Most people know Portugal as a picturesque country with a rich and turbulent history. While the Portuguese Empire was the longest-lived of the European empires and ruled territory throughout the world, these days the westernmost county on the European mainland is a peaceful place, popular with vacationers and retirees from around the world.
There is more to this Iberian jewel than meets the eye; Portugal is a place of mystery, wonder, and wax body parts.
These are the Live and Invest Overseas top 10 things you didn’t know about Portugal…
1. Portugal Is One Of The Oldest Countries In Europe
With borders practically unchanged since 1139, Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe, and its capital Lisbon is one of the most ancient cities in the world—older than Paris, London, even Rome.
2. There Is A House Made Of Boulders
The Internet-famous stone house or Casa de Penedo in Fafe, Northern Portugal, is made from two giant boulders and a lot of mortar in between. Attracting thousands of visitors each year, the retreat features stone furniture, a staircase of logs, and a swimming pool carved out of stone—but no electricity.
3. Lisbon Survived One Of The Deadliest Earthquakes In History
On All Saints Day in 1755, Portuguese capital Lisbon was hit by 9.0 magnitude earthquake, killing more than 100,000 people. The destruction didn’t end with the earthquake—it was closely followed by a tsunami, and because it was a holy day, the city’s many candle-filled churches were engulfed in flames that later spread throughout the city.
4. And It’s Home To The World’s Oldest Bookstore
Established in in 1732, Bertrand’s is the oldest bookstore on earth and has spawned a chain of 50 shops across Portugal. Opened in 1732 by Peter Faure and later taken over by the Betrand Brothers, the bookstore has been always been a hub of Lisbon’s thriving arts and culture scene. The Bertrands pushed the boundaries of what was expected of a bookstore, purchasing their own printing press, holding writing and printing classes, and even developing their own font.
5. Portugal Took Three Centuries To Build A Church
Lisbon’s Santa Engrácia has been in the national pantheon since 1916. It is also listed as in the Guinness Book of Records as the church that took the longest time to complete. Building began in 1681 and the final dome was completed in 1966. Obras de Santa Engrácia, or “Saint Engrácia work,” has become Portuguese slang for unfinished projects.
6. The World’s Most Popular Football Club Is In Portugal
And speaking of world records… football club Sport Lisboa e Benfica commonly known as Benfica, holds the Guinness Book of Records entry for the largest number of fans. An estimated total of 14 million worldwide members support the club—that’s more than the entire population of Portugal.
7. It Used To Be The Most Unstable Country In Europe
In the 16 years from 1910 to 1926, the period known as the First Portuguese Republic, the country had no less than 44 governments, 12 presidents, and 20 military takeovers. Supporters had hoped the new republic would solve some of the problems experienced under the monarchy, but, for a time, Portugal was Europe’s most unstable regime. The modern democratic republic was founded in 1976.
8. Portugal Has a Real-Life Atlantis
When drought hits the Minho region of Portugal and dam levels drop, the 2,000-year-old village of Vilarinho da Furna emerges from the water. The village, once home to 300 people, was flooded when the Portuguese Electricity Company dammed the River Homem in a massive hydroelectricity project. The last resident left the prosperous Roman-founded village in 1971, and it was submerged in 1972.
9. And Its Own Grand Budapest Hotel
High in the Azores Mountains sits an abandoned five-star hotel. Built in the 1980s, before tourism had really caught on in the area, the Hotel Monte Palace closed after just a few years. While security guards roamed it’s perimeter for more than a decade, they have since departed, and Hotel Monte Palace has become a tourist attraction of a different kind. The indoor courtyard, winding staircases, and expansive ballrooms draw urban explorers from all over the world.
10. The Portuguese Covet Wax Body Parts And Phallic Cakes
Subtle the Festa de São Gonçalo in Amarante is not. The festival takes place in the first week of June and is based on ancient fertility rites. During the celebration local people take wax body parts representing their pains or illness to offer at the church, while the young and unattached exchange phallic cakes as tokens of their affection…