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Municipalities of Portugal

Also known as:
Category 2nd-level administrative division
Location Portugal
Found in Administrative region
Autonomous region
Created Middle Ages
Number 308
Populations 451–529,485
Areas 7.9–1,720.6 km²
Government Municipal Chamber
Municipal Assembly
Subdivisions Parish
Coat of arms of Portugal
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The municipality (Portuguese: município or concelho) is the second-level administrative subdivision of Portugal, as defined by the 1976 Constitution.[1]

As a general rule, each municipality is further subdivided into parishes (freguesias); the municipalities in the north of the country usually have a higher number of parishes. Six municipalities are composed of only one parish, and Barcelos is the municipality with most parishes, with 61. Corvo is, by law, the only municipality with no parishes.

Since the creation of a democratic local administration, in 1976, the Portuguese municipalities have been ruled by a system composed by an executive body (the municipal chamber) and a deliberative body (the municipal assembly). The municipal chamber is the executive body and is composed of the president of the municipality and a number of councillors proportional to the municipality's population. The municipal assembly is composed of the presidents of all the parishes that compose the municipality, as well as by a number of directly elected deputies, at least equal to the number of parish presidents plus one. Both bodies are elected for four years.[1]

Portugal has an entirely separate system of cities and towns. Cities and towns are located in municipalities but often do not have the same boundaries, even they are continuously built up. There are around twice as many cities and towns as there are municipalities.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Demographics 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4


The municipality has been the most stable subdivision of Portugal since the foundation of the country in the 12th century.[2][3] They have their origin in the foral, a legal document, issued by the King of Portugal, which assigned privileges to a town or a region. The present subdivisions have their origins in the 19th century after the administrative reforms conducted by the middle of 19th century by the governments of the constitutional monarchy.

The concelhos probably formed after the expulsion of the Visigothic rulers by the Moors during the Umayyad conquest of Hispania. Towns were thus left free to govern themselves, and the population started to organize in councils (concelhos in Portuguese) in order to govern the town and surrounding lands. These were also a reminder of Roman municipalities.

The existence since the Middle Ages of a large number of small municipalities with no financial resources and without people qualified to take part in municipal councils caused the stagnation of their growth. The Liberal revolution of 1836, resulted in the suppression/annexation of many of these smaller municipalities, which allowed the infusion of new revenues and facilitated growth in population and size.[2]


There are 308 municipalities in Portugal: 278 in mainland Portugal and 30 in the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira. They are usually named for their biggest city, or at least, their historically most important city or town. However, the municipality is not synonymous with the city (or urban centre), and can include various towns or cities. In Portugal, cities/towns are a social distinction based on population size and associated services, and have no legal representation in law or constitution.

Before the 2013 local government reforms, Portugal was divided into 18 continental districts (Portuguese: distritos) and two autonomous regions (Portuguese: regiões autónomas), Azores and Madeira. The table below is the distribution of the municipalities within these districts and the autonomous regions:

The 18 districts and 2 autonomous regions of Portugal, subdivided into their municipalities.
Order District/Autonomous Region Municipalities
01. Aveiro
02. Beja
03. Braga
04. Bragança
05. Castelo Branco
06. Coimbra
07. Évora
08. Faro
09. Guarda
10. Leiria
11. Lisbon
12. Portalegre
13. Porto
14. Santarém
15. Setúbal
16. Viana do Castelo
17. Vila Real
18. Viseu
19. Azores
20. Madeira

The biggest municipalities are those located in rural and inland areas where the dominating property type is the latifundia, such as Beja, Évora or Portalegre in the south, and also in other less populated areas, such as Bragança or Castelo Branco.

The most populous municipalities are those located near the sea, and especially around the metropolitan areas of Lisbon, Porto and Braga, while the less populous municipalities are located in the inland regions of Alentejo and Trás-os-Montes. The municipalities with the lowest population densities are also found in these inland regions, with smaller populations distributed over a greater area.


This chart gives enotes the number of inhabitants in the municipality area and the area is in km2 (only for populations over 100,000).

Rank Municipality Population Land Area Density Metropolitan area
1 Lisbon 545,245 84.8 6,430 Greater Lisbon
2 Sintra 377,249 319.2 1,182 Greater Lisbon
3 Vila Nova de Gaia 302,092 170.8 1,769 Greater Porto
4 Porto 237,559 41.3 5,752 Greater Porto
5 Loures 205,577 169.3 1,214 Greater Lisbon
6 Cascais 205,117 97.4 2,106 Greater Lisbon
7 Braga 181,819 183.2 992
8 Amadora 175,558 23.8 7,376 Greater Lisbon
9 Matosinhos 174,931 62.2 2,812 Greater Porto
10 Almada 173,298 70.0 2,476 Greater Lisbon
11 Oeiras 172,063 45.7 3,765 Greater Lisbon
12 Gondomar 168,205 133.26 1,262 Greater Porto
13 Guimarães 158,108 241.3 655
14 Seixal 157,981 95.5 1,654 Greater Lisbon
15 Odivelas 143,755 26.4 5,445 Greater Lisbon
16 Coimbra 143,052 319.0 448
17 Santa Maria da Feira 139,393 215.1 648 Greater Porto
18 Vila Franca de Xira 136,510 317.7 430 Greater Lisbon
19 Maia 135,049 83.70 1,613 Greater Porto
20 Vila Nova de Famalicão 133,804 201.7 663
21 Leiria 127,468 564.7 226
22 Setúbal 120,791 171.9 703 Greater Lisbon
23 Barcelos 120,492 378.9 318
24 Funchal 112,015 76.25 1,469

See also


  1. ^ a b "7th Constitutional Revision" (pdf).  
  2. ^ a b Silveira, Luís (May 2000). "Origins and Evolution of the Portuguese Administrative System in Comparative Perspective". Lisbon, Portugal: Universidade Nova de Lisboa. 
  3. ^ Manuel Lima (2005), Divisões Administrativas de Portugal: Um olhar pela diversidade da divisão territorial portuguesa at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 March 2011) (Portuguese)
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