11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Portugal

Hugh Thomas
Vasco de Gamba Portugal

Updated: 18/07/2016

Portugal is a country as curious as it is attractive a destination to visit. It is much more ancient than you might think, and as a result has become rich in history, culture, tradition, as well as some fairly outlandish feats and traditions. The following words detail some interesting things you probably didn’t know about Portugal.

1. In the early 18th century, the English turned to Portugal to supply them with wine, on account of them fighting a war with France. Wine however could not last the voyage without going off, and was fortified with brandy. The beverage thence became known as Porto, or Port. Also, over half the world’s cork production is sourced form Portugal.

2. First established as a country in the 12th century, Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation in Europe.

3. The world’s only ‘international’ zipline stretches between two villages; one in Portugal and the other in Spain. Creator of the ‘Límite Zero’ David Jarman said, ‘Two villages in two countries, separated by a river 150 metres wide – a zipline just seemed obvious to me.’

Pasteis de Nata Portugal

credit: Jpatokal

4. Portugal is famous for its pastry making. Pastéis de nata, one of the most popular, were first made in the 17th century when monks used leftover egg yolks (from starching their habits) to create sweet cakes and pastries. These were sold to passersby outside the monasteries to generate a little extra revenue. If you’re interested to learn more about it, check out our Pastéis de nata masterclass in London!

5. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, and perhaps contrary to popular belief, S.L. Benfica is the world’s most widely supported football club.

6. The world record for the largest dining table was set when around 16,000 guests were served lunch at a five kilometre-long table on the Vasco da Gama bridge (largest of it’s kind in Europe). The event was staged by a washing liquid company that promised to do the subsequent washing up using a mere litre of its new product.

7. Portugal’s weather is known as the hottest in Europe, with nearly 3,000 sunny hours per year.

8. The Anglo-Portuguese alliance is the oldest in the world, first ratified as a treaty in 1373 and solidified as a mutual alliance in 1386.

9. The shrine of Fatima is a poplar pilgrimage spot for Christian communities and, in terms of volume of visiting pilgrims, it is second only to Rome in Europe. Fatima receives four to five million pilgrims a year.

10. From 1808 to 1821, and after Napoleon invaded the country, the capital of Portugal was Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

11. Portugal saw the first ever flight of a hot air balloon. In 1709, a Brazilian priest elevated himself four meters above the ground in front of King John V and the Portuguese court in Lisbon. However, at that time the notion of a flying man was so preposterous that the priest was accused of witchcraft and consequently persecuted.


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  • Pedro Soares

    I have no idea where you got the idea for number 7.”The oppressive weather conditions are usually seen as a reasonable excuse to not show up for work.” Really? This is totally far from truth (but it makes a good anecdote)