Portugal Facts

Michael Bryan

Michael Bryan

Published: 03 Sep 2021

Modified: 15 Sep 2021

Azenhas do Mar, Portugal Facts

Portugal is rich in history as it’s one of the oldest European countries. There are so many things to learn and explore in it – food, castles, waves, and more! Come and have an adventure with these 80 Portugal facts!

  1. Portugal has a land area of 92,212 km².
  2. It is approximately 2.6 times smaller than the United Kingdom.
  3. It is also a member country of the European Union since January 1, 1986.
  4. More than 30% of Portuguese people speak English while 10% of them can speak Spanish.
  5. More than 20% of Portuguese people speak and understand French.
  1. Portugal is a country located in Southwestern Europe.
  2. The capital of the country is Lisbon.
  3. Portugal citizens are called Portuguese.
  4. Spain is the only neighboring country of Portugal.
  5. The Atlantic Ocean borders the country from its northwest, west, and south.
  6. Portugal’s territory includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira.
  7. The Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.
  8. The official and national language of the country is Portuguese.
  9. Portugal also uses Mirandese (an Astur-Leonese language) as a regional language.
  10. Its territory got continuously settled, invaded, and fought over since prehistoric times.
  1. Pre-Celtic and Celtic people or a collection of Indo-European people inhabited Portugal.
  2. The establishment of the country started during the early Christian Reconquista.
  3. Around the 1400s to 1500s, Portugal established its first global maritime and commercial empire.
  4. The Portuguese Empire of the 15th century was one of the longest-lived empires in world history.
  5. Prince Henry the Navigator was a central figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire.
Table of Contents

Portugal’s population is on a downtrend.

As of 2021, the population of Portugal is about 10.1 million. After entering its peak population in 2008 of 10.6 million citizens, the country’s population gradually declined. In 2020, Portugal’s population is about 10.2 million people. Moreover, its fertility rate is only at 1.29 births per woman which resulted in an increasingly aging population, with the median age at 46 years old.

Portugal has a Mediterranean climate.

Portugal has a Mediterranean climate in general but there is a difference between regions. Some parts of the country have warm to hot, dry summers along with mild to cool, wet winters. One of the hottest places in Portugal is the town of Amareleja while amongst the coldest is Porto.

Its national anthem has a beautiful and classy hymn.

“A Portuguesa” is the national anthem of Portugal. Portuguese composer, painter, and poet Alfredo Keil composed the song, and it was officially adopted on October 5, 1910. Played at both military and civilian ceremonies, including receptions for foreign heads of state, Portugal’s national anthem has a beautiful and classy hymn that even foreigners who don’t understand its meaning or language would still admire it.

There are 151 cities in Portugal.

As of the moment, there are 151 cities in Portugal, and apart from the country’s capital, Lisbon, the most populous cities are Porto, Braga, Vila Nova de Gaia, Queluz, Amadora, Funchal, Coimbra, Setúbal, Rio Tinto, Agualva-Cacém, Almada, Aveiro, Leiria, Viseu, Odivelas, Guimarães, Barreiro, Faro, Évora, Portimão and Ponta Delgada.

The hottest temperature in Portugal occurred on August 3, 2003.

The Hottest recorded temperature in Portugal occurred on August 3, 2003, with a staggering 47.4 °C or 117.3 °F in Amareleja; in Viana do Alentejo on August 1, 2003, with 47.0 °C or 116.6 °F, and on August 4, 2018, in Alvega with 46.8 °C or 116.2 °F.

The coldest temperature recorded in the country happened a long time ago on February 5, 1954, in Penhas da Saúde with −16.0 °C or 3.2 °F. In most recent times, Carrazeda de Ansiães recorded the coldest temperature on January 17, 2021, with −7.7 °C or 18.1 °F.

Portugal is one of the top surfing destinations in Europe.

Portugal has the biggest waves which are why it draws countless tourists from across the globe. The best surfing spots are in Praia do Norte, Peniche, Ericeira, Praia de Carcavelos, Espinho, and so much more. Whether you’re an amateur or professional surfer, you can always find the right wave for you in Portugal.

The biggest wave ever surfed was in Portugal.

The biggest wave ever surfed was in Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal. The event occurred twice in Praia do Norte, first on November 1, 2011, and November 8, 2017. The surfer in 2011 was the American surfer Garrett McNamara and Rodrigo Koxa from Brazil in 2017. The 2017 wave was 80 feet tall (24.4 m). The 2011 wave was 78 feet tall (23.8 m). Out of the world’s five biggest waves, four of them occurred in Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal.

The culture of Portugal came from different influences.

The culture of Portugal came from different influences including Lusitanian, Sephardic Jewish, Celtic, Phoenician, Germanic, Visigoth, Moorish, and Viking. Moreover, the Portuguese people engage in so many cultural activities, such as music, art, dance, and drama. Several cities have museums and collections of ancient artifacts, buildings, and monuments.

Portugal’s national football team is one of the best in the world.

By far, football is the most popular sport in Portugal. The country’s national football team is one of the highest-rated teams in both Europe and the world. The three main football clubs or the “Big Three” in Portugal are Porto, Sporting CP, and Benfica. Portugal has two major football events every year, the Portuguese Liga and the Portuguese Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo is from Portugal.

Many would argue that the best soccer player in the world is Cristiano Ronaldo. Cristiano was born into a family of four as the youngest. With countless accomplishments and awards in football, his current net worth is at least $500 million. In August 2021, he signed a two-year contract with Manchester United for a second time, making all football fans go wild. To top it off, he was also awarded the Guinness World Records for the most goals scored in international soccer matches by an individual male between 2003 and 2021.

Image from Flickr

Portugal has many beautiful world-class golf courses.

Other notable sports that are booming in Portugal are cycling, golf, motorsports, bullfighting, athletics, and water sports. Some of the country’s best cycling teams are Boavista and S.L Benfica. When it comes to golf, however, Portugal boasts its world-class golf courses all over the country such as Algarve and Estoril. Its 5×5 full-court basketball and 3×3 Basketball have grown in popularity as well since 2010.

The world’s oldest bookstore is in Lisbon, Portugal.

Livraria Bertrand is the oldest operating bookstore on the planet which was confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011. The history of bookstores and books in the country is connected to France due to the arrival of a bulk number of French booksellers in Portugal during the 18th century.

The earthquake of 1755 has ruined Lisbon.

The earthquake of 1755 or the Great Lisbon Earthquake damaged the city badly especially since tsunami and fires followed. The event happened on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1755, and it affected not just Lisbon, but also the nearby cities. Going down to the southern part of Portugal, the damages went as far as Algarve which is more than 250 kilometers from Lisbon.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest in the European Union.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge of Lisbon is a cable-stayed bridge flanked by viaducts that crosses the Tagus River. This is the second-longest bridge in Europe and the longest bridge in the European Union with a total length of 12.345 kilometers.

Portugal is known for its wines.

Portugal facts for the wine connoisseurs! Portuguese wine has a long history, and they have been into wine exports since the Roman Empire. As of 2020, Portugal is part of the world’s top 10 wine exporters which includes Italy, Spain, France, Chile, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, United States, and Germany.

port wine, portugal
Image from Adobe Stock

Portugal has two wine-producing regions.

Mostly produced in the Douro Valley and Pico Island, the Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine that comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties. Although Port wine is the leading wine for export in the Portuguese wine industry, the country can produce all wine variants such as rosé, red blends, and sparkling wine. The weather in Portugal’s wine regions is ideal for grape-growing conditions making the production of wines somewhat comfortable.

You’ll never get enough of Bacalhau or Portuguese Cod Fish.

Bacalhau or Portuguese Cod Fish is among the most important food in Portugal. Locals say that one hasn’t been really in Portugal if they haven’t tried the Portuguese Cod Fish. It’s a staple food in the country and is said that there are more than 300 to 1,000 ways to cook bacalhau, one for every day of the coming years.

Indulge in grilled Portuguese sardines every summer!

Portugal’s Sardinhas Assadas or Grilled Portuguese sardines are the favorite summertime food of choice here. In Lisbon, they celebrate the Santo António Festival (Saint Anthony) every June 12 to 13th and fill the streets with the mouth-watering smell of Sardinhas Assadas.

Pastel de nata is a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry.

Portugal facts for those who have sweet tooth! It’s very common to see bakeries and pastry shops throughout Portugal, and pastel de nata is one of the favorites here and a must-taste if you’re in the country. It is a Portuguese egg custard tart pastry sprinkled with cinnamon. According to its history, the Catholic monks created Pastéis de nata or Pastel de nata before the 18th century.

Pastel de nata, portuguese egg tarts
Image from Adobe Stock

Ferdinand Magellan proved that the world is round by sailing from east to west.

The legendary explorer, Ferdinand Magellan was born in the Portuguese town of Sabrosa on February 4, 1480. Magellan helped spread Christianity across the globe and later converted more than 2,000 locals in the Philippines after staying there for several weeks. It also started the three-century Spanish occupation in the said country. Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition that proved the world is round by sailing from east to west.

Roman Catholicism is the leading religion here.

The most dominant religion in Portugal is mainly Roman Catholicism. Although Portugal has no official religion, more than 80% of the population is Catholic. It makes them one of the most religious countries in Europe or the 9th most religious country out of 34 European countries.

Many Portuguese are still highly superstitious.

Many Portuguese are still highly superstitious. They may often combine it with traditional folk beliefs with religion. For instance, some believe that walking backward or wearing a hat to bed is bad luck. Meanwhile, accidentally spilling wine on the table or having rain on your wedding day can bring good fortune.

Portugal is the global leading cork producer.

Portugal is the global leading cork producer with more than 50% of the world’s production. The province of Algarve and certain parts of Alentejo produce the best quality cork. Spain is second after Portugal with 32% of the world’s production followed by Italy with 6% and Morocco with 4%.

The University of Coimbra is the oldest university in Portugal.

The University of Coimbra is a public university in Coimbra, Portugal. Established in Lisbon in the year 1290, it went through a series of relocations until moving permanently to Coimbra in 1537. This university is the oldest university in Portugal and among the oldest universities in the world that continues to operate. The University of Coimbra played an important part in the development of higher education in the country.

The Caldo Verde soup is popular in the winter, but it’s available all year round in Portugal.

Coming from Minho Province, Caldo Verde is one of the most popular soups and Portuguese dishes. Commonly served during important Portuguese celebrations, such as birthdays and weddings, you’ll be able to find this dish as well in a large community of Portuguese migrants living in places like Brazil and the United States.

Image from Adobe Stock

Bifana is the national sandwich.

Bifanas are traditional Portuguese pork sandwiches available throughout Portugal. Made of juicy marinated pork and commonly served in crunchy white bread, these national sandwiches usually contain ingredients such as paprika, garlic, and white wine. Take note that even if the bread is crunchy on the outside, it’s soft on the inside.

Porto makes delicious Francesinha Sandwich.

Francesinha Sandwich is another popular sandwich in Portugal, particularly in Porto. Served with bread, steak, ham, and sausages with melted cheese and an egg on top, this Porto specialty will truly “make you forget your name.” The term ‘Francesinha’ means “little French girl.” According to stories, an immigrant from France brought the French toasted sandwich, croque-monsieur to Porto and they have adapted it since then.

Piri-Piri chicken is a dish with roots in both Portugal and Africa.

Piri-Piri chicken is Portugal’s leading Portuguese chicken dish. Establishments that sell Portuguese chicken Piri-Piri are called “churrascarias” and it’s very common to see them in each neighborhood anywhere in the country. It usually comes with chips or fries, tomato, lettuce, and onion salad.

Polvo à la Lagareiro is a local octopus dish.

Polvo à la Lagareiro is a local octopus dish, commonly prepared with Portuguese olive oil together with boiled potatoes. This delicious octopus dish is widely accessible across the country, as Portugal is accompanied by rich ocean waters on its left.

The Iberian wolf is the official national animal of Portugal.

The Iberian wolf is the national animal of Portugal. These wolves are naturally friendly to humans that it’s normal to see them in towns and villages – where they can seek their food without fear.

Iberian wolf, portugal national animal
Image from Adobe Stock

The Rooster of Barcelos is one of the most common symbols of Portugal.

According to the folk tale of the Rooster of Barcelos, a landowner in Barcelos once had his silver stolen. The residents in the city helped him look for the theft. When a man turned up and became a suspect, despite his innocence, a rooster intervened in the scene on the day of the execution and gave signs that the man was innocent, thus saving his life.

Vasco da Gama was a renowned Portuguese explorer.

Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His historical journey to India was the first voyage to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans. Vasco da Gama’s accomplishment in the late 1400s is a huge milestone in world history, as it represented the beginning of a sea-based phase of global multiculturalism.

Lavender is Portugal’s national flower.

The national flower of Portugal is lavender, a member of the extended mint family of plants. Lavender is a conventional cooking ingredient and its potent oils can be used in many perfumes, balms, and salves.

Portugal uses Euro as its currency.

The Portuguese escudo was the official currency of the country before the adaptation of the euro. The Portuguese escudo circulated on May 22, 1911, after the 1910 Republican revolution. Prior to its removal in 2001, it had banknotes of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and coins from 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 escudo.

Portugal’s flag has five colors.

Portugal’s flag has five colors: green, red, yellow, blue, and white. The green symbolizes hope for the future; the red symbolizes the blood of the nation; the yellow ribbon-like structure surrounding the shields represents a navigational instrument known as an armillary sphere; the five blue small shields (with white background) symbolize the five Moorish kings who were defeated by the first King of Portugal.

portugal flag
Source: Pixabay

The Polícia de Segurança Pública was formed on July 2, 1867.

The Public Security Police or The Polícia de Segurança Pública is the national civil police force of Portugal. One of the major tasks of the PSP is to defend Republican democracy and safeguard the internal security and the rights of its citizens. The agency currently has more than 50,000 police officers or approximately 1 police officer for every 215 people.

The country’s central bank is the Banco de Portugal.

The country’s central bank is the Banco de Portugal which is one of the regulators of the European System of Central Banks. It also has a huge role in Portugal’s major stock exchange, the Euronext Lisbon, that trades equities/stocks, exchange-traded funds/ETF, investment trust units, public and private bonds, participation bonds, warrants, and corporate warrants.

Euronext Lisbon is one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world.

It is founded in 1769 or more than 250 years ago as the Assembleia dos Homens de Negócio (Assembly of Businessmen) in Commerce Square, Lisbon downtown. This makes it older than the world’s largest stock exchange today, the New York Stock Exchange. The trading hours of Euronext Lisbon are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Portugal is home to several elite companies.

The country is home to a handful of leading companies across the globe such as The Navigator Company (a major manufacturer of the international paper market), Amorim (a world leader in cork production), Cimpor (one of the world’s largest producers of cement), Sonae Indústria (the biggest producer of wood-based panels in the world), Conservas Ramirez (the oldest canned food producer), and Jerónimo Martins (a consumer products manufacturer and retail market leader in Poland, Colombia, and Portugal).

Portugal has world-class education.

The Portuguese educational system started its modernization during the 60s. Since then, its education system continued to improve and achieve recognition for its world-standard practices and trends during the early 2000s. Based on the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA, an average 15-year-old student from Portugal is significantly above the OECD’s average when rated in terms of reading literacy, mathematics, and science knowledge.

Portugal has a high emigration rate.

Throughout the European Union, Portugal has the highest emigration rate. More than two million Portuguese people, or roughly 20% of its population, live outside the country. Most of them are now living in North and South America. The rest of them are scattered around the world.

women sitting on a pier at Porto Portugal
Image from Adobe Stock

Unemployment is the most common reason why people are leaving the country.

Like most countries where you can see the gap between rich and poor people grow, Portgual is no exception. Emigration is at its highest since the early 70s due to high unemployment, job uncertainty, and declining working conditions.

Portugal was long among the poorest countries in Europe.

For the “European standards,” Portugal was long among the poorest countries. Based on studies, its main challenges are low wages, high costs of living including housing costs, food, energy, etc. In contrast, however, if you’re a well-off foreigner planning to visit Portugal, you might see the cost of living relatively cheap compared to the other countries in Europe.

Wealthy citizens usually earn five times higher than below-average people.

Poverty is a serious problem in Portugal. More than 2.5 million people are living below the poverty line based on the National Statistics Institute. The middle to upper-class citizens earns an income that is three up to five times higher than other people who are living in poverty.

Portuguese are hard workers.

However, the hourly wage for workers is extremely low compared to the nearby countries. Plus, both parents usually have to work or look for part-time jobs, leaving them with less time to spend with their kids.

Portugal struggled to recover after the Great Recession of 2008.

During the 2008 recession, Portugal has been hit hard and struggled to recover economically compared to the other countries around the world. Economic growth has plateaued since then. In the northern and central parts of the country, child labor became “the answer.” Others had to beg on the streets which forced them to leave school in search of money.

Portugal was arguably the richest country in the world during the 15th century.

During the rise of Portugal in the colonial empire or the 15th century, it was arguably the richest country in the world and the most advanced European maritime power along with Spain. However, the failure of capitalizing their wealth to transition in the booming industrial infrastructure was one of its problems, and they gradually became one of western Europe’s poorest countries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The minimum monthly wage in Portugal is around €635 to €700.

Since 2015, the minimum monthly wage in Portugal is rising, from 505 EUR to 580 EUR in 2018. As of 2021, the minimum monthly wage in Portugal is between 635 to 700 EUR. Although if we compare this to the other countries in Europe that are above-average, the minimum salary would be around 1,500 EUR.

Portugal has a rich forest and mining industry.

Forests are the primary natural resources of Portugal. Approximately 34% of its forest covers the country. Apart from cork oaks, the most important forest resources are the pine trees (13,500 km²), holm oaks (5,340 km²), and eucalyptus (2,430 km²). It also has some notable mining resources such as tungsten, tin, uranium, and lithium.

National Park of Peneda Geres, Portugal
Image from Adobe Stock

Portugal produces several seasonal fruits.

The country is a quality producer of fruits, particularly oranges, cherries, kiwi, melons, persimmons, watermelons, peaches, pineapples, bananas, apples, grapes, and figs. Other exports include horticulture and floriculture products such as tobacco, beet sugar, and sunflower oil.

Portugal’s fishing industry is quite big and diversified.

Fishing vessels are grouped depending on the area where they operate, and they are divided into coastal fishing vessels, long-distance fishing vessels, and local fishing vessels. The local fishing vessels are the fleet of small traditional vessels or less than 5 gross tonnages, and these vessels are commonly equipped to use more than one fishing technique, from gill nets, hooks, and traps.

Portugal is a big user of renewable energy.

Portugal can produce more than 50% of its energy requirements coming from renewable energy. And interestingly, in May 2016, Portugal became the 2nd country on earth that has all its full energy consumption covered by renewable energy alone, for four straight days. Renewable energy production in Portugal comes from solar, wind, hydro, ocean, geothermal, and biomass energy.

More than 230 million people can speak Portuguese.

The Portuguese language (the national language of the country) is not only used in Portugal but it’s also the official language of other countries including Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, São Tomé & Príncipe, Guinea Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea. Approximately, more than 230 million people around the world are native Portuguese speakers, making it in the world’s top 10 most spoken languages.

Portugal abolished slavery in 1761.

While slavery is a prominent element of Portuguese history, it became the first known country to abolish it as early as 1761, thanks to Marquês de Pombal or the rulers of Portugal. However, Portugal’s involvement in slavery within its colonies lasted as late as the 20th-century.

Portugal is a founding member of NATO.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO is a global alliance that consists of 30 member states from Europe and North America. Established at the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949, Portugal became a member on August 24, 1949. “NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.”

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Image from Adobe Stock

Portugal is going cashless.

Card payments and transactions cover more than 75% of buying and selling activities in Portugal. Compared to the European Union’s average, that’s generally high. Although, the EU is looking to be 100% cashless by 2030. Debit and credit cards are the most popular here and about 85% of the people use the Multibanco card by utilizing the chip-and-PIN technology.

The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance is the oldest alliance based on known history.

Portugal and England are good old friends. Their relationship is greatly driven by the countrys’ common interests as maritime nations. They had a treaty signed in 1373 for Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, and the bond between the two powerhouse countries strengthened over the years. The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance or England-Portugal alliance is the oldest alliance based on known history.

Luís Filipe was the King of Portugal for 25 minutes.

Portugal holds the record for the second shortest-reigning monarch in the world. Prince Luís Filipe became the King of Portugal for a total of 25 minutes after his father Carlos I was assassinated on February 1, 1908. After suffering injuries in the same attack, the 20-year-old Luís Filipe also died and the title of the king went to Manuel II, the last King of Portugal. The King of France, Louis XIX was the world’s shortest-reigning monarch after the abdication from his father. Louis XIX reign for about 14 to 20 minutes.

The tempura was a Portuguese concept.

Tempura is a famous Japanese dish. It is commonly made of seafood or vegetables, that are battered and deep-fried. Perfected by Portuguese traders and missionaries living in Nagasaki, Tempura ultimately spread across Japan during the 16th century. Back then, Japan was a closed-port country with limited trading access with few Chinese and European traders.

The country’s dictatorship was the longest in Europe.

The dictatorial regime was in power from 1926 to 1974, with António de Oliveira Salazar in charge for most of that time. Portugal went through a series of stages of dictatorship. The military dictatorship (Ditadura Militar) from 1926 to 1928 was first, followed by the national dictatorship (Ditadura Nacional) from 1928 to 1933, and finally, the new state (Estado Novo) from 1933 to 1974. Strong nationalistic conservatism drove the regime’s motive, according to studies.