpetual friendships”, and the bond between the two developed countries has strengthened over the years.
37. The famous Portuguese pirate, Bartholomew, is well-known for inventing the first Pirate Code.
38. The Portuguese are world leaders in using renewable energy and generated 100% of their energy needs through hydro, wind, and solar power in March 2018.
39. Portugal is the sixth largest producer of lithium in the world and the largest in Europe. Lithium is a metal used in electric batteries and its demand because of its use in electric cars is increasing at a rapid pace.
40. Fado is the traditional Portugal music inspired by mournful tunes and lyrics. The music is mostly concerned with a feeling of loss, and yet it has some hopeful thoughts shining through.
41. Due to the wide use of tiles for wall and floor designs in Portugal, it is known by many as the ‘country of tiles’. They even have a National Tile Museum in Lisbon where you can learn about the history of tiles and their evolution over time in the country.
42. It has been seen that the Portuguese women have a longer lifespan than men. They are known to live almost 6 years longer than men.
43. Another interesting fun fact about Portugal for adventure seekers is that they have an amazing surfing facility at Praia do Norte in Nazaré. This coastline is known to have the biggest surf wave of 23.77 meters, which is 78 feet above the ground.
44. The Late-Gothic Manueline style of architecture that is prevalent in many historic Portuguese structures was named after King Manuel. Characterized by highly lavish ornamentation, this style of design stemmed from the wealth accumulated by mostly sea-trade, which is also why the ornamentation usually resembled coral, seaweed, and algae.
45. The most dreadful earthquake in the country occurred in the capital city of Lisbon. It had a magnitude of 9.0 and resulted in tsunamis and fires around the city.
46. On a much lighter note: Portugal has made it illegal to urinate in the ocean. It's just one of those weird laws in Portugal.
47. Portugal was the 6th country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage back in 2010.
48. ‘Capela de Ossos’ is a small chapel made out of human bones. These bones belonged to 1,245 monks and were displaced while the chapel was being built. Portugal has a few other ‘bone chapels’ as well and the use of displaced bones in such a fashion was quite common.
49. If you are a fan of McDonald’s, you’ll find what is probably the world’s most beautiful McDonald’s in Porto. The building it occupies was used by Cafe Imperial previously and is still a very fine example of the Art Deco style of architecture. Having a Big Mac in a McDonald’s with stained glass windows and intricately designed friezes is an experience you won’t get anywhere else.
50. Prepaid phone cards are said to have been first introduced in Portugal, although the claim is made by Italy too.
51. In Madeira, you can experience the famous Toboggan Ride that was historically used as the primary source of transport in the region. Riding in a wicker toboggan is described as exhilarating by many tourists.
52. Cobblers seem to do very well in Portugal, thanks to the vast collection of cobblestone streets the country has. These streets are famous for destroying shoes, especially women’s heels.
53. Museu dos Fosforos has the largest collection of matchbox designs on display in the world. The collection displays more than 43,000 matchboxes. It is located in the courtyard of Convento de São Francisco and showcases the world’s cultural history in a fascinating manner.
54. The Santissima Trindade Church is a very non-traditional church on the outskirts of Lisbon. It is shaped like a rocket and is white in color. At first glance, you would be forgiven to mistake it as anything but a church. It took 13 years to build this unusual church, in part due to disagreements between the architect and the priest.
55. Northeast Portugal also has a ‘co-official’ language, Mirandese, which is spoken in parts of Vimioso, Mogadouro and Miranda do Douro.
56. And finally, if after reading these cool facts you’re thinking of settling down in Portugal and starting a family, there is a list of baby names banned by the government you need to be aware of. Some of them are perfectly normal like Emily, Tom, and William, so it’s advised you go through the list at least once.
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