Portugal has become a traveller’s delight in recent years, as it is well-regarded for its charming cobblestoned villages, attractive golden beaches, and impressive medieval castles.
If all this wasn’t enough, the great nation offers exceptional cuisine and intriguing history, which will ensure visitors are never bored.
If you want to learn more about this beautiful country, here are 14 brilliant facts about Portugal you should read.
1. It’s Europe’s Oldest Nation-State
Back in 1139, Portugal became its own kingdom, as the Spanish signed a treaty to grant the Algarve to Portugal. However, it wasn’t until four years later that the country’s first king, Alfonso I Henrique, came into power in 1143. The country enjoyed 800 years as a kingdom before becoming a republic in 1910, making it Europe’s oldest nation-state.
2. Portuguese is the 6th Most Spoken First Language
It might surprise you to learn that Portuguese is the 6th most spoken first language on the planet. In fact, the following nine countries speak Portuguese as an official language:
• Cape Verde
• East Timor
• Equatorial Guinea
• Guinea Bissau
• Sao Tome
It is also an official language in cities across the world, such as Goa in India and Macau in China.
3. Rome is Younger Than Lisbon
While Rome might be steeped in history, the Italian capital is four centuries younger than the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. It was believed Phoenicians settled in Portugal in 1200BC, which makes it the second oldest capital city in Europe after Athens, Greece.
4. The Romans Couldn’t Conquer Portugal for 200 Years
While Rome might be much younger than Lisbon, this didn’t stop the Romans from attempting to conquer Portugal. However, the nation certainly put up a fight, as it is believed to have taken the Romans 200 years to conquer Lusitania eventually. In fact, the Romans had a saying “In Iberia, there is a tribe that neither governs itself nor lets itself be governed.”
5. More Than Half the World’s Cork is Created in Portugal
Portugal is the leading producer of cork, as it reportedly accounts for 70% of the world’s cork exports. That is because it is home to the most extensive cork oak forests on the planet. It is so integral to the Portuguese economy that cork oak is protected by law. The primary importers of Portuguese cork include the UK, the US, and Germany.
6. Portugal and England Have a Strong History
Way back in 1373, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was signed between England and Portugal, and the alliance is still in force to this very day. As a result, the two nations have enjoyed the longest diplomatic partnership in history. In fact, both countries have agreed to the terms of the alliance throughout the centuries, as the UK entered the Iberian Peninsula War, while Portugal entered World War I.
7. The Biggest Surfing Wave in History
Many travelers often make their way to Portugal to find the best surfing spots in Europe. While you might think you would find the best waves in the likes of Australia, it was in Portugal’s Praia do Norte in Nazaré that Garrett McNamara caught the biggest wave in history, which was approximately 90ft high.
8. There are Meanings Behind the Portuguese Flag
National artists are responsible for the design of the Portuguese flag. Each colour on the flag represents both the past and future, as green is a symbol of hope for the nation, while red is to signify the much blood shed during many battles. The central shield also represents Portugal’s countless victories with the Moors.
9. The Country Offers the Hottest Weather in Europe
Few European nations can compare to Portugal when it comes to sunshine, as it is well-regarded for offering the hottest weather on the continent. Some parts of the country can even enjoy up to 300 days of glorious sunshine throughout the year. It is, therefore, no surprise many people choose to book Algarve holidays to enjoy a picturesque break away with their loved ones.
10. A Portuguese Princess Introduced Britain to Tea
Many Brits cannot make it through the day without a hot cup of tea. However, they might be surprised to learn they have a Portuguese princess to thank for the nation’s favourite drink. That is because Catharine of Braganca reportedly introduced the Queen to tea in 1662.
11. Portugal Has Inspired International Cuisine
Portugal not only brought tea to Great Britain, but it is also responsible for many countries’ popular cuisines. For example, the nation introduced potatoes, chilli, and tomatoes to Thailand and India, which are essentials in many of their world-famous dishes, such as various curries. Lovers of tempura might also be surprised to discover that the method wasn’t created in Japan, as it was invented by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries.
12. The Portuguese Love Cod
One item you are bound to find on many Portuguese restaurant menus is cod. That is because the nation has thousands of cod recipes to choose from, and they import a considerable amount of the fish from Iceland and Norway.
13. Port Wine is Portugal’s Biggest Export
Despite being the biggest producer of cork in the world, port wine is the country’s biggest and most popular export. The sweet, fortified wine is produced in the Douro Valley, and it is made from port wine grapes that can be found on the valley’s hillsides near Porto. It is also one of the oldest wine producing regions in the word; however, the likes of India, America, South Africa, and Australia have attempted to replicate the traditional wine.
14. There are 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
In addition to glorious sunshine, delicious port wine and some of the best surfing spots on the planet, Portugal also offers fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One is a natural site, and the other 14 are cultural sites. As a result, approximately 13 million tourists visit the country every year to explore the many historic landmarks and stunning sites the country has to offer.