Perhaps you’ve been to Portugal on your holidays, after all, the Algarve has been voted the best beach destination in the world, and with 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites it’s hardly surprising that Portugal is one of the top twenty most visited places in the world. There is, however, a lot more to Portugal than its glorious beaches. It’s a country full of diversity with a rich cultural heritage, so check out this list of things that you probably don’t know about this surprising country.
Portugal is home to the world’s longest pedestrian bridge
The ‘516 Arouca’, so named because this bridge in the Arouca Geopark is 516 metres long, and is suspended 175 metres above the Paiva River and connects two towering granite cliff faces.
Portugal is the oldest country in Europe
Portugal has had the same borders since 1139. Its capital, Lisbon, situated in a key trading position, was established around 1200 B.C.E., making it four centuries older than Rome.
Portugal’s national drink is wine
When we think of European wine we’re inclined to think of France, Spain and Italy, but Portugal has a fine tradition of grape cultivation dating back centuries and the UNESCO protected Douro Valley is the third oldest protected wine region in the world. Portugal’s most famous wine is of course the sweet, red, fortified wine known as Port, which became such a favourite with the English in the 18th century.
Portugal is Europe’s most westerly point
Mainland Portugal sits on the edge of the Iberian-peninsula but the Portuguese territory, the Azores, sits way out in mid Atlantic making it undisputedly Europe’s westernmost point.
Around 70% of the world’s cork comes from Portugal
Laws protecting Portugal’s cork forests were enacted as early as 1209 and with the rise in popularity of wine drinking in the 18th century Portugal became the world’s foremost cork producer, a position which it has maintained to this day.
Portugal is one of the hottest parts of Europe
Portugal’s desirable climate is one of the factors that make it such a popular tourist destination; Lisbon and the Algarve enjoy around 300 days of sunshine a year.
Rental property in Portugal is amongst the cheapest in Europe
Outside of Lisbon, rental property in Portugal is about half, or even a third of the price of European rental property. For example, rental prices in Portugal are 33% lower than comparable property in the U.K.
Portugal was one of the first countries to legalise same sex marriage
Portugal was the eighth country in the world to legalise same sex marriage, four years before the U.K.
Portugal has the oldest bookshop in the world
The Bertrand Bookstore, in Lisbon’s Chiado’s District, was established in 1732 and is still open for business.
Lisbon is Europe’s second oldest capital
Only Athens has been a European capital longer than Lisbon. Its key strategic location utilised by the Phoenicians as early as 1200 B.C.E.
Piri Piri sauce originated in Portugal
Portuguese explorers brought back chillies from South America and subsequently introduced them to Africa. Piri Piri sauce, which is a key ingredient of the popular national dish, Churrasco Chicken, is a mixture of chilli, garlic and lemon.
Portugal has one of the oldest universities in Europe
The University of Coimbra was established in 1290 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and open to tourists.