Learn a little about Portugal - it's history and geography, and some fun facts - and enjoy our flag colouring page and printables.

Rock formations off the Algarve coast, Portugal
Rock formations off the Algarve coast, Portugal

Geography of Portugal

  • Portugal is on the west of the Iberian Peninsula between Spain in the east and north, with the Atlantic coastline to the west and south.
  • Port is a fortified wine produced in the Duoro Valley. Named after the city of Oporto, this drink was made by merchants who wanted to stop wine from going sour before it reached England.
  • Lisbon, the capital city, was one of Europe's most magnificent cities until it was destroyed by a great earthquake in 1755.
  • The 17 km long Vasco da Gama cable bridge in Lisbon was the longest bridge in Europe when it was opened in 1998.
  • Cape St Vincent, in the far south west, was called 'the end of the world’. It was once the last land known to the Romans.
  • Prince Henry the Navigator built a sailing school to teach navigation nearby, at Sagres. He began the age of exploration although he never sailed himself. He lived in Lagos, which is also where the first slave market in Europe was built, in 1444.
  • Portugal is a world leader in renewable energy with over 50% of the nation’s needs produced by solar panels, wind farms, hydroelectricity and wave energy.

History of Portugal

  • The Portuguese nation state dates from 1135 CE, 350 years ahead of rival Spain.
  • Under Roman rule for 600 years, Portugal was then invaded by Vandals, Visigoths and Moors, the latter becoming firmly established, particularly in the south. It wasn't until the late 13th Century that the Moors were expelled and Portugal was once again a Christian country.
  • Portugal's empire grew when Vasco de Gama sailed to India in 1498. Brazil was next, in 1500. Magellan was the first man to sail around the world in 1519.
  • In October 1910 Portugal was declared a Republic but it was a turbulent time, with 45 changes of government in the next 16 years! In 1926 a coup brought in a new prime minister, Salazar, who "ruled" the country for 36 as an authoritarian, repressive dictator. He died in 1968 and his successor was overthrown in a bloodless military coup in 1974 ("the Carnation Revolution").

Fun Facts:

  • Azulejos are painted ceramic tiles which were introduced by the Moors. Portugal was the leading producer and the blue and white tiles decorated many buildings and can still be seen today.
  • Football is the national sport. Benefica of Lisbon, the most famous club, won the European Cup twice when Eusebio was the star player. They are called the Eagles and before every home match a sea eagle flies over the pitch.
  • Fado songs tell the life of poor sailors and their families who were left behind. In Lisbon many tourists enjoy this soulful music.
  • Portugal produces half the world's cork, which is used in wine bottles. Cork comes from the bark of oak trees, but the trees must grow for 25 years before they can be harvested.
  • The Algarve tourist region in the south, famous for beaches and golf resorts, was called ‘Al-Gharb Al-Andalus' which means the 'West of Andalucia’ by the Islamic Moors who ruled southern Portugal from the 8th to 12th century CE.
  • Bacalhau or salt cod is the national dish of Portugal. It dates from the discovery of Newfoundland in 1497 and there are so many recipes that you can cook a different dish every day of the year!
  • Christiano Ronaldo is one of the world's leading footballers and a hero throughout Portugal.

Vineyards in the Douro Valley, Portugal
Vineyards in the Douro Valley, Portugal

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