Portugal is widely known for gastronomy, colonial architecture, music, and bullfighting. There are some really interesting and little-known facts of Portugal that draw visitors to this fascinating country.
This tiny European country is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. This makes it the perfect destination for a holiday. Exploring its many sights and attractions, there’s must be at least one interesting and fun fact about Portugal that will impress you!
Quick Statistics And Facts About Portugal
- Capital Of Portugal: Lisbon
- Population: 10.3 Million
- Land Size: 92,226 sq km (35,608 sq mi)
- Official Language: Portuguese
- Animal of Portugal: Rooster of Barcelos
- Famous Food In Portugal: Pastel de Nata
- Where Is Portugal: South Europe
- What Is Portugal Famous For: Port Wine, Explorers, Beautiful Coast, and more…
Historical Facts Of Portugal
Portugal Is One Of The Oldest Nation-states In Europe
Portugal is one of the oldest independent nations in Europe, having been in existence since 1143.
It’s one of the oldest nations in the world. The recognized statehood dates back to the 12th century previously known as the Kingdom of Portugal.
Portugal Founded The First Global Empire
The U.S. may be the world’s biggest economy, but it’s nowhere near the oldest – or first to start an empire. The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history, and also the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires.
It existed for almost six centuries from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to the handover of Macau to China in 1999.
The Death Penalty For A Crime Was Abolished
Portugal got rid of the death penalty for good in 1867. The last time anyone was executed for a crime was in 1846.
In that year, a soldier named Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, who was better known as Tiradentes (“the tooth-puller”), was hanged for leading a conspiracy against the Portuguese authorities in Brazil.
He is now considered one of the greatest national heroes of Brazil.
Lisbon Was Hit By One Of The Worst Earthquake
When Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake on the morning of November 1st, 1755, few people could have imagined the devastation that would soon follow.
Estimated at around a 9.0 or 9.1 on the Richter scale, it was one of the worst natural disasters in human history, with a 10-meter-high tsunami and massive firestorms.
Thousands were killed and much of the architecture was damaged or destroyed, leaving large parts of Portugal’s capital in ruins. This is one of the historic events Lisbon is known for.
Fun Facts About Portugal For Travelers
The Tradition Of Fado Is A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
Fado, a traditional Portuguese music style, was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2011.
It is characterized by melancholy lyrics and an intense vocal performance, typically accompanied by a single guitar or a small band of musicians. Fado has been around for centuries and is deeply rooted in Portugal’s culture.
The music is often sung in a melancholic yet passionate style, and it speaks of the joys and sorrows of life. It’s an important part of Portuguese identity, and one that shouldn’t be missed during any trip to Portugal!
Portugal Has Some Impressive Castles
Portugal boasts some truly stunning castles that are worth exploring. Castles like the Castle of Guimaraes, the Castle of Almourol, and the Castle of Montemor-o-Velho were all built in medieval times as defensive structures against invading forces.
Today, they are popular tourist attractions and provide a fascinating glimpse into Portugal’s past. Visitors can explore towers, ramparts, and walls that have survived centuries of war and conflict.
The country is also home to many beautiful Portuguese palaces that are not just architecturally pleasing, but also have their fair share of unique stories.
Portugal Is A Great Place For Surfing
It may be better known as a landlocked country in the center of Europe, but Portugal is also home to some fantastic beaches. The Algarve region in particular has become popular with surfers thanks to its perfect waves.
The beaches are also great for swimming, sunbathing, and general relaxation.
Lisbon And Porto Are The Two Most Popular Cities
Both cities offer a wealth of cultural attractions, from stunning architecture to vibrant nightlife. They are also home to various UNESCO Heritage Sites.
While in Lisbon, you can explore the narrow cobbled streets of the old town (the Alfama district), take a ride on the iconic trams, or visit one of its many museums and galleries. Porto is also well worth a visit, with its scenic riverfront lined with colorful buildings and cafés.
It’s no wonder why these two cities are considered some of the most beautiful in Europe!
One Of The Longest And Oldest Rail Bridges
The Vasco de Gama Bridge is perhaps most famous for being really, really long. At 12345 meters, it’s the world’s longest bridge with a rail line.
The bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Portugal. It also happens to be one of the oldest rail bridges worldwide, opening in 1846 as the first link in Portugal’s national railway system.
The Highest Mountain In Portugal Is Mount Pico
Mount Pico is the highest mountain in Portugal, and the second-highest in the Iberian Peninsula (after the Peak of Pedra da Gávea). It’s also one of the most visited places in Portugal, with an elevation of 2,351 meters (7,718 ft).
The mountain is sacred, and the national monument of Pico do Aiguamar, the highest peak in continental Portugal, is located there.
Pico is a popular hiking spot, as well as a site for various sports, like paragliding, which is a very popular activity among tourists. Mount Pico is a key natural landmark in Portugal.
The Azores Are An Autonomous Region Of Portugal
The Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal located in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. The nine islands that make up the archipelago are blessed with breathtaking landscapes and incredible wildlife, making them a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
Although they’re not as well known as mainland Portugal, the Azores are a unique and beautiful part of the country that should not be missed!
Portugal Is Home To Europe’s Oldest Bookstore
The Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon is Europe’s oldest bookstore, established in 1732. The store has been in continuous operation ever since, and it’s a must-visit for any book lover.
You can browse through its extensive collection of books in Portuguese (and some English titles) or simply enjoy the atmosphere of this historic bookstore. It’s a great way to get an insight into Lisbon’s literary heritage!
Interesting Food Facts Of Portugal
Piri-piri Originated In Portugal
Piri-Piri is the famous hot sauce from Mozambique that has invaded kitchens around the world. However, Portugal was the origin of this African cuisine because the Portuguese introduced chilis to Africa when they arrived there during the Age of Discoveries in the 15th century.
The word Piri-Piri comes from a Swahili phrase meaning pepper, a fiery sauce made of chili peppers and garlic. This is an interesting and fun fact in Portugal that you should know.
Port Wine Is Portugal’s Most Famous Export And Its National Drink
Port Wine, is a sweet red wine produced for hundreds of years in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal. The wine is fortified with brandy which results in a sweeter wine and higher alcohol content (20% ABV).
Port wine was originally shipped down the Douro River to the city of Porto for storage in cellars. It was here that the English traders began calling the wine “Port” wine, hence the name!
It is an interesting and fun fact to know about Port Wine. This is also a common dessert option in Portugal.
You Have To Try The Most Famous Dessert In Portugal
Portugal has a unique tradition of custard tarts – a thick pastry filled with creamy, lavish sweetness. The crowd favorite is Pastel de Nata, made with leftover egg yolks and sugar by monks in Lisbon’s Belém district.
Though many bakeries exist today that specialize in these tarts, people still flock to the original bakery in Lisbon for their fix. This is one of the most traditional dishes in Portugal.
Portugal Can Be Considered The Original Home Of Sushi
Invented in Japan, (specifically in the city of Nagasaki), but first eaten in Portugal. Brought to Portugal in the 18th century by Portuguese merchants who traveled to Japan. From there, it quickly spread to other parts of Europe and then to the rest of the world, becoming an international cuisine.
Cultural Facts About Portugal
There Are 274 Million Portuguese Speakers Around The World
After English and Spanish, Portuguese is the third most spoken language in the world. In fact, there are more speakers of Portuguese than there are people who speak Spanish in the U.S.!
It’s Also One Of The Most Peaceful Countries In Europe
The country has a lower homicide rate than many other European countries. It has one of the lowest rates of military conscription in the world. It has a lower crime rate meaning that you’re much more likely to experience a pleasant stay in Portugal.
While it’s not the safest or most secure country in Europe, it’s certainly a lot more peaceful than many other areas of the continent. What an interesting and fun fact about Portugal.
Portugal Is A Soccer-Loving Nation
Soccer is a way of life in Portugal and the country is home to some of the world’s top players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo. The Portuguese national team has achieved great success over the years and soccer games are often packed with passionate fans.
The atmosphere is electric, and it’s a great way to get a real feel for the country.
A Portuguese Explorer Was The First To Complete A Full Journey Around The Earth
A Portuguese explorer was the first to complete a full journey around the earth. In 1522, Fernando de Magallanes (also known as Ferdinand Magellan) and his crew left Europe in an attempt to get to the Spice Islands of Indonesia by sailing west.
They were successful in their endeavor, but only 18 members of the original crew survived. This is an interesting and fun fact about Portugal circumnavigating the world.
One Of The World’s Oldest Universities Is In Portugal
The University of Coimbra found in 1290, makes it one of the oldest universities in the world. The university is also home to the oldest academic library in the world, built-in 1290 and recently restored.
Portugal Has A Rich Literary Tradition
Portugal has produced some of the world’s most important peots and writers over the centuries, including Luis de Camões, Fernando Pessoa, and José Saramago.
Their works have earned them worldwide acclaim and have helped shape Portuguese literature as we know it today.
The country also has a long tradition of storytelling, which is still alive and well in the present day. If you’re looking for an insight into the culture and history of Portugal, exploring its literature is a great way to start!
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Other Interesting Facts Of Portugal
Portugal Is A Bird Watching Paradise
The Algarve region is particularly popular with great crested grebes, little bitterns, purple gallinules, and black-winged stilts—birds so rare that ornithologists from all over the world make pilgrimages to the area to see them.
The reason there are so many birds in Portugal is partly due to the large protected areas they have.
According to the Portuguese Association for Bird Conservation, there are more than 30 protected areas in the country, including Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve, the Tagus Estuary Natural Reserve, and Berlengas Nature Reserve.
England Is Actually Portugal’s Oldest Ally
Europe may be one of the oldest nations in the world, but that doesn’t mean it has stayed the same over the centuries. In fact, Europe has a long history of both war and alliance, and in this case, Portugal is one of the oldest allies of England.
Millions Of Pilgrims Journey To Fatima In Portugal Each Year
The Catholic Church has been a central part of Portuguese life for centuries, and it’s no surprise that Portugal is home to several important Catholic sites. One of the most famous is the shrine of Fatima, in northern Portugal.
In 1917, three children from a farming family in the town said they saw visions of the Virgin Mary on six occasions. These visions became known as Our Lady of Fatima, and millions have since come to see where they took place.
Approximately five million pilgrims journey to Fatima each year, some walking hundreds or thousands of miles in religious processions known as pilgrimages. Some walk all the way from Lisbon, a distance of approximately 200 miles (320 km).
Discovering More Fun Facts About Portugal
These are just a few of the interesting and fun facts about Portugal. With so much to learn, Portugal is the perfect destination if you’re looking to explore new aspects of the world.
While you’re touring around the various sites in Lisbon, it’s hard not to appreciate just how beautiful the country truly is.
Over one million people live in Portugal’s capital city, making it one of the largest cities in Western Europe and also a fantastic place to visit. These fun facts on Portugal will certainly help you appreciate the country better when you visit.