10 things you didn't know about Portugal

The interesting country in the west of the Iberian Peninsula

10 things you didn't know about Portugal

Portugal has a lot to offer, both to tourists and expats. You will probably be surprised by these facts about the small, generally little-known neighbour of Spain.

1. Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world.

Since the year 1279, when Portugal and Spain signed a peace treaty, Portugal has had pretty much the same borders it has now. It was the first global empire, and it also used to be one of the biggest empires, like its rival Spain, with colonies on all continents. Borderwise, the small country that remains today had its borders established back in 1279.

2. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe.

Portugal is not just one of the oldest countries, its capital Lisbon  is in fact the oldest European capital after Athens. It is said to be older than the Roman Empire, with its founding taking place around 400 years before the Roman era.

3. Lisbon is home to the oldest bookshop in Europe.

If you’re looking for the oldest European bookshop, go to Lisbon. The Livraria Bertrand  was opened in 1732 on Rua Garrett and has been there ever since. Bertrand has become one of the biggest bookshop chains, with shops all over Portugal and Spain, and it is also a publishing house.

4. Portugal hosts one of the oldest universities in Europe.

More old things! The University of Coimbra , a city Northwest of the country’s centre, was founded in 1290 by King Denis of Portugal. This makes it one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world. It has been transferred to Lisbon and back to Coimbra twice though.

5. Portuguese is one of the most spoken languages.

Portuguese is a Romance language, such as French, Italian and the very similar Spanish. Portuguese is among the six languages in the world with the most native speakers. It is spoken by an estimated 230 million people in over 10 countries and it’s the official language of nine countries. It is also one of the most widely used languages on the Internet nowadays.

6. Portugal is the largest cork exporter in the world.

Yes. Portugal is the biggest exporter of cork  products. Around 50 per cent of cork used worldwide comes from the small country on the Iberian Peninsula. For centuries, the evergreen cork oaks so typical and characteristic of the Portuguese landscape have been in cultivation for their spongy bark from which the cork is obtained. Most of it is made into cork stoppers, but you can also find lots of handcrafted art in Portugal.

7. Portuguese shoes are popular all over the world.

Portugal has a long tradition of shoe making, carpentry and paving (you have to see the beautiful Portuguese pavements). Among those craftsmanships, the most popular is the shoemaking. Rihanna and Pippa Middleton are reported to be wearing shoes by Helsar . Funnily enough, Portuguese cork is also often used for making shoes.

8. Port wine is named after the city of Porto, not Portugal.

Against general belief, the famous, sweet and somewhat strong “Vinho do Porto ” from the Douro valley didn’t get its name from Portugal, but from the city of Porto. Actually, even Portugal got its name from the city of Porto. Portucale used to be a name for the region around Porto before the kingdom of Portugal became independent.

9. The national music of Portugal is fado.

Declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO  in 2011, fado is without doubt the national music of Portugal (ask any Portuguese person). Its name derives from Latin fatum and means “fate” or “destiny”. It is strongly linked to the concept of saudade, a Portuguese word denoting a strong feeling of nostalgia. Saudade and fado, or fate, are the main themes of fado song lyrics.

10. The national dish of Portugal is bacalhau.

The national dish of Portugal is salted and dried cod, known as bacalhau in Portuguese. Surprisingly, however, cod is not one of the many fish you can find along the coast of Portugal, popular for its fresh fish and seafood. The national dish fish of Portugal can be found only in northern waters, such as the Baltic sea. The fish is said to have 365 different preparations in Portugal, one dish for every day of the year.

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