50 Amazing and Interesting Facts about Portugal | Amazing Facts 4U
Land & Geography
- The official name of Portugal is the Portuguese Republic. Portugal has a population of over 10 million people.
- Portugal is the westernmost country of the European mainland.The country also holds sovereignty over the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and the Madeira Islands.
- Lisbon is the capital and largest city of Portugal. Lisbon is older than Rome around four centuries older to be precise existing from 1200 BC. It is in fact the second oldest European capital after Athens. Lisbon was devastated by a major earthquake in 1755 resulting in loss of much of its wealth and status.
- Portugal is named after its 2nd largest city, Porto, the Latin name of which was Portus Cale. Porto’s city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city is also world-renown for being the home of Port wine.
- In fact Portugal is one of the world’s top surf spots. Portugal has a coastline that spans 800 kilometers and it’s known to have 364 surf days throughout the year!
- Portugal became the first global maritime power during the 15th & 16th centuries. Pioneering Portuguese explorers such as Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama and Álvares Cabral founded new lands and colonies making Portugal a major economic, political and military power, ultimately dividing the world with Spain.
- The Portuguese Empire was the longest-lived of the modern European empires and was spread throughout areas that now make up 53 different sovereign states.
- The earliest recorded hot air balloon ascent was in Portugal , a model hot air balloon invented by Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão ascended on 8 August 1709 at the Casa da India, Terreiro do Paço, Portugal.
- Amazingly in the 18th century, the income of the king of Portugal was 30 times higher than that of the king of England. The royal House of Bragança (Ruling Portugal from 1640-1910) was so wealthy, they didn’t charge taxes on its land for 120 years.
- The legacy of this exploration is that the language of Portuguese is today the 6th most spoken first language in the world with over 240 million speakers. It is the official language in 9 countries.
- Over the years Portugal’s empire has slowly been broken up, with Brazil gaining independence after the revolution of 1910 and the African colonies of Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Timor-Leste, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau in 1974 and 75. Macau was handed over to China in 1999 and East Timor granted sovereignty in 2002.
- The Portuguese Empire was actually the first global empire in history! It was also one of the longest-lived colonial powers, lasting for almost six centuries from when Ceuta was captured in 1415, until East Timor was handed-over in 2002.
- Portugal was one of the earliest colonizing nation of Europe, starting with Ceuta (1410), Madeira (1419), the Azores (1439), then establishing trading posts along the coast of Africa later in the 15th century. In 1498, Vasco da Gama reached India, and in 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral, en route to India, discovered Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. The Portuguese Empire would rule, among others, over Brazil, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Goa, Daman, Diu, Kochi, Malacca, and Macau and east Timor.
- Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe. Afonso Henriques was proclaimed the first King of Portugal in 1139.
- The kingdom of Portugal lasted for nearly 800 years, from 1139 to 1910. Since 1910, the country has been a republic. The modern democratic republic was founded in 1976.
- Amazing fact is that the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, signed in 1373, is the oldest alliance in the world which is still in force. The alliance ensures that both countries will defend the other in wars. As per alliance United Kingdom entered the Iberian Peninsular War and Portugal entered World War I.
- On 1 November 1755 (All Saints’ Day), Lisbon was struck by an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale resulting in city razed to ground. The resulting tsunami and ensuing fires killed up to 90,000 of the 275,000 inhabitants and 85% of the buildings were destroyed, including famous palaces and churches, the 70,000-volume royal library, as well as the royal archives, containing the detailed historical records of explorations by Vasco da Gama and other early navigators. The earthquake profoundly disrupted the country’s political scene and 18th-century colonial ambitions.
- In 1761 Portugal became the first colonial power to abolish slavery, half a century before Spain, France, Britain or the USA.
- Amazingly Napoleon tried to conquer Portugal 3 times. And failed.
- The Pirate Code was created by a Portuguese Buccaneer called Bartolomeu Português in the 1600s. It was later used by the 18th century English pirates.
- In fact Portugal took chili to India. Without the Portuguese, there would be no curry.
Places / Architecture
- The University of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities on the European continent.
- The Vasco da Gama Bridge, over the Tagus River in Lisbon is the largest in Europe at 17.2 km’s.
- Portugal has 15 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, 14 of these cultural sites and 1 of them natural. The country is one of the 20 most visited countries in the world with more than 13 million tourists visiting each year.
- The oldest bookstore in the world , Bertrand bookstore was established in 1732. It is located in the capital of Lisbon.
People Customs & Culture
- Catholic monasteries of the Middle Ages are responsible for the wide range of famous Portuguese pastries today.
- Portuguese language is most closely related to Galician language, spoken in northwestern Spain. Galician could be regarded as a dialect of Portuguese.
- Almost 12% of the inhabitants of Luxembourg and 3% of the people in France are of Portuguese descent. Paris has the largest Portuguese community outside Portugal at 700,000 and is the second largest Portuguese city after Lisbon based on the number of Portuguese residents.
- Portugal does not have an official religion, though 84% of the population is Catholic.
- Portugal introduced the habit of drinking tea in Britain. The world-famous tea ceremony in England has emerged thanks to Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, who married the King Charles II of England and brought this mode to the court.
- Portugal eats more fish and shellfish than any other country in the world.
- The Festa de São João do Porto, held on the night of 23 June, is one of the liveliest celebrations in the country. The tradition, which has its roots in pagan courtship rituals, requires participants to hit attractive girls on the head with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers.
- The real Casino Royal of James Bond fame, is in Cascais. Fleming spent a considerable amount of time there during WWII and it served as inspiration for the novel.
- In December 2010, the world’s largest Santa Claus parade took place in Porto. 14,963 people donned Santa outfits, beating the record of the previous years for the same parade.
- The Portuguese Water Dog has been claimed to be a hypoallergenic dog breed. In 2008, the breed made the headlines when U.S. President Barack Obama and his family were given one as a pet. A Portuguese Water Dog was chosen to become the “First Dog” in part because Malia Obama’s allergies.
- José Manuel Durão Barroso, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, has been President of the European Commission since 2004.
- The modern Portuguese legal system has been influenced primarily by German law.
- Due to the influence of Roman Catholicism, Portugal is one of the most socially conservative countries in Europe. Abortion was only legalized through a referendum in 2007 which was objected by Catholic priests.
- Same sex marriage was legalized in Portugal in 2010.
- Portugal is the only country in the EU, along with Spain, where life imprisonment has been abolished. In fact it was the first country in the world to abolish the death penalty.
- Portugal was one of the original member states of the euro zone in 1999, and replaced the Portuguese Escudo with the euro (€) currency at this time.
- The world-famous Port wine (also known as “Porto”), a sweet Portuguese fortified wine from the Douro Valley, has been imitated in several countries – notably Australia, South Africa, India and the United States.
- Portugal has the largest cork oak forests in the world and its cork oak is protected by law. Cork is stripped from the trunk of the cork oak every nine years without damaging the tree. Portugal is the largest producer of cork products in the world accounting for 70% of world’s cork.
- Portugal is a world leader in renewable energy with about 70% of its energy coming from renewable sources such as wind, hydro and solar power. One of the world’s largest photovoltaic farms is near the town on Moura in south-east Portugal.
- Innovative projects include a floating wind farm (the WindFloat) and WaveRoller, which converts the movement of ocean waves to energy and electricity. Portugal established the world’s first commercial wave farm (the Aguçadora Wave Park) to produce electricity in 2006.
- The most popular sport in Portugal is football. The national team finished 3rd in the 1966 World Cup, 2nd in Euro 2004, and 4th in 2006 World Cup.
- The Lisbon-based S.L. Benfica is the world’s most supported football club according to the Guinness Book of World Record.
- In October 2011, Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara caught the biggest wave (30 m / 90 ft) ever surfed to date at Praia do Norte, near the town of Nazaré, in central Portugal.
- The first Pirate code was invented in the 17th century by the Portuguese buccaneer Bartolomeu Português.
- In 1709, the Jesuit priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão invented one of the world’s first airships, for which he sought royal favour from King John V. Portugal could have changed history with this invention but he was prevented from developing it with a threat of procecution.
By Amazing Facts 4U Team