Portugal in brief




A short presentation of Portugal…


President of the Republic: Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

National anthem: A portuguesa

Area: 92.201 km²

Population: 10, 295, 909 (2019)

Density: 111.3 inhabitants per km2

Capital: Lisbon

Official Language: Portuguese

Portuguese-speaking countries (excluding Portugal): Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe

Portuguese archipelago (main islands): Azores, Madeira, Berlengas

Currency: Euro

National holiday: June 10

Religion: The majority of the population is Catholic but Portugal is a secular state according to the 1976 Constitution


Summary history of the country

Lusitania, as it was called at that time, has been invaded several times, thus passing into the hands of various peoples. Those who left a deeper mark are the Romans who imposed their rule in 140 BC until the 5th century and the Moors in 712. Portugal was recognized as an independent kingdom in 1143 under the reign of King Alfonso I. His brother, Alfonso III took over the Algarve from the Moors in 1249 and in 1255 he transferred the capital of Coimbra to Lisbon.

The French come from the crusades also leave their mark in Portuguese culture and architecture. The different cultures mix and this provokes a rather large contrast still present between the north and the south of Portugal.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth century, Portuguese sailors embarked on expeditions to Africa, the Americas, and India where Vasco de Gama opened a new sea route to the empires of the Orient. The Portuguese Empire then expanded throughout the world, establishing colonies in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea, Brazil, Goa, Macao and Timor-Leste. Thanks to these trips, Portugal has established itself at the economic, political and cultural levels and has thus become one of the richest countries in the world and one of the most influential kingdoms in Europe.

At the same time, in 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain by the decree of the Alhambra. Many will take refuge in Portugal but they are expelled again in 1496. Then in October 1497, the king Manuel transforms the expulsion in forced conversion. But it was only in 1540 that the Inquisition organized the first autodafé.

Portugal was annexed to Spain in 1580 by Felipe II of Spain and became its king.

Portugal’s Independence Restoration takes place in 1640, after 60 years of Spanish occupation.

On November 1, 1755, Lisbon suffered a major earthquake followed by fires that destroyed much of the city. The Algarve, in the south of the country, is also affected.

The monarchy hitherto established was overthrown by the army and Portugal was declared a republic on October 5, 1910. António de Oliveira Salazar, who became a fascist dictator, seized power and thus controlled the media, elections and freedoms Population.

On April 25, 1974, the regime was overthrown by a peaceful coup led by leftist groups, known as the Carnation Revolution. April 25 is today a holiday commemorated in honor of freedom.

Portugal is currently a founding member of NATO and since 1986 a member of the EU. The country has evolved a lot and today has a stable democracy and a vibrant cultural life. Porto, for example, was declared European Capital of Culture in 2001.



The country joined the European Union in 1986 and Portugal is one of the eleven EU founding states of the euro, in 1999. The country is thus disappearing the old national currency, the escudo (1 € = 200,482 PTE).

GDP (2015): EUR 184.931  billion

GDP per capita (2015): € 17,900

Main customers (2017): Spain (25,8%), France (12,7%), Germany (11,2%), United Kingdom (6,6%)

Main suppliers (2017): Spain (38%), Germany (12.9%), France (7.4%), Italy (5.5%)

Share of main sectors of activity in GDP (2017):

Agriculture: 2.4%

Industry: 21.9%

Services: 75.8%

According to a recent survey, Portugal has significantly increased its growth following a severe economic crisis. The country would seem to rise and this thanks to tourism.



The climate of Portugal is Mediterranean, characterized mainly by hot, dry summers and mild winters. In winter, the coldest months are January and February, but temperatures remain mild (except in the mountains). In summer, the hottest and driest months are July and August, with average temperatures above 20 ° C almost everywhere in July, reaching peaks of over 45 ° C in some areas.

In northern Portugal, snow may appear due to the altitude of some places.

In the islands such as the Azores and Madeira, the climate is respectively oceanic and subtropical.




Fado is certainly the best known Portuguese musical genre, especially with Amália Rodrigues. The singer of fado (fadista) generally chooses a melancholic theme accompanied by plucked instruments. “A saudade” sung through the fado represents nostalgia. This song was first sung in the popular districts before reaching the bourgeoisie. Fado houses and restaurants regularly offer dinners accompanied by fado.


In addition to music, Portugal is the country of poets par excellence. In the Renaissance, Luís de Camões was able to stand out with the publication of the Lusiades (1572), in which he recounts the Great Discoveries of the Portuguese. In the twentieth century, it’s the poet Fernando Pessoa who gets noticed and he’ll become the most translated Portuguese poet.

Portuguese festivals

Portugal is also known for its festive side, especially during the summer like Nos Alive, Meo Sudoeste, Rock in Rio Lisboa, Super Bock Super Rock… Festivals are held everywhere but it’s especially the traditional festivals that are in the spotlight. These celebrations, which are supposed to pay tribute to biblical figures or saints, are nowadays especially a pretext for entertainment for a few days. * In Lisbon, the Santos Populares (Santos Populares) celebrations take place on June 13 and in Porto, June 24th. You will find grilled sardines on every street corner, music and traditional dances (Portuguese folklore, o rancho), processions, fireworks and especially lots to drink!

* I highly recommend the holidays in August in the North-East (Trás-Os-Montes) like that of Pegarinhos, a village very famous for its grandiose festivals.



As in many countries, each region of Portugal offers different typical dishes. Portuguese like meat (pork, mutton and poultry) but also eat a lot of fish and shellfish. The most cooked fish is certainly the cod which there are many variants. In this country where agriculture is highly developed, we also eat a lot of fruits and vegetable, cheese is also appreciated. Also to know that olive oil is a key ingredient in Portuguese cuisine.

Among the most popular recipes:

Bacalhau com natas, bacalhau à bras, carne de porco com alentejana, arroz de pato, alheira de Mirandela, francesinha, cozido à portuguesa, polvo à lagareiro…

In the pastries, there is a list of traditional recipe varieties, the most famous being among others pastéis de nata (the best ones are from Belém), ovos moles of Aveiro, pastéis de Tentúgal, pão-de-ló…

For drinks, the Portuguese drink a lot of beer and the country is highly winery. The most famous wines are the wines of Douro, Alentejo and Dão, do Douro, vinho verde of Minho e sweet wines of Porto, Lourinhã and Madeira.



The main currents widespread in Portugal are:

Romanesque art, which made its appearance in the twelfth century, especially in the north and center of the country. We find this style in monasteries, churches (Sé de Coimbra), bridges, castles …

Gothic art, a transition to Romanesque art at the end of the 13th century, represented mainly by the monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha, whose construction is inspired by French architecture.

The Manueline style, under the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal in the fifteenth century, inspired by maritime travel and represents the cultural wealth of the country. In the nineteenth century, many buildings are built in a Manueline style (Torre de Belém among others).

Baroque art, after the Renaissance and during the eighteenth century, is reflected in the golden woodwork that covers the interior of churches and palaces. It is “the golden age” thanks to the exploitation of the gold and diamond mines of Brazil.

The pombalin style, in reference to Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal, who took over the reconstruction of Lisbon after the earthquake of 1755. Pombal oversees and renovates the city (especially the center of Lisbon, Baixa ) according to an emergency urban planning project inspired by the neoclassical style, characterized by a paving of patterned streets and earthquake resistant buildings.

Azulejos, emblems of Portugal, are faience tiles that decorate the facades, ceilings, floors and even the interiors of the country’s buildings. They are found everywhere, palaces, houses, metro stations … an integral part of Portuguese architecture. Brought by the Moors in the thirteenth century, the name comes from the Arabic “al zulaicha”, which means “small polished stone”. The first azulejos made in Portugal date from 1584 and are in polychromes. Following the earthquake of 1755, the restoration of damaged buildings is also done with azulejos.

Contemporary art, with the Vasco da Gama Bridge or the Portugal Pavilion at the 1998 World Expo in Lisbon, the Fundação de Serralves in Porto, or recently the MAAT Contemporary Art Museum in Belém. Contrary to what one might think, Portugal doesn’t remain frozen in its traditions but also evolves with time and knows how to mix old and modern. Thus, although many Lisbon neighborhoods reflect the origins of the country, there are also more modern neighborhoods that show this ambivalence as the Parque das Nações.


To know also:

Portugal is home to several World Heritage sites, such as monuments, historic city centers, landscapes and intangible heritage. Find the list by clicking on the link on the Unesco website.

Sources: Wikipedia, portugalvivo.co, diplomatie.gouv.fr