10 Things You May Not Know About Portugal

10 Things You May Not Know About Portugal
Portugal is Europe's oldest nation and its Atlantic coastline provides the springboard for discoveries.


  1. Portugal is the world’s largest producer of cork.  Cork oak trees are protected under law, and the cork forests are some of the largest forests in southern Europe. They support dozens of endangered species.
  2. Europe’s only tea plantation, Gorreana, is found amidst the mild climate of the island of São Miguel, in the Azores. The mild climate contributes to the tea’s outstanding flavor.
  3. Portugal produces some of the world’s best pottery.  Regional pottery from Portugal features in gourmet shops like Williams-Sonoma because of its high quality and style. Check out the fine porcelain of Vista Alegre, the earthy colors of Redondo, and the black pottery of the Centro region.
  4. Many gourmet and organic food shops in the US offer Portuguese cheeses because of their quality, variety, and flavor, and the traditional methods are still used to produce them. The best way to find the best cheeses is to travel the country and sample them. Look for the hardy goat’s cheese of the Alentejo, the rich sheep’s cheese of the Centro, the sharp cow’s cheese of the Azores, or the miraculous “Serra” cheese of the Estrela Mountains.
  5. Time for some new grapes? Fresh, complex and unique, distinctly Portuguese grapes include Loureiro, Alvarinho, Bical, Arinto, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Baga. There are more than 200 native Portuguese grape varieties.
  6. Portugal has more than 500 miles of sandy beaches--all on the Atlantic and all clean and inviting.
  7. Some of Europe’s coolest new design spaces, such as Covilhã’s Pedestrian Bridge and Lisbon’s MAAT, are in Portugal.
  8. Portugal has its own architectural style, the Manueline, which was popular from 1498 to 1540, and incorporated first the Gothic and then the Mannerist styles. It was named after king D. Manuel I.
  9. Some of the best, most luxurious new hotels in Europe are being built in Portugal, from rural Montes in the Alentejo region, to the banks of the Douro River. 
  10. Castles… Portugal may have more castles per capita than any other nation in Europe – ranging from Roman walls to 18thcentury forts, and they are found everywhere from North to South.