I lived in Lisbon (Capital of Portugal), for over 13 years and have loads of fascinating facts about the charming country, wich I’m eager to share with you! Portugal is fascinating country with a proud history that can be felt all throughout the country – from its capital, down to each tiny, picturesque villages.
Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country on the Iberian Peninsula in Southwestern Europe. It’s location on the atlantic ocean has influenced many aspects of its culture: salt cod and grilles sardines are national dishes, Algarve’s beaches are a major destination and most of the nation’s architecture dates to the 15th and 16th centuries, when Portugal had a powerful maritime empire.
1. Portugal is the oldest country in Europe
Portugal was founded in 1128, making it one of the oldest nation’s in Europe. Afonso Henrique was proclaimed the first King of Portugal in 1139 and the country remains a kingdom for almost 800 years, until 1910.
University of Coimbra – one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world
2. Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries
Over 236 million people world-wide are native Portuguese speakers, making it the 6th most spoken language, followed by Bengali and Russian. Portuguese is the official language spoken in Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe. Portuguese is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao, and East Timor.
3. Half of the “New World” once belonged to Portugal
Portuguse people were a key factor to the Age of Exploration. They helped discovered several lands unknown to the Europeans in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed which essentially gave Portugal the eastern half of the “New World”, 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.
Portuguese Empire after the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed – it’s former territories are annotated in green
4. Portugal has the longest bridge in Europe
With a total length of 17,185 meters, the Vasco Da Gama bridge in Lisbon is the longest bridge in Europe.
5. Portugal is one of the world’s top surf spots
Portugal has a coastline that spans 497 miles (800 kilometers), making it the world’s biggest wave generator and it’s know to have 365 days of surf! In February 2011, Hawaiian surfer Garret McNamara rode a gargantuan wave of 23.77m (78ft) off the coast of Nazaré in Portugal – and created a new world record.
6. In 1755, Lisbon was struck by one of the most powerful eartquakes in European history
On the 1st of November in 1755, Lisbon was struck by a earthquake, which scored 9.0 on the Ritcher scale, and was followed by a tsunami, and fires that brought the city to rubble! 275,000 residents were killed and 85% of the buildings were destroyed! People talk about the devastating earthquake to this day.
7. The oldest bookstore in the world is in Portugal’s capital
The Bertrand Library (Bertrand Bookshop) in Lisbon was founded in 1732, and sadly it was one of the many casualties of the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755. The bookshop set up shop on Garrett street in 1773, where it still stands. There are around 50 branches of Bertrand Livrary throughout Portugal.
8. Portugal is the world leader in the production of renewable energy.
Portugal manages to meet almost 70% of its energy needs through hydro, wind and solar power. The country is also abe to convert the movement of ocean waves into electricity and energy. (We really have a safe future considering the shortage of energy the world is facing).
9. The country’s national drink is Port (wine), wich is also it’s most famous export
It is fortified wine made by adding grape spirit, or brandy, to the wine before fermentation ends, making it sweet and very alcoholic at around 20% proof. The wine is then aged in oak barrels or steel containers for between two and six years before bottling. 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 and UNESCO World Heritage site.
10. Portugal and England have the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world
The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was signed in 1373 and is in force until today! Both countries entered wars to defend the other, including the United Kingdom entering the Iberian Peninsular War and Portugal enterind the World War I. (Talking about having someone’s back!)
11. Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery
Portugal abolished slavery all the way back in 1761 – that’s half a century before Britain, France, Spain, or United States.
12. Portuguese Fado was classified as world cultural heritage by UNESCO
Fado (fate in Portuguese) is a music genre that originates in urban Lisbon. It’s a type of mournful tunes and lyrics (often about the sea and the life of the poor), and heart-touching folk music sung by the common people. The music genre was added to the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
13. Portugal is the largest cork producer in the world
The montado landscape of Portugal produces 70% of the world’s cork exports. Cork is impermeable, buoyant, elastic, and has fire retardant properties. It is most commonly used as a wine stopper. Main importers of Portuguese cork are: Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. The country also has the larest cork forest.
14. One of the most advanced ATM System in the world belongs to Portugal
More than 60 operations are possible through the system including a donation for charites, phone credit top-up and buying concert tickets.
15. Chili, pepper, potatoes and tomatoes were intoduced by the Portuguese to India. Piri-piri sauce was also invented by the Portuguese.
16. Japanese tempura is also credited to Portuguese traders – this dish of battered, deep-fried vegetables and seafood was invented by Portuguese traders and missionaries in the 16th century.