Districts of Portugal

Buy data    Donate


Jose Gavinha sent a spreadsheet with data from the 2011 census, which I verified from the INE  site. Jose writes that the autonomous regions, municipalities, and parishes are the only official administrative units. However, as mentioned below, the reorganization into regions has not yet been implemented. The districts are still functioning with appointed officers.

The NUTS code scheme was revised in 2003. The digit '0' was appended to the codes for the insular planning regions (Açores and Madeira). Codes PT12 to PT14 were redistributed to match the planning regions more accurately, and renumbered in the range PT16 to PT18.

In 2003, Miguel Relvas, Portugal's Secretary of State for Local Administration, championed a new approach to decentralization. In his scheme, written into law on 2003-05-13, the 278 municipalities of continental Portugal would voluntarily associate themselves into contiguous groups. Depending mainly on the population of the resulting areas, they would form Grandes Áreas Metropolitanas (abbreviated GAM: great metropolitan areas, over 350,000 people); Comunidades Urbanas (ComUrb: urban communities, over 150,000 people); and Comunidades Intermunicipais (ComInter: intermunicipal communities). The two autonomous regions, Azores and Madeira, would remain as they were. The old districts, and even the planning regions and subregions, would lose all their functions over time. The schedule for these changes is uncertain because of the local debates they entail. The consolidation process was expected to be complete in 2006 or 2007. Serhii Tymofiiev was the first one to mention this change to me. For more information, consult, among others, sources [3] and [4].

I have listed the tentative divisions of Portugal after this change under the "Further subdivisions" heading.

Portugal's 1976 Constitution requires the creation of a regional level of government. A law of 1977 allows the districts to continue to function until regions have been formed. Up until 2003, the Portuguese were not able to agree on the mechanics of regional government. On 1998-11-09, a referendum was held on the latest proposal. It was defeated by almost two to one.

Country overview: 

Short namePORTUGAL
ISO codePT
LanguagePortuguese (pt)
Time zone(see table)


Portugal has been an independent country throughout the 20th century.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Portugal
  2. Dutch: Portugal, Portugese Republiek (formal)
  3. English: Portuguese Republic (formal)
  4. Finnish: Portugali
  5. French: Portugal m
  6. German: Portugal n
  7. Icelandic: Portúgal
  8. Italian: Portogallo m
  9. Norwegian: Portugal, Republikken Portugal (formal)
  10. Portuguese: Portugal n, República f Portuguesa (formal)
  11. Russian: Португалия, Португальская Республика (formal)
  12. Spanish: Portugal, República f Portuguesa (formal)
  13. Swedish: Portugal
  14. Turkish: Portekiz Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

possibly from Latin portus: port + Arabic cala: castle

Primary subdivisions: 

Portugal is divided into eighteen distritos (districts) and two regiões autônomas (autonomous regions).

AveiroPT.AV01PO020~714,2002,8001,081AveiroC (N)
AzoresPT.AC20PO23-1~246,7722,322896Ponta Delgada
Castelo BrancoPT.CB05PO060~196,2646,6272,559Castelo BrancoC
GuardaPT.GU09PO110~160,9395,5362,138GuardaC (N)
LeiriaPT.LE10PO130~470,9303,5091,355LeiriaC (L)
PortalegrePT.PA12PO160~118,5066,0842,349PortalegreAle (L)
SantarémPT.SA14PO180~453,6386,7232,596SantarémL (C)
Viana do CasteloPT.VC16PO200~244,8362,219857Viana do CasteloN
Vila RealPT.VR17PO210~206,6614,3091,664Vila RealN
ViseuPT.VI18PO220~377,6535,0111,935ViseuC (N)
20 divisions10,562,17892,15335,582
  • District: Azores and Madeira are autonomous regions.
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Tz: Time zones. Convert from UTC to local time by adding this number of hours. Tilde (~)
    indicates areas where daylight saving time is in effect during summer.
  • Population: 2011-03-21 census
  • Region: Planning region containing the district (see following table). When a district is
    partly in two regions, the lesser portion is shown in parentheses.


The planning regions, also known as NUTS II regions, or Comissões de Coordenação Regional (CCR, Regional Co-ordination Commissions), are as shown below. The boldface part of the name is the abbreviation used in the table above. The name for Lisboa was Lisboa e Vale do Tejo until 2002.

7 regions10,562,1789,955,410
  • NUTS: Codes from Nomenclature for Statistical
    Territorial Units (European standard). Note: the
    code PT1 is designated "Continente," and
    represents the five regions PT11-PT15 together.
  • Pop-1997: 1997-12-31 provisional estimate

Postal codes: 

Portugal uses seven-digit postal codes, with a hyphen between the fourth and fifth digits. The codes don't correlate well with district boundaries. It can, however, be noted that Algarve has all codes beginning with '8', Madeira has codes beginning with '90' to '94', and Açores has codes from '95' up.

Further subdivisions:

See the Municipalities of Portugal page.

The districts of Portugal have been recognized since 1835, with only minor changes, although at certain periods they were nearly powerless. The districts are divided into concelhos (municipalities), sometimes called municípios. They, in turn, are subdivided into freguesias (parishes). Various schemes for províncias (provinces), on a level above the districts, have been proposed over the years; one such subdivision was implemented from 1933 to 1959. The Constitution of 1976-04-25 calls for the creation of regiões administrativas (administrative regions). The country is still debating how this is to be done. The regions listed above, except for Azores and Madeira, are planning regions, and are not considered to meet the constitutional requirement. The islands constitute two autonomous regions. For statistical purposes, there are also NUTS III divisions, also known as sub-regions or "groupings of concelhos." These units are subordinate to regions, above concelhos, and overlap with districts.

After the changes now in process, the divisions of Portugal may be as follows. Please remember, this list is tentative.

AçoresPT.ACr241,7632,322Ponta Delgada
Alto AlentejoPT.AJi95,0865,190Portalegre
Baixo AlentejoPT.BJu234,48113,770Beja
[Baixo] TâmegaPT.BTu198,0581,020Amarante
Beira Interior SulPT.BIi119,2635,300Castelo Branco
Centro AlentejoPT.CJu204,7988,275Évora
DouroPT.DOu195,2033,370Vila Real
Lezíria do TejoPT.LTu240,3224,270Santarém
Médio TejoPT.MTu191,6172,475Tomar
OestePT.OEu338,7472,130Caldas da Rainha
Vale do MinhoPT.VMi62,373815Valença
Vale do SousaPT.VSu327,768770Penafiel
ValimarPT.VLu220,7991,505Ponte de Lima

Territorial extent: 

  1. Azores consists of nine inhabited islands and their neighboring islets. Before 1976, it was divided into three districts (shown with their islands): Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira, São Jorge, Graciosa); Horta (Pico, Faial, Flores, Corvo); and Ponta Delgada (São Miguel, Santa Maria). The capitals had the same names as the districts.
  2. Faro includes some barrier islands (Tavira, Armona, Culatra, Barreta). It is coextensive with the planning region and former province of Algarve.
  3. Lisboa includes some islands in the Tagus estuary. Note: the Portuguese call this river Tejo, the Spaniards, Tajo. To avoid favoritism, English speakers use its Latin name, Tagus.
  4. Madeira consists of the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, the Ilhas Selvagens, and a number of smaller islets. It is coextensive with the old district of Funchal, and with the old province of Madeira.

The UN LOCODE page  for Portugal lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Alentejo: Portuguese: alem Tejo: beyond the Tagus River (from viewpoint of Lisbon)
  2. Algarve: Arabic al-gharb: the west
  3. Azores: Portuguese açor: goshawk
  4. Beira: = riverbank
  5. Braga: from Latin Augusta Bracarum
  6. Bragança: Celtic briga: height
  7. Castelo Branco: = white castle
  8. Coimbra: ancient Conimbriga from Celtic cun: high place, briga: fort
  9. Estremadura: Latin Extrema Durii: end of the Douro (River)
  10. Lisboa: Latin Olisippo, possibly from Phoenician hippo: fort
  11. Madeira: = wood (island was forested when discovered)
  12. Ribatejo: = bank of the Tagus
  13. Setúbal: corruption of Sant' Ubel = Saint Ives
  14. Trás-os-Montes: = behind the mountains
  15. Vale do Tejo: = Tagus valley
  16. Vila Real: = royal villa

Change history: 

  1. 1900: Portugal consisted of continental Portugal (on the Iberian peninsula), Azores, and Madeira. Its colonies are treated separately. Portugal was administratively divided into distritos, which were subdivided into concelhos, which were further subdivided into paróquias (parishes). The term paróquia was changed to freguesia in 1916. Maps from this period often show six provinces: Alentejo, Algarve, Beira, Entre Minho e Douro, Estremadura, and Tras os Montes. These were not official units of government, but represented one of several proposals over the years; the division even passed the Senate, but not Parliament, in 1914.
  2. 1926-12-22: Setúbal district split from Lisboa.
  3. 1933-02-22: Continental Portugal divided into eleven provinces. The districts and lower-level divisions remained unchanged.
Alto Alentejo394,78912,516ÉvoraÉvora, Portalegre
Azores266,990797Ponta DelgadaAngra do Heroísmo, Horta, Ponta Delgada
Baixo Alentejo375,14713,785BejaBeja, Setúbal
Beira Alta691,7139,536ViseuGuarda, Viseu
Beira Baixa355,8067,504Castelo BrancoCastelo Branco
Beira Litoral969,1667,596CoimbraAveiro, Coimbra, Leiria
Douro Litoral1,237,1703,285PortoAveiro, Porto
Estremadura1,595,0675,333LisbonLeiria, Lisboa, Setúbal
Minho815,9094,839BragaBraga, Viana do Castelo
Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro636,32211,848Vila RealBragança, Vila Real
13 provinces8,441,31291,653
  • Population: 1950-12-15 census
  • Districts: Lists the districts which had a significant fraction of their area in each province.
    In many places the district and province boundaries did not match.
  1. 1959-09-21: Provinces abolished.
  2. 1976-04-02: New Constitution adopted. It called for the replacement of the administrative hierarchy by administrative regions, municipalities, and parishes. The autonomous regions of Azores (Angra do Heroísmo, Horta, and Ponta Delgada districts) and Madeira (Funchal district) were formed. However, it proved difficult to settle on a regional division for continental Portugal, and a law of 1977-10-25 allowed the districts to continue to function.
  3. ~1988: Continental Portugal divided into five planning regions, each one with its regional coordination commission (Comissão de Coordenação Regional). These may or may not become the regions required by the constitution.
  4. 1993-11-01: Under the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union replaced the European Communities, of which Portugal was a member.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Alentejo: Alemtejo (obsolete)
  2. Azores: Açores (Portuguese); Azoren (Dutch, German); Azorene (Norwegian); Azzorre (Italian); Азорские острова (Russian)
  3. Bragança: Braganza (obsolete)
  4. Castelo Branco: Castello Branco (obsolete)
  5. Lisboa: Lisbon (variant); Lisbona (Italian); Lisbonne (French); Lissabon (German, Swedish); Лиссабон (Russian)
  6. Madeira: Funchal (obsolete); Madère (French); Мадейра (Russian)
  7. Porto: Oporto, Pôrto (variant)
  8. Viana do Castelo: Vianna do Castello (obsolete)
  9. Vila Real: Villa Real (obsolete)
  10. Viseu: Vizeu (obsolete)

Population history:

Angra do Heroísmo 78,10986,57796,17486,458    
Castelo Branco241,509299,670320,279316,536255,575234,230214,900208,063196,264
Horta 52,73154,82349,38241,422    
Ponta Delgada242,613156,045176,009181,924161,216243,410237,800241,763246,772
Setúbal 268,884324,186377,186467,946658,326712,600788,459851,258
Viana do Castelo227,420258,596274,532277,748251,219256,814250,100250,275244,836
Vila Real245,687289,114317,372325,358267,079264,381236,300223,729206,661


1911 is an estimate; other years are censuses. Azores population, which includes Angra do Heroismo and Horta, is listed under Ponta Delgada for 1911 and 1981 onward. For 1911, Setúbal population is combined with Lisboa.


  1. [1] Library of Congress country study  (retrieved 1999).
  2. [2] http://www.gov-civil-viana.pt/index2.html
  3. [3] Wikipedia article Political divisions of Portugal .
  4. [4] Correio da Manhã  article (in Portuguese).
Back to main statoids page Last updated: 2015-06-30
Copyright © 1999, 2003-2005, 2010, 2011, 2013-2015 by Gwillim Law.