Officially known as the Portuguese Republic, the country of Portugal is one of the oldest in Southern Europe. Over time it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region with an estimated 27 million people visiting the country in 2019. This number isn’t surprising at all. Given its crystal clear waters and mesmerizing architecture, Portugal has something to offer to people of all tastes and adventure preferences. This is one nation that definitely deserves a spot on your bucket list.
Portugal is located in the Southwestern corner of the European continent on the Iberian Peninsula. It shares borders with Spain on two sides and the Atlantic Ocean on the remaining one. The capital city of Lisbon is the 11th most populous in the world with 2.7 million of the country’s estimated 10 million population living there. Lisbon is a stunningly beautiful city on its own and its history is even more fascinating. In this article we’ve collected some of the most interesting facts about Portugal that are worth knowing.
Intrigued? Here’s more to pique your interest about this amazing country that is a must-visit!
Enthralling Facts about Portugal
1. Portugal was founded in 868 AD
As a country, Portugal was founded during the early years of the Christian Reconquista which was a significant time significance with regards to control over the Iberian Peninsula. The country rose to prominence after the Battle of Sao Mamede which paved the way for Portugal’s independence in 1128. In the years that followed, the country developed into an empire of its own that is still recounted in history as the kingdom that shaped the literature that modern civilizations study.
2. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was one of the world’s strongest empires
Portugal as an empire has at its peak during the 15th and 16th centuries. The nation established its presence as one of the greatest naval and commercial behemoths of the era. It was amongst the most significant economic, military and political powers in the world at the time. This period, known today as the ‘Age of Discovery’ was the duration where Portuguese explorers discovered Brazil and the nation held a monopoly over the global spice trade serving as the foundation for its might.
3. The country was almost destroyed by an earthquake and a tsunami in 1755
Portugal’s dominance as the world’s major economic and military power came to an end due to a series of natural disasters that almost leveled the country. On November 1st, 1755, during the holy celebration of All Saints’ Day, Lisbon, Portugal’s capital was struck by an earthquake that left fissures as wide as 16 feet. A massive tsunami followed just 40 minutes later destroying 85% of the city’s infrastructure at the time. This was the breaking point for the Portuguese empire that was never able to recover to the height of glory that it knew at one time.
4. The world’s oldest bookstore is in Lisbon
Given Portugal’s history and its power, it comes as no surprise that the oldest bookstore ever established anywhere in the world is at Rua Diereito do Loreto in Lisbon, Portugal. The Bertrand Chiado on Rua Garrett was established in 1732 by Pedro Faure who sold the shop to Bertrand Brothers after the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the city. The family built a brand that now owns the largest bookstore chain in all of Portugal. The record for the bookstore being the oldest was made official by Guiness Book of Records in 2011.
5. 9 countries in the world have Portuguese as their official language
We get a glimpse of Portugal’s influence over the world by the fact that 9 countries around the world today have Portuguese as their official language. Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe all constitute the nations that declare Portuguese as their official language. It is spoken by over 236 million people around the world with some of them residing in countries as far away as India, China and Southeast Asia.
6. Portugal has had the world’s shortest reigning monarchs
The longest and shortest reigning monarchs in history have both been Portuguese. It is extremely interesting but Luis Filipe, Prince Royal of Portugal was only King of the country for about twenty minutes. Although never officially crowned, he was the natural heir to the throne. His father, King Carlos along with this family were attacked on February 1st 1908 and while he passed away immediately, Luis Filipe survived for another twenty minutes making him an unofficial ruler for just that time.
On the other hand, Henrique of Portugal, known officially as Afonso Henriques the Conqueror, served as the ruler of the Portuguese empire for nearly 57 years. He is considered amongst one of the longest reigning monarchs to have ever lived but the title is currently held by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth who has been a ruler for the last 69 years and counting. There are disputed reports that Henrique of Portugal was actually King for as long as 73 years but there are no accounts to verify this fact.
7. Portugal is also home to one of the world’s oldest universities
From bookstores to universities, Portuguese have left their lasting mark on literature as well. One of the oldest known academic centers, the University of Coimbra was established in Portugal during the year 1290. The institution was proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 and continues to serve as an academic center although it doubles as a museum too. Visitors can take a tour around the Royal Palace and Joanine Library remarking at the marvels of ancient architecture.
8. The country is taking renewable energy very seriously
Despite not being the globally dominant power that it once was, Portugal is still making significant feats in modern times. For instance, the country is investing significantly in shifting towards renewable energy sources. To this extent, the country recorded a consecutive five day run with everything powered through electricity generated by wind, water, or sun.
9. One of the first crew to complete a journey around the world was Portuguese
Ferdinand Magellan, was a Portuguese explorer who set out on a Spanish expedition during the year 1519. On his way, he discovered the interoceanic passage from the Atlantic to Asia becoming the first European to achieve this feat. Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan in 1521 but some members of his crew were able to complete the first circumnavigation of the Earth, returning to Spain in 1522.
10. A list of interesting facts about Portugal is not complete without Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal’s greatest modern-day achievement by far is the football legend Cristiano Ronaldo. Currently regarded as the greatest player of all time, Ronaldo has 5 Ballon d’Or and 4 European Golden Shoe awards to his name. His list of career accomplishments is beyond exceptional and so it comes as no surprise that he is ranked as one of the most valuable and highest paid athletes in the world. As of 2021, besides playing for Manchester United, he is also the captain of the Portuguese national soccer team.
11. Peri Peri was introduced by Portugal to the world
Peri Peri is amongst the most famous sauces in the world and this is where we witness a highlight of Portugal’s influence on the spice trade during its glory days. The chili that is the main ingredient of the sauce hails from South America but the Portuguese carried it to their home country where it was combined with garlic, and lemon to create this fascinating flavor that the world loves today.
12. Port Wine is the country’s national drink
A sweet, red fortified wine was extremely popular with the English during the 18th century and is produced in Portugal’s Douro Valley. The place is the third largest protected wine region that falls under the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
13. Most of the cork used in the world comes from Portugal
Today, Portugal’s main exports are very different yet it holds a dominance here too by quite some margin. 70% of the global share of cork exports originate in Portugal making it one of the foremost territories in this regard. Germany, UK and the USA are the biggest customers of this commodity.
14. The nation is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Besides the two that have already been mentioned above in this article, Portugal has another 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites which provides a hint at what architectural wonders reside within this land. These tourist destinations have made Portugal one of the 20 most visited countries in the world.
15. Japanese Tempura is not actually from the country. Can you guess where it came from?
Yup, you guessed it! It was actually a recipe brought over by Portuguese traders during the 16th century. It caught up with the Japanese who later incorporated it as one of their own.
16. Portugal too, found inspiration for its favorite desserts in France
Pastéis de nata, which is one of the most famous Portuguese desserts, was supposedly first made by monks in the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon because they were inspired by the level of French sweets.
Top Places in Portugal that are Must Visit
Portugal is one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, given its vastness, it is impossible to visit the whole country in one trip. Therefore, here is a video listing the top 10 places to visit in the country.
Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world and at its might, it was the biggest empire in the world. Today, it is amongst the most popular destinations for tourists around the globe. If you are an avid traveler, this is one country that you have to visit at the earliest.
I’m Natalie Garcia and I started this website to share my love of trivia, facts and fun knowledge tidbits. We cover things like celebrity gossip, historical facts, tv shows, world leaders and just odd and random fun things. I started this site to have some fun with my hobby and share some useful information with you, our community. Please feel to send me your suggestions and feedback through the contact form. And if you have suggestions for things to write about, please shoot me a message!