Districts of Portugal

Last updated
Continental Portugal districts.png
Category1st-level administrative division
Location Portugal
Areas2,255–10,225 km²
GovernmentAppointed administration
Subdivisions Municipality

The Districts of Portugal (Portuguese : Distritos de Portugal), are the most important first-level administrative subdivisions of continental Portugal. Currently, mainland Portugal is divided into 18 districts. The Portuguese Autonomous Regions of Açores and Madeira are no longer divided into districts.


As an administrative division, each district served mainly as the area of jurisdiction of a civil governor, who acted as the local delegate of the Central Government of Portugal.


The Portuguese Constitution of 1976 specifies that Portugal has only, as first level divisions, the autonomous regions (Azores and Madeira) and the administrative regions (to be created in mainland Portugal). According to the Constitution, the districts shall be disestablished in the territories where an autonomous or administrative region has been created.

So, the districts were abolished in Azores and Madeira when these autonomous regions were created, in 1976. In 1998, a proposal was submitted to referendum to create eight administrative regions in mainland Portugal, and, therefore, to extinguish the districts. This proposal was rejected in the ballot and so the districts continued to exist in mainland Portugal. It is worth noting that, despite their abolition in the autonomous regions, the areas of the three former districts of Azores are still used as areas of jurisdiction of some Government and non-government entities, like the district finance directorates (Tax Authority regional offices) or the district football championships.

However, the importance of the districts has been decreasing. In recent years, some administrative, financial and political competencies have been delivered to the CCDR's (Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional, English:Commission for Regional Coordination and Development) and to the municipalities, to the detriment of the districts. In 2003, the Portuguese municipalities were allowed to organize themselves into intermunicipal communities (comunidades intermunicipais) and metropolitan areas (áreas metropolitanas), which allowed for a lessening in the importance of the districts.

Besides, the abolition of the districts is a subject that came back for discussion in Portuguese society. In 2009, during the campaign for the legislative election of 2009, the leader of the Socialist Party, José Sócrates, promised a new referendum to the administrative regions [1] and therefore, the abolition of districts, if he won the election. Other personalities support the creation of administrative regions and therefore the abolition of districts.

Nowadays, despite being in the process of being phased out due to the decentralisation policies of the government, the districts still remain the most relevant subdivision in the country, serving as a basis for a series of administrative divisions such as electoral constituencies, police and civil protection regional commands, sports district associations and championships.

On September 8, 2011, a decree from the Portuguese Government de facto extinguished all the offices of civil governor, transferring most of their functions to other bodies. As the existence of the civil governors is still included in the Portuguese Constitution, its de jure extinction can only be done after a constitutional amendment.

Present purpose

In mainland Portugal, for administrative purposes, the districts are still used as the areas of jurisdiction of the local branches and field offices of several Government ministries and agencies. Some of the bodies that have each district as their jurisdiction area are:


For non-Government purposes, the districts are used as the area of jurisdiction of many entities, including:


DistrictPopulationMunicipalitiesParishesProvince of 1936Region
Beira Litoral Province + Douro Litoral Province Norte, Centro
Baixo Alentejo Alentejo
Minho Norte
Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro Province Norte
Castelo Branco
Beira Baixa Province Centro
Beira Baixa Province, Beira Litoral Centro
Alto Alentejo Alentejo
Algarve Province Algarve
Beira Alta Province (partly Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro)Centro (partly Norte, only Vila Nova de Foz Côa)
Beira Litoral Province, Estremadura Centro
Estremadura (partly Ribatejo) Lisbon (partly Alentejo)
Alto Alentejo Province (partly Ribatejo)Alentejo
Douro Litoral Province Norte
Ribatejo Province (partly Beira Baixa and Beira Litoral)Centro, Alentejo
Estremadura Province, Baixo Alentejo Province Lisbon, Alentejo
Viana do Castelo
Minho Norte
Vila Real
Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro Norte
Beira Alta, (partly Douro Litoral)Centro, Norte

Former districts of Portugal



Mainland Portugal

Districts of the Portuguese Overseas

Following the model of European Portugal, the major Portuguese overseas territories (Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese India) were also divided in districts. In these territories, each district was headed by a district governor, subordinated to the governor-general. In Angola and Mozambique, the former district areas mostly coincide with the modern province areas. In the former Portuguese India, the Damão and Diu districts are still divisions of the present union territory of Daman and Diu, while the present state of Goa (former Goa District) is now divided into two districts.



Portuguese India

See also

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Daman and Diu Former Union Territory India

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Continental Portugal

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Autonomous Regions of Portugal

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Diu district District in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, India

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Ponta Delgada (district) District in Ilhas Adjacentes, Portugal

The District of Ponta Delgada was a district of the Ilhas Adjacentes, consisting of the dependent eastern islands of the Azores, located in the Atlantic Ocean. The district of Ponta Delgada, not to be confused with the modern municipality of Ponta Delgada, existed from 1835 until 1976 when it was abolished in the favour of the autonomy charter of the 1975 Portuguese Constitution.

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Horta (district) District in Ilhas Adjacentes, Portugal

The District of Horta was a district of the Ilhas Adjacentes, consisting of the dependent western islands of the Azores, located in the Atlantic Ocean. The district of Horta, not to be confused with the modern municipality of Horta, existed from 1836 until 1976 when it was abolished in favour of the autonomy charter of the 1975 Portuguese Constitution.

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Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Goa and Daman Archdiocese

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Political status of the Azores

The political status of the Azores is defined by the Political-Administrative Statute of the Autonomous Region of the Azores, which acts as the standard legal constitutional framework for the autonomy of the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. It defines the scope of the autonomous regional government and the structure and functioning of the region's organs of government within the framework of the 1976 Constitution of Portugal. The autonomous region of Madeira has a similar status.

Healthcare in Portugal

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NUTS statistical regions of Portugal

The Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) is developed by Eurostat, and employed in Portugal for statistical purposes. The NUTS branch extends from NUTS1, NUTS2 and NUTS3 regions, with the complementary LAU sub-categorization being used to differentiate the local areas, of trans-national importance.

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The Regional Junta of the Azores was the governing body created under Decree-Law 458-B/75, to substitute the Civil Governors of the autonomous districts of Ponta Delgada, Angra do Heroísmo and Horta and their individual General Juntas. The Regional Junta was initially proposed by the Group of 11 (Portuguese: Grupo dos Onze, presided by the Civil Governor of the autonomous district of Ponta Delgada, António Borges Coutinho, in January 1975. Ironically, its creation was attributed to the events on 6 June 1975. The Regional Junta of the Azores governed for little more than a year, between 22 August 1975 and 8 September 1976.

The District of Angra do Heroísmo, was a district of the Ilhas Adjacentes, consisting of the dependent central islands of the Azores. The district of Angra, not to be confused with the modern municipality of Angra do Heroísmo, existed until 1976 when it was abolished in the favor of the autonomy charter of the 1976 Portuguese Constitution.

The present Portuguese order of precedence is defined by the Law of the Precedences of Protocol of the Portuguese State of 25th August 2006. This defines the following precedence:

  1. The President of the Republic
  2. The President of the European Council
  3. The President of the Assembly of the Republic
  4. The President of the European Parliament
  5. The Prime Minister
  6. The President of the European Council
  7. The President of the European Commission
  8. The President of the Supreme Court and the President of the Constitutional Court
  9. The President of the Supreme Administrative Court and the President of the Court of Auditors
  10. Former Presidents of the Republic
  11. Ministers of the Government of Portugal
  12. Members of the European Commission
  13. The Leader of the Opposition
  14. Vice-presidents of the Assembly of the Republic and Presidents of the parliamentary groups
  15. The Attorney-general of the Republic
  16. The Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces
  17. The Ombudsman
  18. Representatives of the Republic to the Autonomous Regions
  19. Presidents of the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Regions
  20. Presidents of the Regional Governments
  21. Leaders of other parties with seats in the Assembly of the Republic
  22. Former Presidents of the Assembly of the Republic and former Prime Ministers
  23. Councilors of State
  24. Presidents of Permanent Commissions of the Assembly of the Republic
  25. Secretaries and under-secretaries of State of the Government of Portugal
  26. Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy, and Air Force
  27. Members of the Assembly of the Republic
  28. Members of the European Parliament
  29. Field marshals and Admirals of the fleet
  30. Chiefs of the Civilian House and Military House of the President of the Republic
  31. Presidents of the Economic and Social Council, of the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities and of the National Association of Freguesias
  32. The Governor of the Bank of Portugal
  33. Chancellors of Honorific Orders of Portugal
  34. Vice-presidents of the Supreme Judges Council
  35. Judges of the Constitutional Court
  36. Judges of the Supreme Court, Supreme Administrative Court, and Court of Audits
  37. Regional secretaries and under-secretaries of the Governments of the Autonomous Regions
  38. Members of the Legislative Assemblies of Autonomous Regions
  39. The Commandant-general of the National Republican Guard and the National Director of the Public Security Police
  40. Secretaries-general of the Presidency of the Republic, of the Assembly of the Republic, of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  41. The Chief of Protocol
  42. Presidents of intermediate level courts (Relação), Presidents of the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities and of the Coordinator Council of the Polytechnics, leaders of the Bar Associations and Presidents of professional associations of public law
  43. Presidents of the Portuguese Academy of History and the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, Rectors of universities and Presidents of Polytechnics
  44. Members of the councils of the Honorific Orders of Portugal
  45. Judges of intermediate level courts and deputies attorneys-general, vice-rectors of universities and vice-presidents of polytechnics
  46. Presidents of the municipal councils (Mayors)
  47. Presidents of the municipal assemblies
  48. Civil governors of districts
  49. Chiefs of Staff of the President of the Republic, President of the Assembly of the Republic, and Prime Minister
  50. Presidents, members and secretaries-general of councils, national councils, superior councils, oversight councils, national commissions, high authorities, high commissioners, oversight committees, by order of seniority of the respective institution, directors-general and presidents of public institutions, by order of their respective ministries, the head of the Santa Casa de Misericórdia, and the President of the Portuguese Red Cross
  51. Admirals and general officers with command functions, by order of military rank, operational commanders and commanders of military zone, maritime zone, and air zone, of the Autonomous Regions of Azores and Madeira
  52. Directors of the National Defense Institute and the Joint Command and Staff College, commanders of the Military Academy, Naval School, and Air Force Academy, admirals and general officers of 3 and 2 stars
  53. Chiefs of staff of members of government
  54. Deputies directors-general and regional directors
  55. Judges and attorneys-general
  56. Aldermans (vereadores) of municipal councils
  57. Aides of the President of the Republic, of the President of the Assembly of the Republic, and of the Prime Minister
  58. Presidents of Civil Parishes
  59. Members of municipal assemblies
  60. Presidents of parish assemblies and members of civil parishes and parish assemblies
  61. Directors of service
  62. Chiefs of division
  63. Aides of members of government


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2010-06-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)