Portugal, a country with a rich history of seafaring and discovery, looks out from the Iberian Peninsula onto the Atlantic Ocean.
Portugal's history has had a lasting impact on the culture of the country: Moorish and Oriental influences in architecture and the arts are prominent. Over the past 3 000 years, Portugal has witnessed a constant ebb and flow of civilisations. Phoenician, Greek, Celt, Carthaginian, Roman and Arabic cultures have all left their imprint. In the 15th century, Portugal’s intrepid maritime explorers led by Vasco da Gama discovered new territories, leading to the accumulation of an overseas empire. At home, the university of Coimbra, established in 1290, is one of the oldest in Europe.
Portugal has always been well represented in the arts. Famous poets include Luís de Camoes and Fernando Pessoa. No less creative are the talents of international footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. During the month of June, festivities dedicated to three saints known as Santos Populares (popular saints) take place all over Portugal. They are characterised by folk dance and music, particularly the traditional melancholy fado .
Each region of Portugal has its traditional dishes made with various kinds of meat and seafood. In particular, the country is particularly well known for its one hundred ways of cooking cod.
By plane: There are international airports at Lisbon, Oporto, Faro, Funchal (Madeira), Ponta Delgada (Sao Miguel Island-Azores) and Lages (Terceira Island-Azores). The national airlines are TAP Air Portugal and Portugalia.
By train: Daily international trains run between Paris-Lisbon (Sud Express), crossing the frontier at Vilar Formoso; between Lisbon-Madrid, crossing the frontier at Marvao; and between Oporto-Vigo, crossing the frontier at Valenca. Portuguese Railroads.
By coach: There are three companies running services between many European cities and Oporto (Inter-Norte), Lisbon (Inter-Centro) and Faro (Inter-Sul).
The Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. They have an area of 2,355 km2 and consist of nine islands - Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Central Group and Flores and Corvo in the Western Group. It takes about two hours to get from the Azores to mainland Portugal by plane.
The Madeira Archipelago has an area of 741 km2 and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from the European continent (1½ hours flying time from Lisbon). It consists of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens islands, which are nature reserves.
Portugal has a population of about 10 million. The population density is at its greatest in Lisbon, the capital and its suburbs, where about 1.9 million people live. The second largest city in Portugal is Oporto in the north.
The majority of Portuguese are Catholics, but the Portuguese Constitution guarantees religious freedom and there are a number of different religions in Portugal.
One of the Latin languages, Portuguese is the third most spoken European language in the world and the native tongue of about 200 million people. The Portuguese-speaking countries are scattered all over the world. Portuguese is spoken in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome e Principe), in South America (Brazil) and in Asia, (East Timor, the youngest nation in the world).
More from Portugal