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Portugal is a democratic republic on the Iberian Peninsula (southwestern Europe), with several islands in the Atlantic Ocean (islands of Azores, Madeira, and Savage). Mainland Portugal is bordered by Spain to the north and east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. Portugal claims Olivença or Olivenza, currently under Spanish administration, as part of its national territory. A citizen of Portugal is usually identified in English by the noun and adjective Portuguese, but can also be referred to as Luso or Lusitano (Eng. Lusitanian)1.

Portugal's name is derived from the name of a settlement in the estuary of the Douro River, named Cale. Some historians believe that the name Cale is derived from the Greek word for beautiful, Kalles, because of the beauty of the area surrounding the Douro River where ancient Greeks are thought to have settled. Other historians claim that the name has a Phoenician origin, a civilisation that colonised the Portuguese coast in the Pre-Roman period.

The Roman Empire conquered all of the territory of modern Portugal and Cale grew into a successful Roman port, and thus became known in Latin as Portus Cale (Eng. Port of Cale). During the Middle ages, King Luivegildus of the Visigoths and his successors coined currencies featuring the legend of Portucale. Portucale evolved into Portugale during the 7th and 8th centuries and by the 9th century was extensively used in the region between the Douro and Minho rivers.

República Portuguesa
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official languagePortuguese3
PresidentJorge Sampaio
Prime MinisterPedro Santana Lopes
 - Total
 - % water
World ranking: 109th
92,391 km²
0.5 %
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
World ranking: 79th


From Kingdom of Leon
1128, as a Principality
1139, as a kingdom
1143, by the Kingdom of Leon
1179, by the Pope
CurrencyEuro (€) (1)
Time zoneWET (2) (UTC; UTC+1 in summer)
National anthemA Portuguesa
Internet TLD.PT
Calling Code351
(1) Prior to 1999: Portuguese escudo
(2) Azores: UTC-1; UTC in summer

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Districts and regions
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 International disputes
8 Culture
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 Notes
11 External links


Main article: History of Portugal

Before the creation of the Portuguese state, Portugal was ruled by the Phoenicians (from 1104 BC), Carthaginians (from 258 BC), Lusitanians (native insurrection from 194 BC), Romans (from 218 BC), Suevi (from 409), Visigoths (from 416), Arabs (from 711), and Asturians and Leonese (from 739).

Early Lusitania

Portugal has been inhabited for at least 500,000 years. In the early first millennium BC, several waves of Celts invaded Portugal from Central Europe and inter-married with local peoples. Two of the new tribes formed by the inter-marrying were the Lusitanians, who lived between the Douro and Tagus rivers, and the Calaicians who, lived north of the Douro river.

Lusitania Romana

In 219 BC, the first Roman troops invaded the Iberian Peninsula and within 200 years almost the entire Peninsula was dominated and Romanised, after winning the "Punic Wars" against the Carthaginians that in 238 BC, who already occupied the Iberian coasts. Lusitania was especially hard to conquer, because of the leader of the Lusitanians, Viriathus, that since 194 BC re-conquered the entire Portugal and parts of Spain to the Romans. In 155 BC, the "Lusitanian War" between the Romans and Lusitanians begun. Because of treason from a companion, the resistance was over, and a colonial regime was installed; many Portuguese cities and towns were founded in this period. Since 27 BC, Lusitania gained status of Roman Province. Later, a new Province north of Lusitania was formed, known as Galecia, with capital in Bracara (Today's Braga).

Barbarian Invasions

In the 5th century, Germanic tribes, known as Barbarians, invaded the peninsula. One of these, the Suevi, stopped fighting and founded a kingdom whose domains were, approximately, in today's Portugal. They fixed their capital in Bracara. Later, the Visigoths conquered their kingdom, unifying the Peninsula.

Arabic Invasion and the Reconquista

An Islamic invasion takes place in 711 destroying the Visigoth Kingdom and the nobles take refuge in the north Asturian highlands. From there they re-conquest their lands to the Moors.

By the division of the Spains and following a Visigoth tradition after the death of Ferdinand the Great of Leon and Castile, whose domains were divided by his children, thus Portugal first became independent (as Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal) in 1065 under the rule of Garcia. Because Garcia was a tyrant and the others wanted the lands of their brothers, Portuguese and Galician nobles rebelled and the country rejoined Leon and Castile.

Affirmation of Portugal

In the end of the 11th century, a knight from Burgundy whose name was Henry became count of Portugal. With him started the desire for the independence 2 of Portugal, and he declared it whilst a civil war was going on between Leon and Castile.

Portugal traces its national origin to the Battle of São Mamede in 24th June 1128, when the first Portuguese King, Afonso I, son of Henry of Burgundy, proclaimed himself as Prince of Portugal and in 1139 as King of Portugal, outthrowning his mother, Teresa, Countess of Galicia and former Countess of Portugal. By the conference of Zamora in 1143, with the assistance of a representant of the Holy See, Portugal was recognized as independent 2. and the prince as Dux Portucalensis. In 1179, Afonso I was declared, by the pope, as King. After the Battle, the first Capital of Portugal was Guimarães, from which the first King ruled. Later, when Portugal was already officially independent2 he ruled from Coimbra. In 1249 - 1250, the Algarve is finnaly reconquest by Portugal to the Moors, and in 1255, the capital is shifted to Lisbon. Rio de Janeiro (Today a city of Brazil), also became the Portuguese capital between 1808 and 1821, with the loss of it's power, Brazil declares independence and Lisbon regained it's statute.

The border with Spain has remained almost unchanged since the 13th century. In other foreign relations, for example, in 1373 England and Portugal signed a treaty of alliance which has never been broken to this day. Portugal has always been turned towards the sea. Since early times, fishing and overseas commerce have been the main economic activities. Henry the Navigator's interest in exploration together with some technological developments in navigation made Portugal's expansion possible and led to great advances in geographic knowledge.

Discoveries Odyssey: Glory of the Empire

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal eclipsed most other nations in terms of economic, political, and cultural influence and it had an extensive empire throughout the World.

July 25 1415, marked the beginning of the Portuguese Empire, when the Portuguese Armada along with King John I and his sons Prince Duarte (future king), Prince Pedro, Prince Henry the Navigator and Prince Afonso, also with the mythical Portuguese hero Nuno Alvares Pereira departed to Ceuta in North Africa, a rich trade Islamic centre. On August 21, the city was conquered by Portugal, and the long-lived Portuguese Empire was founded. Further steps were taken which expanded the Empire even more.

In 1418 two of the captains of Prince Henry the Navigator, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, were driven by a storm to an island which they called Porto Santo, or Holy Port, in gratitude for their rescue from the shipwreck. In 1419, João Gonçalves Zarco disembarked on Madeira Island. Between 1427 and 1431 most of the Azorean islands were discovered.

In 1434, Gil Eanes turned the Cape Bojador South of Morocco. The trip marked the beginning of the Portuguese exploration of Africa. Before the turn, very little information was known in Europe about what lay around the cape. At the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th, those who tried to venture there became lost, which gave birth to legends of sea monsters. Some setbacks occurred: in 1436 the Canaries were recognized as Castilian by the Pope, earlier they were recognized as Portuguese. Also, in 1438 in a military expedition to Tanger, the Portuguese were defeated.

However, the Portuguese did not give up their exploratory efforts. In 1445, Álvaro Fernandes turned Cape Verde (the cape) and 3 years later, on a small island known as Arguim off the coast of Mauritania an important castle was built, working as a feitoria (a tradepost) for commerce with inland Africa, some years before the first African gold was brought to Portugal, circumeventing the Arabic caravans that crossed the Sahara. In 1456, the Cape Verde Islands were discovered. In the following years, the caravels explored the Golf of Guinea which lead to the discovery of the islands of Fernão Poo, São Tomé, Príncipe and Annobón. Finally, in 1471, the Portuguese captured Tanger, after years of trying. Eleven years later, the fortress of São Jorge da Mina in the Golf was built. In 1483, Diogo Cão reached the Congo River.

A remarkable achievement was the turning of the Cape of Good Hope in 1487 and the richness of India was now nearby, hence the name of the cape. Portugal, three years earlier, did not accept Christopher Columbus' idea of reaching India from the west, because it was seen as unreasonable. In 1489, the King of Bemobi gave his realms to the Portuguese King and became Christian. Between 1491 and 1494, Pêro de Barcelos and João Fernandes Lavrador explored North America. At the same time, Pêro da Covilhã reached Ethiopia. Vasco da Gama sailed for India, and arrived at Calecut on May 20 1498, returning in glory to Portugal the next year. The Monastery of Jerónimos was built, and dedicated to the discovery of the route to India. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral sighted the Brazilian coast; more was explored in the following year. In 1510, Afonso de Alburquerque conquered Goa, in India.

The two million Portuguese people ruled a vast empire with hundreds of millions of inhabitants stretching from Brazil, Africa, to Ormuz in the Persian Gulf, from Goa to Malacca and, from 1514, the Portuguese had reached China and Japan.

The very young king Sebastian signed the Carta Régia (Royal letter) proclaiming the freedom of the Brazilian Amerindians. Eight years later, in 1578, the king died in battle without an heir (the body was not found), leading to a dynastic crisis. The Cardinal Henry became ruler, but died two years after. Portugal was worried about the maintenance of its independence and sought help to find a new king. Because Philip II of Spain was the son of a Portuguese princess, Spain invaded Portugal and the Spanish ruler became Philip I of Portugal in 1580; the Spanish and Portuguese Empires were under a single rule. Some men claimed to be King Sebastian in 1584, 1585, 1595 and 1598. A myth that the young king will return to Portugal on a foggy day has prevailed until modern times, and most people even at the end of the 19th century believed in it.

Decline of the Empire

Portugal gradually saw its richness decreasing. Even if Portugal was officially an autonomous state with Spain, the country was a puppet and Portuguese colonies started to be attacked by Spain's opponents. Still, life was calm and serene with the first two Spanish kings; they maintained Portugal status, gave excellent positions to Portuguese nobles in the Spanish courts and Portugal maintained an independent law, currency and government. There was, even, the idea to shift the Spanish capital to Lisbon. The third, Philip III tried to make Portugal a Spanish province, and Portuguese nobles lost power. Because of this, in December 1 1640, a native king, John IV, was acclaimed, and a Restoration war against Spain was made. Ceuta governors didn't accept the new king and maintained their allegiance to Spain. The Dutch started to attack all the Portuguese Empire; Portugal regained some, but much was lost especially in Asia. Other new empires had emerged and also assaulted it.

The population massively immigrated to Brazil. In 1709, King John V prohibited emigration, since Potugal had lost a very sizable amount of population. Brazil was elevated to vice-kingdom and Amerindians gained total freedom. Lisbon was destroyed in 1755 earthquake. From 1801, the country was occupied during the Napoleonic Wars, and lost Olivença (part of the national territory) to Spain (ally of France). Shortly after, the Kingdom of Brazil proclaimed its independence in 1822.

The First and Second Republics

A 1910 revolution deposed the Portuguese monarchy starting a period of chaotic republicanism (First Republic); in 1926 a nationalist military coup d'etat began a period of more than five decades of repressive fascist governments (Second Republic), but more stable financially and economically. In the 1960s, Portuguese India is annexed by India, what Portugal classified as invasion and demanded the return of it in the United Nations but without effort.

The Third Republic

In 1974, an effectively bloodless left-wing military coup (the Carnation Revolution) installed a government that instituted broad democratic reforms. The following year Portugal granted independence to its Overseas Provinces (Port. Províncias Ultramarinas) in Africa (Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe) and lost its province of East Timor in Asia to an Indonesian invasion. Portugal itself entered the European Union in 1986, whilst another Asian dependency, Macau, reverted to Chinese sovereignty in December 1999.

Portugal made international pressure to grant East Timor's independence from Indonesia (Portugal cut diplomatic relations with this country and prohibited the import of Indonesian products) and applied that East Timor was still a Portuguese dependency, recognized by the United Nations. Indonesia and other countries pressed Portugal to recognize Indonesian rule over East Timor, but Portugal objected. After a referendum in 1999, East Timor voted for independence and became, officially, independent in 2002, Portugal recognized its independence and reactivated relations with Indonesia. This recognition officially ended the Portuguese rule in other areas of the world.

With the independence of Angola in 1976, the Portuguese Empire has its end. But the return of Portuguese from the former colonies had made a significant increment of the population and economy, the country's road to rebirth was made.

See also

List of Portuguese monarchs - Kings of Portugal family tree - Timeline of Portuguese history - Monuments of Portugal - Lusitania - Lusitanian mythology - Ophiussa


Main article: Politics of Portugal

In the years following the 1974 coup Portugal has progressively done away with undemocratic institutions and established itself as a constitutional democracy. The four main organs of Portuguese politics are the presidency, the prime minister and Council of Ministers (the cabinet), the Assembly of the Republic (the parliament), and the Judicial branch.

The president, elected to a 5-year term by direct, universal suffrage is also commander in chief of the armed forces. Presidential powers include appointing the prime minister and Council of Ministers, in which the president must be guided by the assembly election results. The Council of State, a presidential advisory body, is composed of six senior civilian officers, any former presidents elected since 1976, five members chosen by the Assembly, and five selected by the president.

The government is headed by the prime minister, who names the Council of Ministers. A new government is required to define the broad outline of its policy in a program and present it to the assembly for a mandatory period of debate. Failure of the assembly to reject the program by a majority of deputies confirms the government in office.

The Assembly of the Republic (Assembleia da República) is a unicameral body composed of up to 230 deputies. Elected by universal suffrage according to a system of proportional representation, deputies serve terms of office of 4 years, unless the president dissolves the assembly and calls for new elections.

The national Supreme Court is the court of last appeal. Military, administrative, and fiscal courts are designated as separate court categories. A nine-member Constitutional Tribunal reviews the constitutionality of legislation.

Districts and regions

Main article: Political divisions of Portugal

Mainland Portugal is currently divided into 18 districts (distritos, singular - distrito): Aveiro, Beja, Braga, Bragança, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Lisbon (Port. Lisboa), Portalegre, Porto, Santarém, Setúbal, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real and Viseu.

Beyond these there are two autonomous regions (regiões autónomas): the Azores (Açores) and Madeira. Each district and region is further subdivided into the Municipalities of Portugal.

Note: Portuguese Districts are slated to be abolished and replaced by new Metropolitan Areas and Urban Communities.


Main article: Geography of Portugal

Continental Portugal is split in two by its main river, the Tagus (Tejo). To the north the landscape is mountainous, though Portugal's highest point is Mount Pico in the Azores at 2,351 m. The south down to the Algarve features mostly rolling plains and the climate here is somewhat warmer and drier than the cooler and rainier north. Other major rivers include the Douro, the Minho and the Guadiana, similar to the Tagus in that all originate in Spain.


Main article: Economy of Portugal

Portugal has become a diversified and increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Union in 1986. Over the past decade, successive governments have privatised many state-controlled firms and liberalised key areas of the economy, including the financial and telecommunications sectors. The country qualified for the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1998 and began circulating its new currency, the euro, on January 1, 2002 along with 11 other EU member economies.

Economic growth has been above the EU average for much of the past decade, but GDP per capita stands at just 75% of that of the leading EU economies. Although the country still has 9% (2001) of the population illiterate, mostly elderly, Portugal is in need to advance structural reforms needed to boost country's economic competitiveness. Portugal has been increasingly overshadowed by lower-cost producers in Central Europe and Asia as a target for foreign direct investment.


Main article: Demographics of Portugal

Portugal is a fairly homogeneous country linguistically, ethnically and religiously. Portuguese is spoken throughout the country, with only the villages of Miranda de Douro's Leonese dialect recognised as a locally co-official language as Mirandese, Asturian in Spain is another Leonese dialect but not officially recognized by Spain. Minorities, such as those of African immigrants from the former colonies, number circa 100,000, excluding those that acquired Portuguese nationality. Most immigrants are from Cape Verde, Ukraine, Brazil and Angola; today there is 1 immigrant per 10 Portuguese citizens. Since the decolonization period, Portugal almost only received immigrants from the former African colonies (not considering Portuguese Africans) or from the European Union (due to climate, culture or easy living). Today is chosen by many Eastern European citizens (mainly Ukrainians and Russians) and Brazilians in search for a better life. Portugal was a country of emigrancy, now it is an obvious example of inmigrancy. A majority of the Portuguese population is part of the Roman Catholic Church. In early 2004, Portugal had 10.475 million inhabitants.

International disputes

By the Vienna Treaty of 1815, Spain agreed to return Olivença (in Spanish, Olivenza) to Portugal, but this hasn't been done yet. Olivenza is administrated by Spain since 1801, Portugal has periodically reasserted claims that the handover be made. Portugal has discussed Olivença's problem in the Portuguese parliament in June 25th, 2004.


Main articles: Culture of Portugal - List of Portuguese people - Music of Portugal - Desenrascanço - Sebastianism ''


Portugal is sometimes known as "a country of poets". In fact, Portuguese poetry has a bigger influence in the country's literature than prose. In the dawn of nationality, poetry in Portuguese-Galician was widely popular in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. There are excellent works, in lyrical as in epic poetry. Without a doubt, the most worldwide known Portuguese poets are Luis de Camões and Fernando Pessoa, but we should also state the modern Portuguese poetry (since the 19th century) has its roots in a handful of relevant poets, from neo-classicism to these days.

Prose developed later than verse and first appeared in the 14th century in the shape of short chronicles, lives of saints, and genealogical treatises. The line of the chroniclers which is one of the boasts of Portuguese literature began with Fernão Lopes, who compiled the chronicles of the reigns of three kings of that time. He combined a passion for accurate statement with a especial talent for descriptive writing and portraiture. But, it is the modern Portuguese literature that is more internationally known, especially the works of Eça de Queirós and the 1998 Nobel Prize for literature, José Saramago.


Portuguese are in its majority Roman Catholics (circa 97%), but the constitution garantees freedom of choice. In Portugal, Fátima is a very important catholic center, dedicated to the Mother of Jesus, Mary (in Portuguese, Maria). Portuguese people are very devoted to the Mother of Christ, being treated almost as a goddess, what made some believe there is a link to the deities of the now distant past, that were mostly female.


Eating in Portugal, is one of the visitor's most remembered characteristics of the country, as it is a delicious mixture of what Portugal found in its discoveries throughout the world. Each region of Portugal, has its traditional dishes, including various kinds of meat, cheap sea-food, diverse and fresh fish (including the 365 ways of cod dishes, the national dish). Portugal is the country for wine lovers, known since the Roman Empire as one of the greatest in the empire; the Romans immediately associated Portugal with its God of Winery and Feast, Bacchus. Today, many famous Portuguese wines are known as some of the world's best: Vinho do Douro, Vinho do Alentejo, Vinho do Dão, Vinho Verde, and the sweet: Port Wine, Madeira wine, Moscatel of Setúbal and Moscatel of Favaios.

Popular festivities

During the summer, in the month of June, festivities dedicated to three saints known as Santos Populares (Eng. Popular saints) take place in all over Portugal. Why the populace associated the saints to these pagan festivities is not known. But it is possibly related to Roman or local deities before Christianity has spread in the region. The three saints are Saint Anthony, Saint John and Saint Peter. A common denominator in these festivities are the wine and água-pé (drink basically constituted by grape juice), traditional bread along with sardines, marriages, traditional street dances, fire, fireworks and joy.

Saint Anthony is celebrated in the night of 12 to 13th, especially in Lisbon (where that saint has born and lived most of his live), with Marchas Populares (sort of street carnival) and festivities. In the meantime, several marriages known as Casamentos de Santo António (En., Marriages of Saint Anthony) at the same time are made. But the most popular saint is Saint John, it is celebrated in many cities and towns troughout the country in the night of 23 to 24th, especially in Porto and Braga, where the sardines, Caldo Verde (traditional soup) and plastic hammers to hammer in other person's head for luck are indispensable. The final Saint is Saint Peter, celebrated in the night of 28 to 29th, especially in Póvoa de Varzim and Barcelos, festivities is similar to the others, but more dedicated to the sea and extensive use of fire (fogueiras). In Póvoa de Varzim, there is the Rusgas in the night, another sort of street carnival. Each festivity is a municipal holiday in the cities and towns where it occurs.

Music and dances

Fado (destiny in Portuguese) is a form of melancholic music. The music is linked to the Portuguese word saudade (there is no translation into English; it's a word for the mix feeling of sadness, pain, miss and love), and its origins are probably with a mixture of African slave rhythms with traditional music of Portuguese sailors. There are two varieties of Fado: Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is the traditional (for the people), while the Coimbra's is the refined style (linked with universitary students); both are seen as ethnic music for sophisticated audience and as candidates for UNESCO World Heritage. The notable Amália Rodrigues introduced the most well-known variety of fado. After her disappearance, a new wave of performers added stylistic changes and brought more international popularity to the traditional Portuguese music. Mísia and Mariza, brought with them a new look to the traditional song, while Dulce Pontes mixed it with popular Portuguese music and Madredeus, made a complete revolution, with new instruments -- all that they kept from the original Fado is its looks and the concept of "saudade". Not all varieties of Fado are sorrowful; some can be joyful songs. Morna (or Cape Verdian Fado), in which Cesária Évora sings, is a variety of Fado originated from the Portuguese Fado. It also keeps the concept of "saudade", but it is song in Portuguese Creole.

Other genres include a local version of hip hop, influenced by the American style by descendants of immigrants from former Portuguese colonies in Africa. Hip hop tuga (Portuguese hip hop) is very popular among the younger population in Portugal. Cool Hipnoise, Da Weasel and Mind da Gap are some of the most popular and are becoming internationally known. Other musicians include the globally recognized pianist Maria João Pires.

As for dancing, Portugal has the traditional folklore (Ranchos Folclóricos), with many varieties from each region. Portugal with Angola has a shared rhythm known as "Kuduro" (popular in both countries), a sort of 'hard samba' with fast movements and extreme sensuality and strong African rhythm, performed mainly by Angolans or Angolan descents. This mixture of Portuguese and Angolan influence has also created the Brazilian Samba (popular in Portugal) and the Angolan Kizomba (Angolan samba, less Popular in Portugal), which have softer movements.


European football is the most known, loved and practiced sport in Portugal. Luís Figo is one of the world's top players, but the legendary Eusébio and Rui Costa, Cristiano Ronaldo are also noteworthy. However, soccer is not native to Portugal. The country has an ancient martial art known as "Jogo do Pau" (Eng., Stick Game), used for self-protection and for duels between young men in dispute for a young women. Having its origin in the middle ages, Jogo do Pau uses wooden sticks as a combat weapon. The modern variety uses smaller sticks of 0.60 to 0.80 m (2.0 to 2.6 foot).


Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1New Year's DayAno Novo 
January 6EpiphanyDia de Reis(not a holiday)
-CarnivalCarnaval(District holiday), tuesday 40 days before Easter
-Good FridaySexta-Feira SantaFriday before Easter
-EasterPáscoaSunday, date varies
-Easter MondayPascoela(not a holiday), Monday after Easter
April 25Freedom DayDia da Liberdade event of 1974
May 1Labour DayDia do trabalhador 
June 10Portugal DayDia de PortugalCamões death, event of 1580
-Ascension DayCorpo de Deus Thursday, 40 days after Easter
August 15AssumptionAssunção 
October 5Implantation of the RepublicImplantação da Repúblicaevent of 1910
November 1All Saints DayTodos os santos 
December 1Restauration of IndependenceRestauração da Independência event of 1640
December 8Imaculate ConceptionImaculada ConceiçãoProtecting Saint of Portugal
December 25Christmas DayNatal 

note: each municipality has its own holiday which is religious (normally Saint Anthony Day - June 13, Saint John Day - June 24 or Saint Peter Day - June 29). When the municipality does not have one, then Carnival (the district Holiday) is an obligatory holiday. But due to cultural factors, Carnival is treated has a normal holiday, attempts to elimate it cost the popularity of the former Prime Minister Aníbal Cavaco Silva. Some critics proposed the Independence day June 24, 1128 as a national holiday.

Miscellaneous topics


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