Portugal, a haven for retirees, holds a general election next Sunday, 50 years on from the 1974 “Carnation Revolution” that toppled a decades-long rightist dictatorship.

Travelling to Portugal? 5 things to know about ‘Florida of Europe’ from gentle lifestyle to attractive tax policies (Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash)
Travelling to Portugal? 5 things to know about ‘Florida of Europe’ from gentle lifestyle to attractive tax policies (Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash)

Here are five things to know about the country:

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– 50 years of democracy –

Portugal is marking the 50th anniversary this year of an almost bloodless coup on April 25, 1974 that put an end to 48 years of authoritarian rule and 13 years of colonial wars in Africa.

The revolt by idealistic young army officers quickly turned into a popular uprising when the troops were joined by jubilant crowds that took less than 24 hours to bring down Europe’s longest-lived dictatorship.

Nicknamed the Carnation Revolution after flower vendors handed out seasonal blooms to the soldiers, it led to Portugal’s first free elections with universal suffrage exactly one year later.

It is a rare example of a military coup held to install democracy and a source of pride in Portugal, where its anniversary is a national holiday called “Freedom Day”.

– Influx of tourists –

With 300 days of sunshine per year, Portugal keeps setting new records for the amount of foreign tourist arrivals it draws.

The sector accounts for around 15 percent of the country’s economic output, generating record revenues of 25 billion euros ($27 billion) last year.

Dubbed the “Florida of Europe”, the country is also home to many well-off foreigners — retirees, investors or digital nomads — seduced by its gentle lifestyle and attractive tax policies.

– …and immigrants –

With one of Europe’s most open immigration regimes, Portugal has seen its foreign-born population double in five years.

Fewer than half a million in 2018, last year a million foreigners were living in Portugal — one-tenth the country’s population.

Brazilians, with their long historical links to the country, remain the biggest contingent — some 400,000-strong.

Immigrants from India and Nepal are now more numerous than people from former Portuguese colonies Angola and Cape Verde.

Bangladeshis and Pakistanis also now figure in the top 10 of new arrivals.

– Surf XXL –

With over 800 kilometres (500 miles) of Atlantic coastline and countless breaks of all shapes and sizes, the country attracts surfers from around the world.

The best known spot is off the coast of the central town of Nazare, where an underwater canyon some five kilometres (three miles) deep near the shoreline of the former fishing village helps generate what are arguably the biggest rideable waves in the world.

Germany’s Sebastian Steudtner set a world record there in 2020 for the biggest wave ever surfed at 86 feet (26.2 metres).

– Cork champion –

Portugal is the world’s largest cork producer, accounting for nearly half of the world’s supply, according to the Portuguese Cork Association.

Cork is made from the bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber), which covers around 720,000 hectares (1,780,000 acres) of land in Portugal more than any other country.

Portuguese cork producers have sought to diversify its use beyond wine bottle stoppers, with the material increasingly used as building insulation as well as in footwear, furniture and even the aerospace industry.

The value of Portugal’s cork exports last year surpassed one billion euros, a record.

In 2020 the Lisbon metro replaced the fabric lining on all seats of its train fleet with cork, an easier to maintain material.


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