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Portugal's National Flag | © Kurious / Pixabay
Portugal's National Flag | © Kurious / Pixabay

12 Facts about Portugal that You Don't yet Know

Picture of Nina Santos
Updated: 7 May 2017

Until recently, many people didn’t know much about this small country on the west side of the Iberian Peninsula. Even today Portugal’s beaches, traditional cuisine and old-world charm are the facets that remain in the spotlight. Discover another side to this historic country with these interesting facts.

1.Portugal is one of the Top European Countries Breaking into Renewable Energy.

In 2016, the entire country ran for 4.5 consecutive days solely on renewable energy that was powered by wind, sun and water. This is exciting news as it shows that reduction and eventual elimination of fossil fuel use is a possibility for the future.

2. Tempura was Never Initially Developed in Japan, but Introduced by the Portuguese.

Did you know that some of your favorite Japanese recipes were inspired by Portugal? We have the Portuguese to thank for those shrimp tempura recipes, which are favorites at many Japanese restaurants. During the time of Europe’s Age of Discoveries, Portugal introduced Japan to the technique of deep-frying food in flour and eggs. The word “tempura” also stems from the Latin word “Tempora“, which denoted the The Ember Days when Catholics practiced fasting ceremonies and abstained from eating meat.

3. The First Journey Around the World was Led by a Portuguese Explorer.

Whether Ferdinand Magellan was the first person to sail around the world or not is a debate that has been going on for quite some time. But no one denies that his expedition was the first to complete the trip. Some say that Magellan died before completing the journey and that one of his slaves finished in his place.

4. The Portuguese held the Longest Colonial Empire in Europe and the First in the World.

The Portuguese Empire began during the early 1400s and lasted until the turn of the 21st century. This means that it lasted almost 600 years! The first colony was Ceuta (now belonging to Spain), which was obtained in 1415, and Macau was the last colony, which lost its Portuguese hold in 1999. Many of the Portuguese-controlled African colonies gained their independence after Portugal’s Carnation Revolution in the ’70s.

5. Lisbon is The Oldest European Capital City.

Yes, dating at around 2700 years old, Lisbon is older than Madrid, Rome, Paris and London, in addition to many other popular European cities. Underground excavations have aged its oldest inhabitants as early as 1200 BC and uncovered proof of the city’s transition to Moorish control and back to Portuguese.

6. A Few of Portugal’s Most Popular Desserts were Created by Monks.

Pastéis de nata and fatias do bispo (Bishop’s slices) are a couple desserts that were developed in convents, but there are more. Pastéis are set apart as unique thanks to their egg yolk-cream filling and a few other recipes. For instance, did you know that the pastel de nata is derived from the need to use egg yolks, after the egg whites were used to starch Monk and Nun habits?

7. Portugal is the First Country in the World to Decriminalize Drug Possession and Declare Drug Use as a Public Health Problem.

Getting caught with drugs in Portugal may lead to a fine and some time in a health care program, but surprisingly not to jail. It has been 16 years since this law passed, and the result is a significantly lower overdose-related death rate than the European average, in addition to reduced drug-related illnesses.

8. Portugal’s Vasco da Gama Bridge is the Longest in Europe.

Reaching from the Northern-most point in the city near Parque das Nações, and across the Tagus River, it’s the longest bridge in Europe extending 7.6 miles in length. The Vasco da Gama Bridge opened in 1998 and provides an easier route towards parts of Spain and Algarve.

9.  Portugal Exports The Largest Quantity of Cork in the World.

Most wine drinkers have Portugal to thank for the corks that keep their favorite wines fresh. This Iberian country is the world’s most important exporter of cork, particularly in the Alentejo region. While walking through Lisbon’s souvenir shops, it soon becomes clear how important this product is, as many products are now made from cork materials – including coin purses and shoes!

10. The World Record for The Largest Omelet was Set in Portugal.

Chefs in Santarém, Portugal took 6 hours to create a 6.46-ton omelet with 145,000 eggs. This record-book endeavor was successfully accomplished during one of the local festivals in 2012.

11. The largest Wave Surfed was in Nazaré Portugal.

American surfer, Garrett McNamara may have surfed waves all around the world – including hot spots like Hawaii and California – but his largest wave was in a beach town in Portugal, located a couple hours North of Lisbon. This was also the largest surfed in the world.

12. Portugal was The First Country to Begin Ending Capital Punishment.

The first move in abolishing the death penalty in Portugal began in the 1850s with political and civil crimes. By the beginning of the 1900s, the death penalty ceased to be a practice entirely.