Southwest European country with a wealth of attractions to discover is situated on the edge of the Iberian peninsula.
Welcome to Portugal, a country with hospitable residents, delectable cuisine, pleasant weather, and a fascinating history and culture. Portugal’s peculiarities go much deeper than just football, port wine, and fado, so don’t just assume it’s all that.
Think again if you believe you are familiar with all of Portugal’s major facts! We’ve compiled a thorough collection of interesting facts about Portugal, from its ancient capital of Lisbon to its history as seen from across the Atlantic.
1. Portugal is One of the Oldest Nation-States in Europe
Portugal has a rich historical legacy despite not being as large as some of its neighbors. In 1139, this long-gone nation-state was formally proclaimed a kingdom. Since the late 13th century, when the Portuguese and Spanish signed a pact ceding Portugal control of the Algarve, its borders have largely remained unaltered.
Afonso I, Portugal’s first king, rose to power in 1142, establishing the foundation for an 800-year monarchy. But the nation said goodbye to its long-standing monarchy in 1910 and switched to a republic.
However, the nation’s lengthy history dates all the way back to prehistoric times. The Celts, Romans, and Carthaginians all called it home.
2. Lisbon is Home to the Oldest – and Smallest – Bookstore in the World
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a must-see for bookworms! Portuguese culture has a strong and enduring love for literature, as evidenced by the abundance of local bookstores lining the city’s tiled streets.
The world’s oldest bookstore, Livraria Bertrand, illustrates how deeply the Portuguese people value literature. The Bertrand bookstore, which originally opened its doors in 1732, is a treasure trove of literary history, where works that are hundreds of years old are displayed alongside more recent bestsellers.
The Guinness Book of Records lists this particular bookstore as having been open the longest.
3. Lisbon is Home to One of the World’s Oldest Universities
The University of Coimbra was established in 1290 and is one of the oldest and most prominent universities in the world, with a remarkable history spanning several centuries.
The institution has evolved and spread throughout Coimbra throughout the years, resulting in the thriving institution City. UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 2013 to acknowledge its cultural importance. This solidified the university’s reputation as a center of academic excellence even more.
4. The Birthplace of Some of the World’s First Explorers
Portugal used the expansive Atlantic Ocean as its gateway to the outside world as early as the 14th century. The nation played a significant part in the Age of Discovery and Exploration under the leadership of Prince Henry the Navigator.
Henry and his contemporaries’ spirit of adventure drove a time when European influence grew all over the world. Among the most ground-breaking accomplishments are:
- Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of the globe.
- Vasco de Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India.
- Bartolomeu Diaz’s voyage around the Cape of Good Hope (the Southern tip of Africa).
- Pedro Alvares Cabral’s discovery of Brazil and other parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe.
5. The First Country in the World to Decriminalize the Consumption of All Drugs
Portugal made a risky step in 2001 and became the first nation in the world to decriminalize all drugs, including heroin, meth, and even marijuana and cocaine!
Even while drug trafficking is still strictly forbidden, possessing drugs for personal use is not against the law and is not punishable by law.
To tackle the escalating drug crisis and HIV cases that afflicted the nation in the 1990s, this progressive action was taken. In the European Union (EU), Portugal now has some of the lowest rates of drug use.
6. The Portuguese People are Famous Fatalists
The Portuguese are masters at embracing all types of feelings, even the sad and happy ones. Their culture encourages them to accept their fate, good or terrible, and to believe that their decisions and actions have no impact.
Fado, a type of soulful music for which they are renowned, fills that void. The unadulterated feelings of love, grief, hope, and resignation are woven together in this soul-stirring melody. Even the renowned UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage designation has been given to this traditional style of Portuguese singing.
Additionally, fado is used in spoken language. For instance, the word “saudade” is allegedly impossible to translate but incredibly relatable. It is that yearning for something or someone that you cannot have. You could say it’s a yearning sadness.
7. Lisbon Suffered One of the Largest Natural Disasters in World History
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is well known for its charming alleyways, elaborate architecture, and Fado music heritage, but it is also well-known for a seismic event called the Lisbon earthquake that nearly entirely destroyed the city.
Lisbon was completely destroyed in 1755 by a powerful earthquake with a Richter scale reading of 8.5 to 9. According to recent estimates, the earthquake lasted three to six minutes. It was quickly followed by a tsunami that quickly submerged the harbor and downtown area.
To make matters worse, lit candles that had been put across the city in honor of All Saints’ Day were knocked over, igniting a large-scale firestorm that raged for hours.
Tens of thousands of people perished in the aftermath, and most of the city’s structures, including palaces and libraries, were destroyed.
8. Portuguese is One of the Most Widely Spoken Languages
Portuguese, the official language of Portugal and the seventh most spoken language in the world, is descended from Vulgar Latin and Medieval Galician.
The Portuguese language extended around the world as a result of the nation’s colonial empire and is currently the official language of various independent countries and territories. Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome, and other nations are among them.
It’s no surprise that Portuguese is regarded as one of the most romantic languages given that it has 230 million native speakers. The Portuguese language’s rhythmic and melodic sounds are incredibly appealing to listeners.
9. Over Half the World’s Cork Comes from Portugal
This is one of the more fascinating facts about Portugal, albeit it may not be the most exciting of the country’s amusing facts.
Portugal is home to the biggest cork forest on earth and generates more than 70% of all cork exports. The cork tree thrives in Portugal’s climate, where there is abundant sunshine, regular rainfall, mild winters, and brief dry spells.
The main importers of this adaptable material, which can be used for anything from flooring to wine bottle stoppers, are the US, the UK, and Germany.
10. Portugal is One of the Most Peaceful Countries
Portugal, one of the world’s most peaceful nations, is a real refuge of calm and contentment. In fact, this European nation came in sixth place overall among 163 nations in the 2022 Global Peace Index.
Portugal provides a secure atmosphere for residents and visitors alike due to its peaceful society and low crime rates.