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Portugal Is One of The Oldest European CountriesThere are many interesting Portugal facts relating to the country’s official status. The country was founded in 1128, making it one of the oldest nations in Europe. Portugal is a sovereign nation state, officially known as the Portuguese Republic. It is located in the western-most part of mainland Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, bordered by Spain to the east and north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. As well as Continental Portugal, the Portuguese Republic also consists of Madeira and the Azores, the island clusters in the Atlantic. Portugal is a developed country. Portugal facts tell us about a quality infrastructure, high living standards and an advanced economy. Portugal is a member the United Nations and The European Union. Its currency is the Euro, and its official language is Portuguese.
10.4 Million People Live in Portugal
Portugal facts regarding demography suggest that there are approximately 10.46 million people in Portugal as of 2013. This population is relatively homogeneous, with 96.3% of the populace ethnically Portuguese, and the shared language also being Portuguese. Ethnically, Portuguese people descend from pre-Celtic and Celtic people who inhabited the country before the Romans. This ancestry is very similar to other Mediterranean peoples, in particular the Spanish. As is the case across Europe, Portugal has a low fertility rate, calculated as 1.51 children per woman in 2013.
Portugal Was Part of the Roman Empire
There are many fascinating Portugal facts relating to the history of the area. The region of modern Portugal was once settled by pre-Celtic and Celtic peoples, but was invaded by Rome in 219 BC. The conquest took almost 200 years, and the Romans faced rebellions from several tribes in the area. By 19 BC, however, the Roman Republic had annexed almost all of modern Portugal.
The next major era after the end of Roman power was the Kingdom of the Suebi, the structure established by Germanic tribes who invaded the peninsula in the early 5th century. These tribes were the Suebi and the Vandals, along with their allies. Throughout the 6th century this kingdom flourished, but the area was eventually conquered by the Visigoths in 584-5. The Visigoths then held Iberia until the 700s.
Portugal Was Part of the Umayyad Caliphate for CenturiesSome of the most interesting Portugal facts relate to what happened after the Visigoths were defeated. In 711 the Umayyad Muslims invaded from the south, making Portugal a part of its Caliphate for well over 5 centuries. This empire was vast, stretching from the Indus River, Pakistan, across Europe to the South of France. However, just 7 years after the Umayyad conquest, Christian Visigothic rebels came together to begin what would be a long process of reconquista, or the attempt to win back the land.
The Visigothic nobleman Pelagius successfully led a rebellion against the Moors in the north of the country. In 722 this part of the country became the Christian Kingdom of Asturias, with Pelagius as king. It was from here that resistance to the Moorish empire was organized, and after over 700 years, the Christians of Asturias reclaimed the land of modern Portugal. The towns and cities of the land were repopulated with Christians who had resisted conversion during the Umayyad Caliphate, and Portuguese refugees. The area was renamed the County of Portugal, after the major port city, Portus Cale.
The Portuguese Empire Spanned 600 Years
There are numerous Portugal facts relating to the colonial period, since the country was at the forefront of European exploration and also had the longest-lived colonial empire. During the Age of Discovery, Portuguese explorers set out across the world, and made many important discoveries in this time, from the Atlantic archipelagos Madeira and Cape Verde to parts of the Africa coast. The Portuguese instigated new trade routes throughout southern Asia, including those to China and Japan. They also discovered Brazil. The Portuguese started to colonize many of these places, beginning with the conquest of Ceuta in North Africa in 1415. One of the less pleasant Portugal facts is that the country was the first to engage in the transatlantic slave trade, taking slaves from West Africa to the New World, although the other European empires soon followed suit.
Portuguese Is a Romance Language
Portuguese, along with French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian, is one of the five modern Romance languages. To discuss the Portuguese language is to discuss more than just Portugal facts − it is the mother tongue of over 220 million people around the world. Portuguese is spoken in Angola, East Timor, Luxembourg, Mozambique, Namibia, Andorra, and Cape Verde among other places. The vast majority of Portuguese speakers, however, live in Brazil, where there are in the region of 200 million speakers. Portuguese vocabulary has been influenced by the history of the country and its peoples. The majority of words are Latin in origin, but Italian, French and Arabic words have also been absorbed over the centuries.
Portugal Has a Mediterranean Climate
There are numerous Portugal facts relating to the country’s geography and climate. Portugal is one of the warmest countries inEurope, with an average temperature of 53.6 °F (12 °C) in the mountainous north to over 64.4 °F (18 °C) in the south. In warmer areas, such as the Guadiana river basin, summer highs can reach beyond 113 °F (45 °C). In the north, on the other hand, snowfall is common, and winter temperatures can drop below 14.0 °F (−10.0 °C). Each year the average rainfall varies, from less than 11.8 in (300 mm) to over 118.1 in (3,000 mm) in the mountains. Portugal gets between 2500-3200 hours of sunshine each year. This pleasant climate makes it a popular tourist destination, especially the country’s coastal regions.
Lisbon Is the Capital of Portugal
The capital of the country is Lisbon, and there are many Portugal facts relating to this beautiful and cosmopolitan city. Lisbon is the westernmost capital city in continental Europe, lying on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus. It has a population of approximately 552,700. Lisbon is known for its important role in European media, arts, trade, commerce and finance. Its growing financial sector is making it increasingly important as an economic center. Lisbon is also an extremely important container port, one of the biggest on the Atlantic coast of Europe. Lisbon is known for its traditional 19th century tram system, its history of stunning architecture (Gothic, Baroque, Modern and Postmodern designs) and its culture of museums, universities and galleries.
Portugal’s Second City Is Porto
When it comes to Portugal facts, Lisbon is not the only city worth mentioning. The second largest city in the country is Porto. Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and is located in northern Portugal on the estuary of the Douro River, where it was once an outpost of the Roman Empire. There are many Portugal facts attesting to the fact that Porto is a city of music and the arts. Many famous musicians come from the area, including Rui Veloso, GNR, Sérgio Godinho and Pluto. The city also has world famous concert halls, including the Coliseu do Porto and the São João National Theatre. In 2001, Porto was chosen to share the title of European Culture Capital. To celebrate this honor, the major new Casa da Música was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, to further enhance the cultural arts within the city.
Portugal Is a Semi-Presidential Constitutional RepublicAfter a 1974 military coup, Portugal began to move from a period of authoritarian rule through to a military government, and eventually to representative democracy. There are many intriguing Portugal facts about the resulting political system. Since the 1976 Constitution, Portugal has been a republic in which power is divided among 4 main bases of power − the Parliament, the President of the Republic, the Government and the courts. Each President serves a term of 5 years, and plays an executive role, while the government is led by the Prime Minister. After some tumultuous years, Portugal joined the European Union in 1986, which helped lead it to greater global importance, both politically and economically.
The Portuguese Can Be Fatalists
There are many fascinating Portugal facts relating to the culture of the country. One of these facts concerns the tradition of Fatalism, or Fado. This is an attitude in music, literature and daily speech characterized by melancholy, resignation and a belief in capricious fate. In music, mournful songs about poverty or the seafaring life often express this sentiment. In speech, the interjection oxalá, meaning “hopefully/if only” also expresses this. Oxalá is an interesting word since it comes from the Arabic inshallah, meaning “God willing”. The long history of Fado culture was officially recognized by UNESCO in 2011.
Port Wine Comes from Portugal
No Portugal facts sheet would be complete without a reference to the country’s most famous export, port wine. This drink is produced in the Douro valley, in the metropolitan area surrounding the second city of Porto, which is how it got its name. The wine itself is usually red, though white varieties are available. Its most notable feature is its sweet taste, and it is most commonly served as a dessert wine. There are more than 100 varieties of grape which can be used for the production of port. Of these, only 5 are commonly cultivated. Touriga Nacional is generally thought to be the best grape for port production, but since it is difficult to grow and produces low yields, Touriga Francesa is more commonly cultivated.
You Can Hit People with Garlic on Festival Night
On the 23 June each year, the city of Porto holds one of the liveliest European festivals. The Festa de São João do Porto pays tribute to Saint John the Baptist, and has been held for over 6 centuries. The party begins in the afternoon and continues through the night with dance parties, street music and the release of sky lanterns and balloons. A midnight fireworks show is followed by more partying, until young people walk to the seaside at dawn and watch the sunrise.
While the festival is in honor of Saint John the Baptist, it also has a more unusual side. Elements of the festival lead back to pre-Christian traditions, and this is what leads us to one of the strangest Portugal facts − partygoers engage in Pagan-style courtship rituals. The tradition is that young men seek out attractive women, and proceed to hit them with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers!
The Biggest Wave Ever Surfed Was in Portugal
Portugal, as the westernmost European country, has almost 500 miles (800 km) of coastline. Yet one of the lesser-known Portugal facts is just how good the country is as a surfing destination. For those in the know, Portugal is a surfer’s paradise, said to have 364 days of surf. In 2011, this fact was taken advantage of at Praia de Norte, a beach near the town of Nazaré. It was here that Hawaiian Garret McNamara broke records by surfing the biggest waver ever caught, which was an astonishing 90 ft. high! That’s nearly 27.5 meters!
The Portuguese Invented Piri Piri Sauce
Piri Piri, also known as African Bird’s Eye Chili, is grown in many African countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. However, some important culinary Portugal facts note that it was actually the Portuguese who invented the famous Piri Piri Sauce, after discovering the ingredient during the colonial period. The ingredients of the sauce include the chilies themselves, plus garlic, onion, lemon juice, paprika and more. Nowadays, Piri Piri chicken is a very popular and delicious Portuguese dish.
Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Portugal
One of the many interesting Portugal facts relates to the country’s stance on same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Portugal on the 31 May 2010. This made Portugal only the 8th country in the world – and the 6th in Europe – to legalize same-sex marriage. The government decision was not without opposition however, particularly from the Catholic Church. There was also a great deal of media sensationalism around the topic.
Lisbon Contains Europe’s Longest Bridge
In 1998, the World’s Fair Expo 98 celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery of a sea route between Europe and India, by the Portuguese Vasco De Gama. In honor of this, the Vasco da Gama bridge was built in Lisbon, crossing the Tagus River. Construction began in 1995, and the structure was finished 3 years later in time for the fair. The bridge is the longest in Europe, measuring in at 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) in length.
Portugal and England Are Very Old Friends
Some of the very oldest and most interesting of Portugal facts relate to the country’s alliance with England, which is now known as the oldest functioning diplomatic agreement in the world. The particular treaty, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, was signed back in 1373, but is uniquely still in force today. The alliance ensures that both countries will defend the other in wars. This has been backed up in practice − Portugal entered World War I, and Britain entered the Iberian Peninsular War.
One of the World’s Biggest Earthquakes Occurred in Lisbon
There are Portugal facts regarding November 1 1755, which make the day memorable for all the wrong reasons. It was the religious holiday of All Saints Day, and the churches of Lisbon were filled with people burning candles. During the day, a huge earthquake struck the city, measuring at a magnitude of 9.0. Not only did the quake directly destroy much of the city, but a tsunami followed and, even worse, the high numbers of candles lit for the religious holiday caused devastating fires across the city. In total 85% of buildings were destroyed, and 275,000 residents died.
The Bertrand Bookstore, Lisbon, Is the Oldest in the World
Some more positive Portugal facts about Lisbon relate to The Bertrand Bookstore, known as the oldest bookstore in the world. The store opened its doors in 1732, and became a center for the city’s intellectual and artistic scene. The original building was levelled in the devastating 1755 earthquake, but the owners found new premises and business continued to thrive. The Bertrand Brothers took over the premises after a few decades and the business eventually grew into the Bertrand bookstore chain, with over 50 Portuguese stores today.
Portugal Facts – Facts about Portugal Summary
Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a European nation state with territory on the Iberian Peninsula, along with several Atlantic archipelagos. Portugal is a member of the United Nations and the European Union, and is known as a developed, globalized country with an advanced economy and democratic government. The majority of the populace are ethnically Portuguese, and the main religion is Catholicism. The official language is Portuguese. There are many fascinating Portugal facts relating to its high living standards, rich arts, media and entertainment culture, varied cuisine and Mediterranean climate, all of which make it a popular tourist destination.