30 most interesting facts about Portugal

Portugal has a long history full of stories, outstanding achievements, and exciting moments. This article collected some of the weirdest, most funny, most important, and most interesting facts about Portugal and its history. Some of these things about Portugal are well-known, others not so much…

Planning a trip to Portugal? Here’s everything you need to know before traveling to Portugal!

Our favorites are the 11th and 21st. Enjoy! đź™‚

Page Contents

First, here are a few fundamental facts about Portugal

  • Official designation: Portuguese Republic
  • Population: 10,309,573 – 2017 estimate
  • Land Area: 92.212 Km2
  • Language: Portuguese
  • Currency: Euro (founding member of Eurozone)
  • GBP per capita PPP: $30,193 – 2017 estimate (40th)
  • Capital: Lisbon
  • Timezone: WET/GMT UTC (Azores UTC-1)

Fun and interesting Portugal Facts

1. Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe

King Afonso I declared independence in 1139, and Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1249, almost 800 years ago. The name Portugal first appears in 868, during the Reconquista over the Muslims. A county was formed around the city of Porto (Portus Cale in Latin), from which the name (and the country) “Portugal” is derived.

interesting facts about Portugal
Statue of King Afonso I in front of GuimarĂŁes Castle in Portugal

2. Lisbon is older than Rome

Roughly four centuries older, to be more accurate. The Phoenicians settled it around 1200 BC, the second oldest European capital after Athens, Greece.

Such an ancient and historic city is obviously a great tourist destination, full of amazing things to see and do!

things about Portugal
The castle of S. Jorge in Lisbon Portugal

3. The Romans took 200 years to conquer Portugal

The Romans took around 200 years to conquer Lusitania, from 219 BC to 19 BC. The Romans used a famous old expression: In Iberia, there is a tribe that neither governs itself nor lets itself be governed.

Interesting facts about Portugal
Santa Maria da Feira Castle

4. Viriathus is the first National Hero of Portugal

According to historians, the Celtic King of Lusitania was the worst nightmare of the Roman Empire Soldiers and one of Rome’s top enemies, making them lose the equivalent of 9 legions during the wars against the Lusitans.

cool Facts about Portugal
Typical Portuguese Village

5. Portugal once claimed half of the “new world”

In 1494, Portugal and Spain divided the world in two by signing the treaty of Tordesillas, giving Portugal the eastern half of the “New Word,” including Brazil, Africa, and Asia.

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 Macau was handed-over in 1999 to China.

weird facts about Portugal
The Famosa Fort in Malaysia built by the Portuguese

6. Portuguese is one of the most spoken languages in the World

The Portuguese language is the 6th most spoken language in the world, with 220 to 240 million native speakers around the world. It’s the official language of 9 countries and is spoken on five continents!

Cool facts about Portugal
Rio de Janeiro in Brazil

7. Portugal was one of the earliest colonizing nations of Europe

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.

The African colonies were granted independence only in 1975 after the collapse of the dictatorship. Macau was the last Portuguese colony handed over to China in 1999.

8. Portugal had a central role in Slavery trading

Not all interesting facts about Portugal are good!

Portugal played a leading role in the infamous Triangular Atlantic Slave Trade, which involved the mass trade and transportation of slaves from Africa and other parts of the world to the American continent. Also, Lagos’ slave market, built-in 1444, was Europe’s first slave market!

9. Though, Portugal was also the first colonial power to abolish slavery

Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery, all the way back in 1761. That’s half a century before England, France, Spain, or the United States.

10. Portugal was a pioneer in abolishing the Death Penalty

One of the most important facts about Portugal is that in 1846 Portugal started the process of abolishing the Death Penalty, and the formal abolishment of capital punishment for civil crimes occurred in 1867.

Furthermore, Portugal and Spain are the only countries in the EU to have also abandoned life imprisonment.

Fun facts about portugal for kids
Road in Serra da Estrela, the tallest mountain in Portugal

11. Portugal once had a dead Queen

When Pedro I was crowned King of Portugal in 1357, he proclaimed his lover, Ines de Castro, Queen even though she had died two years before, in 1355. Legend says he ate her killers’ hearts when he caught them. And that she was exhumed to be coronated. That’s true romance there, Game of Thrones style.

Information about Portugal
In the monastery of Alcobaça lay the tombs of D. Pedro and Inês de Castro.

12. Over half of the world’s cork is produced in Portugal

Portugal has the largest cork oak forests (montados) in the world, and its cork oak is protected by law. The various uses of the soft, spongy bark of the cork tree have made Portugal the largest producer of cork products in the world, producing 70% of the world’s cork exports. The leading importers of Portuguese cork are Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.

curiosities about portugal
Cork Oak forest in Portugal

13. Portugal and England are very old friends

Portugal and England have the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world. The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was signed in 1373 and is in force until this day! Both countries entered wars to defend the other, including the United Kingdom entering the Iberian Peninsular War and Portugal entering World War I. Talk about having someone’s back!

14. Lisbon was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes in European history

In 1755, Lisbon was struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami and fires that destroyed the city!

Furthermore, the earthquake struck on All Saints Day, a major holiday when the churches were filled with burning candles. The earthquake struck, toppling the candles and causing major fires. Up to 100 000 residents were killed, and 85% of the buildings were destroyed!

Interesting things about Portugal
View of the city of Lisbon in Portugal

15. Portuguese are fatalists

Fatalism is an essential trait of Portuguese culture. One of the most obvious expressions of it is the traditional music Fado.

This is characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness, and melancholia. UNESCO recognized it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011.

16. The most significant wave ever surfed was in Portugal

In October 2011,  Garrett McNamara caught the biggest wave (+30 m / 90 ft) ever surfed to date at Praia do Norte in NazarĂ©. Portugal has a coastline that spans 800 kilometers, and it’s known to be one of the world’s top surf spots!

Amazing facts about Portugal
The famous beach of Nazaré in Portugal

17. Portugal has one of the world’s oldest universities

The University of Coimbra was established in 1290. Although it was first established in Lisbon, later, it was transferred (a few times back and forth) to Coimbra. Paço das Escolas is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal.

Stuff about Portugal
The University of Coimbra was established in 1290.

18. A Portuguese brought the habit of drinking tea to England

Catharine of Braganca, a Portuguese princess and Queen of England, introduced the habit of drinking tea in England. Though she did not introduce Tea, she made it a fashionable and widely drunk beverage. She was also responsible for the English using forks at dinnertime

19. The Portuguese were the first European people to reach Japan

In 1492 Portuguese reached the island of Tanegashima, first establishing contact with Japan. So, the Japanese culture was exposed to several new European technologies and cultural practices in the military area (the arquebus, European-style cuirasses, European ships), religion (Christianity), decorative art, and culinary (the Portuguese introduced the tempura and above all the valuable refined sugar).

Even in the language, many Japanese words come from Portuguese.

reasons to visit Portugal
Replica of an old ship used in the discoveries in Vila do Conde, North of Portugal.

20. A Portuguese saved more Jews than Oskar Schindler

Aristides de Sousa Mendes was a Portuguese consul who used his position early in WWII to save Jewish people. He granted visas to Jews despite having orders from the Portuguese government (at the time, a dictatorship) not to do it.

It’s estimated that he helped save up to 10 000 Jews. However, we need to mention that this number may be an overestimation. Either way, it was a heroic and dangerous decision action.

21. Portugal had a massive influence on world cuisine

Portuguese Jesuit missionaries took tempura (a dish of battered, deep-fried vegetables and seafood) to Japan. The Portuguese invented Piri-Piri sauce. Portuguese introduced chili pepper potatoes and tomatoes to India and Thailand, without which curry wouldn’t exist!

Not to mention we also brought coffee to Brazil and the ukulele to Hawaii. We created the “pastel de nata” or “pastel de BelĂ©m,” the famous and delicious Portuguese custard tart…

Best things about Portugal
Pastel de Belem, the most famous pastry of Portugal

22. Europe’s longest bridge is in Portugal

The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 17 kilometers long, making it the longest in Europe at the construction time. Today it is only the longest one in the EU and the second longest bridge in Europe, after the Crimean Bridge.

Though this isn’t the only record that the bridge brought to Portugal, much more importantly: The world record for the largest dining table was set when around 15 000 people were served lunch on the bridge as part of the inauguration celebrations.

23. The Portuguese eat a lot of cod

We have more than a thousand recipes to cook cod, but we must import it from other countries like Norway or Iceland. Interestingly (or maybe not). I must be one of the few Portuguese that doesn’t really appreciate Cod!

fun facts Portugal - Portuguese love cod
Portuguese Cod dish

24. Port wine is one of our most famous export

Portugal produces the famous Port wine, a sweet fortified wine from the Douro Valley. Port wine grapes are only grown on the steeply terraced hillsides of the Douro Valley near Porto, one of the world’s oldest established wine-producing regions. However, it has been imitated in several countries – notably Australia, South Africa, India, and the United States.

Click here to check other what is Portugal famous for.

cultural facts about portugal
Douro Valley, Portugal

25. Bertrand bookstore is the oldest in the world

The oldest bookstore in the world is in Portugal’s capital Lisbon. Bertrand Bookshop was established in 1732, while the original store was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755 and rebuilt in its current location in 1773.

Bertrand bookstore in Lisbon
The oldest bookstore in the world- Bertrand bookstore

26. Portugal is 95% water

One of the lesser-known but fascinating facts about Portugal is that it’s mainly water! Considering only surface land, it ranks as the 110th country with only 92.212 Kmof land.

However, if you include the jurisdiction over the maritime area of around 1.720.560 Km2, Portugal ranks in the world’s top 20 and top 3 in Europe! The ocean area is about 18.7 times the land area, so almost 95% of the country is water.

Portugal fun facts
Beach in Algarve, Portugal | fun facts about Portugal

27. Portugal has 17 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list

Portugal has 17 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, 16 of these cultural sites and 1 of the natural (on Madeira Island). It’s one of the 20 most visited countries worldwide, with more than 27 million tourists visiting yearly (2019).

Portugal history facts
UNESCO World Heritage – Historic Centre of Oporto

28. A Portuguese invented the pirate code

Bartholomew Portugues created the first Pirate code in the 17th century, which English pirates later adopted.

cool facts about portugal
Peniche Portugal – interesting facts about Portugal

29. The Portuguese love football – and are pretty good at it

The most popular sport in Portugal is football. We are the current European Champions, and our national team finished 3rd in the 1966 World Cup, 2nd in Euro 2004, and 4th in the 2006 World Cup.

FC Porto and SL Benfica have also been European Champions several times.

Portugal fun facts
Porto’s football stadium | Portugal fun facts

30. People from Porto are called ‘tripeiros‘ or ‘tripe eaters’

Back in the 15th century, to help out the military, Porto gave all the meat they had – except for the stomachs. Well, afterward, they got creative with their cooking, and it became one of the city’s most famous cuisine features with time.

Furthermore, it became the nickname of the citizens of Porto, the ‘tripeiros,’ or the trippers.

Bonus weird Portugal facts and records

  • 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.
  • In 2012, the most giant firework rocket ever produced was used at the 12th International Symposium on Fireworks in Oporto and  Gaia on 13th October 2010. It weighed 13.40 kg.
  • The world’s largest omelet was made in Portugal – in SantarĂ©m on 11 August 2012. It took 55 people, six hours, and 145,000 eggs to make a 6,466 kg omelet.
  • And, of course, the above referred largest dining table in the World!
  • Finally, the most number of dishes washed with one liter of detergent… can you guess when? Obviously, after the meal at the longest dining table in the world during the inauguration of the longest bridge in Europe! 🙂

After all these interesting facts about Portugal, you can only be inspired to come and visit Portugal!

Facts about Portugal
The statue of Cristo Rei in Portugal

If we did, these are our Recommended Travel Guide Books For Portugal!

Lonely Planet Portugal (Travel Guide)

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Rick Steves Portugal

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DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Portugal

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5 thoughts on “30 most interesting facts about Portugal”

  1. These are so cool! We just went to Portugal and wish we had known these things before to really enhance our trip. We did notice a lot of cod on the menus.. good point! 🙂

  2. This is super helpful for anyone looking to go to Portugal. It’s been a destination my mom has wanted to go to for years. I’ll definitely be sharing this link with her.

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