Municipalities of Portugal

Last updated
Portugal municipalities districts.png
Category2nd-level administrative division
Location Portugal
Found in Administrative region
Autonomous region
Areas7.9–1,720.6 km²

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, with 61 parishes, has the most. 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 of 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.


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 the 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.

Portugal has no unincorporated areas; all the national territory belongs to a municipality, including uninhabited islands: Berlengas to Peniche, Desertas Islands to Santa Cruz, Selvagens Islands to Funchal, and Formigas Islets to Vila do Porto.

Portugal is 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. Portugal municipalities districts2.png
The 18 districts and 2 autonomous regions of Portugal, subdivided into their municipalities.
OrderDistrict/Autonomous RegionMunicipalities
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 the number of inhabitants in the municipality area and the area is in km2 (only for populations over 100,000).

RankMunicipalityPopulationLand AreaDensityMetropolitan area
1 Lisbon 545,24584.86,430 Greater Lisbon
2 Sintra 377,249319.21,182 Greater Lisbon
3 Vila Nova de Gaia 302,092170.81,769 Greater Porto
4 Porto 237,55941.35,752 Greater Porto
5 Loures 205,577169.31,214 Greater Lisbon
6 Cascais 205,11797.42,106 Greater Lisbon
7 Braga 181,819183.2992
8 Amadora 175,55823.87,376 Greater Lisbon
9 Matosinhos 174,93162.22,812 Greater Porto
10 Almada 173,29870.02,476 Greater Lisbon
11 Oeiras 172,06345.73,765 Greater Lisbon
12 Gondomar 168,205133.261,262 Greater Porto
13 Guimarães 158,108241.3655
14 Seixal 157,98195.51,654 Greater Lisbon
15 Odivelas 143,75526.45,445 Greater Lisbon
16 Coimbra 143,052319.0448
17 Santa Maria da Feira 139,393215.1648 Greater Porto
18 Vila Franca de Xira 136,510317.7430 Greater Lisbon
19 Maia 135,04983.701,613 Greater Porto
20 Vila Nova de Famalicão 133,804201.7663
21 Leiria 127,468564.7226
22 Setúbal 120,791171.9703 Greater Lisbon
23 Barcelos 120,492378.9318
24 Funchal 112,01576.251,469

See also

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  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. 1 2 "7th Constitutional Revision" (PDF). Assembly of the Republic (Portugal). Archived from the original (pdf) on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  2. 1 2 Silveira, Luís (May 2000). "Origins and Evolution of the Portuguese Administrative System in Comparative Perspective". Lisbon, Portugal: Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Lock-green.svg
  3. Manuel Lima (2005), "Divisões Administrativas de Portugal: Um olhar pela diversidade da divisão territorial portuguesa" (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 5 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-20.