Portugal

Introduction to Portugal
Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean.
Mainland Portugal occupies an area of 88,889 km2. It is 218 km wide and 561 km long. It has 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain.


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 - São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, São 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 been independent since 1143 and its borders have remained unchanged for centuries. But it’s the sea that has played a large part in its history.

Situated in the far west corner of Europe and with a long coastline, Portugal has always felt an urge to venture across the seas and we were the first Europeans to arrive in India, Brazil and Japan.

These times are recorded in the Manueline style of some of Portugal’s most distinctive monuments. Pay a visit to the monasteries of Batalha or Tomar or take a look at the famous window at the Convento de Cristo to see images of Portugal’s relationship with the sea engraved in stone.

That relationship still continues today and the Parque das Nações, the site of the last World Exposition of the 20th century, is dedicated to that very theme. There are some fine examples of contemporary Portuguese architecture to be found here, most notably the buildings designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira and Souto Moura.

Another distinctive feature of our architecture is the famous decorative tile known as the azulejo, which can be seen covering walls all over the country. If you travel on the underground in Lisbon, take a good look around you to see how some of our finest contemporary artists have used the tile to decorate the stations.

But the sea has also left its mark on our national psyche. We sometimes allow ourselves to be overcome by a sense of melancholy that we can’t explain. This is the nostalgic sadness that we call saudade and is a distinctive feature of the Portuguese. We sing about it in a Fado, just as we sing about joy when we’re feeling happy.

Listen out for the music of Mariza or Madredeus. They sing about the Portuguese soul better than anybody and their music is distinctly Portuguese.

So why not come and get to know us better? You’ll be surprised!