23 Surprising Facts About Portugal That You Probably Didn’t Know

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Home > Life in Portugal > 23 Surprising Facts About Portugal That You Probably Didn’t Know

Olá, guys! Here you can find some really interesting information about Portugal. Today we are going to talk about facts! Facts about Portugal, of course! Stick with us to learn surprising things about our favourite little country.

23 surprising facts about Portugal

1. The “raia”

Portugal has one of Europe’s oldest established borders, some of which were from the time Portugal was a little county and Spain was the kingdom of “Leão”. The border between Portugal and Spain was given the name “a raia” in Portuguese or “La Raya” in Spanish which means “streak” in English.

2. English alliance

The alliance between Portugal and England is one of the oldest alliances in history. The English answered Portugals’ calls for aid more than a few times, and the same can be said for Portugal.

3. More than half of the world’s cork is produced in Portugal

The cork tree (“sobreiro”) is protected in Portugal and the country seems to have evolved to come up with as many uses for it as it can. There is even a cork surfboard! Can you believe this?

4. The five o’clock tea

The five o’clock tea was introduced to England by Catarina de Bragança, a Portuguese lady and queen of England. Although she was fairly disliked as the queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, because she was Catholic, she still made this incredible contribution to the English way of life.

5. The Portuguese water dog

You may have heard about this breed of dog since President Obama chose one to be a part of his family. What you may not know is that water dogs are considered to be hypoallergenic and therefore can be an excellent addition to your household if someone suffers from allergies.

Portuguese water dog

6. Portuguese is the sixth language

If you remember your world history, it might not be a surprise to know that Portugal colonised half of the world. Most of Portugal’s colonies retained the Portuguese language making it the sixth most spoken language in use today. The Portuguese language is the official language of nine different countries and has a stunning number of speakers, over 250 million! Amazing right?

7. Food, wine, and castles

These are the most common answers when tourist are asked what they love most about Portugal. The food. The wine and the castles! I think we might be missing the weather or the beaches here, but who can blame them?

8. Fish

Speaking of food and wine, Portugal is the third country in the world with the most fish consumption, behind Japan and Iceland. Fish is an important part of the Mediterranean diet and foreigners often speak wonders about Portugal’s fish specialties.

9. Heavy smoking

Smoking is extremely common in Portugal, even inside some establishments. Anti-smoking laws are catching up to it, but don’t be surprised to find people smoking everywhere and at all times.

10. Pastel de Belém

This is Portugal’s world-famous pastry and the Pastel de Belém is the most famous factory and café for this in Lisbon. Make sure you give them a try. Watch out for the long lines at the café, though. The recipe is so secretive and mysterious that the few people who know it never share a plane, train or car with each other just in case. Incredible!

11. Tempura

So, you are going to your favourite Japanese restaurant and order your usual tempura shrimp. Someone on the table next to you says: “Did you know that tempura was introduced to Japan by Portuguese missionaries?” You weren’t expecting this, right? Portugal is everywhere!

12. The name Silva

Silva is the most common surname in Portugal, or was at least, for a long time. It’s pronounced like “silver” in English although it really means brambles. Go figure.

13. Fado

The traditional musical style of Portugal is Fado and it is often described as melancholic and/or nostalgic. This musical genre relies on a complete mastery of stringed instruments (including the Portuguese guitar) and on the voice of the singer. If you visit Portugal, be sure to keep an eye out for live Fado performances, it will be a unique experience for you.

14. The dead queen

This may seem like the title of a horror story, but in fact, it is a story of love. A long time ago, one of Portugal’s princes, Dom Pedro, fell in love with one of his wife’s ladies in waiting, Inês de Castro. The story of Pedro and Inês is one of loss and sorrow. The prince’s father, King Afonso IV, ordered the assassination of Inês. The assassins were successful and Pedro went mad with grief. When Pedro was finally king, he pursued and killed the assassins by ripping out their hearts, which granted him the title of ‘Dom Pedro, The Cruel’. Maybe they made secret vows to each other, or maybe Dom Pedro, in his grief, vowed to make everyone kneel before Inês, but the truth is that he made Inês queen of Portugal long after her death. Creepy, right?

15. Paris

When it comes to the number of Portuguese people living in a single city, Paris is, surprisingly the most popular Portugal tourist attractions, the second on the list.

16. I get half, you get half

Portugal and Spain once divided the world in two in the shape of a treaty called ‘Tordesillas’. The aim was to explore as much of the world as possible without rivalry or burdening each other with war. This treaty, probably, represented the dawn of the age of discovery. We all know how that turned out.

17. First in, first out

Portugal was the first country in Europe to establish a slave market in Lagos, the Algarve, but also the first to abolish slavery in Europe.

18. Coimbra, 1290

One of Europe’s oldest universities is in Portugal. The University of Coimbra dates back to 1290, founded by the then Portuguese king, Dom Dinis. The university eventually gained some fame all over Europe and it was not uncommon for the courts of European kings to have Portuguese doctors.

Coimbra university Portugal

19. One country, three continents

Although Portugal belongs to Europe and is part of the European Union, the Madeira archipelago is situated in the African continent and the Azores archipelago is located in the American continent.

20. The South American capital

While we are on the subject of the American continent, Rio de Janeiro was once the capital city of Portugal. It didn’t last long, but I’m sure they enjoyed it there.

21. 364 days of surf

For all you wave riders and ocean lovers out there! Yes, you! It is said that you can get 364 days of surf throughout Portugal. I guess you still have one day to kick back and chill.

22. The year 1755

Portugal, more specifically Lisbon, suffered one of the severest earthquakes ever to hit a European country. The earthquake and the tsunami that followed it, left a path of complete destruction in its wake. Lisbon was practically razed to the ground. This lead to a complete redesign of the city that you can still see today in downtown Lisbon.

23. Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and was once the capital of an Empire. It stretches along the river Tagus and has seven hills, like Rome. It is fabled to be founded by Ulysses and its ancient name Olissipo, has some likeness to it. Incredibly though, Portugal’s birth city is Guimaraes and Coimbra was Portugal’s official capital for a very long time! If you enjoyed reading these facts about Portugal, maybe you will also like our facts about Lisbon!

Want more facts about Portugal?

That’s it for today, guys. We hope you enjoyed our facts about Portugal and that you learned something about Portugal’s history. We started this article with Olá, the Portuguese word for “hello” so it is fitting to end with “Adeus e até à próxima!” which means, Bye and see you next time! Did we convince you to visit Portugal? Do you have any extra facts you wish to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.We publish new content every day so be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get notified of the latest tips for your visit or move to Portugal.

about the author
A man only has maybe two or three chances to decide to change his life completely. In one of those moments, I discovered Portugal and fell in love. Since then, I divide my time between Portugal and New Zealand searching for the perfect wave and scribbling for a living.

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