Portugal (Portuguese: República Portuguesa) is located in the far southwest of Europe surrounded by the Atlantic ocean and Spain. The Portugal–Spain border is considered as the longest uninterrupted border in the European Union. It’s also the most western country of Europe. Portugal also includes the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores, both autonomous regions with their own governments.
Portugal covers around 92,212 km2 (35,603 mi2) and has a population of 10.34 million (16th in Europe), most of whom are Portuguese (96.3%), with the most common religious denomination being Roman Catholicism. With a population of 545.245, Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal. The highest peak in Portugal with 2,351 meters (7,713 ft) is Mount Pico located on the island of Pico in the Azores. Portugal is also a member of the United nations (since 1955), NATO (since 1949) and European Union (since 1986).
Today Portugal is one of the most popular European Destinations, but all started in prehistoric times when Neanderthals and Homo sapiens roamed this area. Before 3rd century BC many civilizations settled on this area – Pre-Celts, Celts, Phoenicians and Carthaginians. In 219 BC Romans invaded the Iberian Peninsula and created two roman provinces Lusitania and Gallaecia. In the early 5th century, Germanic tribes invaded provinces of Lusitania-Gallaecia and created the Kingdom of the Suebi. Kingdom lasted until 711 when the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Moors and brought most of the peninsula under Muslim occupation. As a result of the Christian Reconquista, Portugal was born, and in 1139 they proclaimed Alfonso I as the first king of Portugal.
Between 15th and 16th centuries, Kingdom of Portugal established the first global empire, becoming one of the major political, economic and military powers in the world. Thanks to Prince Henry the Navigator, King João II, Vasco da Gama and many other explorers, Portugal discovered the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, sea route to India (1497) and Brazil (1500). Portugal has experienced a big shock in a 1755 earthquake that caused the destruction of Lisbon. This has directly affected the occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, the independence of Brazil, and the Liberal Wars. In 1910 the first democratic Portuguese Republic was established but was later superseded by the Estado Novo regime. After the Colonial war (Angola, Portuguese Guinea and Mozambique) and the Carnation Revolution in 1974, democracy was once again restored. In next few year, independence was granted to almost all its overseas territories, which meant the end of the longest-lived European colonial empire.
Flag and Coat of arms of Portugal
How to get there
By car – By car, you may enter Portugal from Spain at all border crossings. Portugal has completed over 3000 kilometres (1864 miles) of motorways called autoestradas that connect Lisbon and other big cities with all regions and also Spain. The Portuguese road infrastructures is considered as the best in Europe (World by the World Economic Forum).
Speed limits: Motorways 120 km/h, dual carriageway 100 km/h, outside a built up areas 90 km/h and in built up areas 50 km/h. More traffic regulations.
By bus or train – As with a car, you can enter Portugal by bus or train (Only three entry points) from Spain. Buses and trains drive daily to Portuguese cities from many European destinations, so you can check timetables to find your train or bus. For timetables, routes and other information, you should visit Rede-Expressos and Comboios de Portugal.
By plane – Portugal has around 31 public airports and 11 military airports. Currently, the most important airports in Portugal are in Lisbon, Faro, Porto, Ponta Delgada (Azores) and Funchal (Madeira), all managed by the national airport authority group. The biggest airport is Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport that connects Lisbon with Azores, Madeira, other European destinations and rest of the World. Also many low-cost airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, Norwegian, Jet2, Vueling and many other airline companies fly to Portugal from over 150 domestic, intercontinental and European destinations.
By ship or boat – Portugal is a strong historical maritime country with many ports that connect mainland with Madeira, Azores, Africa and other European destinations. The major seaports in Portugal are located in Figueira da Foz, Leixões, Aveiro, Setúbal, Lisbon, Faro and Sines. You can also find many cruises with stops on Madeira, Azores and other Portuguese cities on the mainland.
Top 10 things to see in Portugal
Lisbon (Portuguese: Lisboa) is the largest and the capital city of Portugal with a population of 552,700 inhabitants (Metropolitan area 2,821,876). Lisbon is the westernmost capital of Continental Europe and also the 11th-most populous urban area in the EU. It’s also the oldest city in Western Europe predating other European capitals such as Paris, Rome and London by centuries. Here you can find many popular landmarks like: Praça do Comércio, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Parque das Nações, Parque Eduardo VII, the Sé de Lisboa and Torre de Belém.
The Algarve is the southernmost region of continental Portugal and with 451,006 inhabitants, the 8th largest in Portugal. The region has its administrative centre in the city of Faro. The Algarve is with almost 10 million tourists annually, the most popular tourist destination in Portugal, and one of the most popular in Europe. This region is best known for its beautiful beaches that range from Armação de Pêra to Marinha Beach.
Sintra is a city and a municipality in the Grande Lisboa subregion with a population of 377,835 inhabitants (municipality). It is known for its 19th century Romantic architectural monuments, that are also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Most known attractions are the medieval Castelo dos Mouros, the Sintra National Palace, the Pena National Palace, Sintra-Cascais Nature Park and the Sintra Mountains.
Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, southwest of mainland Europe and is a popular vacation destination. Its population is around 268,000 and the capital of Madeira is Funchal. Madeira is known for its wine, gastronomy, cultural value, historical value and its beautiful landscapes (Laurel forest) which is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Porto is with 237,591 inhabitants, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas (1.4 million) of the Iberian Peninsula. In 2014 it was elected as the best European Destination (Best European Destinations Agency). Porto is also known as one of the oldest cities in Europe. Its historical core was also proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Definitely worth a visit.
Évora is a city in Portugal and the capital of the Alentejo region. Évora is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. It is well known for its well-preserved old town centre and medieval walls that partially enclose the city. Here you can find a Roman Temple and many other monuments from various historical periods. Because of all this attractions, Évora is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
7. Douro valley
Douro Valley is a valley alongside the Douro river. Its known as the world’s first officially designated wine region. This valley offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. Steep terraced vineyards carved into mountains along the Douro River are just awesome and a must see European Destination. The Alto Douro Wine Region which lies alongside the Douro Valley is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Azores (Autonomous Region of the Azores) are one of two autonomous regions of Portugal. This archipelago is composed out of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean (1,360 km (850 mi) west of continental Europe). On the island of Pico, you can also find the highest point in Portugal, Mount Pico 2,351 m (7,713 ft). Here you can see some amazing volcanic landscapes, craters and beautiful cities that were built by the sea. One of them, Angra do Heroísmo, is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9. Convento do Cristo, Tomar
The Convent of Christ (Portuguese: Convento de Cristo) is an old Roman Catholic monastery. When it was build in 12th century, it was a Templar stronghold until 14th century when they were dissolved. Then the Knights of the Order of Christ took over this complex. Today the Convent of Christ (Convent and Castle complex) is a historic and cultural monument which was listed in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
10. Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga
Bom Jesus do Monte (English: Good Jesus of the Mount) is a Portuguese sanctuary in Tenões, outside the city of Braga which is located in northern Portugal. This monument is an important tourist attraction of Braga which is visited by thousands of tourists every year. This Sanctuary is a notable example of pilgrimage site with a monumental, Baroque stairway that climbs 116 meters (381 feet). Definitely worth a visit.