Portugal was our biggest travel surprise in 2016! Not only is this country extremely beautiful but it also has an amazing atmosphere and friendly people. With almost 1,000 kilometers (586 miles) of coastline, it’s one of the best tourist destinations in Europe. On our trip, we gathered the most amazing Portugal interesting facts that are funny, informative and sometimes very surprising.
These Portugal facts are about the history, geography, and culture of this country. They are not only useful for travelers visiting Portugal but also for anyone who is interested in learning new things about the world around us.
The Westernmost Point Of Europe Is Located In Portugal
Topping the list of interesting Portugal facts is this – the westernmost point of the European continent is located at the Azores island and it’s called Monchique Islet. The most extreme western point of continental Europe is called Cabo da Roca and is situated very close to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.
We had been to Cabo da Roca during our trip to Portugal. This place is heartbreakingly beautiful! The fresh air, sounds of waves and unspoiled nature are almost too good to be true. It’s definitely the best place we have seen in this country.
The University of Coimbra is one of the oldest in Europe
One of the oldest continuously operating universities in Europe is located in the city of Coimbra. It was established in the 13th century by King Dinis and is still one of the best schools in the country.
Portugal Was One Of The World’s Most Powerful Countries In The Past
Even though the territory of generic Portugal is rather small, it was the hegemon of the Age of Exploration and one of the largest empires in history. The Portuguese conquered new lands throughout the ages, killing many innocent people and expanding their influence all around the world.
Portuguese Is The 6th Most Spoken Language In The World
Another one of the top Portugal interesting facts is that Portuguese is native to more than 200 million people in the world.
It’s an official language in 10 countries & independent territories, including Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, East Timor, Macau and of course Portugal. It’s also the 6th most spoken language in the world.
The Country Was Named After Porto
Porto or Oporto is the second-largest city in Portugal, located just a few hours’ drive from Lisbon. It’s one of the greatest tourist destinations in the country, with beautiful architecture and a historic center that has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The historic center known as Porto was once a Roman outpost and was called Portus Cale. Then in 868 AD, Count Vimara Peres captured the region North of Duoro and named it Condado Portucalense or County of Portugal. And over time the country that formed was called Portugal.
Porto Is Nicknamed Invicta
Another interesting fact about Portugal is that the city of Porto is locally known as Invicta, which means unconquered. This is because the city withstood a siege for a whole year during the Portuguese Civil War in the 19th Century.
Portugal Has Had The Same Borders For Almost A Thousand Years
It’s quite an impressive accomplishment, considering the fact that two world wars took place mainly in Europe. Other countries in Western Europe like Germany or Slovenia had a very rough history and their borders changed very often.
It’s different for Portugal – the country was officially established as a kingdom in 1139 and although it’s been in a tussle with Spain for centuries, the original borders of Portugal have stayed more or less the same since 1297. Portugal has only lost it’s conquered territories.
Lisbon Is One Of The Oldest Cities In Europe
The earliest inhabitants settled in present-day Lisbon more than 3,000 years ago! That makes the capital of Portugal older than London or Rome. Isn’t that one of the most interesting Portugal facts? The city was inhabited by the Phoenicians since 1200 BC.
As the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is the biggest city and one of the best places to visit in the country. It’s located near the Atlantic Ocean and invites visitors from all over the world to explore its beautiful monasteries, churches, and historic quarters.
Portugal Has Arguably The Best Wine In The World
Port wine is the best that we have ever been drinking. It was created by mixing the wine with brandy, so it has a unique taste that can’t be compared to anything else.
Port is sweet, strong and full of flavor.
Portugal Is A Groundbreaking Country
Conquering foreign lands and destroying their cultures was once common before people realized they were doing terrible things. And although Portugal played a major part in the slave trade, it has always been the precursor of the good change. In 1761, it was the first European country that abolished slavery.
It was also in the group of countries that adopted the Euro currency in 1999.
Portugal was one of the top 10 countries that allowed same-sex marriage in Europe.
Among the other interesting Portugal facts, the country is a world leader in renewable energy: 70% of its energy came from wind, solar and hydro powers by 2014.
It’s Always Warm In Portugal
Even in the winter, Portugal is sunny and warm. It’s one of the hottest countries in Europe with an average temperature of ~14 °C (57.2). The lowest temperature ever recorded in Portugal is −16.0 °C (3.2 °F).
Because of the wonderful weather, one of the Portuguese islands, Madeira is called, the island of eternal spring. And this is one of the best Portugal interesting facts; the warm Portuguese weather is one of the main reasons why Portugal is a great honeymoon destination.
The Most Popular Religion In Portugal Is Catholicism
Over 80% of Portuguese are declared to be Catholics. Less than 20% of them are actually professing their faith by attending the masses and taking the sacraments.
What’s interesting among the top Portugal facts is that one of the most important places for Catholics is located in Portugal. Fatima is a small town, made famous by the apparition of the Virgin Mary to the three children in 1917. The children said they were given the visions of the future and the hell.
Fatima attracts believers from all over the world. They are praying to Our Lady of Fátima and asking for her help.
All Saints Day In 1755 Was A Very Bleak Day For Lisbon
All Saints Day sees most Catholics turning up to churches to light candles and pray. So when the most powerful earthquake in European history struck on this day, it caused a lot of damage. The earthquake was followed by a massive tsunami and fires across the city. Most of Lisbon was destroyed and 275,555 people lost their lives. To date, no European earthquake can compare to this destruction.
Francesinha Is A Popular Meal In Porto
Little Frenchie is what the word Francesinha means in Portuguese. But this filling sandwich was created in Porto. The sandwich is filled with cured ham, sausage, and roast beef, and is covered with cheese.
It’s then drenched in a special beer-tomato sauce and served with fries. Ask anyone in Porto, and they all have their favorite restaurant to eat the Francesinha.
Gustave Eiffel Built The Maria Pia Bridge
This is one of the most interesting facts about Portugal. The bridge over the river Douro was built by Gustave Eiffel, the same guy who built the infamous Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The designs and structure he used – the single arch span were the first in the world at that time. The Maria Pia Bridge was inaugurated by King Luis I and King Maria Pia on 4 November 1877.
The First Documented Hot Air Balloon Flew In Lisbon
Although the first manned hot air balloon flight was by the Montgolfier brothers in Annecy, France on June 4, 1783; the first document hot air balloon flight was in 1709 in Lisbon.
Bartolomeu de Gusmao, a Brazilian-Portuguese priest flew an unmanned balloon for about 4 meters in the presence of King John I.
Portugal Has 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Ranking 8th in Europe for UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Portugal has 15! The Monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaca, the historic centers of Guimaraes, Oporto and Evora are just a few of these popular historical and cultural sites.
Portugal Has The Largest Artificial Reef In The World
Located just off the coast of Algarve, the Ocean Revival Underwater Park is the world’s largest single artificial reef. It has 14 to 22-degree waters that are safe for diving 300 days a year.
Divers can explore 4 sunken Portuguese Navy ships and see a part of the reefs evolving ecosystem.
The World’s Oldest Bookstore Is In Lisbon
Opened in 1732, the Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon is still a functioning bookstore. This makes it the oldest bookstore in the world!
The Montado Region Produces More Than Half The World’s Cork
Portugal is the biggest cork producer in the world and produces over 70% of the world’s corks. This cork is produced from holm oak or cork oak trees in the Montando region.
The evergreen cork trees live for over 200 years and their fire-retardant bark is used to produce cork oak. Cork is also light, elastic and impermeable to gases and liquids. With all the good it does for wine drinkers across the world, no wonder it’s now the national tree of Portugal!
Portugal Holds Many World Records
- The 12 km long Vasco da Gama bridge in Portugal crossing Lisbon’s Targus river was the longest bridge in the world from 1998 to 2018. Since 2018 that place was taken by the 17-kilometer (10.5 miles) long Crimean Bridge, making Portugal’s bridge the second-longest in the world.
- The other Portugal interesting facts are that Portugal had both the shortest and the longest-reigning monarchs. Luís Filipe was a king of the country for 20 minutes and Alfonso I Henrique of Portugal was a king for more than 73 years.
- The world-famous footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Portugal in 1985.
- Portugal holds the record for the biggest wave ever surfed. As surfer from Garrett McNamara rode a 23.77m (78 ft) – high wave. (He also rode an unconfirmed 100 ft wave in 2013.) Surfer Rodrigo Koxa surfed a 24.38 m (80 ft) wave in Nazare a few years later breaking his record.
- The Anglo-Portuguese pact signed in 1373 is the oldest in the world and is still intact.
- The Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama was the first European to reach India by sea via the Cape of Good Hope. He opened up trade routes between Asia and Western Europe.
- Last but not definitely not the least of the Portugal interesting facts – the biggest omelet was made in Portugal! It was enormous with a weight of 6.466 tonnes (14,225 lbs. 6 oz.).
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Did you know these facts about Portugal? Do you know any other interesting information about this country? Share your thoughts in the comments!