15 Things You Need to Know before Travelling to Portugal
Castle of the Historical Village Trancoso

1. Portugal is not just Lisbon and the Algarve

Portugal is a small country but with distinct regions from the North to the South. There are also two archipelagos: Açores - on the way to the USA - and Madeira - close to Morocco, and these areas have their own distinct dialects. Portuguese people love the sea, so many have left the countryside to live by the seaside, leaving behind well preserved treasures of Portugal, such as the Historic Villages of Portugal (Aldeias Históricas).

2. Portugal is not a province of Spain

Spain has tried to conquer us many times since 1143, and we were even part of the same country for a period of 60 years, but it did not work well. To this day, some of them still want us. But we are better just sharing the border with them and two community villages, nothing more.

3. Portuguese people do not speak Spanish

We understand Spanish, but we speak Portuñol, which is different. Portuguese is the fifth most spoken language in the world. Also, do not be surprised when we say that we understand Brazilian people, because they also speak Portuguese, we have taught them that many years ago, they just changed the accent.

4. Portugal has had the same borders since 1297

With some small changes, caused by disputes with Spain, we have maintained the same borders since 1297. Soon, our Exclusive Economic Zone (which is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and the use of marine resources) will be expanded, becoming one of the biggest of Europe and the world. We already have more sea territory than land territory.

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Image Credits: Portuguese Government

5. Portugal is not always shiny

Sometimes we also have storms, floods, tornados, even snow and ice. In the Azores, there are often four seasons in one day. It is possible to practice winter sports in Serra da Estrela, but we are better at water sports, when the sea is not trying to take over the land. Our beach football team even won the World Cup this year.

6. Life (probably) started in Portugal

According to NASA the thermal waters and the geological environment in Cabeço de Vide, a small village in the south of Portugal, are quite unique, comparable only with a region in the USA and on Mars. This is what made NASA believe that it is possible that life started here.

7. 50% of the cork world production is from Portugal

In the past we used to produce cork to make bottle stoppers, but nowadays we use cork to create everything that you can possibly imagine. Sobreiro, the primary source of cork, is our national tree.

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Image Credits: Grupo Amorim

8. Portuguese people are good at records

The longest bridge in Europe is Ponte Vasco da Gama in Lisbon. The Alqueva dam created the largest artificial lake in Europe. The biggest olive grove is in Portugal. The first demarcated region was in the Douro valley. Portugal and the United Kingdom (first England) have the longest standing alliance in the world. The first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic was made by Portuguese aviators n 1922. We have the football team with most supporters, Benfica, and there are many other records held by Portuguese people.

9. Portuguese people love books

In 1572, the epic poem “Os Lusíadas” was printed, written by Luís Vaz de Camões. It is one of the most beautiful poems ever written. We have one of the most impressive libraries in the world, the Joanina Library, which is part of the first Portuguese University, in Coimbra. The Bertrand Bookshop in Lisbon was open in 1732 and is still open to this day, making it the oldest bookshop in the world. Porto has the most beautiful bookshop in the world, the Lello. We also have a Volkswagen Bookshop, that can take you anywhere.

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Image Credits: Wikipedia

10. Cristiano Ronaldo is not the only Portuguese to win prizes

Egas Moniz won the Medicine Nobel Prize in 1949, and in 1998 José Saramago won the Nobel Prize in Literature. We won four gold medals, eight silver and eleven bronze medals in the Olympic Games. Our National Rugby Team is also doing a great work. Two Pritzker Architecture Prizes were also won by the Portuguese. But still, most of you only heard about Cristiano Ronaldo, and you already forgot José Mourinho.

11. Globalization started with Portugal, but we also had other innovations

“God created the Whites and the Blacks, and Portuguese people created the Mestizos” (Portuguese saying). In 1415 we started the Age of Discovery, and with it, the Mestizos. When we started to use ATMs they were already most advanced than in the rest of the world. We created Via Verde, so we do not need to stop on the highway to pay the tolls, which can also be used to pay for fuel and parking. We also invented the prepaid mobile cards.

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Photo Credits: Wikipedia

12. Portugal is one of the most exotic countries in Europe

Portugal has always been more connected to the sea than to Europe. The fact that we had a global empire changed the way we look at the world. Our sailors brought new ideas and new cultures to Lisbon. Our King Manuel the First had its own architectural style linked to the sea. The closer capital city to Lisbon is Rabat, not Madrid as you might think.

13. Portugal is green

Portugal is full of natural parks with unique species - if you visit the Azores, you will see only green and blue. The Iberian Lynx that was extinct in Portugal is now back, thanks to Iberian cooperation. Almost 50% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. We are using the wind from the high mountains in the North to build wind turbines, and in the sunny south, we are using solar panels. We also use the waves to produce energy.

14. Portuguese gastronomy is awesome

Portuguese gastronomy is not only Vinho do Porto (Porto Wine), Bacalhau (cod fish) and Pastéis de Belém (mostly known as Pastéis de Nata). We also have Vinho Verde (Green Wine), Francesinhas, enchidos (do not call it sausages), cheese, Travesseiros, Queijadas. We eat normal sardines and Sardinhas Doces (Sweet Sardines). Our street food such as Bifanas, Prego or Pão com Chouriço with Caldo Verde, is the best to survive a long night.

15. Two words that can explain Portuguese people: “saudade” and “desenrascar”

These are two words that are very difficult to translate into English. Saudade is not only connected to Fado, saudade is more than missing someone; it is the love that remains after someone is gone. While desenrascar, is what every Portuguese person does when trying to find the perfect solution for a last minute problem.