Life is one big holiday in Portugal.
Between monitoring the surf, watching football and consuming copious amounts of port flowing freely from the Douro Valley, the Portuguese simply don’t have time to do much else.
Well, that’s how the stereotype goes anyway.
But little Portugal might surprise you. For a pint-sized country sitting unassumingly in Europe’s far west, it’s got a few accolades to its name and certainly punched above its weight throughout history.
You might be interested to know Portugal is one of Europe’s oldest nations with a capital older than Rome, and was the first ever global empire – not bad considering it's barely bigger than Australia's southern island of Tasmania (you know, that little one down the bottom).
Due to its extensive geographical reach, Portuguese is the official language of seven countries.
The Portuguese have also influenced other languages, such as Japanese, where almost 50 words have Portuguese origin. This includes tempura, which is a cooking technique the Portuguese introduced to Japan.
Speaking of food, Portugal is where marmalade originated, and the Portuguese were the first global traders of chilli – so next time you’re enjoying an Indian curry you can tip your hat to the Portuguese. Similarly, you can think of Portugal when you're next sipping your afternoon cuppa, as the Portuguese purportedly brought the afternoon tea-drinking tradition to Britain.
Portugal was also home to the first person to circumnavigate the world, and, along with an English doctor, a Portuguese physician is credited for discovering the circulation of blood.
More recently, Portugal was the first country in the world to introduce a nation-wide electronic road toll system and the first country to offer prepaid mobile phone cards. Portugal was also where the world’s first ‘finger print purchase’ was made.
Furthermore, Portugal is a global leader in renewable energy, with up to 70% of its power generated by renewables. In fact, for a brief moment in 2011, and (updated from original post) again in 2016, the entire country ran on renewable energy.
A portion of that energy is generated by wave power, which is unsurprising given Portugal is well known for its consistent surf breaks. And it gets some epic waves too – Portugal is where the largest wave has ever been surfed.
Okay, so maybe the Portuguese do spend a bit of time monitoring the surf, and they do spend time making and drinking port for that matter. Well, to be precise, they are the only people to officially produce port; everyone else is a wannabe.
In other trivia, Portugal has the largest casino in Europe and the oldest operating bookstore in the world. It also has a bookstore and university gown that draws striking parallels with Hogwarts, given J.K. Rowling supposedly drew inspiration from her temporary digs in Portugal while plotting the first Harry Potter manuscript.
Oh and the Portuguese make custard tarts. Don’t forget the custard tarts. (Officially called pastéis de nata.)
Then stay tuned to learn more.
P.S. If I’ve missed anything feel free to post a comment below.
For more trivia, read my posts Interesting facts about Lisbon and Interesting facts about Porto.
The Portugal Wire is the blog of Australian travel writer, copywriter and photographer Emily McAuliffe.
Things you might not know about Portugal
A brief history of Portugal
Who was the first person to sail around the world? (Hint: he was Portuguese ... and then he wasn't)
A quick overview of Portugal's economy
25 April: a shared day in history for Australia and Portugal
Portugal's bridges: go big or go home
Portugal and Spain: same same but different?
Interesting facts about Porto
Traditional Portuguese food: what to eat and drink in Portugal
Who are they? Famous names on the streets of Portugal
Interesting facts about Lisbon
Uncovering Porto's secret gardens
Lonely Planet Instagram takeover: sharing some of my favourite hidden spots in Portugal
In the news... my feature in Portugal's national newspaper Diário de Notícias
On board the Presidential train in Portugal's Douro Valley
When the lion mauled the eagle (Porto)
Kicking design goals: Cristiano Ronaldo & Pestana's CR7 hotels
Lovely Lisbon: my top picks of where to eat, drink, visit and stay in Portugal's capital city
Porto street art: fighting the good fight
The best places to visit in Lisbon: 5 of my favourite neighbourhoods
Big waves in Nazaré: my favourite beach town in Portugal
Best things to do in Porto
Portuguese wine: yes, the wines of Portugal extend far beyond port
Portuguese architecture Part I: Manueline style
Portuguese architecture Part II: Pombaline style
When is the best time to visit Portugal?