15 Portuguese Facts You Need To Know Before Visiting!
Portugal is a fascinating country found in southwest Europe right along the Atlantic Ocean. With a rich history, interesting culture and beautiful landscapes it is well worth visiting, so find out some facts about Portugal right here!
Did you know that Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries; Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea? Over 236 million people world-wide are native Portuguese speakers and it is also spoken in Goa (India), Macao, and East Timor.
2. It's Old
Since Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, it is the oldest nation-state in Europe. The first king of the country, Afonso Henriques was proclaimed in 1139 and the country remained a kingdom for almost 800 years until 1910.
3. The Cork
Another fact that you may not know is that Portugal produces over 70% of the world's cork exports. This is thanks to the fact the cork tree is a native species to the country. Portugal also boasts the largest amounts of cork forest anywhere in the world, and also the oldest cork tree, the Whistler Tree.
4. Vasco da Gama Bridge
The Vasco da Gama Bridge is located in Lisbon and is an impressive 17 kilometres long, making it the longest bridge in Europe. Spanning the Tagus River, the bridge took 3 years to build and opened in 1998.
Portugal is one of the world’s top surfing spots, even if the water is a little chilly! The biggest wave ever surfed was actually in Portugal; this is thanks to an underwater canyon in the area which makes part of the Portuguese coastline the world’s biggest wave generator.
Lisbon is in fact the second oldest European capital after Athens. Believed by many historians to have been settled by the Phoenicians around 1200 BC, who used the excellent transport possibilities offered by the River Tagus, unfortunately due to a huge earthquake, much of the old city was destroyed in the mid-18th Century.
7. UNESCO Sites
Portugal can boast an impressive 15 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, 14 of these cultural sites and 1 of them natural. Since the country is one of the 20 most visited countries in the world with millions of tourists visiting each year, there is a site to please everyone.
8. Fada Music
Fado means fate in Portuguese, and is a music genre that originates in urban Lisbon. It's a type of mournful and heart-touching folk music and reputedly tells the tale of the Portuguese soul. So meaningful is this genre, that it was recently added to the World's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Portugal has a variety of home-grown sweet pastry recipes and this is thanks to theCatholic monasteries of the Middle Ages who are responsible for the wide range of famous Portuguese pastries today, including: the pastéis de Belém (or pastéis de nata) from Lisbon and ovos moles from Aveiro.
The world-famous Port wine, sometimes also called Porto, is a sweet Portuguese fortified wine from the Douro Valley in the northeast of the country. The conditions are just right for producing the grapes that make this popular wine.
11. Cape Roca
Cape Roca, or Cabo da Roca in Portuguese, is not only the most westerly point of Portugal, but also of mainland continental Europe and Eurasia. Found in the southwest area of Lisbon, a monument denotes its western status amongst the rugged and breath-taking granite rocks looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.
12. Livraria Bertrand
The Livraria Betrand is not only Lisbon’s and Portugal’s oldest bookshop having been founded in 1732, but it is also the oldest still running bookshop in the world. I was one of the many casualties of the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, but the bookshop set up shop again in 1773, and now there are around 50 branches of Livraria Bertrand throughout Portugal.
13. Aguçadora Wave Park
Portugal is one of the forerunners of renewable energy sources with around 70% of its energy coming from renewable sources such as wind, hydro and solar power. One of the world’s largest photovoltaic farms (a fancy name for a wave harnessing plant), is in south-east Portugal, the Aguçadora Wave Park.
Thanks to its nearly 1800km coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, Portuguese cuisine boasts a lot of seafood. One of the most popular dishes is fish stew, which is one of the mainstays of food in Portuguese, and involves choice fish, beans and shellfish.
15. Caldo Verde
Even though fish is one of Portugal’s main dishes, caldo verde also deserves a mention as the most well-known national dish of the country. With just 4 basic ingredients of kale, olive oil, potatoes and salt, it has other delicious variations with a ham hock and onion and garlic too, and is a classic dish well worth trying if you are visiting the country.