Write in under 1000 words about Portugal? Challenge accepted!
About the author here
With the coronavirus house confinement still going on, we recently challenged ourselves to create a summarized article about Portugal. The idea was to create a very simple document that you could carry with you on your trip to Portugal, we even created an infographic-like document if you prefer, we hope you like it and find it useful!
Click here to download the infographic
- Population: 10.5 million
- Life expectancy: 81 years
- GDP per capita (PPP): $32.554 (42nd in the World)
- Languages: Portuguese (official), Mirandese (regional)
- Foundation date: 1139
- Notable people (diseased): Henry the Navigator (Patron of Portuguese discovery age), Vasco da Gama (Explorer), Luís Camões (Poet), the 1st Marquis of Pombal (politician), Almada Negreiros (painter), Fernando Pessoa (Poet), Amália Rodrigues (singer), José Saramago (writer).
- Notable people (current), António Guterres (politician), Cristiano Ronaldo (footballer), José Mourinho (football coach), Mariza (singer), Paula Rego (painter), Maria João Pires (musician), Álvaro Siza Vieira (architect).
Cristiano Ronaldo – Arguably Portugal’s biggest export in the present
History of Portugal
Roughly speaking, we can divide the history of Portugal in 7 parts: History before the nation, the beginning of our history as a Nation, the age of Discovery, the age of enlightenment, the decline of the monarchy, the Dictatorship under Oliveira Salazar and finally the recent times:
- Before Portugal as a nation: Roman occupation lasted until the fall of the Western Empire at the beginning of the 5th century A.D. The dark ages ensued and took place between the 5th century B.C and the 11th This period was marked by substantial territory instability caused by the movements of the Germanic tribes at first, the Muslim invaders afterward in the year 726, and the “Reconquista” process that took place afterward.
- First steps as an independent nation: in 1139, following the battle of Ourique against the Moor/Almoravid kingdom, count Afonso Henriques is proclaimed King of the Portuguese
- The age of Discovery: The northern African city of Ceuta is conquered in 1415, prompting the beginning of the Portuguese age of discovery. The rest is history as they say!
- The age of enlightenment: Following a series of unfortunate events (namely a short-lived Habsburg rule), Portugal gets on its two feet again. For that much is due to the influx of the Brazilian gold discovered in the early 18th Unfortunately, in 1755 a huge earthquake takes place, destroying much of Lisbon and South Portugal.
- The decline of the monarchy: The 19th century was marked by the Napoleonic invasions and early political instability. Alongside other factors, this led to the end of monarchy and proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910.
- Dictatorship under Oliveira Salazar: After a successful stint as Finance Minister, Economics professor António Oliveira Salazar is appointed Portugal’s 100th Prime-Minister, a position he held until 1968. This period was known as “Estado Novo” and was a de facto dictatorship.
- Recent times: The carnation revolution takes place in 1974 and democracy is restored. Portugal joins the European union in 1986 and begins a period of Economic growth and social transformation.
Visiting for History and heritage:
The fact that Portugal is one of the oldest nations in the World makes it rich with a unique heritage. For pre-historic heritage, you can’t miss the vast region of Alentejo, as it boasts plenty of amazing megalithic stuff. Évora and around is the most well-known region for visiting this type of heritage, but there’s plenty more. For Romanesque history, you can’t miss the Northern region. A great source of information is the “Rota do Românico” website. Be sure to check the itinerary here. If you’re a medieval history nerd like myself, besides the obvious monuments in the big cities, you can also check the historical villages tour in the interior of the country close to Spain, check this website for more information.
For a general history immersion with plenty of different monuments to check and a wide variety of other things to do, you should visit 3 cities: Lisbon for its size and importance, Porto for its beauty, and Coimbra for being the former capital of the kingdom.
Just another dolmen in Alentejo…
Visiting for food – What should you eat?
One of the greatest things about Portugal is its World famous cuisine. Portugal’s unique take on Mediterranean cuisine, combined with the wide diversity of quality ingredients and the fact that restaurant prices are still moderate, make it irresistible for foodies. By the way, be sure to check our article about Portugal’s odd cuisine. Here’s some can’t miss meals, depending on the region/city: Alheira (Trás os Montes), Francesinha (Porto), goat “Chanfana” (Beiras region), Iberian black Pig with “Açorda” (Alentejo), Dogfish soup (Alentejo), Codfish of any variety (available throughout the country), grilled limpets in Madeira and the Azores. Regarding seafood, you can easily get it across Portugal coastline, in any place!
Visiting for wine:
With more than 250 grape varieties and 14 wine regions, Portugal has plenty of wine-related offerings. Be it a themed accommodation in the vineyards, wine-related tours or wine itself, we’ve got it all! That being said, if you’re lacking time but still want to make sure you cross from the list a wine-related experience, then you should probably pick the Douro wine region. Originally, it was mostly a producer of Port Wine but this changed in the 20th century and the Douro valley has now a reputation for producing some of the World’s best table wine, especially red varieties.
Azores archipelago (For an immersion in the Atlantic), Serra da Estrela mountain range (for hiking and great cheese), Ericeira & Mafra villages near Lisbon, Reguengos de Monsaraz (for great landscapes and crafts), Parque Natural de Peneda-Gerês (for camping in the wilderness), Trás os Montes (for majestic landscapes and food). Click here and here to know more off-the-beaten-path itineraries!
Trás-os-Montes is one of the most unexplored places in Portugal – The famous caretos tradition that takes place during Carnival
Click here to download the infographic
Authentic experiences for authentic travelers.
Written by: Francisco Carvalho Neto
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