Now is your time to discover Portugal The Telegraph
Lisbon Overview

Six centuries ago Portugal discovered the world, now it is time for the world to discoverPortugal is one of the oldest States in the world, its recognition as Nation State dates back to the 12th century, but still some people do not know where it is, others think that it is a province of Spain. With 771 years of monarchy, 60 years of them under Spanish control, and 107 years of Republic which will be celebrated later on this year, as well as 48 years under a dictatorial regime, Portugal has a long history to tell and looks forward to writing an even brighter future.

Such a small country in the Europe’s West coast with just over 10 million people, Portugal is full of great personalities. Just to name a few, Portugal is the home country of two Nobel prize winners, some of the best football players (Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo) and one of the best coaches (José Mourinho). Portugal is also home to one of arguably the best Epic poetry by Camões “Os Lusíadas”, whose death Portugal celebrates as the National Day. Artists like Paula Rego and Joana Vasconcelos, architect Siza Vieira, and movie director Manoel de Oliveira are examples of Portuguese who have “conquered” the world in their own way.

Having a Portuguese, Durão Barroso, as the former President of the European Commission, Portugal is a proud member of the European Union, being one of the most pro-European countries in Europe. Furthermore, Portugal is a NATO founder member and a member of an intergovernmental organisation where Portuguese speaking countries come together to show the importance of the Portuguese language in the world, called the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (Portuguese: Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa; abbreviated as CPLP, occasionally known in English as Lusophone Commonwealth. Despite scarce resources, Portuguese diplomacy has made it possible for Portugal to actively participate in International Organisations, such as the election for the UN Security Council held in 2011 competing against Germany and Canada.

During the so-called Eurozone crisis, Portugal was notably affected, and the country made it to the news for the worst reasons: debt crisis, high unemployment rates, high interest rates, scandals involving banks and sovereign bond rating down. With a tremendous effort, the Portuguese people were able to push back Portugal from this great recession that strongly affected its small economy. Last year and since the end of the Estado Novo regime, Portugal achieved for the first time a public debt of 2.1% of the Portuguese GDP. Thanks to this, last month, the European Commission decided that Portugal was no longer in breach of the bloc’s budget rules.

It can be argued that the so-called economic crisis changed the Portuguese people´s way of thinking. New ideas emerged in the economic and political system, from a country seen as traditional and conservative, Portugal is now a country where innovation and creativity are the modus operandi, without of course forgetting its long history and traditions. I argue that the crisis has been an opportunity for the Portuguese people to rediscover themselves and the country where they were born. Portugal is now back in the newspapers and televisions for being a country of opportunity and beauty.

The recent advertising campaign made by “Visit Portugal” features a country of infinity natural and historical beauties that travellers “can’t skip”. The charm of the seven hills in Lisbon, the 2017 Best European Destination Porto, the world-renowned Algarve and the unknown Alentejo region and the “Norte and Centro de Portugal” with its historical villages, not to forget one of the best sustainable tourism destination, the Azores as well as the flower island Madeira.  All of these are Portuguese regions which are being discovered by new and old travellers. Tourists now see Portugal as a land where traditions and innovation live together through its narrow historical streets.

Portugal is not only a place for tourism. Portugal is a country full of opportunities. The Web Summit, organised for the first time in Lisbon in 2016, showed the world how the Portuguese capital is trying to become one of Europe's Silicon Valley, competing with London and Berlin. Startups from all around the world are looking to Lisbon as a great place to move or expand their business. The Portuguese footwear industry is one of the best examples of how traditional enterprises with the know-how were able to innovate during the crisis - now they are one the most innovating and creative hubs in Portugal.

Portugal is also currently performing well in other fields. In the beginning of June, Portugal was considered the 3rd most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index 2017, ranking 3rd out of 163 countries. In football, the famous Cristiano Ronaldo is still beating records, the Portuguese national team won the UEFA Euro 2016 in France against all the odds, and was placed in third at the FIFA Confederations Coup Russia 2017. On diplomacy matters, Guterres was elected as the new United Nations Secretary-General and furthermore, other Portuguese were also elected for important posts such as Monica Ferro (UN Population Fund Chief of Geneva Office), Jorge Moreira da Silva (Director of the OECD's Development Co-operation) and Aldino Campos (member of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf).

On May 13th, the Portuguese catholic community celebrated the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima, with the two days visit of the Pope Francis to Fátima, one of the most important religious places in Portugal. While the Pope was leaving Portugal, the Benfica supporters were celebrating another football league championship in Lisbon, and last but not least Salvador Sobral won the Eurovision 2017 in Kiev on the same day. For the first time, Portugal won the Eurovision contest with a “music that actually means something” and captivated the whole Europe.

The 13th of May 2017 will remain a historic day for Portugal as the day that Fátima, Football and Fado took place in the very same day, those were the three pillars used by Salazar to keep the Portuguese population quiet and alienated from the regime politics. Portugal is now a new country, where much has changed since the Estado Novo regime, and Portuguese people want to show that Portugal is no longer an old fashioned country anymore.

It can be argued that Portugal has been a sleeping beauty for many years. However I believe that the crisis meant an awakening and the country is now ready to play an important role in the world where success stories are needed. The Portuguese people just need to keep their feet firmly on the ground, and sustain their trust in themselves. The world, and even the Portuguese people, now understand that Portugal has more to offer than just a beautiful sunny day in Algarve. Of course there are a lot to be done, butthe world is already watching Portugal, do not let them down and make it worth it!

Go and discover Portugal, its people and history, with your own eyes, but be aware of "15 Things You Need to Know before Travelling to Portugal".