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What is Portugal Famous For? 22 Things

Beautiful Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe and had quite the empire at one point in history. Its borders have remained pretty much the same since 1297 – a claim that few countries around the world can make. During that the Portuguese have become awfully good at a lot of things – many of which involve food and wine.

When it comes to what is Portugal famous for most people will reply port wine. However, there is far more to Portugal than just its development of port (although that is also very good!).

Here are 22 Portuguese claims to fame.

What is Portugal Famous for? 22 Things

1. Salted Cod

Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for salted cod. It is claimed that the Portuguese have come up with more than 1000 ways to cook Bacalhau – this fish is an intrinsic part of the Portuguese food culture.

bacalhau sign in lisbon
bacalhau museum in Lisbon

2. Sardines

On average, Portuguese people consume 13 sardines per second. They can be enjoyed when freshly caught, preserved in oil, thrown on a bbq, in a salad and a further myriad of ways.

tins of seafood
Tins of seafood in Lisbon

3. Fado Music

Fado music originated in Portugal in the 1820s. This style of music is known for its expressive lyrics and melancholy air. Fado music is played everywhere – cafes, pubs, restaurants – and still very popular today.

4. Pastel de Nata

The Portuguese love their sweets. Pastel de Nata are fantastic custard tarts that are soft and gooey on the inside (mostly) and flaky and crispy on the inside. There are many sweet shops in Portugal who feature large numbers of fresh Pastel de Nata daily.

pastel de nata in lisbon
pastel de nata in lisbon

Choosing your favourite store for Pastel de Nata is key. There are many variations in the texture of both the custard interior and the flaky pastry exterior. Of course, you will need to try quite a few custard tarts to decide on your favourite.

casa brasileira lisbon
casa brasileira

5. Explorers

The Portuguese Age of Discovery saw a wave of explorers leaving Portugal to roam the world. Nicolau Coelho and Vasco de Gama are two of the best known explorers of this time. They were together when they discovered the sea route to India in 1497 and Coelho was involved in the discovery of Brazil.

Praca do Comercio
Praca do Comercio, the gate into Lisbon, where many exited and entered

6. Stunning Bridges

Portugal is home to two very famous bridges that can be seen from many points in its two largest cities. The first of these landmarks of Portugal was created by Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Dom Luis Bridge in Porto is a double decker iron arc bridge that sits over the River Douro. It opened in 1886 and at th etie was the longest bridge of its kind, spanning 172 metres.

Dom Luis Bridge landmarks of portugal what is portugal famous for
Dom Luis Bridge

Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge spans more than a kilometre over the Tagus estuary and is just over 2.2 kilometres long in total. The bridge was originally called Ponte Salazar but its name was changed after the Carnation Revolution.  

april 25 bridge at sunset
april 25 bridge at sunset

7. Bola de Berlim

This Portuguese donut is most commonly served at the beach. The hotel I stayed at in the Algarve actually brought these donuts around the pool loungers which was greatly appreciated. The Bola de Berlim is a donut generally filled with custard rather than jam. Chocolate variants can also be available.

8. Portuguese Wine

I am a big fan of Portuguese wine. Portugal is of course best known for fortified wine or Port with Porto being the capital of port making in the country. Portugal has been producing fortified wine for over 250 years. But Portuguese wine goes far beyond just Port.

portugal douro valley
The beautiful Douro valley

There are several major wine regions in Portugal including the Douro Valley and Alentejo who are known for producing world class table wines. Portugal also produces Green wine. This is essentially lightly sparkling young white wine. It has the same level of alcohol as a standard white wine but normally has a fresher taste due to its lack of ageing. There are some brilliant vineyards in Portugal.

9. Football

Like most European countries, the Portuguese are mad about football. Portugal has also produced one of the most famous players and coaches that European football has ever seen. Cristiano Ronaldo is considered to be one of the best strikers in the world and is the second most expensive football player of all time.

albufeira football board

Jose Mourinho is one of the world’s most successful football coaches (and former player) having been the manager of Manchester United.

10. One of the world’s most colourful palaces

Pena Palace sits on a hill in the lovely Sintra mountains just outside the town of Sintra. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and extremely colourful and beautiful. The palace is located within the beautiful Pena Park. The palace is well known for its multi colours – lilac, burnt red, canary yellow and its romantic style. A visit to Sintra and Pena Palace is a must for anyone visiting Portugal.

pena palace
pena palace

11. Cork

cork products in lisbon
cork products in lisbon

Portugal is the world’s top cork producer. More than half of the world’s cork producing trees are located in Portugal across 1.6 million acres of land. Traditionally the primary use for cork was of course to seal bottles of wine. However, as screw top technologies have been introduced into the wine industry Portugal has become more creative with its use of cork. Today you can buy cork handbags, clothes, shoes, hats and most other things.

albufeira cork shop
Cork shop

12. Colourful Tiles

lisbon tile fridge magnets

Personally, the bright and colourful tiles (Azulejos) of Portugal are one of my favourite things about this country. It is believed that Azulejos were brought to Portugal in the 15th century. The Portuguese Royal Family adored these tiles and began using them everywhere. Today Azulejos can be seen on all types of buildings throughout Portugal.  

porto main train station
porto main train station with its famous tiles

13. An Outside Elevator

Not many countries include an elevator in their famous landmarks list but Elevador de Santa Justa is a very impressive outdoor elevator. This industrial age lift transports people up and down one of the steepest hills in central Lisbon. The elevator is within a magnificent iron structure which includes gothic arches and geometric patterns. The terrace at the top of the elevator offers some great views of the city.

Elevador de Santa Justa
Elevador de Santa Justa

As Lisbon is the city of seven hills, there are quite a few elevators and escalators tucked away all over town, but none are as beautiful as Elevador de Santa Justa.

14. Brazil

Between the 16th and early 19th century Brazil was a colony of Portugal. Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822.

15. Beautiful Beaches

Whilst there are beautiful beaches throughout Portugal, the Algarve region in the south is known for having the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. Indeed, the Algarve is home to over 150 beaches and over 300 days of sunshine a year. The majority of these beaches feature clean golden sand and many are positioned against beautiful and colorful limestone cliffs. Praia de Falesia is my favourite.

albufeira beach

16. Golf Courses

The Algarve is also home to more than 40 golf courses and is one of the most popular golfing destinations in Europe. That 300 days a year of sunshine has of course been very helpful in establishing its golfing reputation.

17. Ginja

Ginja or Ginjinha is a cherry liqueur that was developed in Lisbon. It is essentially fortified wine with ginja cherries and a lot of sugar. In addition to being enjoyed as a liqueur it is also said to have medicinal qualities.

group of cherries on a tree

18. Pilgrimages to Fatima

It is said that in 1917 the Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherds. The town of Fatima is now a popular place for Christian pilgrimages. It is second only to Rome on the lists of most popular places for Christian pilgrimages.

19. The Westernmost point of Europe

Portugal is the sits on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula in South West Europe. Portugal’s Azore Islands hold the claim of being the official western most point of land in Europe.

20. Piri Piri Chicken

Piri Piri Chicken was created in the small town of Guia in the Algarve region. The restaurant that created Piri Piri Chicken is called Ramires and you can still eat there today. Having said that, I did eat there and I have to say it wasn’t amazing.

guia ramires restaurant sign
Ramires restaurant in Guia

Unless you are nearby and hungry or desperately keen to have the experience of eating the world’s first Piri Piri chicken recipe it really isn’t worth dropping in. Instead search for good chicken shops in the main cities. Portuguese chicken is still delicious but there is no need to go all the way to Guia to experience it.

21. The Hills of Lisbon

Lisbon is built on 7 hills so visitors to the city get a good work out. The locals know all the places where there are elevators and stairs throughout the city (particularly in the train stations) so as to minimize their time spent climbing up steep hills. Lisbon’s famous trams of course also assist with getting around hilly Lisbon.

view over lisbon rooftops
View over Lisbon

22. Lisbon trams

Whilst a form of transport isn’t normally considered to be a landmark, when they are as unique and charming as Lisbon’s trams I make an exception. These traditional trams make their way up and down the hills of Lisbon.

red tram in lisbon
red tram in lisbon

The tram you want to catch whilst you’re in Lisbon for a fantastic and very cheap tourist experience is the number 28. Not only does it take in most of the city’s major sites, it bends and weaves its ways through some of Lisbon’s narrowest streets and makes for quite a ride.

lisbon windows

I covered all of the costs associated with writing this article. However, this what is Portugal famous for post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

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