Interesting facts about Portugal
Portugal is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With the exception of only one, these are all cultural sites.
34% of the total cork forests in the world grow in Portugal and the country produces more than 50% of the world’s cork supply. The cork forest can be found throughout the country, but the majority are in the Algarve and the Alentejo plains.
The westernmost points of Europe (both islands and mainland) are in Portugal. While the country itself is set on the edge of the Iberian peninsula in south-western Europe, its archipelago of the Azores in the Atlantic ocean officially holds the title of being the westernmost point of Europe.
The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan was the first to complete a full journey around the earth.
At one point, half of the “New World” belonged to Portugal. In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed. It gave Portugal the eastern half of the “New World,” including Brazil and parts of Africa and Asia. The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history. It was also one of the longest-lived colonial powers, lasting for almost six centuries from when Ceuta was captured in 1415 until Macau (now China) was handed-over in 1999.
On that note, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan in the 16th century. Tempura was brought to Japan by the Portuguese centuries ago.
Portuguese is an official language in 9 countries – Portugal (of course), Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea. It is also spoken in Goa in India, Macao on the south coast of China, and East Timor in southeast Asia.
The world’s oldest bookstore is in Lisbon’s Chiado district. Bertrand Bookstore was established in 1732. Its exterior façade is a spectacular display of mosaic tiles, worth admiring in their own right.
Lisbon was almost destroyed by an earthquake, followed by a tsunami! On November 1st 1755, Lisbon was struck by a massive earthquake that nearly destroyed the city. Reports state the earthquake lasted between three and six minutes, causing fissures of 5 meters. About 40 minutes later, a tsunami engulfed the harbour and downtown area, rushing up the Tejo river. But it did not end here! It was All Saints’ Day celebration and the candles that had been lit were knocked over by the earthquake and started a fire that spread all over the city. About 85% of the city was utterly destroyed.
Portugal has the second-longest bridge in Europe. The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 12.3 km long (7.6 miles). Some sources say it is about 17km (just over 10 miles) It was the longest in Europe for about 20 years until the Crimean Bridge was opened in Russia in 2018.
Fado is an intangible cultural heritage. It originated in Lisbon at the beginning of 19th century.
Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery (in 1761, half a century before Britain, France, Spain, or the United States). It was also the sixth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage in 2010.
Did you know any of these facts? Which one did you find most interesting?